China and Japan can’t stop fighting World War II

In a slightly surreal case, Kyodo news agency reports April 20 that a Shanghai Maritime Court ordered the seizure of a vessel owned by Japanese shipping giant Mitsui OSK Lines at a port in Zhejiang province for failing to pay compensation in "a wartime contractual dispute." It seems that in 1936, Mitsui's predecessor, Daido Shipping Co, rented two ships on a one-year contract from China's Zhongwei Shipping Co. The ships were commandeered by the Imperial Japanese Navy, and later sank at sea. The suit was brought against Mitsui by grandsons of the founder of Zhongwei Shipping, and has been batted around in China's courts for years. In 2012, the Supreme People's Court rejected Mitsui's petition for retrial, affirming the Maritime Court's finding that the company must pay. The decision to seize the ships now seems pretty clearly retaliation for Japanese cabinet minister Keiji Furuya's visit to the Yasukuni shrine days earlier. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself sent a "ritual offering" to the shrine ahead of Japan's spring festival, which starts this week. All of this is happening (again less than coincidentally) exactly as Japan has started construction of a military radar station on Yonaguni Island—just 150 kilometers from the disputed gas-rich Senkaku archipelago, claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands. (Reuters, Singapore Today, Xinhua, BBC News)

As we've said before, China and Japan have got way too much invested in trade with each other to actually intend to go to war. But brinkmanship is a dangerous game, and there is plenty of potential here for things to spiral out of control very quickly. Japan's spring festival, which will likely see more high-profile homages to war criminals at Yasukuni, will actually overlap with President Obama's visit to the country this week. Hopefully, he will have a little talk with Abe, telling him that such behavior is not helpful. Of course, there is no reason whatsoever to hope that Obama will rein in Japan's military expansion, which the US is avidly facilitating

  1. Japanese rightists hail Hitler on birthday

    It seems to have received no coverage in English, but Korean news portal Chosun Online shows photos of Japanese ultra-rightists marching in Tokyo on April 20—in honor of Hitler's birthday. They carry both the Japanese war-era flag as well as flags emblazoned with the Nazi swastika. Slogans denied the Holocaust, Rape of Nanking and "comfort women" as lies… And called for a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"…

  2. Neo-Nazi link in Japan cabinet scandal

    The Independent reports on a particularly sinister element to the otherwise prosaic financial scandal that has already caused two members of Shinzo Abe’s cabinet (both women, appointed in a touted effort to "womanize" Japanese politics) to resign—METI Minister Yuko Obuchi and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima (see WaPo report). In the latest episode, Eriko Yamatani, head of the National Public Safety Commission, rejected claims that she had a 15-year association with the former leader of an ultra-right group that spouts crude racism against Koreans. the Japanese press published a 2009 photo of Yamatani posing with ex-Zaitokukai leader Shigeo Masuki, who says he has known Yamatani for 15 years. Yamatani in turn said she had "no memory" of where or how many times the two had met.

    The group, Zaitokukai, wants Japan to expel its ethnic Korean population. It has 12,000 members, who descend on Korean communities in Japanese cities, screaming such slogans as "cockroaches" and "kill, kill Koreans." Police have mostly turned a blind eye to the group but in July, a court in Osaka ordered Zaitokukai to stop its tirades against an elementary school in Kyoto with links to North Korea, and ordered the group to pay 12 million yen to the school in compensation.

    Two more of Abe's recent appointees have been accused of neo-Nazi links. Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi and LDP policy chief Tomomi Inada appeared in separate, undated photos with the leader of the National Socialist Japanese Workers Party, Kazunari Yamada. In online videos, Yamada can be seen in street demonstrations wearing a "modified swastika." Takaichi also appeared in a magazine ad endorsing a 1994 book titled Hitler's Election Strategy. Both ministers deny endorsing Nazi ideology.

    Just charming.

  3. China and Japan back from brink?

    China and Japan have agreed to try to reduce tensions over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, setting up a "crisis management mechanism" to prevent escalation. Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping did meet at the APEC summit in Beijing, but media have all noted that their handshake was "awkward"—no doubt calculatedly so. (BBC News, Foreign Policy)

  4. Rape of Nanking: propaganda uses

    Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over a high-profile ceremony Dec. 13 marking the 77th anniversary of the start of the Rape of Nanking, a six-week period of mass murder and mass rape committed by Japanese troops against the civilian population of the city. Estimates of the number of deaths range from 40,000 to 300,000, the higher estimate being the official number recognized by the current Chinese government. A post-war Allied Tribunal counted 142,000 deaths. Legislation establishing the Memorial Day, as well as Sept. 3 as Victory Day over Japan, was ratified by the National People's Congress in February. The ceremony was held at Nanjing's Memorial Hall for the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. (Beyond Chinatown)

    We're all for remembering the Rape of Nanking, and opposing the revisionism, minimization and denialism about it (as well as outright celebration of it) now alarmingly popular in Japan. But we'd like a little acknowledgement that this remembrance day is being orchestrated by Xi Jinping now for rather base political reasons… It certainly isn't a coinicidence that China has increasingly up-played commemorations of the massacre as it has contested with Japan over disputed offshore fields in recent years…