Sunday, September 26, 2010
Tokyo -- The Kan administration's artless management of the Senkaku Islands dispute these past couple weeks, capped by the release of the Chinese trawler captain under clouded circumstances, has resulted in a cascade of criticism aimed at the Japanese government from the hard right, the opposition parties, and even members of the ruling party itself.
At the heart of the controversy is the question of how and why the Naha District Public Prosecutors Office decided to let the Chinese captain go. The local officials cited the importance of "Japan-China relations" as the main motive for the release, but, as most people immediately understand, Japan's national diplomatic affairs are not the responsibility of local prosecutors.
The government has denied any "political interference" in the Naha prosecutors' move, but many observers are openly skeptical of these denials.
The leaders of the main opposition LDP were on the streets near Tokyo's Yurakucho Station this evening, pounding the DPJ government on precisely this point. On hand were such figures as Sadakazu Tanigaki, Shigeru Ishiba, Yuriko Koike, Nobuteru Ishihara, Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Satsuki Katayama.
They made fierce criticisms, asking whether Japanese diplomacy is in the hands of the national leaders or local prosecutors. They castigated the Kan regime for its mismanagement of the crisis and the weakness it demonstrated in the face of Chinese intimidation.
Ishiba stated that he wasn't asking for the LDP to be put back into power, but rather whether or not the national interests could really be defended by the incumbent government. For the sake of Japan, he argued, a strong, capable, and experienced crew needed to be at the helm of the state.
The other LDP leaders made similar arguments.
The conservative Yomiuri Shinbun alleges that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku and Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara personally leaned on the prosecutors in an extralegal fashion at the direct behest of Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Also, there have been two arrests of rightwing protestors so far. On the morning of the 25th, a man carried a large kitchen knife near the Kantei while proclaiming his disagreement with the government's handling of the Senkaku affair. Another man was arrested for throwing a smoke bomb at the Chinese consulate in Nagasaki.
On the other hand, even some members of the ruling party are not pleased.
The Yomiuri Shinbun quotes an anonymous "senior" DPJ politician as groaning, "Neither Kan nor Sengoku knows anything about diplomacy. They just released the skipper in a flutter after being intimidated by China... China will probably continue making unreasonable demands on Japan, causing other Asian countries to be discouraged by this country's lack of mettle."
The stronger tone taken by Tokyo since yesterday, bluntly rejecting China's demand for an apology and compensation, as well as reasserting Japan's initial hard line, needs to be seen within the context of the how the release of the Chinese trawler captain is being perceived, as well as the conservative reaction now in force.
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