Victory Over Japan Day Still Exists? For reals?

Today is the 65th anniversary of the day on which Fat Man, the second atomic bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki.

It also happens to be VJ Day. That is, “Victory Over Japan Day,” commemorating Japan’s surrender to the Allies. And it’s a state holiday in Rhode Island.

I had no idea such a thing even existed past the 1940’s, until a friend living in RI mentioned it. Rhode Island is, at least, the only state to celebrate this rather anachronistic holiday, but it’s really sort of awkward that it exists at all. There’s just something bizarre about having a holiday celebrating a military victory over a Major U.S. ally.

Although back in 1990 the Rhode Island GA passed a resolution helpfully clarifying that VJ Day is “not a day to express satisfaction in the destruction and death caused by nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” all other attempts at revoking the holiday or at least renaming it have failed.

I suppose it’s just too risky of a political activity, with too little gain, for any politician to try very hard at getting rid of it. Although it’s kind of embarrassing, it doesn’t cause any real harm, so people are content to let it be. Otherwise, any politician that does give a “yes” vote to nixing the holiday will forever after have to deal with charges from opposing candidates that “Politician X is against supporting U.S. veterans,” or deal with campaign trail questions of, “Why do you think America should not celebrate its victories and pay its respects to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice?”


The Japanese Prostitutes-for-Whaleburgers Programme

Tomorrow, the International Whaling Commission meets for the beginning of its 5-day conference in Agadir, Morocco. The annual conference will be of particular importance this year, due to Australia’s decision to move ahead with its claims before the ICJ against Japan, based upon the latter’s whaling activities.

Although there has been a moratorium on whaling since 1986, Japan (as well as Iceland and Norway) have continued whaling under the “research exception” of the Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Article VIII, section 1 of the Convention provides as follows:

Notwithstanding anything contained in this Convention any Contracting Government may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research subject to such restrictions as to number and subject to such other conditions as the Contracting Government thinks fit, and the killing, taking, and treating of whales in accordance with the provisions of this Article shall be exempt from the operation of this Convention.

So it’s not clear cut who has got the better side of the argument, here. “Scientific research” is not defined elsewhere in the Convention, and, if this case does make it up to the ICJ, the Court will have a fairly complex question of treaty interpretation to grapple with.

Japan is, currently, hunting whales for what can fairly be characterized as commercial purposes. However, Japan is also using the whales it kills to conduct research, through its Institute of Cetacean Research. Although debate continues about the necessity of using lethal methods for whale research, it would not be accurate to characterize Japan’s whale research programs as merely a front for the commercial operations — the research on the whale populations is genuine.

On the other hand, the principle of good faith in treaty interpretation would seem to prevent construing the Convention to allow the “research” exception to encompass any sort of whale harvesting that also incidentally includes a research component. The ICJ will have a difficult task before them, in determining whether or not the Japanese research whaling fleet is authorized as a matter of law.

But if the judicial process does not go Japan’s way, there’s always the political method. And, if things go the way the pro-whaling nations hope, the upcoming IWC conference in Morocco could ultimately lift the whaling moratorium, rendering Australia’s claims moot.

I’ve talked before on this blog about Nauru’s practice of selling its recognition power. China and Abkhazia both essentially purchased Nauru’s recognition of their statehood, through the use of foreign aid. A similar situation has now developed with regards to the IWC, and Japan is engaging in very direct forms of diplomacy in order to secure more votes for the pro-whaling coalition.

Currently, 88 states are parties to the Convention, and any state that wishes to join may do so. Most of these countries, however, are not themselves whaling states, nor do any whales live in their jurisdictions. Eight of member states are actually landlocked territories. For countries that have no strong interest in whales or whaling, the decision of whether to prohibit or allow whaling on international waters is a decision controlled less by State preference, and more upon which option will garner them the most diplomatic favor. As a result, the vote-buying has been pretty blatant.

The Caribbean states all largely vote along with Japan on whaling issues, and receive large amounts of aid from Japan in return. The Pacific is more divided, as some of the countries there have been wooed by Japan, while others have been bought out by Australia and New Zealand. The Marshall Islands and Kiribati are among those Pacific Island states who receive aid from Japan and vote with the pro-whaling bloc in return.

What is interesting about Japan’s purchasing of pro-whaling votes, however, is the form of compensation offered. Although some of the compensation consists of fairly standard foreign aid packages, or the paying of smaller states’ IWC fees, or covering the travel costs for their diplomats to attend the IWC conference, some of Japan’s tactics are more questionable.

Other forms of compensation include providing prostitutes to foreign diplomats, giving government officials generous “discretionary expenses funds” for their visits to Japan or IWC conferences, and providing diplomats with lavish vacations. Although generally I disagree with those who characterize this sort of compensation-based diplomacy as a form of “bribery,” in this case, the label does seem to fit.

Japan’s justification for this particular brand of diplomacy is that the IWC is abusing its mission by failing to have adequate membership requirements. Some Japanese politicians go as far as to argue that only pro-whaling nations should be permitted to join the IWC, because the goal of the IWC is to regulate the harvesting of whales — and countries that do not harvest any do not have any legitimate interest in setting that number.

They do have something of a point. The object and purpose of the Whaling Convention clearly indicates an intention to protect whale stocks in order to create a sustainable global whaling industry. The purpose of the IWC was not to work towards the complete elimination of whaling, but rather to ensure the preservation of the earth’s whale resources so that commercial harvesting could continue — and by allowing in any country that wants to join, the IWC is letting states with no economic or territorial interest in whales to exert control over states like Japan.

But the prevalence of schemes through which smaller states sell out there international-law-making-power in exchange for cash poses something of a long term dilemma for customary international law. CIL is developed through a combination of state action and opinio juris, but for international legal issues in which “state action” is only conducted by a bare handful of states — such as with whaling — or where there state action consists of a nebulous act of “recognition”, having opinio juris be determined by who’s writing the biggest checks undermines the credibility of the whole process.


Japanese Women May Gain The Right To Keep Their Names

I was reading about the recent electoral victory of the Democratic Party of Japan and the increase in the number of women in the Diet, when I came across this startling fact.

Japan’s government plans to submit legislation as early as next year to allow married women to keep their maiden names, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing unidentified government officials.

The bill will enable married couples to use separate surnames and children will be able to choose the surname of either parent, the Yomiuri said.

The change will make it easier for women in the workplace as more married females take up employment[.]

I wouldn’t have guessed there’s a first world country around today where women literally do not have the option to keep their real name and also get married. After poking around some more, it appears that the law doesn’t actually mandate women change their name to their husband’s, but that the couple must both choose the same last name. So, 97% of the time, it’s the man’s name.

This issue has apparently been kicked around before. Although in 2002, 65% voted in favor of abolishing the prohibition,

[T]raditionalists have roared back, arguing that allowing two-name families will promote excessive individuality, encourage the complete dissolution of the family and even create misunderstandings at mailboxes and gravestones.

“I understand it’s inconvenient for working women to change their surnames mid-career, but we should continue the existing system to avoid confusion and to give a good example to children,” said Sanae Takaichi, an LDP lawmaker. “Dual surnames are not part of Japanese culture.”

Of course, although maintaining the right to choose your own name despite being married would be a nice step, gender equality in Japan faces many other roadblocks:

Japan ranked 91st out of 128 countries in the World Economic Forum’s annual ranking of gender-equal countries presented on Thursday, the lowest ranking among all high income countries except for South Korea and five Middle Eastern countries.