Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yoichi Shimada

【#264】What I Felt in Washington

Yoichi Shimada / 2014.09.18 (Thu)

September 16, 2014

     As a member of a delegation of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, I met with U.S. scholars and congressional officials during a week-long visit to Washington before returning home on September 14. I felt the dynamism of U.S. politics when I talked with sources close to 43-year old Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) who is known for his call for the U.S. government to clarify the Senkaku Islands as Japanese territory and has attracted public attention over his future decision regarding the 2016 presidential election.
     Rubio, frustrated with the situation where Republicans cannot produce results, may run in the presidential election if the Republican Party after November's midterm election remains a Senate minority that submits bills only to see them being voted down, the sources said. Given that Rubio's Senate seat will be up for election in 2016 and that Florida does not allow anyone to run in both presidential and congressional elections, the sources also said, whether he would remain in politics would be at stake in 2016.

Abe's reputation and abduction issue
     "The leader's clear, persistent messages can work as deterrence against hostile forces. In this sense, President Barack Obama is not qualified as leader but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is qualified." This is a view given by many conservative Americans with whom we talked. But they indicated that the Abe administration's decisions to tolerate Japan's exercise of collective defense rights and establish the National Security Council have been nothing more than the establishment of frameworks, leaving the prime minister's leadership to be tested in the future.
     Not a few Americans were worried about Japan-North Korea talks. While some Americans described Abe as Japan's Reagan, I remembered the Iran-Contra scandal known as an arms-for-hostages deal that shook the Reagan administration. While urging other countries to maintain and toughen sanctions against Iran, the Reagan administration secretly exported arms to Iran in exchange for Iran's exercise of influences on Hezbollah for the Lebanese terrorist organization's release of American hostages.
     The Reagan administration transferred proceeds from the exports to the Contra anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua. American conservatives have generally concluded that the deal with Iran was philosophically and practically wrong, although the aid to the Contra rebels was justifiable. The Abe administration's persistent attitude against North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens is extremely important not only for solving the abduction problem but also maintaining the reliability of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Americans saw key historical record on comfort women for first time
     The comfort women issue also became a topic in our discussions in Washington. The Americans showed a remarkable reaction to a report by U.S. forces based on interviews with Korean comfort women in 1944. While there are various testimonies made by former comfort women, the U.S. forces report is the most important historical record in that it records interviews by a third party (Japan's enemy) that had no reason to defend Japan at a time when the comfort women's memories had not faded away or had not been modified under political pressures. The report depicts comfort women as far different from "sex slaves."
     The problem is that most of the American scholars and congressional officials, including influential people who understand Japan well, were unaware of the historical record. I cannot but to doubt the quality of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's public relations activities. I believe that the one-week stay of the JINF delegation was far more meaningful than the ministry's explanations to the United States over decades.

Yoichi Shimada is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University.