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Opinion | Thin skin and a thick head: Recipe for Japan's disastrous decision-making

By Philip Yeung, university teacher


Japan's decision to dump nuclear wastewater into the Pacific hinges on two things: science and politics. It calculated that greenlight from IAEA takes care of science, and US backing takes care of politics. But they miscalculated. It has only opened the Pandora's box and unleashed the beast. Its thick-headed leaders fail to foresee the fallout. The move has reshuffled the deck. No one knows how this game will be played from now on.

Japan is setting a dangerous precedent. Nations are now free to use the ocean as the dumping ground. Overnight, the rights of future generations of fishermen, sushi lovers, beachgoers and deep-sea divers are trampled. This alone is a crime against humanity.

Asians were Japanese war victims. Japan is pouring salt into an open wound, turning its local problem into a planetary permanent scourge. Mother earth be damned. This is uncharted territory for humanity, with repercussions for all Asians for all eternity. This stupid solution is a thousand times worse than the original headache.

Japan is threatening to take China to the WTO unless it lifts its ban on Japanese seafood. The wrong-doers are crying foul against their victims, adding insult to injury.

Japan's act of environmental terror is made possible by today's dangerously divided international community, with US and its allies on one side, and China, Russia and other US foes on the other. The friend can do no wrong, and the foe can do no right. Truth is a casualty.

Why does America back Japan, besides it being over 10,000 kilometers from Fukushima? It has a sinister motive to sow mistrust between China and Japan. The wedge between them will keep Japan forever in the US camp. A clever cold war strategy worthy of Machiavelli.

Japan's biggest mistake is in treating the Pacific as its own private backyard, behaving like the master race who knows best, with a callous disregard for its "inferior" neighbors.

History is not on Japan's side. Defeated by the US in the last War, Japan has been kowtowing to America as its conqueror. To this day, Japan doesn't give a hoot about what the rest of Asia thinks. Unlike Germany, which has repeatedly apologized and paid for its wartime atrocities, Japan has refused to do either. Its war criminals are still worshipped in its Shinto shrine, the Asian comfort women issue is still festering as an open wound, and they deny the Nanking Massacre ever took place. This is a different crime in a different time, but the same unrepentant attitude.

Japan is a hierarchical society. Its rules of social behavior only govern superiors or inferiors. America belongs to the former. The rest of Asia falls squarely into the latter category. It has a shame culture, not a guilt culture. Loss of face matters more than making amends for its sins. Japan has never learned its tragic lesson. Having the US on your side doesn't make it right. It only makes this hot potato smell like a cold war by-product.

If unchecked, this nagging nuclear nightmare will escalate into full-scale economic warfare and even war itself. Unwilling to hit the pause button, Japanese leaders turn their face issue into a curse for the entire human race. China is right not to relent. Russia is right to take this fight to whatever level it deems necessary. By a single act, Japan has earned the enmity of two major military powers. The international fallout is frighteningly unpredictable.

But Japan's foul deed has caused hardly a ripple in the West, it being a Western ally. Politics defines reality.

If a European country were to do what Japan has done, Europeans would eat that country alive, IAEA or no IAEA. Can you imagine Britain poisoning the Atlantic and getting away with it? When it happens on your doorstep, the rules are suddenly different.

If, God forbid, China were to do the same, it would be vilified and crucified. Typical double standards.

Common courtesy dictates that where cross-border implications kick in, neighbors be consulted. Japan is using its tripartite alliance with US and South Korea to bulldoze through its decision that will continue for the next 40 years and haunt Asia to the end of time. This lousy neighbor has no moral compass!

In Chernobyl, the other major nuclear disaster, the Soviet Union acted responsibly, spending US$318 billion in today's dollars to contain the spread, bankrupting the country, leading to the dissolution of the Soviet empire and the reshaping of Eastern Europe.

Japan, by contrast, is utterly selfish and irresponsible. Whereas the Soviet Union had built a sarcophagus to contain the crippled nuclear plant and localize the fallout, Japan has done the opposite, exporting its nuclear headache to its neighbors, and using the ocean as its dumping ground. The accident began as a natural disaster. But its current fallout is a man-made calamity.

Chernobyl removed nearly two million acres of agricultural land and over 1.7 million acres of forest from production. The Fukushima aftermath impacts an entire ocean. Putin promises military action if seawater samples fail Russia's scientific tests, besides taking Japan to the International Tribunal for crimes against humanity. Though no darling of the West, Russia is playing divine intervention to stop the Japanese madness. Fukushima is on our doorstep. No one in Asia Pacific can sleep easy and neither should the Japanese. Its leaders are behaving like environmental terrorists and deserve to face collective hara-kiri. The Pacific Ocean belongs to all Pacific nations.


The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.

Read more articles by Philip Yeung:

Opinion | Japan's second invasion against Asia from the sea

Opinion | Only in America


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