Interview with the Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Japan

My interview with the Chief of mission of the Japan embassy Sir Keiichiro Morishita (since 2012) was a great experience. The Chief of mission gladly accept my offer to do him an interview and in the interview he talked about the 400 anniversary of the relations between Japan and Spain: “The dual year”. The Minister Sir Keiichiro Morishita studied Internationals Relations in the University of Tokio, and work in Belgium, Mexico and now in Spain.

Image

Sir Keiichiro Morishita doing a meeting in the Deputación de Pontevedra

 

We started with the simplest questions: What is the image that Japan wants to show to the world? And, What agreements have Japan and Spain? He started saying that Japan want them to see as a country looking for the global peace where everyone will live in harmony and peace […], and respect the agreements they made, there are 2 recent agreement: Agreement for development and cooperation of technology & scientific and Agreement of free trade. When I asked him for an agreement about the proliferation of the Spanish economy in Japan said that they working in an Economic Partnership between Japan and European Union.

 

Later we talk about the King Juan Carlos I abdication and he said that the Casa Real (The Royal House) and the Casa Imperial (The Imperial House) always had a very good relationship and they will always supports the monarchy in Spain and if Spain will became into a republic, Japan will still having Spain as a good friend. Talking about this relation Sir Keiichiro Morishita said that the year 2013 and 2014 are the years of the dual year relations between Japan an Spain. About the Immigrations policy the Chief of mission Keiichiro Morishita of the Japan embassy said that this is an issue with no changes, as his opinion. That the population is becoming old and probably will need foreigners to make Japan a country with young people.

 

After this, we started with the foreign policy question to Sir Keiichiro Morishita and I asked about the relations with South Korea: “We have good relation with South Korea but… we can say the same thing with North Korea, there is still an open problem with them, is a very dangerous issue” said to me the Chief of mission. But Japan wants and try to control this difficult issue to reach the peace.

After a long time talking about, I asked him about the Senkaku islands (There is a territory dispute for an amount of island near China that years ago, China gave this island to Japan and now want to recover them) that if they going to resolve this problem using military force or in a pacific and dialogue way. “In legal point of view and in a international law point of view those island are from Japan” -the minister Keiichiro Morishita said- […] “China always try to get what he want and also too by the hard way and this last months China has over-flight those island and that action make more tense this situation” […] “but always if there is a problem it is has to be resolve with dialogue”. Related to this we continue talking about the energetic problems after the Fukushima earthquake, the Minister said that all the nuclear plants are closed and with very few revisions […] Japan has few natural resources, mostly they lack of petroleum and now they have to import a lot of petroleum and there is were the Free Trade Agremeent with Spain appears.

There is still a lot of work to do to clean al the zones affected of the radiation.

 

The last two questions were related to the Japan culture and way of life: Why the suicide because you are not productive is fomented? “We are very worried about this issue, is a very delicate issue” – He said – Japan is going to open a 24h line for the people with intention of kill themselves where you can call if you want to suicide and they try to convince you to not suicide and he continue talking about the reasons of the suicides: The job, the family, bankrupt… And the last question of this interview was: The Shizazu enterprise had a project few years ago to build a gigantic pyramid in the Japan bay were 75 thousand people would live, and it will be like a hierarchized society? His answer has short and clear: *laughs* “I never heard about that project but it will be impossible with the actual materials, but I hope that the pyramid never gets built”

 

By. Jaime Guedón

The economic and political future in the Philippines with Antonio Manuel Reyes

I first met Antonio Manuel Reyes on the plane from Frankfurt to Madrid on a cold January evening, he was on his way to take part at a conference about minorities hosted by the UN. Mr Reyes, an International Relations graduate himself , started his impressive career by joining the UN in Vienna back in the 70s and since then he has successfully led development programmes in Latin America/West Africa, worked as a career diplomat in the Caribbean and held advisory positions in his native Philippines.

After talking on the plane, we kept in touch via email, so when I had the chance to cover the Philippines for my interview I felt it would be natural to consult mr Reyes on skype as he is possessing valuable information about the region.

He started off by explaining the political and economic situation in the Philippines, which he characterises as “chaotic and severly mismanaged” and he adds that authorities in Manila have lost touch with reality as they, in his words ”neglect the most basic of rights and undermines sustainable growth, favouring the elite and marginalizing the increasing number of poor.”

I further ask him to elaborate on this lack of sustainable thinking by the authorites and how the formidable economic growth is only benefitting a few. “I saw the same thing in Nigeria, vast oil reserves that is increasing GDP, boosting spending, however the overall picture remains the same, we are moving in circles, facing over-population and lowered quality of life. Economic growth is one thing, sustainability something else” I ask him about how the Philippines compare with other countries in the region, and if there is a pattern.

He takes a deep breath and explains me how the Philippines is still troubled by its past and how todays society inherited large structural problems in terms of lacking infrastructure, nepotism, bureaucracy and corruption. “Philippines is plagued with a sense of two steps back – one step forward mentality, in which we lack the basic tools to create a shift in living conditions seen elsewhere in in East Asia.”

“What we need is proper governance, and to increase our share of the world trade. Philippines possess vast human resources, and in many ways we could be the next Asian tiger, if we reshape our policies and manage to get people out of poverty.”

“I believe the Philippines will play an increasingly important role in the next few years, and its strategic position in the pacific could allow for new trade opportunities. We need to become a regional player, turning Manila into a hub for commerce. So much potential and more than 7000 islands, could you imagine!”

He then talks about the pitfalls of rapid population growth and how to address them, as I move on with my questions. How is the high birth rate and young population affecting the country, I asked. “Look at Indonesia, in many ways similar Geography, but a different way of tackling the massive population growth and the transition into a growing power, the secret lie in their Governance and how leaders are able to empower the younger generation, fostering innovation and giving the new generation new ideas. We need to change our mindset.”

I continued our interview, Mr Reyes seemed more enthusiastic than ever. What about relations with China in the East Asian Sea? “The Philippines depend on China as a trade and diplomatic partner, a partnership deemed very beneficial to our country. However, some matters need a firm hand, and geopolitcally speaking Philippines is not afraid of sticking to their principles, in this case it means to fight for something that could be considered rightfully ours”
Territorial disputes he said in the area is extremely widespread and 8 countries are currently fighting over vast areas of land. “Its all about the crude oil and controlling the supply routes to and from the South China Sea, something especially China is very keen on doing.”

“They have strong interests there, China is seeking energy independence. Controlling Malacca is a long lost battle, therefore they want something they can depend on” “I believe the Philippines should act carefully in the region, sometimes compromises need to be made” I gave him a puzzled look, but you just said the opposite?

“Well, it was my initial thought. However, I do understand the complexity of the issue. You have to ask yourself, if a good or bad relationship with China is more important” I answered him, saying integrity and predictability could be considered important in high politics. We need to get to grips with domestic matters, address the big challenges. Soaring unemployment, generations of filipinos growing up outside the world economy. Thats our challenge. Then we take on China”

I do feel I benefitted from talking to Mr Reyes as he is now turning 75 and have experienced a myriad of changes in politics and society. His background from diplomacy makes him very relevant when studying IR and he is possessing invaluable skills.

Brisbane & the Gold Coast of Australia: Reflection of a semester abroad

I chose to interview Markus Krüger, a companion from my time in school and asked about his experiences in Australia. He studied politics in Halle and was on exchange at Griffith University in Brisbane in 2012.

I was curious about his experiences and impressions, as well as his motivations to go to the other side of the globe. In my opinion it is a strange place for studying, having worked in tourism I know about the Gold Coast for slightly different reasons. Furthermore, it is a place I might end up for a year, too. Germans can apply for a “Work & Travel visa” for one year and can extend the visa under certain circumstances for another year.

Of course a general fascination for the continent, its flora and fauna and learning English was important for him. Markus admitted that Australia is not exactly the best place to learn proper English, because many people swear a lot, even in general conversation. For practicing fluency while enjoying study-abroad, Australia sounds perfect on the other hand. When asked about what makes Australia so special, he started to rave about his year abroad. The most time he spoke more about the Gold Coast south of Brisbane. I guess it left a very positive impression on him. The Gold Coast is a tourism hotspot of Australia with many offers in water sports, which he enjoyed a lot. The nightlife is amazing and at the same time crazy. Markus described the people he met as very open, different from home. Foreigners are welcomed and he said it was explained to him as the local’s ancestors were all foreigners. The ease in the daily routine was impressive. In general, he described the mood best with “live the moment”, just more as people from Europe might imagine.

Beside the most visited places by tourists, such as the Great Barriers Reef and Ayers Rock, Australia still got a lot to offer. There are lot of places you get to know when meeting with locals and one of the many travelers.

Tourism is indeed quite important for Australia. It provides 5.6% of the country’s jobs and 4% of its GDP. The Gold Coast of Australia has an about 80% room occupancy rate and 12 million visitors a year, indicated a stable tourism economy and expected to be growing over the next years. 2 national visitors come on 1 foreign visitor, which means an equal to half the population of Australia spends a few nights or more in Brisbane and the gold coast. Brisbane, as the biggest city in the area, has 2 million habitants, only a sixth of the total amount of visitors. Beside this, the gold coast is famous for surfing and other water sports and is focusing on this target group.

“It’s almost as if the locals adopted the vacation mood from the visitors.”

Its advertisement and focus on watersports might have played some role, since the attitude of for example professional surfers is slightly different from the European business-man.

Asked if he would consider starting a business at the gold coast, he replied it would mean a tough competition. Markus replied he would love to do anything if he had the experience but the high amount of competitors makes it necessary that you really know what you are doing, even if many businesses are running smooth. Considering his current unpaid internship, he added: “It’s a good place for young people. You can learn very fast, sometimes even on-the-job and the salary is good. Maybe I’ll go back there after my contract expires for a year.”

When we spoke about the perception of environmental issues, it became a little bit more complicated. Over-development of the gold coast is obvious and with it, all its side-effects. At the same time, people seemed to be against the intrusion of the government in the Australian nature. The Great Barrier Reef is just one example of many issues in Australia and he said if people were not so comfortable, they may oppose the government more actively.

All in all, he said, he enjoyed his year abroad. “It was almost like vacation. Australia has so much to offer, you can’t miss it.”

 

When we first spoke about his time in Australia when he came back, I was quite impressed about what Markus said. Now, 2 years later we both had fun doing the interview and speaking about Australia. After working in tourism, seeing now some different angles, for example when speaking about the environment, made his reflection quite interesting and refreshing for me.

Tackling Climate Change in Australia

greenpeacesa

Greenpeace ad in the Sydney aquarium

Australia fears the consequences of more extreme weather and how it might impact their national economy, geology and society in general. The last few years, Australian voters have been voting over the future of their environmental policies. Different paths and policies have been introduced. The Gillard government for instance introduced a carbon tax which was seen as a step forward by some, and a controversial move by others. Personally, I find myself to be somewhere in the middle as putting taxes on everything we do not like or want to get rid of could be considered a slippery slope, in other words why stop there? On the other hand, it offered a good incentive for Australians to cut carbon emissions and so they did. By 11% according to official government figures.

The big question remains though, how can Australia lower its emission in an effective way? And at what price for society? Some scholars argue that the government needs to redirect its environmental track completely, taking into account that Australia is the 10th largest emitter of CO2, whilst others are fiercely against any measure or even the political debate about a change in policy. This is also part of the problem, Australia is still stuck in a position where consensus in the general population is miles away, overarching agreements and even a proper debate is still tucked beneath the bed.

In many ways this is ironic, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott was elected on the grounds of introducing more effective environmental schemes. This happened in 2013, but Australia is still lacking a clear cut environmental profile.

That might prove to be serious as the country is by many climate experts said to be extremely vulnerable to environmental changes. Some states may already have seen parts of what could be expected in the future. Residents in New South Wales woke up to record breaking temperatures last summer, people in Queensland have been facing increasingly fierce tropical storms and the population in Victora has spent the last year trying to gain control over the numerous wildfires.

So where should Australia head next then?

A combination of the schemes introduced by the Gillard government, increased awareness among Australians and a gradual switch over to renewable resources would be the short answer. The longer answer would require more details, but as a starting point it would mean to completely reshape the current energy platform and to take advantages of the excellent resources the country is possessing. Ironically the same resources that are endangered if the current trend is continuing.

In other words, Australia needs to think radically outside the box. Create incentives in order to move consumers away from traditional platforms, introduce alternatives, incorporate technology that will allow for a reduction of emission in both the private and public sphere.

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/06/02/3443604/australia-hottest-two-years/

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/05/australia-risks-going-backwards-on-climate-change-and-straining-pacific-ties

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/ http://article.wn.com/view/2014/06/13/Pacific_leaders_warn_Australia_isolated_on_climate_change/

http://www.theshovel.com.au/2014/06/10/australia-canada-to-withdraw-from-climate-change/

http://phys.org/news/2012-09-australian-coal-basin-polluter-greenpeace.html

Piracy returns to the Malacca Strait, RI Navy increases patrols Fadli, The Jakarta Post,

Piracy returns to the Malacca
Strait, RI Navy increases
patrols

 

The Malacca strait, situated in South East Asia between Indonesia and Malaysia is widely known as a hot-spot for armed hijacking at sea carried out by local pirates. Piracy in the area is known to have taken place for centuries, as the Malacca Strait have traditionally been a crucial waterway for ships and tankers en route to Europe/Middle East connecting it with Singapore and other important shipping hubs in Asia.

Map-of-Malacca-Strait_full_600

 

 

 

 

Over the last few years, the rate of successful pirate hijackings have remained low, due to joint efforts by affected countries and increasing surveillance at sea. Collective measures have been imposed by various countries, and both Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have deployed permanent military personnel to safeguard commercial traffic along the strait.

However, on the 27th of May oil tanker MT Orapin 4 registered in Thailand was hijacked en route from Singapore to Indonesia, loaded with diesel fuel. Marine vessels from the Indonesian Navy were deployed immediately, as the tanker went missing north of Batam Island, an area infamous for its number of piracy incidents.

The Indonesian coast guard said in an offical statement “The Navy received information on the piracy case, and we have taken measures to investigate. So far we have found no trace [of the ship]”

Commander General Susmuto from the Indonesian Navy, added on the 31st of May “Naval ships and aircraft were deployed to search for the tanker today”

At that point, there was confusion about the possible whereabouts of MT Orapin 4. Different news agencies picked up various rumours, and it was not until Sunday morning when Associated Press, released a statement stating that the tanker had just been released by pirates.

“Pirates hijacked and stole the tanker’s oil cargo onboard and destroyed the communication equipment. The crew and vessel are safe,”, was the offical response given by Noel Chong, who coordinates the piracy message boards from their Kuala Lumpur head office.

Experts believe the incident was an isolated incident, however BBC reported on a similar case one month earlier when a cargo ship was hijacked and pirates abducted three crew members. The ship was on its way from Singapore to Myanmar, and according to Malaysian police commander Abdul Rahim Abdullah, more than 3 million litres of diesel were transferred over in two adjoining boats.

However, the two incidents mentioned above just represent a fraction of the total hijackings, as numbers are deflated or incidents never registered. Officially the Malaccan Strait numbers around 20 piracy hijackings a year, however some researchers believe the number to be way higher as many small scale operations never reach global news stands.

Although, measures have been stepped up as a response to the list of new incidents, Singapore is expressing to further consolidate the efforts in the area by deploying new naval vessels.
However, intensifying the surveillance of the Malacca Strait might not be enough, given that the strait and its geographical complexity plus the amount of traffic passing through the strait, always leave room for pirates to hide in inlets or to seek refuge onshore.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/06/04/piracy-returns-malacca-strait-ri-navy-increases-patrols.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27114548

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1893032,00.html

http://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre/piracynewsafigures/427-piracynewsafigures

http://www.google.es/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=25&ved=0CEkQFjAEOBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.navalreview.ca%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2Fpublic%2Fvol4num1%2Fvol4num1art4.pdf&ei=Zr-RU-7sDMmX1AXg8ID4Dw&usg=AFQjCNHj9zXynwF9EN-W3Yx9KmMnQJQJLQ&sig2=ONKwOW569oT05j2mgBF1GA

http://www.crimson.eu.com/news/908/

http://www.ipcs.org/issue-brief/terrorism/gulf-of-aden-vs-malacca-strait-piracy-and-counter-piracy-135.html

http://www.google.es/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=63&ved=0CDIQFjACODw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iias.nl%2Fnl%2F36%2FIIAS_NL36_10.pdf&ei=JsCRU6-WGMaS0QXB0oDIBg&usg=AFQjCNFxGJoIrq99h5Nw39fXcUt40stpCg

http://rs.resalliance.org/2007/09/22/malacca-strait-pirates/

Fukushima´s impact

A 9.0 earthquake provoked a 15 meter Tsunami that hit the East coast of Japan and caused the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. There is still a high risk of radiation that keeps away workers from accessing the area to clean it up.

Image

 

Fukushima´s nuclear escape into the Pacific Ocean.

The 11th of March of 2011, as a consequence of the Tsunami, the cooling of the reactor and the power supply of the nuclear plant in Fukushima caused the nuclear disaster. During the first 3 days the nuclear cores of 3 of the 6 reactors melted and released radioactive substances. This substances that were released to the enviroment during an alarming period of time will not cause any changes in hereditary diseases and will not affect to the future Cancer rates according to the United Nations Scientific Commettee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. All of this was stated on the publication of the UNSCEAR that was revealed the 2nd of May, although the radiation that the citizens of Fukushima will receive during their lifetime will increase.

The Commette believes as well that there could be a probability that the cases of Thyroid Cancer increase in children as it happened with Chernobyl’s nuclear disaster, thats why they will study the situation. The workers that were exposed were evaluated too and there are no changes expected although the most exposed workers will recieve regular health checks.

The worst situation for that has happened in decades occured when the Tsunami reached the coast, 15 884 people died, 1 600 of them were people in temporary houseliving that didn’t have access to hospitals or healthcare. 300 000 people were evacuated from the Fukushima are including Tokioma town, with 15 800 residents, beacame ghost town leaving 6 000 homes, schools and business empty. At that time the residents in Fukushima just had a few hours to pack their belongings and leave. The emissions of cesium and iodine were released in to the enviroment exposing them to a high danger.

 

Image

 

– Cleaning up duty from workers in Fukushima.

Regarding to the ecosystem, the Committee believes that the effects on flora and fauna that have been caused are limited to the shoreline area adjacent to the nuclear plant. Any effect will be transient even though small traces of radioactive water have been recently found in Canada, and in tuna on the shores of the states of Oregon and Washington, thousands of miles away. What has been left around Fukushima’s nuclear plant is what is called “the red zone”. In which only workers well equiped with face masks and protective gear are allowed to get in. They spend most of their time filling up black bags with contaminated soil. The amount of Black bags is so big that what years ago were fields with crops, now are dead fields full of black bags. If not, the workers will be going around with a Geiger counter, to detect radiation or cleaning up the reactors of the plant. A nuclear plant than once had thousands of time more radiation the bomb thrown on Hiroshima.

 

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/final-word-on-the-health-risks-from-fukushima-accident/article6033840.ece

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/fukushima-radioactivity-found-in-oregon-and-washington-state-tuna/26459/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2618828/Fukishima-aftermath-Eerie-drone-footage-reveals-apocalyptic-wasteland-Japans-abandoned-east-coast.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/21/world/asia/japan-fukushima-visit-ripley/

Philippines seek cooperation in South China Sea dispute

On 21st May, the Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung and the Filipino president Aquino announced their cooperation against “illegal” Chinese activities and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

Shortly after, on May 22nd, the Vietnamese minister held a speech at the World Economic Forum in Manila, Philippines, saying that Vietnam is considering joining the Philippines in a lawsuit against China under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The declaration of cooperation from Wednesday was made only two days after Aquino accused China to violate an informal agreement from 2002 between the 10 ASEAN member states and China. Within this informal code of conduct, China and the ASEAN member states declared to refrain from building new structures, such as oil rigs, and occupying uninhibited reefs.

South China Sea: Interactive map (click it)

According to Filipino intelligence, China started to claim territory surrounding the Johnson South Reef, considered to be within the Filipino Exclusive Economic zone (EEZ), already in 2012. Several military surveillance photos were released on May 15th, providing evidence of Chinese construction sites on uninhibited reefs.

The EEZ is regulated by the UNCLOS, which was signed and ratified by China. The UNCLOS defines the EEZ of a state 200 miles from it’s shores.

On May 1st, China deployed an oil rig close to the Vietnamese shore, within an area Vietnam considers to be part of it’s EEZ.

After deploying the oil rig, Vietnamese boats tried to stop the Chinese vessels and by today (May 22nd), fights with ramming and water cannons between coast guards and fishing vessels of both states continue. No hard ammunition was reported to be used thus far, but demonstrations against Chinese sea occupation in Vietnam resulted in several deaths.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the main source of conflict in the South China Sea is about resources. Beside fishery and hydrocarbons, which are in high demand due to the forthcoming industrialization of the coastal areas, the South China Sea is expected to have at least seven billion barrels of oil reserves and 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Furthermore, about 50% of global oil tanker shipments routes through the South China Sea and traffic is significantly higher than in the Suez Canal or Panama Canal.

Since the US is increasing it’s activity in the pacific, China might feel forced to secure this very important trade lane and to get the disputed territory and resources under control before external forces become a thread to the Chinese interest in the South China Sea.

The US announced it’s focus on the transpacific relations in 2010. Right now, the US is negotiating a free trade area, called Transpacific Partnership (TPP), with several states within the pacific ocean.

Besides the TPP, the US also announced on April 28th a military cooperation with the Philippines and will reactivate military bases within the Philippines.

Bibliography:

http://www.cfr.org/china/south-china-sea-tensions/p29790

http://www.fpri.org/articles/2013/09/imperative-american-strategy-southeast-asia

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/05/16/china-building-military-base-in-south-china-sea-on-territory-claimed-by-philippines-manila-says/

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/687720-vietnam-and-philippines-cooperate-to-oppose-china/?photo=2

http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/05/19/philippines-china-idINL3N0O52AK20140519

http://www.voanews.com/content/vietnam-pm-threatens-legal-actions-against-china-over-oil-rig/1919946.html

https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetailsIII.aspx?&src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXI~6&chapter=21&Temp=mtdsg3&lang=en

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/12/11/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-trans-pacific-partnership/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/28/obama-says-us-philippine-military-pact-will-improve-asia-security/

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/87360/vietnam-mulls-legal-action-other-defense-options-vs-china—premier