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All posts by Michael Penn

Human Rights Watch Hits Japan’s Aid Policies

After a year-long study, the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch has issued a letter to Akihiko Tanaka, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which alleges “a significant gap between official rhetoric on human rights and implementation” in Japan’s foreign aid policies.

The Use and Abuse of Experts

While hardly a revelation, a recent series of comments from senior Liberal Democratic Party officials has provided an usually clear example of the ruling party’s cynicism in terms of its approach to academic specialists. It began with what might be called the “Own Goal Incident” that occurred on June 8 in the House of Representatives.

Komeito’s Problem with Wartime History

The issue of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s fringe views on wartime history has become a global topic whenever contemporary Japanese diplomacy is discussed, but the problem of selective, self-serving narratives of the past has also infected his coalition partner, Komeito.

The Shrinking Space for Political Dissent

The first round of the unified local elections on April 12 showed once again that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party are in firm control of the nation. More than two years after the December 2012 general elections, there remains no sign whatsoever that the opposition parties are on the rebound or can even put up a decent fight against the ruling coalition.

Recalling the Pivot to the Pacific

In the year 2011 the Obama administration rolled out a new policy called the “Pivot to Asia,” which was supposed to herald a shifting of the United States’ attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific, deemed to be the most important geography for the emerging 21st century.

China’s “Diplomatic Victory” over Japan

Japan Innovation Party leader Kenji Eda couldn’t have framed the events in starker terms when he discussed the issue of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at a press conference last Thursday: “It was a victory for Chinese diplomacy and a complete defeat for Japanese diplomacy,” he declared.

Stumbling into Tragedy

The group sometimes called the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) murdered freelance journalist Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa. The various messages that ISIL sent through Goto’s voice to the world demonstrate clearly that they are listening to the debates in the world’s media, and we therefore can understand that ISIL murdered Mr. Goto in full knowledge of the humanitarian nature of his work and the fact that he personally bore no enmity toward Muslims or their causes.

The Yomiuri Shinbun Takes Pride in Its Shame

The Yomiuri Shinbun stunned the world in late November with a highly unusual apology. The paper announced that it had found dozens of articles in past issues of the English-language Daily Yomiuri (now called The Japan News) between February 1992 and January 2013 that used the expression “sex slave” to refer to wartime comfort women.