Sasakawa USA Newsletter June 1, 2021
Included in this issue of the newsletter:
  • Message from Sasakawa USA's Chairman, Satohiro Akimoto

May Activities
  • Congressional Forum: U.S.-Japan Lawmakers Dialogue
  • Policy Briefing: The State of U.S.-Japan Economic Relations: What is Working and What is Needed, Featuring Mr. Kenichiro Mizoguchi, Mr. Shinsuke Takahashi, and Ms. Misato Kogure
  • Washington Kenkyu Group: A Discussion with Mr. John Gardner

Publications 
  • Japan Political Pulse: Prime Minister Suga Battles on with Vaccinations and the Olympics (Akimoto)

Upcoming Activities 
  • Policy Briefing: Soft Power and Morals in U.S. Foreign Policy, Featuring Dr. Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

Announcements
  • Pacific Islands Maritime Domain Awareness: Formation of Steering Committee with The Hon. Randall G. Schriver, Amb. Kurt Tong, and Dr. Alfred Oehlers
  • Renewed Collaboration with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress
Message from Sasakawa USA's Chairman, Satohiro Akimoto
Four months have passed since Myanmar’s Tatmadaw, the country’s military, seized political control away from the National League for Democracy (NLD) by military coup on February 1. The Tatmadaw removed NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the government’s top leadership position by detaining her on spurious charges. The Tatmadaw reverted back to old autocracy negating the modest democratic progress made during a period of awkward co-existence with the NLD during the last decade.

Myanmar citizens, particularly the brave young citizens, who fought for democracy and freedom, paid dearly the last four months. According to a nonprofit organization in Thailand founded by former political prisoners of Myanmar, 4,400 people have been arrested and 840 people have been killed since the coup took place. While the media coverage on Myanmar has subsided from the initial peak coverage, the difficult and disturbing situation on the ground tragically continues.

There is even danger of Myanmar spiraling into a civil war among the Tatmadaw, the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH, an interim government opposing the junta founded by NLD lawmakers following the coup), pro-democracy protesters, and ethnic minority groups. The quagmire will most likely be for the long haul, as none of these actors have incentives to compromise and hold dialogue for the future. The Tatmadaw, which initially announced a timeline of one year for the country to regain some form of civilian rule, now talks about a “two-year maximum” to hold free and fair elections. The fact of the matter is that there will be no quick and easy solution to ease the political turmoil and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.

The Biden administration holds protection of human rights as one of the pillars of its foreign policies. President Biden himself stated shortly after the coup that “the United States helped bring together the U.N. Security Council, which issued a strong statement in support of Burmese democracy…We will use our renewed engagement on the Human Rights Council to strengthen the world’s commitment to human rights in Burma.” However, the reality is that the U.S. has very little leverage in Myanmar and its sanctions will not alter policy choices of the junta.

Under such circumstances, something that can be done, which the U.S. and Japan should do, is to closely work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has taken an uncharacteristically forthcoming step, as it sees the Myanmar situation as a common threat to regional stability. An ASEAN emergency summit held on April 24, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing of the Tatmadaw, established five points of consensus about the crisis; 1) an immediate cessation of violence, 2) peaceful solution via dialogue, 3) an ASEAN special envoy to mediate, 4) provision of humanitarian assistance by ASEAN, and 5) an ASEAN special envoy’s visit to Myanmar. The U.S. and Japan may be able to play a positive role in Myanmar by supporting such regional initiatives.

It was unfortunate in this respect that Secretary of State Antony Blinken missed the first ministerial summit with ASEAN countries on May 25. ASEAN’s top diplomatic corps fruitlessly waited for Secretary Blinken to appear for 45 minutes, as he was unable to have a video connection on board a plane to Tel Aviv, Israel, due to technical glitches. Although he has held a bilateral phone call with seven out of ten ASEAN leaders, it would have been a great opportunity to demonstrate the Biden administration’s commitment to the region.

As a matter of fact, former President Donald Trump gave the impression to ASEAN leaders that he did not take ASEAN seriously, as he skipped the ASEAN summit in 2018 and 2019. President Joe Biden has not had a bilateral phone call with any of the ASEAN leaders since he was sworn in as president on January 20, despite the fact that he has spoken with over 40 world leaders and invited two Asian leaders, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea, to the White House. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was supposed to attend the Shangri La Dialogue, a premier security conference scheduled to be held on Jun 4 and 5 in Singapore, to meet with Southeast Asian leaders. However, unfortunately, the conference was canceled on May 20 due to the pandemic.

ASEAN is a complex group of highly diverse countries, which often seems slow and indecisive, even on urgent and critical regional issues such as Myanmar, from the Western viewpoint because of its consensus-based decision-making process. However, ASEAN is key for the U.S. and Japan to strategically engage with the region, including China. Incidentally the ASEAN ministerial summit with China is scheduled to be held in early June. It is crucially important for Secretary Blinken to work hard to demonstrate that the U.S. takes ASEAN seriously.

Incidentally, Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, played a leading role in calling the ASEAN emergency summit to address the crisis in Myanmar. The ten ASEAN leaders, including Myanmar’s junta leader Sen. Gen Min Aung Hlaing, were able to issue five points of consensus, as mentioned before. While Brunei, ASEAN chair in 2021, and Cambodia, ASEAN chair in 2022, will need to push forward with the five points of consensus, Indonesia, ASEAN chair in 2023, holds key to ASEAN’s engagement with Myanmar.
May Activities
Congressional Forum: U.S.-Japan Lawmakers Dialogue
On May 5, Sasakawa USA, in partnership with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC), as part of the Congressional Study Group on Japan, co-hosted an off-the-record dialogue between members of the U.S. Congress and Japan’s National Diet. Through this dialogue, The Hon. Iwao Horii, The Hon. Karen Makishima, The Hon. Rui Matsukawa, and The Hon. Keitaro Ohno from the Japanese National Diet were able to meet their counterparts from the U.S. Congress and exchange views on issues of interest and concern facing each country. Sasakawa USA looks forward to co-hosting similar opportunities for dialogue exchange with FMC in the future.

Photo: Hon. Horii, Hon. Makishima, Hon. Matsukawa, and Hon. Ohno 
Policy Briefing: The State of U.S.-Japan Economic Relations: What is Working and What is Needed, Featuring Mr. Kenichiro Mizoguchi, Mr. Shinsuke Takahashi, and Ms. Misato Kogure
On May 20, Sasakawa USA was pleased to host a virtual event featuring Mr. Kenichiro Mizoguchi, General Manager of Hitachi Ltd.’s Washington DC Office; Mr. Shinsuke Takahashi, Chairman of the Board and Head of Government Relations at NEC Corporation of America; and Ms. Misato Kogure, Director of Business Development & Environmental Affairs at Daikin U.S. Corporation, for a discussion of U.S.-Japan economic ties in the context of the broader U.S.-Japan strategic partnership. 

In their presentations, the speakers discussed their firm’s approach to investment and business operations in the United States before addressing what is working and what is needed in U.S.-Japan economic relations. First, Mr. Mizoguchi discussed policy options for improving U.S. infrastructure and creating more opportunities for Japanese companies to work with the United States. Next, Mr. Takahashi focused on how Washington and Tokyo can cooperate on technology development and innovation while also setting humane standards for emerging technologies such as AI and biometrics. Finally, Ms. Kogure discussed how the United States and Japan can work together on climate-friendly technology and infrastructure. A Q&A discussion, moderated by Sasakawa USA Chairman and President Dr. Satohiro Akimoto, followed the speakers’ remarks. A video of the event is available here, with a written recap to follow soon.

Event video: clockwise from top left, Dr. Akimoto, Mr. Takahashi, Mr. Mizoguchi, and Ms. Kogure
Washington Kenkyu Group: A Discussion with Mr. John Gardner
On May 18, Sasakawa USA welcomed Mr. John Gardner, Former Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush and Former Counsel at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), for a discussion of the U.S. rule-making process and administrative law in the Biden administration. For this off-the-record, virtual event, Mr. Gardner broke down how federal rules are created and implemented, including the public comment process, and analyzed the Biden administration’s regulatory agenda. Following Mr. Gardner’s presentation, the event continued with a lively discussion with the attendees, including representatives of the private sector, think tanks, and the media. 

Photo: Mr. Gardner
Publications
Japan Political Pulse: Prime Minister Suga Battles on with Vaccinations and the Olympics (Akimoto)
In his latest Japan Political Pulse article, “Prime Minister Suga Battles on with Vaccinations and the Olympics,” Dr. Satohiro Akimoto, Chairman and President of Sasakawa USA, analyzes the recent significant decline in Prime Minister Suga’s cabinet approval ratings. Dr. Akimoto sheds light on three factors that will heavily determine the political future and viability of the Suga administration: (1) COVID-19 vaccine rollout and infection containment; (2) holding of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics; and (3) victories in the fall general election. He provides insight about how those changing aforementioned factors, such as a potential Olympics cancellation or snap election, will influence Prime Minister Suga’s chances of being re-elected as LDP president. To conclude, Dr. Akimoto states that Suga may still be able successfully navigate this difficult path to reelection, but the amount of media scrutiny and societal pressure will continue to increase as long as the lack of controlling the pandemic and holding the Olympics are in doubt.

Photo source: Prime Minister Suga at a press conference regarding COVID-19 on May 28, 2021. (Official Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet)
Upcoming Activities
Policy Briefing: Soft Power and Morals in U.S. Foreign Policy, Featuring Dr. Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
Sasakawa USA is pleased to host a virtual event in June featuring Dr. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus and former Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, and member of Sasakawa USA’s Advisory Committee on Projects. In an on-the-record discussion, Professor Nye will speak about the role of morals in U.S. foreign policy. Professor Nye identified the importance of values in U.S. foreign policy when he coined the term “soft power” in the late 1980s. He will expand on the concept of soft power to argue the importance of morals in U.S. foreign policy and discuss how the rise of nativist politics narrows the moral vision of U.S. foreign policy.

Photo: Dr. Nye 
Announcements
Pacific Islands Maritime Domain Awareness: Formation of Steering Committee with The Hon. Randall G. Schriver, Amb. Kurt Tong, and Dr. Alfred Oehlers
Sasakawa USA is pleased to announce the formation of the Pacific Islands Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Program Steering Committee. We welcome The Hon. Randall G. Schriver, Chairman of the Project 2049 Institute and member of Sasakawa USA’s Advisory Committee on Projects, Amb. Kurt Tong, Partner of The Asia Group and member of Sasakawa USA’s Advisory Committee on Projects, and Dr. Alfred Oehlers, Professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and are grateful for the benefit of their extensive knowledge and experience. With the input and guidance of these three distinguished experts, the Program will continue to investigate the MDA challenges facing the island nations of the North Pacific and work to promote U.S.-Japan cooperation in the region.

Photo: Hon. Shriver, Amb. Tong, and Dr. Oehlers
Renewed Collaboration with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress
Sasakawa USA is proud to announce the continuation of our partnership with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC) through the Congressional Study Group on Japan. FMC has been a valued partner of Sasakawa USA for a number of years. The Congressional Study Group on Japan works to bring members of Congress to Japan to meet with Japanese political leaders, educate Congressional Chiefs of Staff and senior staff members on the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship, and produce impactful programming to inform our audiences of the work that Congress is doing in regards to Asia and Japan. Sasakawa USA looks forward to working with FMC this year and continuing our relationship in the future.
Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA
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