One thing that seems to not have been asked about the DPJ’s recent foreign policy “cave” on the Senkaku Island issue is “where did they get their information from?”
After all, if we are to believe the likes of Eda Kenji from Your Party, the DPJ is all about “bureaucracy-led politics” and it seems to have suspiciously failed them after 55 odd years of careful, almost conservative, MOFA management. Indeed, as Jun Okumura suggests, any self-respecting government/bureaucracy would have had crisis management plans in place and would have been aware of how this might have played out from the start. Which is true. While the Chinese reaction might have been unexpected, it certainly was not implausible.
It seems to me that either a Koizumi-like immediate deportation or decisively and calmly running down the clock until, in this case, the 29th, would have been the appropriate choices – and those choices should have been apparent at the outset. I doubt even if MOFA neglected to inform the DPJ of the relevant considerations, and even if we accept the Chinese pushback was stronger than predicted, that the DPJ leaders believed that resolving it in the way that they did would be desirable. Why try to take a bold stance if you do not have the will to follow it through? And even if you initially miscalculated, why keep digging in but then release the captain at a disadvantageous time with an explanation that contradicts the initial policy of government non-interference from an independent law enforcement agency? There are some questions here for me that EVEN if we assume incompetence (see Dispatch Japan for a good summary of how the government may not have been out to sea as some are saying), are insufficiently answered.
Was it really Chinese pressure that made Japan “blink?” (given that this pressure was predictably a constant since the beginning of the crisis) Was it Japanese business pressure on the DPJ? Was it all a cunning ploy by MOFA or even the DPJ to get the US to commit to protecting the Senkakus after it having recently neglected to mention whether they would come to the aid of Japan in the case of a military action against the Senkakus? Did the US bring pressure to bear in the form of not wanting the situation to escalate further? (there has been some subtle background diplomatic maneuvering suggesting the Chinese are making some overtures to the US after a bad year for the relationship). Like Peter Ennis, I am not sure that it was a significant diplomatic defeat for Japan – and certainly long-term Japan has enhanced its credentials vis-a-vis China if we expand the audience for this crisis beyond just China and Japan. Any significant change in Japan’s diplomatic posture towards China should be resisted in the mean time, even if Japan takes greater military precautions in terms of its security posture. But in the context of China-Japan relations I can certainly understand there would be some dissatisfaction domestically.
It is the case that China did not contest effective control of Senkakus, and the DPJ might well have been merely been allowing the CCP, or at least the moderates in the party who found it necessary to flex their security policy muscles ahead of the 2012 election, a face saving way to de-escalate the issue – but, it certainly is not just China experts that understand that foreign policy is being made by more actors than just the CCP and that is going to have to be faced up to at some point in time – possibly sooner rather than later. Even if these CCP elements realize that they miscalculated, it is not unreasonable to fear now that “miscalculations” are going to become more frequent because of the changes in CCP foreign policy management. It is hard to believe that the DPJ either did not understand this, or that they were not informed of this dynamic when they decided that they would take the bolder option of taking the captain into custody. Now that the Chinese do not look like they are going to climb down anytime soon, and cabinet ministers are still hovering between praise for the prosecutors making a enlightened “political” decision to prevent further deterioration of Japan-China relations, and indignation at China’s not respecting Japanese legal process – well they are certainly a number of seeming contradictions here that would make many scratch their heads.