Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"A look at how politics influenced the prosecutors

"The decision by Japanese prosecutors to release the captain of a Chinese trawler appears to have been the result of strong political influence.

"While government officials at all levels are denying that political pressure was applied, government sources did say that Prime Minister Naoto Kan appeared increasingly agitated over the prolonged row with China over the arrest of the captain of the trawler that collided with two Japan Coast Guard vessels in waters near the Senkaku Islands.

"Kan was visibly frustrated even before he left Wednesday to attend a U.N. General Assembly session. Central government officials also whispered rumors that Kan remained agitated during his stay in New York before prosecutors decided to release the captain on Friday.

"Officials in the Kan administration were becoming increasingly concerned that bilateral relations could be hurt to an extent that it would take years to repair.

"Many central government bureaucrats said they believe that Kan hurried along the decision to release the captain.

"Kan himself stressed in a news conference in New York that no political interference had been involved in the prosecutors' decision.

""(The release) was the result of prosecutors considering the nature of the incident in a comprehensive manner and making a judgment in an orderly fashion based on domestic law," Kan said Friday evening in New York.

"He also called on China to observe more restraint.

""The two nations are important neighbors that have a responsibility to the international community," Kan told reporters. "In order to deepen a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, both Japan and China must make efforts in a calm manner."

"However, in Tokyo, government bureaucrats said the government was irresponsible for saying the decision was made entirely by prosecutors.

""It's a farce to say prosecutors made the decision," a senior ministry official said. "(The government) is irresponsible."

"Some bureaucrats predicted events would turn out as they did in the wake of the arrest Tuesday of a prosecutor at the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of altering evidence.

"After the arrest, a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said, "It will absolutely have an effect on the Senkaku issue. The officials in the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office are not idiots."

"The official predicted that prosecutors would bow to political pressure and release the captain.

"Even after the captain's release, China has not backed down from its confrontational stance.

"Japanese officials were seeking a meeting in New York for Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao after the release, but that never materialized.

"Moreover, the Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded an apology and compensation for the detention of the captain.

"On Saturday, the Foreign Ministry released a statement that said, "China's request has absolutely no basis and cannot be accepted."

"In Nara, Katsuya Okada, the secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, said, "It is a completely unconvincing request. China should respond in a more restrained manner."

"A high-ranking Foreign Ministry official predicted that China will become increasingly arrogant.

"When asked about how to deal with such an emerging China, the official said, "There is nothing we can do. This is a huge trend that will continue for 20 years."

"Although the Kan administration initially gave the go-ahead to arrest the captain, it eventually hurried to resolve the issue even as it prepared for the criticism that such a move would bring.

"They were forced to make that course change because the unexpected pace at which China escalated its confrontational stance led government officials to begin thinking about the worst-case scenario.

"After calling the Japanese ambassador to the Chinese Foreign Ministry numerous times, even late at night, Beijing cut off all ministerial-level contact. Exports of rare earth metals from China also came to a halt.

"After four Japanese construction company employees were detained in China, a senior Foreign Ministry official said, "China has begun moving as the options available to it have decreased."

"The official also warned that Japanese in China should be more careful because "it is a nation like North Korea."

"Another Foreign Ministry official said other measures that Beijing could have taken include "an informal product boycott against Japanese companies" and "the carrying out of sentences, including the death penalty, against Japanese arrested in China in connection with prostitution and drugs."

"A Defense Ministry source said, "Chinese naval ships could be dispatched to the waters near the Senkaku Islands."

"In 1993 after France approved the sale of fighter jets to Taiwan, China, in a retaliatory measure, closed the French Consulate General in Guangzhou.

"Considering the circumstances, Beijing could have taken similar measures against Japan in the trawler incident, officials said.

"A high-ranking official in the prime minister's office said that if the captain had been indicted, China would likely have recalled its ambassador and might also have severed diplomatic ties.

"When asked about criticism of being weak-kneed, the official said, "What would you do? Would you go to war? In the past, this might have ended in war."

"The decision to release the captain was also a difficult one for prosecutors.

"After the decision was made, sources in the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office indicated just how unusual the decision was.

"One high-ranking prosecutor said, "There was enough evidence to indict, but we considered the effects on the Japan-China relationship. It just went beyond our hands."

"Another high-ranking prosecutor warned that prosecutors could not be held responsible if a similar incident occurred in the future.

"On Friday before the decision to release was made in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, a meeting was held in Tokyo between officials of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, Fukuoka High Public Prosecutors Office and Naha District Public Prosecutors Office.

"Naha prosecutors asked that an indictment be allowed, but objections were raised by prosecutors at higher levels.

"The decision to release the captain was made at the meeting.

"A high-ranking Justice Ministry official explained why the decision to release the captain was made before the Wednesday detention deadline.

""If the decision was made after the prime minister returned to Japan, doubts would surely have been raised about political interference in the decision," the official said.

"Prosecutors also were aware of the pressure being applied by China.

"One senior prosecutor said, "The detention of the four Japanese had a psychological effect."

"Meanwhile, Tadamori Oshima, vice president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, said the party would ask that Toru Suzuki, the deputy prosecutor at the Naha District Public Prosecutors Office who made the announcement to release the captain, be called to testify in the Diet to explain the process behind the decision.

"An extraordinary Diet session will be convened from Friday.

"Oshima said about the comment by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku accepting the prosecutors' decision, "We have to think that is evidence of interference by politicians in the judicial sector.""

By Asahi Shimbun (9/27/2010), Link to article (last visited 9/28/2010)

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