Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Dear Senator Obama
MURATA Ryohei / Former Ambassador of Japan to the United States

November 12, 2008
Upon hearing reports about the results of the election on November 4th, I wish to express my warmest felicitations to you.

Allow me to express as one Japanese citizen some views, possibly somewhat biased, regarding the United States and Japan-U.S. relations.

The United States suffers from two diseases. One of them is incurable as it is deeply rooted in the history of the U.S. ever since its foundation. It is called a "Holy am I alone" disease. While there have been intermittent moments of self-examination the US has always considered itself right. One symptom of this disease is the so-called "twin deficits" it has piled up with insouciance.

The second disease is "Forget morality in pursuit of profit" syndrome that surfaces on and off. I shall refrain from going back into the past to cite examples, but the financial crisis that originated in the U.S. -- the biggest problem of the day -- in fact is the result of this syndrome. I know that brilliant brains of America have produced achievements in the field called financial engineering, and many among them have won the Nobel prize for economics. "Investment banks" and others have applied their achievements to develop all sorts of financial instruments. While they were not illegal it cannot be denied that business practices involving immorality have taken place. This financial crisis has undermined America's international standing dramatically.

Your country's influence, however, had started to wane earlier due partly to the rise of China, India and others and Russia's reemergence. The declining influence was evident from the fact that many countries, some of your allies included, voiced their opposition to the war in Iraq.

At the time of the 9.11 terrorist attacks, because of the dramatic nature of the incident Japan, Europe and quite a few other countries expressed their solidarity with the U.S. There were, however, more than a few people who secretly rejoiced at the crime as a successful attack by the weak on the powerful. As the security situation in Iraq improves, the war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan is intensifying recently. This is spurring hatred of ordinary Afghan people against the U.S.-led forces, as casualty rises amongst innocent citizens. I do not think the United States can win this war.

In East Asia the U.S. negotiator in charge of negotiations with North Korea cut a sorry figure as he continued to be led every which way by his counterpart. The US response to North Korea including its removal from the list of state-sponsors of terrorism offered many Japanese an opportunity to think twice about what sort of country the United States is. My understanding of the Japan-US alliance from its very beginning has been that it was concluded to perpetuate the occupation of major bases on Japanese territory. During the Cold War under palpable threat of the Soviet Union and the "nuclear umbrella" of the United States, which was perceived to be credible, the Japanese people, while tolerating the presence of the bases, toiled to develop the economy. In the meantime the U.S. forces in Japan for more than 60 years and even after the end of the Cold War continued to take for granted the concession Japan had made involuntarily.

Prevention of nuclear proliferation is desirable. The nuclear haves, however, have failed to make any progress on nuclear disarmament. In fact, as nuclear weapons of India and other nuclear weapons states as well as those of North Korea seem to be condoned, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is no more than a dead piece of paper. It is said that there is a secret understanding between the United States and China not to allow Japan to go nuclear but no country can stop Japan from making its choice based on what it determines to be in the supreme interest of its own security.

Incidentally the purpose of the "realignment of the U.S. forces" that is underway is to defend the U.S. mainland under which Japan is merely defined as a frontline base for that purpose. To force Japan to take on the cost burden for this realignment is nothing short of being rapacious.

Before concluding allow me to make one point about the war in the Pacific theater.

Japan is entirely at fault procedurally with regard to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It should be pointed out, however, that the attacks by Japanese combat aircraft were directed strictly at military targets. On the other hand while the US has attempted to justify the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on numerous grounds, it was an obvious violation of international law as the bombs massacred Japanese people like guinea pigs in an experiment.

I do understand that the president of the United States cannot apologize for the atomic bombings but, at least, can he not express regret? Otherwise I fear that the "awkward feeling" the Japanese people harbor toward the United States will not be dispelled forever.

The writer is former vice-minister for foreign affairs and former ambassador to the US and Germany.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

村田良平 / 元駐米大使

2008年 11月 12日









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟