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from The Great Debate:

Let Japan help defend America — and itself

Members of Japan's Self-Defence Forces' airborne troops stand at attention during the annual SDF troop review ceremony at Asaka Base in Asaka

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now following through on actions laid out in his recent bold speech calling for Japan to defend allies who might be under attack.

But wait, you may ask, hasn’t the United States had a mutual security treaty with Japan for more than half a century?

Well, not quite. Yes, Washington has had a mutual defense-security treaty with Tokyo since 1951. But Japan is not committed to defending the United States or any of its armed forces. In fact, Japanese forces are prohibited from helping Washington in time of war -- even if the war is in defense of Japan.

This goes back to the postwar U.S. Occupation of Japan and the creation of the Japanese constitution. Determined that Tokyo would never again pose a threat to its Asian neighbors or the United States, Occupation leader General Douglas MacArthur and his staff were sympathetic to Japanese pacifists’ proposal to include a no-war making article in the constitution, then being written with oversight by the Occupation authorities. This worked with the policies of then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, who wanted to focus on rebuilding the Japanese economy -- without the distraction of creating a major defense force.

from Ian Bremmer:

In a year of big elections, Japan’s was Godzilla

Entering 2012, we were staring at a host of critical elections and transitions in countries that represent about half the world’s gross domestic product. You would think those elections and political handovers would have been some of the most important events of 2012. Yet they were largely red herrings.

In China, the consensus view is that even with a change of leadership, China is largely the same as it was; if anything, the Chinese leadership has doubled down on the approaches of its former government. In Russia, Vladimir Putin went from running the country as prime minister to running the country as president. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy was voted out and a socialist, François Hollande, voted in, but that hasn’t changed France’s stance toward the European Union, its most important relationship. And in the U.S., Barack Obama swatted aside Mitt Romney while Congress remained divided, making four more years of the status quo likely.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 31 October 2010

In terms of the Ring of Fire, Indonesia had just been too quiet. Warnings that Mount Merapi, which towers above the outskirts of Yogyakarta city on Java island, was about to erupt, were heeded by some and ignored by many. On Monday, a 7.5 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that hit the remote western Mentawai islands killing at least 343.  A day later, Mount Merapi erupted, killing at least 34.  It took almost three days for Jakarta based photographer Crack Palinggi to reach the scene of the devastation caused by the tsunami. Beawiharta was quicker to scene of the volcano; needless to say it's always worth standing well back when people are evacuating from an erupting volcano.  Bea's picture screams panic, heat and noise of those fleeing as hot ash falls to earth, the drama amplified by the flash blur technique used.  It is in complete contrast to the picture taken a day later of sombre near silence as rescue workers crunch through the muffled ashen landscape like newly fallen snow.

INDONESIA-VOLCANO/

 A woman covers her baby as she runs from ash falling from an erupting volcano at Kaliurang village in Sleman, near Indonesia's ancient city of Yogyakarta, October 26, 2010. Mount Merapi erupted on Tuesday, prompting terrified villagers to flee and join the thousands already evacuated from its slopes, witnesses said.  REUTERS/Beawiharta

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