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Japan rethinks alliance with US

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    The 21st century will be that of Asia, and Japan, with its soft power, can take the lead even in front of China and India. Tokyo rethinks alliance with
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2009
      The 21st century will be that of Asia, and Japan, with its "soft
      power," can take the lead even in front of China and India.

      Tokyo rethinks alliance with United States in multipolar world
      by Pino Cazzaniga

      Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The Japanese find themselves facing an historic
      challenge not unlike those of the second half of the 19th century,
      when they shook off feudalism, and of 1945, when, with the rejection
      of militarist nationalism, they chose democracy. This time, the spur
      to choose radical change is coming from the global economic crisis
      and from the new American president, or better, from the America that
      he represents.

      Prime Minister Taro Aso, at the nation's helm since last September,
      has lost no time in establishing contact with the new president, in
      order to plan a meeting in Washington by March. In a statement
      released to the press, Aso said that he intends "to work hand in hand
      with President Obama in order to reinforce further the alliance
      between Japan and the United States."

      The motivation for this desire is not so much national prestige as
      the awareness that Japan has long required political initiative in
      worldwide governance, and not only the diplomacy of economic aid. In
      this context, the Aso government, in addition to its efforts to
      confront the worldwide economic emergency, is proposing three areas
      of collaboration with the United States: climate change, the
      reduction of nuclear weapons, and support for Africa.

      For Washington's part, Hillary Clinton, the new American secretary of
      state, has stated that "the alliance between the United States and
      Japan is the cornerstone of American policy in Asia."

      From hegemonic power to a multipolar world
      But the true interpreters of the position that Japan must take in the
      new international situation are the intellectuals. Professor Yasuaki
      Onuma, who teaches international law at the University of Tokyo, has
      spoken out with particular clarity on this topic, in an article
      entitled "Japan can prosper in a multipolar world," published in
      Asahi. The study is of particular value because it summarizes the
      convictions of historians and essayists, and is based on a cultural
      analysis of reality beyond petty nationalistic prejudices.

      For Onuma, the severe economic crisis, which is unprecedented because
      it is globalized, is not a whirlpool into which the world has fallen,
      but a dark and perhaps a long tunnel, beyond which a brilliant future
      shines. The enormous global crisis is not in itself a factor of
      change, but something that brings to light the process of epochal
      change now underway.

      Reflecting from the point of view of Asia, he distinguishes three
      centuries in the historical perspective: the first two (nineteenth
      and twentieth) concern the past, and the third (twenty-first) the

      The nineteenth century was the century of Europe. So, he writes, "the
      leading European powers built a global colonial system, they spread
      modern science to the world, and guided 'civilization'. The twentieth
      century was that of the United States. We enjoyed the benefits of
      motorization, we cultivated the sensibility spread by Hollywood
      movies and rock music, and we were brought to the threshold of a
      civilization characterized by information technology."

      The historiographical outline sketched by the Japanese professor is
      useful from an educational point of view, although it is incomplete
      and its contents. He does not underestimate the benefits that the
      world has received from these two civilizations, but he also
      highlights their hegemonic aspects: the world has been governed first
      by Europe, and then by America.

      And how will the twenty-first century be? It is a widespread
      conviction that it will be the century of Asia. China is expected to
      become an economic superpower surpassing America, and India will also
      join the ranks of economic superpowers. When this happens, some
      predict, Asia's power will exceed that of Europe and the United
      States before the end of the century.

      Onuma hesitates to claim that the twenty-first century will be the
      century of Asia. He expects that "the world will be more multipolar,
      with different civilizations than those of the twentieth century,
      dominated by the values of Europe and America." The prediction of
      Asia's dominance in world governance is based on the 'understanding'
      of the past, while the vision of a multipolar world is based on
      the 'imagination' of the future. It is an imagination that is not
      fantasy, but an attentive reading of the 'signs of the times'."

      Japan's role in epochal change
      The second half of the twentieth century has seen the enormous and
      positive economic influence of Japan all over the world. But now,
      because of the decline of the Japanese economy, which has been pulled
      into the vortex of the worldwide crisis, some are afraid that there
      is no more room for Japan in the multipolar world. Those who base the
      influence of the nation on material power - meaning military and
      economic - fall into this pessimism. Much more important is the
      influence that the Anglo-Saxons call "soft power," that of a
      civilization that puts man at the center, and not things. In the
      West, there are three elements of this power: democracy, human
      rights, and, we would add, Christianity, which constitutes its
      foundation. But Asia also has its own spiritual values that have
      forged very ancient civilizations.

      But the fever of rapid economic and industrial development is
      playing havoc with these values in the two nations that were the
      cradle of Asian civilization: India and China. It is at this level
      that there emerges the "soft power" of Japan. The various threads of
      Asian culture over several centuries have arrived in the country of
      the rising sun as if coming to their last shore, and here they have
      undergone a process of elaboration that has continued even over the
      past 150 years, in spite of the grim tragedy of imperialist
      militarism. "The Japanese were among the first peoples of Asia to
      learn modern Western civilization, and use it extensively," Onuma
      observes. "But at the same time, they have maintained their identity
      as part of Eastern civilization." Now they are in a position to
      assist the nations of Asia to accomplish this synthesis. The power of
      Japanese culture elaborated by these experiences is the "soft power"
      of Japan, which Onuma does not hesitate to describe as "colossal."


      Economic misery threatens peace, Japanese bishops say

      In a message released on the occasion of the 60 years of the
      Universal Declaration of Human Rights the bishops say that
      immoral "market fundamentalism" humiliates human dignity. They call
      on the country's laity to join a new path of mission.

      Tokyo (AsiaNews) – In occasion of the 60 years of the United Nations
      Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Catholic bishops of Japan
      yesterday released a message to their "brothers and sisters"
      titled `Respecting everyone's human rights' in which they stressed
      the urgent need to guarantee human rights for everyone, freeing them
      from economic misery.
      Criticising "market fundamentalism", the Bishops' Conference calls
      on "individuals, enterprises and nations" to transcend their own
      narrow interests, and instead guarantee everyone the right to life.
      If we want to guarantee peace in the world, "there is no time to
      lose," the bishops said.

      To emphasise its importance and policy nature, this document must be
      seen in conjunction with an equally solemn message titled `Resolution
      for peace' which the bishops issued in 1995 on the occasion of the
      50th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

      In it they engaged in a courageous purification of the memory,
      acknowledging that the Catholic Church in Japan "had failed in the
      prophetic role it was supposed to play to protect human life and
      accomplish God's will," hence asked for "God's forgiveness and that
      of the people who had to endure immense suffering during the war."

      If the 1995 message was a reflection on the responsibilities of the
      past, this year's concerns the future.

      The image of war, a demonic event that crushes human rights, links
      the two.

      The introduction to the new message says that the General Assembly of
      the United Nations "adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
      after reflecting upon the great number of human lives destroyed in
      the two world wars."

      Certainly war can shake minds but cannot renew them. For the
      bishops "human rights are violated at home and abroad even now, 60
      years after the adoption of this declaration."

      The message relies on knowing this in order to show Catholics, and at
      least indirectly, Japanese society, the path to follow for the future.

      Citing Article 1 of the Declaration which says that "All human beings
      are born free and equal in dignity and rights," the bishops clearly
      indicate its theological principle.

      "Based on the Bible, we believe that God creates each human person in
      His image and that God-given human dignity—not created by human
      society—is universal and that no one can violate it."

      New human rights crisis

      It would be self-defeating to say that the UN Declaration was a
      failure. In the past 60 years many people have worked to protect and
      promote human rights, in Japan as much as in other Western countries.
      As much as economic misery is one of the main causes for the
      violation of the dignity of millions of human beings, no one can deny
      that this country has been in the forefront of the struggle against
      such violation in Asia and Africa.

      But it is a fact that "unequal distribution of the means of
      subsistence and thus the unequal distribution of benefits deriving
      from them (John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis) have
      widened the gap" between rich nations and poor peoples.

      Japan's bishops acknowledge this fact and identify the cause of such
      a situation in the ideology that pervades the modern world and which
      they call merciless "market fundamentalism."

      "Market fundamentalism," they say, "has caused great harm like
      environmental degradation and climate change. It has wrecked the
      lives of the world's countless poor and threatened their fundamental
      right to life."

      Peace under threat

      Inspired by Pope Benedict XVI"s address to the United Nations, the
      bishops said that "if individuals, enterprises and nations continue
      to pursue their own self-interest, human dignity will be trampled
      upon and the world will become an even more violent and twisted place
      where victims of deprivation and desperation, whose human dignity is
      violated with impunity, will become easy prey for the muse of
      violence and will thus become themselves violators of peace."

      "There is not time to lose" is the key expression with which the
      bishops conclude their analysis, as they stress the crisis' urgency.

      "If we do not take up the case of the marginalised," they warn, "we
      are bound, even unintentionally, to be on the side of those who say
      that some human rights violations are inevitable."

      For them the crisis is above all moral, not structural. "Every
      offence against human rights is an offence against humanity," they
      said, citing John Paul II. Everyone is responsible for everyone else.

      Will this Church document have any influence in a country where
      Catholics represent 0.5 per cent of 130 million people?

      It must be remembered that the letter is meant for Catholic laymen
      and women, like most of the 188 Japanese martyrs beatified two weeks

      That beatification was a starting point for a new journey of inner
      and outer evangelisation, especially by the laity.

      With the message on `Respecting everyone's human rights', the bishops
      show the first steps.



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