Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shisaku: "Is there an August surprise regarding the Futenma-to-Henoko Deal?"

Today's post from the Shisaku political blog written by Tokyo resident Michael Cucek is going viral by email:
On July 2, Sato Masaru, the extremely controversial former research analyst at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published a brief and rather annoyed opinion article in The Tokyo Shimbun. Sato, who is of Okinawan extraction, was complaining about the agreement that Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Kitazawa Yoshimi signed in Washington on May 28 reaffirming the promise to move the U.S. Marines elements currently based at MCAS Futenma to a so-called Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) to be built offshore of Camp Schwab in Henoko, Okinawa.

What annoyed Sato was not the agreement. It was the translation.

Or lack of one, to be precise.

Sato begins his article with a recollection of his time in the Japanese Embassy in Moscow. Whenever bilateral agreements were being worked on, they were worked on in both Japanese and Russian simultaneously by the experts working for both sides. Every line, every word in each the text of an agreement in one language was checked aggressively against its counterpart in the other language, that nothing of possible detriment to Japan's interests sneak in due to a misused or ambiguous Russian term or construction. Both the Japanese and the Russian sides negotiated over every ambiguity, to nail down what every word of the bilateral agreement meant. In the end, the product would be two texts, one in each language, of equal validity, with Japan able to walk away with the confidence that in the case of any controversy, the Japanese side could point to the Japanese text as the definitive text.

To this, Sato contrasts the May 28 joint statement on the Japan Security Consultative Committee, where the government of Hatoyama Yukio acceded to the United States insistence that a Futenma replacement facility be built at Camp Schwab. Sato notes that contrary to the practices followed during his time in Moscow, the Japanese version of the text is not official. It is merely a "provisional translation" (kariyaku) of the English official text.

For Sato the lack of an equally valid official Japanese translation is a travesty -- a dereliction of duty by Japan's diplomatic corps...
Read the rest of the post here.

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