Japan's Iran Sanctions Represent Selective Justice
Saturday, September 4, 2010
By Ahmad Rashid Malik
In an announcement in Tokyo on September 3, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said that Tokyo would impose new sanctions on Iran for alleged illicit nuclear activities.
The notion that Iran is illegally developing nuclear weapons is a view largely propagated by the United States, but not endorsed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The announcement came as a surprise to many, as they did not expect such an announcement from Japan at this time. The fresh sanctions will freeze the assets of some 88 companies, banks, and individuals, and will tighten restrictions on Iran's financial transactions and ban new Japanese investment in Iran.
The sanctions may lead Iran toward more economic hardship at this hour of global recession. The Japanese sanctions, as the spokesman revealed, are intended as a part of the anti-nuclear weapons proliferation drive.
In the past, Japan's anti-nuclear drive reflected admirable moral and legal standards as the country tactfully advanced its agenda and impressed the international community with its principled opposition to any military use of nuclear technology.
However, from about 2005 to 2008, such a policy began to melt away, and from 2008 onward, the Japan's three non-nuclear principles, announced in 1967, have seen a fundamental shift.
In June of this year, Tokyo started negotiations with New Delhi for the supply of civil nuclear technology to the non-CTBT/NPT nation of India. This represented a radical de facto change in Tokyo's global anti-nuclear campaign.
The voices of the public, the anti-nuclear lobby of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and others, are now largely disregarded in the corridors of the decision-makers in Kasumigaseki and Nagatacho.
Instead, Japanese business interests and strategic considerations were allowed to take the lead. This will have serious implications not only for Japan and its immediate neighbors, but also in South Asia as well.
At the same time, Japan's sanctioning of Iran presents a clear picture of a double standard, selective justice, and partial implementation of global and Japanese anti-nuclear standards.
This policy will have negative consequences on the bilateral relationship between Japan with Iran, affecting a trading partner which supplies around 16% of Japan's total oil requirements.
Many times since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Tokyo was willing to buck US pressure, but more and more often it now seems unwilling to do so, even after the DPJ has taken power under the slogan of an "equal relationship" with its superpower ally.
A nation's foreign policy must not be dictated by any power. Morality, human values, and principles must serve as the true master. International obligations and responsibilities must not be selective.
Regrettably, it cannot be said that Japan's decision to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran at this time live up to this basic standard.
Tokyo may not even realize that policies such as this one damage its connection not only with the immediate target, Iran, but with all Islamic nations.
Why? Because they can perceive the double standards that are being imposed and can understand that Tokyo's policies are being shaped by Washington and not by Japan's own humane and peace-loving spirit of the past.
Ahmad Rashid Malik is a Fellow of the Japan Foundation in Tokyo and author of an important volume on Pakistan-Japan relations.
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