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Yoichi Shimada

【#1048】Complaining about U.S. Ambassador’s Interference in Japan’s Internal Affairs

Yoichi Shimada / 2023.06.21 (Wed)

June 19, 2023

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel has relentlessly prompted Japan to enact a bill for promoting understanding about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and other sexual minorities, which was passed by the National Diet last week. This is an excessive act that can be called interference in Japan’s domestic affairs, leading us to doubt if his approach would contribute to maintaining friendly relations between Japan and the United States.

It is a mistake to interpret the ambassador's act as U.S. pressure. This is pressure from the U.S. Democratic Party. The Democrat Biden administration has enhanced its international LGBT campaigns by creating the new post of special envoy to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and other) persons.

Foreigners do not have to preach about Japan-ness

In the ambassador’s home country America, Republicans continue to unanimously oppose a comprehensive LGBT anti-discrimination bill proposed by Democrats. Furthermore, conservatives are actively moving to roll back campaigns for the bill from the perspective of protecting women and defending children from excessive transgender ideology education.

Mike Pompeo, who served as secretary of state in the Trump administration, wrote the following in his memoir, citing “LGBT diplomacy” as a typical example:

“I feared that the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor [of the State Department] was transforming into a permanent cadre of diversity, equity, and inclusion commissars, trying to graft progressive views onto a world that neither wanted nor needed to adopt them. The State Department needed a human rights policy based on American founding principles and constitutional traditions.”

This may represent a common-sense idea.

Emanuel has openly urged the National Diet to pass the LGBT bill by stating, ”Now is the time, now is the moment, for Japan to be all that Japan can be.” But how Japan should be is not a matter for a foreign ambassador to decide. A diplomatic mission should refrain from preaching about national characteristics in a foreign country and maneuvering behind the scenes from a particular partisan position.

Emmanuel also put pressure on the Japanese business leaders including Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Chairman Masakazu Tokura. The ambassador's tweet on February 15 reads:

“Spoke to Keidanren Chairman Tokura this morning about energy, economic security and inclusion prior to his trip to Washington. Keidanren has the power to lead on LGBTQI+ issues in Japan: diversity & inclusion make companies and countries stronger.”

Emanuel reportedly prompted Keidanren to take the lead on LGBT issues in exchange for his promise to serve as an intermediary between the Japanese business community and U.S. heavyweights, including his close friend Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

After his U.S. visit, Tokura told a press conference that he felt ashamed of seeing the National Diet failing to enact the LGBT bill and practically urged the Japanese legislature to follow the lead of the U.S. Democratic Party.

Japanese political and business elites have no mettle

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has no definite view about the LGBT issue. As former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was at the center of a group of lawmakers cautious about the LGBT bill, is now dead, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party became unhinged, leading LDP lawmakers to pass the bill in a manner to succumb to pressure from the Biden administration and the LDP’s junior coalition partner, the Komeito party.

If Japan’s political and business leaders had had guts, Emanuel’s interference would have ended up as a monologue. If influential members of the National Diet had shown a resolute attitude, saying “Japan’s affairs should be decided by Japan. Don’t interfere,” the ambassador would not have been so presumptuous.

China, North Korea, Russia and other countries that have seen Japan not resist blatant foreign pressure will likely become more aggressive in other issues in the future. The responsibility of the Japanese elites who have no mettle is significant.

Yoichi Shimada is a senior fellow and Planning Committee member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and a professor emeritus at Fukui Prefectural University.