[Following on from Corey Wallace's post pointing out Asahi Shimbun's Wikileaks articles, we have a guest post comes from Hisanori Hirata, an editor at a major Japanese weekly magazine and student of Strategic Studies. You can see his previous guest posts here]
Few people have any idea that Asahi Shimbun is analyzing 7,000 Japan-related official telegrams offered by WikiLeaks. Asahi’s political stance is to the left (not necessarily liberal). Moreover, it is most popular among Japanese intellectuals, although the number of copies sold nationally is second to the Yomiuri Shimbun. So, in this sense, as some compare it to the New York Times, another Wikileaks partner, the collaboration with Wikileaks itself should be not surprising.
On May 5th, Asahi reported a scoop with a title, ‘Numbers inflated in Marine relocation plan to increase political impact’, in front page story. The subtitle reads “Analysis of WikiLeaks’ 7000 cables proves a manipulation of burden rate.”
According the article, the cables were sent from the US embassy in Japan to US State Department in December 2008. At that time, the Japanese and US governments were negotiating the expense burden for the Guam transfer agreement. The negotiation was based on the Japan-US Roadmap for Realignment Implementation (Roadmap), with which Tokyo and Washington agreed to transfer approximately eight thousand marines in Okinawa to US bases in Guam by 2014.
The cables show that US added $1 billion in construction costs for military roads; the US Embassy explained, “Japan’s share was made to appear smaller with the inclusion of an unnecessary project” to the US side of the balance sheet. The Japanese government accepted this. In fact, by this padding, Japan’s financial burden fell below 60 % of total cost. In the original plan, it shared two-thirds of $9.2 billion.
Costs weren’t the only things being fiddled with. The cables say, in terms of a planned number of transfers, 8,000 marines and 9,000 of their families are padded ones in order to “optimize political value” to Japan. The numbers have been labeled exaggerated before, and the Japanese government has denied such criticism. However, the cables prove the criticism right.
In interviews with Asahi, Japanese Foreign and Defense ministry officials replied in anonymity, “Our government’s policy on the issue is ‘no comment.’”
Does this scoop have any impact on the Japan-US relationship or Japan’s domestic politics? The answer is probably “No.” The novelty of these new facts brought by the cables does not exceed what we already imagined. Despite the difference in timeframe, the impact will probably be similar to when the secret pact on US nuclear transit to Japan in 1960s was revealed by declassified documents in the US in March last year. Regarding Japan’s domestic politics, the padding was done under the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s government, and the present ruling party (Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ) and the opposition are currently to busy dealing with the fallout from the earthquake to press the issue. On the other hand, as a preliminary collaboration between a Japanese newspaper and WikiLeaks, Asahi’s scoop is epoch-making.
Asahi dedicates more than two and half pages to the issue for the details, other new facts, and an interview with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The articles are available online in English, as kindly posted by Corey Wallace earlier today.
A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan.
His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch