Human Rights and International Law

Japan's foreign policy towards human rights: Uncertain changes
Yozo Yokota and Chiyuki Aoi
from Human Rights and Comparative Foreign Policy: Foundations of Peace, David P. Forsythe, ed.
United Nations University


Japan's foreign policy towards human rights was almost non-existent until the 1980s. Japan avoided taking political risks in its external relations as a matter of general principle, as exemplified by its single-minded pursuit of economic self-interest. Human rights, being seen by Tokyo as highly political and greatly complicating foreign relations, were not allowed to interfere with central concerns such as the economy — and national security. This posture resulted in contradictions with its pro-Western diplomatic allies in multilateral forums. Such a passive stance in human rights diplomacy is, however, gradually giving way — albeit slowly — to a more active one that gives some importance to human rights. This shift is still uncertain. It ranges from support for the abstract principles of universal human rights, and thus opposition to special Asian values, to a new foreign aid policy that sometimes includes considerations of democratization and human rights in the recipient countries.

I. Introduction

In Japan, as in other nations, there is a contemporary effort to associate national history with human rights. One can read that: "[E]ven before the opening of doors to the world, under the Tokugawa Shogunate, there were rules and customs in Japan related to human rights and humanitarian concerns." 1 These norms, however, sought to teach rulers principles of good governance, as in: "one should treat one's subjects and subordinates with benevolence and mercy," based on Confucianism, Buddhism, and traditional Japanese mores including Bushido. These norms were not based on the concept of human rights as we understand them today. Such norms reflected not entitlement of persons but wise guidelines for rulers. They were thus very different from the concept of human rights found in the writings of Western political philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, and John Locke, or in such Western historical documents as the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Petition of Right of 1628, the Bill of Rights of 1689, the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, or the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789.

It is therefore correct for Professors Kentaro Serita and Pierre-Marie Dupuy to begin the analysis of Japanese practice in the field of human rights by reference to the human rights provisions of the Meiji Constitution of 1889. 2 Indeed, the Meiji Constitution provided for some basic freedoms and rights, understood as human rights in the Western sense of the term, such as the freedom of residence and movement (Art. 22), the principle of no arrest, detention, interrogation, or punishment except under the law (Art. 23), the right to a fair trial (Art. 24), the right to property (Art. 27), the freedom of religion (Art. 28), the freedoms of expression, print, assembly, and association (Art. 29), and the right to petition (Art. 30).

However, those rights and freedoms were subjected to the prerogative of the Emperor in the event of war or national emergency (Art. 31). Furthermore, many of those rights and freedoms were ensured only within the scope of the law. In other words, such rights and freedoms could be restricted by legislation passed by the Diet. In 1925, the infamous Maintenance of Public Order Act (Chian-iji Ho) was promulgated, and under this act serious human rights violations were committed by special police and other governmental officials. 3

The Meiji Constitution's provisions for freedoms and rights had another serious limitation. Such freedoms and rights were granted only to Japanese subjects. Accordingly, foreigners in Japanese territories or non-Japanese residents in territories under Japanese military occupation did not ipso facto enjoy the constitutional rights and freedoms. Consequently, many Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos, etc., suffered from serious human rights violations committed by Japanese military and civilian officials under their rule without the protection of constitutional provisions.

The situation drastically changed after Japan's defeat in the Second World War. Under the occupation administration by the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces headed by General Douglas MacArthur, a new Constitution was enacted. It did not abolish the imperial system itself but took away from the Emperor practically all of the political powers and prerogatives he used to enjoy under the old Meiji Constitution. Article 1 of the new Constitution stipulates that "[T]he Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power." Article 3 further provides that "[T]he advice and approval of the Cabinet shall be required for all acts of the Emperor in matters of state, and the Cabinet shall be responsible therefor." In other words, the new Constitution clearly provides that Japan would henceforth be a democratic state where the real source of power lies in the people rather than the Emperor.

Based on this democratic principle, the new Constitution contains many provisions for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Article 11 provides in general terms that "[T]he people shall not be prevented from enjoying any of the fundamental human rights. These fundamental human rights guaranteed to the people by this Constitution shall be conferred upon the people of this and future generations as eternal and inviolate rights." Professor Nobuyoshi Ashibe, a contemporary authority on the Japanese Constitution, writes that the expression "inviolate rights" contained in this provision means: "contrary to the rights and freedoms provided in the Meiji Constitution which could be restricted by law, these fundamental human rights cannot be violated by any State powers including not only the Government but also the Diet." 4

There are two more articles in the new Constitution related to human rights that are of a more general nature. Article 13 provides: "All of the people shall be respected as individuals. Their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness shall, to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare, be the supreme consideration in legislation and in other governmental affairs." Paragraph 1 of Article 14 further provides: "All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin."

On the basis of the general provisions referred to above, the new Constitution contains many detailed provisions for the protection of human rights, which can be classified for convenience into three categories under the headings: (a) basic freedoms; (b) civil and political rights; and (c) economic, social, and cultural rights.

First, the new Constitution guarantees to the people such basic freedoms as: freedom of thought and conscience (Art. 19), freedom of religion (Art. 20), freedom of assembly and association as well as of speech, press, and all other forms of expression (Art. 21), freedom to choose and change one's residence and to choose one's occupation (Art. 22, para. 1), freedom of all persons to move to a foreign country (Art. 22, para. 2), and academic freedom (Art. 23).

Secondly, the Constitution also ensures many civil and political rights, which are much more detailed and comprehensive than those of the Meiji Constitution. For example, the right of peaceful petition (Art. 16), the right to sue for redress from the state in the event one has suffered damage through an illegal act of any public official (Art. 17), the right not to be held in bondage (Art. 18), the right to life or liberty, including the principle of no criminal penalty except according to procedure established by law (Art. 31), the right of access to the courts (Art. 32), the right not to be apprehended except upon warrant issued by a competent judicial officer (Art. 33), the right of all persons to be secure in their homes, papers, and effects against entries, searches, and seizures (Art. 35), the right not to be subjected to "torture" or "cruel punishments" (Art. 36), the right (of the accused in criminal cases) to a speedy and public trial by an impartial tribunal and to the assistance of competent counsel (Art. 37, paras. 1 and 3), the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself (Art. 37, para. 1), and the right not to be held criminally liable for an act that was lawful at the time it was committed and not to be placed in double jeopardy (Art. 39).

Thirdly, the new Constitution further provides for a number of basic human rights that could be broadly characterized as economic, social, and cultural rights. This category of rights was not found in the old Meiji Constitution. Article 25, paragraph 1, of the new Constitution, for example, stipulates that: "[A]ll people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living." Article 26, paragraph 1, provides that: "[A]ll people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability." Furthermore, Article 27 provides for "the right to work," while Article 28 provides for "the right of workers to organize and to bargain and act collectively." Finally, Article 29 sets forth the "right to own or to hold property and the right to just compensation in case private property is taken for public use."

As shown above, the provisions for fundamental human rights in the new Constitution of Japan are much more detailed and comprehensive than those of the old Meiji Constitution. They are also without restriction by the Emperor's prerogatives, by the government's powers, or by legislation. As human rights advocates, activists, and specialists now point out, however, legal provisions of human rights are one thing but the actual protection of human rights is another. 5 Particularly when it comes to human rights consideration in Japanese foreign relations, the government's stance was more passive than active even after the Second World War until the mid-1980s. The Constitution's many detailed provisions for fundamental freedoms and human rights did not directly impact foreign policy to any appreciable extent.

II. Domestic factors

The traditional situation

As with any other state, Japan's foreign policy can be considered as an outgrowth of its domestic political and social dynamics, interacting with the international environment.

One important domestic determinant of the Japanese approach to human rights abroad is the legacy of its behaviour in the 1930s and 1940s. After 1945, Japan, unlike some of its Western counterparts, did not feel itself to be in a position to promote international human rights standards. This was mostly owing to the recognition of its own serious and systematic violations of human rights committed before and during the Second World War, particularly in neighbouring Asian countries. Japan thus felt itself to be in a position to learn, rather than preach, about human rights, which it acknowledged as an imported concept from the West. Such reserve fitted well with an emerging preference for quiet diplomacy and a low-profile and non-confrontational approach, or equi-distance stance, to international relations in general. Thus Japan's "lessons of history" fitted with its emerging national style in foreign policy. Both history and diplomatic style led to a desire to avoid the subject of human rights in the international arena.

Other important factors also supported this orientation. For much of the time between renewed independence (1952) and the 1980s, Japan was ruled by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which reflected primarily business interests and emphasized a foreign policy of economic self-interest. The destruction caused by the Second World War naturally led to a central emphasis on economic growth and recovery. This emphasis was generally endorsed by the United States, first Japan's occupier and then its principal security and trading partner.

These LDP conservative governments built up a strong bureaucratic system that was itself devoted to traditional concerns in foreign policy such as economic interest and national security (traditionally understood). It should be stressed that dependence on bureaucracy in foreign policy-making and its implementation was particularly notable in the field of foreign economic aid, the single most visible foreign policy area for Japan. In Official Development Aid (ODA) policy, 19 agencies including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Ministry of Finance (MOF), and the Ministry of Construction hold their own ODA budget. 6 In particular, with regard to highly technical multilateral economic assistance, the Ministry of Finance has traditionally exercised the strongest authority over aid policy. MOF and other economic bureaucracies, particularly the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), have never considered human rights as within their routine competence.

For its part, MOFA lacked a unit specialized in human rights issues until 1984, when the Human Rights and Refugee Division was created in what was then the United Nations Policy Bureau. The creation of this division was clearly an important improvement, particularly given that only a few officers had been assigned to human rights issues prior to its creation. With its initial size of 10 persons, however, it was difficult for such a small division to do much more than just meet various human rights reporting obligations under various treaties, and deal with a growing number of Indo-Chinese refugees in the 1980s, and other related issues. 7

Economic ministries such as MOF, MITI, and the Economic Planning Agency, strengthened relative to politics as well as other bureaucracies during the period of rapid growth in the 1960s, became influential in determining multilateral and bilateral foreign aid, but their authority and mandate do not touch upon human rights aspects. Thus Japan's bureaucracy lacked a structure suited to the formulation of foreign policies that were sensitive to human rights and other political elements. The Civil Liberties Bureau of the Ministry of Justice is responsible for domestic human rights issues, but foreign relations do not fall under its responsibility.

Finally, the mass public supported the elite's orientation toward a conservative and low-key foreign policy that emphasized economic self-interest under the protection of the US security umbrella. There was widespread public deference to a conservative and elitist democracy. Interest groups that demanded a different orientation, i.e. more emphasis on human rights, were weak or mostly lacking in influence.

During this period domestic human rights issues were indeed debated. But, ironically, this domestic debate served to reinforce passivity on human rights abroad. Because the domestic debates revealed ideological differences and great complexity, conservative governments found added reason to remain mostly silent on international human rights. Domestic debates covered such subjects as dowa issues (group of persons historically considered to belong to a lower caste, thus subject to serious discrimination), labour rights, the treatment of Koreans residing in Japan, and indigenous Ainu people. Less politicized human rights issues — freedom of expression, religion, and the press, children's rights, women's rights, and rights of the mentally handicapped — remained strictly domestic issues. Parts of the all-powerful bureaucracy that focused on domestic issues might take up such questions, but the Foreign Ministry and other related offices were indifferent.

However, some of these human rights issues that were debated in Japan began to be raised in various UN forums, usually triggered by a number of non-governmental organizations, which often put the government in a defensive position. For example, the International Labour Organization took up the issue of labour rights in national corporations in Japan during the late 1950s to 1960s at the request of the labour unions (Sohyo). ILO investigations, although leading to some progressive changes in Japan, certainly did not encourage conservative governments to take a leadership position on other human rights issues at the United Nations.

III. Indications of change?

Since the mid-1980s, Japan's institutions have become more prepared to deal with human rights concerns more systematically — at least relative to the past. Japan's more active participation in international human rights forums contributed to this change. The size of the Human Rights and Refugee Division was expanded to more than 20 by the 1990s. 8 The Foreign Policy Bureau was created in 1993, supervising the United Nations Policy Division, the Human Rights and Refugee Division, and other divisions. A more integrated foreign policy resulted, with more attention to human rights.

In the early 1990s, some signs of change in the conservative political alignment also emerged. Most notably, the shift in the political power alignment in the "reformist" era of 1993-1994 and the historic liberal—conservative coalition era of 1994-1996 gave a momentum to addressing issues that had not been dealt with under conservative one-party rule, 9 including war reparation issues. In general, the historical consensus on foreign policy preferences among the conservative political forces, the bureaucracy, business, and the public became disrupted during these eras. The LDP's ties with the bureaucracy were weakened, and the public, discontented with a number of corruption incidents involving public officials, had less confidence in the bureaucracy. 10

One notable example reflecting this changed political environment was the public attention given to the issue known as "comfort women," and the subsequent actions taken by the conservative—liberal coalition government on this issue. Following the Miyazawa LDP government's initiative on starting an investigation — a measure considered to be extremely open by the standard of preceding conservative governments — plans to deal with this issue gradually materialized under the coalition government. 11 The final compensation plan itself can best be perceived as a result of inter-party negotiation within the coalition government, indicating increased policy inputs from the former opposition parties and the changed role of the bureaucracy. 12 The decision-making process also involved independent experts and non-governmental organizations, encouraging the government often behind the scenes to make a timely decision and implement the plan. Such a political process was quite different from traditional foreign policy-making, which was heavily influenced by the bureaucracy and business. This was also a case where non-governmental organizations in the area of human rights were more active and influential in their demands on the government. Given the rapid changes in Japanese politics that brought the LDP back to power, however, one cannot make any firm conclusions about the political foundation of Japanese foreign policy-making, particularly in the area of human rights diplomacy.

Another case of important change may be in the area of foreign economic policy. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seem to be cooperating more closely and giving more attention to human rights. This tentative evaluation stems from the adoption of the 1992 ODA Charter (as explained below), with its provisions on human rights and democracy, and from the expansion of Japan's aid to former Soviet Union republics and Eastern Europe, where transitions to market democracies have required new thinking at MOF and MOFA. One study suggests that Japanese involvement in the politicized East European development encouraged closer coordination between these ministries. 13 Yet these collaborations appear at best ad hoc and selective. Thus, national domestic factors in Japanese foreign policy-making exhibit some sporadic changes in selected issue areas, necessitated by the changed domestic and international environment. There are both continuities and changes.

IV. Multilateral policy

Status of the International Bill of Rights

Japan did not become fully part of the international human rights regime until the very end of the 1970s. This was yet another reason for Japan's mostly passive stance concerning the advancement of international human rights up until that time. Japan ratified the two basic Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in 1979, preceded by two treaties in the 1950s — namely, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1955) and the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1958). In the early 1980s Japan started to participate in various UN human rights mechanisms. Japan was elected by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to the UN Commission on Human Rights for the first time in 1982, and two individual Japanese experts participated in the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities for the first time in 1984. In that same year, in order to coordinate activities related to human rights, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established the Human Rights and Refugee Division (noted above). Subsequently, Japan ratified a range of human rights treaties: the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1981); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1985); the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1994); and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1995).

As of 1998 Japan had not ratified the First Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, based on the view that its provisions are not compatible with the principles of the separation of power and judicial independence. 14 Japan also is not a party to Article 41 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Although Japan has registered no formal reservations with regard to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it has put a de facto reservation on its Article 22(2) on the labour rights of public employees, as well as the related Article 8(2) of the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. 15 It has put the following reservations on the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: Article 7(d), in particular the right to remuneration for public holidays, based on the domestic law that leaves the matter to each corporation and labour union; Article 8, para. 1(d), the right to strike of the police and armed forces, which is understood by the Japanese government to include fire-fighters and state administrators; and Article 13, para. 2(b) and (c), the government's duty to introduce free education progressively in higher education.

The gap between the provisions of the International Bill of Rights and the Japanese domestic legal system and social practice in some issue areas has been suggested as an explanation for the delay in Japan's ratifying some international human rights conventions. Domestic controversy has been acute on such issues as nationality law, labour rights for public workers, the death penalty, women's rights, minority rights, the rights of elders, and the rights of the handicapped. 16 However, in contrast to the case of the United States, where resistance is strong against accepting meaningful international modifications of its national law, Japan has had relatively few public controversies over adhering to international human rights instruments once the policy has been decided by the government.

Joining the international legal regime on human rights has had some positive effects on some areas of the Japanese legal system over the long run. For example, in 1985 Japan's nationality law, which had denied nationality to children born in Japan to Japanese mothers but non-Japanese fathers, was changed in accordance with international standards so as not to discriminate on grounds of gender. The Covenants and other human rights conventions, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, have served as a basis from which to reassess family law and other domestic laws and practices concerning women's rights, though improvements are still called for by various civil groups. 17 One notable event in the domestic application of these international instruments was the case in which the Sapporo District Court of Japan recognized the indigenous character of the Ainu people, reflecting the debate on the rights of indigenous people at the United Nations.

Japan's earlier position concerning the drafting of the two central Covenants, as expressed in debates in the General Assembly, is noteworthy. Tokyo tended to see itself as a developing economy and thus adopted some positions that were usually associated with the global South. On other issues Tokyo sought a middle ground between Western states and developing countries, in particular, neighbouring Asian states. 18 In the 1950s, for example, Japan participated in the debates concerning the draft Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Tokyo emphasized its commitment to improving living standards and the need for international cooperation to achieve it. 19 At the adoption of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the First Optional Protocol during the twenty-first session of the General Assembly, Japan generally sided with the non-aligned nations. It argued against the proposed mandatory arbitration system, based on the view that such a system might be suited to advanced states but was difficult to accept for the majority of states with different domestic circumstances. 20 Japan then abstained in the vote on the First Optional Protocol, on the basis that individual petitions would be an inappropriate system that would be difficult to administer, likely to be politically abused, and unlikely to be adopted. 21

As Japan joined other UN human rights forums, its activities in human rights standard-setting accordingly diversified to include a wider range of issues. Normally taking a pro-Western stance, Japan in principle endorsed both International Covenants in the UN forums — as we have seen. Until the 1980s, however, Japan's position on human rights was rather equivocal. Tokyo observed the politicization of human rights issues during the Cold War, and especially the differing interpretations by the Western states and the developing and socialist countries. The differences were pronounced concerning group rights versus individual rights, and universality versus cultural relativism and particularism. Japan's commitment to the international human rights principles and standards was nevertheless strengthened in the 1990s. Japan became more outspoken in its assertion that international human rights standards are universally applicable to all states, regardless of their social, cultural, or economic particularities.

In official statements on the occasion of the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna held in June 1993, Tokyo supported the universality and indivisibility of human rights, carefully distancing itself from those Asian states championing "Asian values." Japan also claimed that human rights should not be sacrificed to development, and reaffirmed the role of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in promoting the human rights of individuals. 22 Likewise in the Asia Regional Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Bangkok in March 1993, Japan defended the universality and indivisibility of human rights. It contested the sections of the Bangkok Declaration that opposed linking aid to human rights. The Japanese delegation stated: "Japan firmly believes that human rights are universal values common to all mankind, and that the international community should remain committed to the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ... It is the duty of all States, whatever their cultural tradition, whatever their political or economic system, to protect and promote these values." 23

Thus, in so far as abstract principles are concerned, Japan's commitment to international human rights standards became clearer in the 1990s, and its endorsements of international human rights norms became more explicit.

Regional developments

There is no regional intergovernmental organization for human rights in Asia, unlike most other regions of the world. There has been a consistent tendency in the Asian region to detach human rights dialogues from political and economic processes, especially within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). State sovereignty is a particularly sensitive issue in Asia. Most Asian governments have argued that there is a necessity to accommodate multiple types of political systems within the region's diplomatic and security frameworks. The complexity of the region's colonial experiences, ethnic compositions, and institutional history on which authorities are founded further adds to the sensitivity of the issue of sovereignty. 24

Furthermore, relative economic success in the region — until the economic crisis in 1998 — contributed to the growing assertiveness of some policy-makers. They claim that human rights are Western concepts and are not to be accommodated within "Asian ways" of promoting and maintaining domestic stability, peace, and economic prosperity. 25 Most Asian leaders have been extremely sensitive about what they regard as Western attempts to influence their domestic affairs. Thus they have long opposed linking trade or aid with human rights.

In this context the 1993 Bangkok Declaration on Human Rights can be seen as yet another manifestation of such Asian leaders' dislike of the so-called human rights diplomacy as practised by the Western nations. In the conference held in preparation for the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, Asian leaders emphasized that human rights implementation should also consider countries' socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. China specifically argued that development should be given priority over civil and political rights in certain circumstances. 26

Japan's main foreign policy interest in the region has traditionally been economic and, even though Japan has recently sought to assume some political role in the region, it has not been so active yet in promoting human rights. Its approach to human rights violations in the region has been pragmatic and country specific. 27

Three interrelated factors account for this pragmatism, in addition to the general sensitivity over sovereignty in the region. The first factor is the security concern. Japan has long considered it important to keep China politically stable and economically "modernizing." Hence, it has been hesitant to apply conditionality to its aid based upon China's human rights record. It believes that an isolated China is highly destabilizing given the territorial disputes surrounding China, and given the unstable political situation in the Korean peninsula and in Indo-China. In addition, it understands China as a polity that is not susceptible to outside pressures, thus negative human rights diplomacy — sanctions and other punitive inducements — would be counter-productive. Other countries, such as Indonesia, are both important exporters of natural resources vital to Japan's national security and economy as well as important markets for its investment and goods, as Japan reduces its dependence on the US market. These economic factors are closely linked to Japan's security concerns.

The second factor behind Japan's pragmatic approach to human rights in Asia is its identity as a mediator between East and West. 28 From the mid-1950s, Japan sought to identify closely with Asian countries as well as to cooperate with the free democratic nations as the foundation of its foreign policy. 29 Further, it is seeking a more active role in Asia through multilateral political and economic forums such as the Asian Development Bank, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation network. Such a dual role, however, has been difficult to play in human rights diplomacy. Japan has often found itself in the awkward position of having to balance Asian and Western preferences. One such example was the Tiananmen Square incident, where Japan's intermediary efforts evoked considerable suspicion and criticism among the Western nations. 30 More recently, at the Bangkok meeting preceding the World Conference on Human Rights, Japan, having supported the universality of human rights, was subject to considerable criticism by some Asian representatives including China. 31

The third element behind the Japanese reluctance to play Western-style human rights diplomacy in Asia is its colonial and military history, as we noted earlier. Owing to its historical relations with its Asian neighbours, Japan has not been in a position to speak strongly for human rights. Even though Japan has vigorously pursued its goal of establishing friendly relations and a leadership role in Asia, its true intentions have often been viewed with suspicion by its neighbours.

In sum, unlike Europe, Asia is far from building a common framework for dealing with human rights issues within the region. Japan has been reluctant to assume leadership for human rights largely owing to economic and security considerations, a desire to mediate between Western and Asian states, and its historical record. True, in recent years, Tokyo has exercised leadership in conflict-resolution and peace-building activities in Cambodia, in peace-making in the Korean peninsula, and in actions against nuclear testing in China. But, with the exception of Cambodia, where considerable attention to human rights was involved, Japan's leadership was shown mainly in the areas of security and development.

At the time of the admission of Myanmar (Burma) to ASEAN, a major event concerning ASEAN, Japan quietly observed the event, signalling its approval of the ASEAN argument for constructive engagement, in contrast with some Western governments which were more critical of Myanmar's admission. With regard to the coup in Cambodia in July 1997, when the then Second Prime Minister, Hun Sen, expelled the First Prime Minister, in violation of the Paris Peace Agreement and the prior election results, Japan also took a position largely in line with the ASEAN approach to Cambodia. Unlike some Western states, Japan did not officially freeze its Official Development Aid to Cambodia, though much of its implementation in effect ceased after the event. Japan also supported the ASEAN decision to postpone Cambodia's entry to ASEAN and continued dialogues with the Cambodian government, expressing its view that peace in that country was indispensable and that human rights must be respected. 32 Japan then provided both financial contributions and personnel to supervise the general election held in 1998.

In this regard, it is noteworthy that the Japanese government has supported the idea of establishing a regional human rights mechanism. In the UN General Assembly as well as in the UN Commission on Human Rights, it has sponsored resolutions that state that any region without regional arrangements for human rights protection should promote discussions towards establishing one. 33 Since 1995 the Japanese government has also held an international symposium for human rights experts from the region, with a view to promoting further discussions concerning the possibility for a regional mechanism for human rights in the Asia and Pacific region. Such an effort may be seen as Tokyo's cautious but increasingly active stance in the field of human rights.

International financial institutions

Multilateral economic aid through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and regional development banks has been an important element in Japan's foreign policy. In addition to bilateral aid, multilateral aid has served to advance Japan's interests, such as increasing its multilateral influence, developing Asian markets, promoting favourable relations with recipient countries, and reducing a large monetary surplus that had attracted considerable international criticism. The importance Japan attaches to multilateral development agencies has increased in the post-Cold War era, 34 and is likely to remain high in the near future — even though Japan decided to reduce its contribution to multilateral agencies by some 10 per cent in 1998 as a result of economic difficulties.

Japan has practically been silent on issues related to human rights in international financial institutions. Under the banner of "Seikei Bunri," meaning the separation of economic issues from political considerations, a slogan that has dominated Japanese foreign economic policy since the 1960s, Tokyo has been rather careful not to be seen as pursuing political objectives through multilateral financial institutions. Japan likewise tends to oppose any political conditionality argument in multilateral financial institutions designed to induce recipient governments to curb human rights violations, especially pertaining to ASEAN states. 35 This tendency corresponded to the basic thinking in Japan — until the adoption of the 1992 ODA Charter — that political and human rights conditionalities in development aid were inappropriate in light of the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of recipient states. This tendency can also partly be attributed to the fact that the economic ministries, which have considered human rights issues as outside their competence or concern, hold direct responsibility for matters related to development banks. Further, the complexity of the development assistance process in Tokyo, involving close to 20 ministries and agencies, adds to the difficulty of achieving the coordination required for the integration of human rights with development aid.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is the only notable multilateral financial institution initiated and shaped by Japan, albeit under the general US tolerance particular to the era around the time the Bank was created and developed. 36 Since the establishment of the ADB in 1966, Japan has been one of the two largest shareholders of the Bank, co-equal with the United States. 37 All ADB presidents have been Japanese, mostly seconded from the Ministry of Finance. Since the mid-1980s, as Japan became particularly keen to increase its influence in the Bank to suit its general diplomatic agenda, 38 its financial presence became stronger in the Bank. In 1996, Japan's contribution to the Asian Development Fund (ADF), a soft-loan arm of the Bank, stood at US$9,351.70 million out of total contributed resources of US$18,203.26 million. The US contribution was only US$2,287.91 million. 39 Japan's contribution to the Technical Assistance Special Fund in 1996 amounted to about 56 per cent of the total supplied. 40 Between 1988 and 1996, Japan contributed US$633.9 million to the Special Fund. 41 Thus Japan's potential leverage in ADB is great, should it choose to link human rights conditions to such financial contributions.

In line with most international financial institutions, however, the ADB has followed strictly "non-political" objectives, with particular emphasis on developing infrastructure and industries in the region. The ADB has been particularly reluctant to link human rights with its operational objectives in any way. This reluctance can partly be attributed to the sensitivity of the Bank's shareholders, which include Asian states that particularly disfavour human rights diplomacy. Furthermore, the nature of Japanese leadership in the Bank can also be considered as a factor behind such reluctance to link aid to human rights in the Asian context. As noted, human rights did not receive much attention in Japanese foreign economic policy until 1992 when the ODA Charter was adopted. Even after 1992, Japan's interest in the ADB's policies and operations remained primarily economic and strategic. As Woo-Cumings points out, Tokyo's rationale for creating and supporting the Bank was primarily to augment the market in Asia for Japanese capital and goods. 42 Japan remained committed to trying to achieve a vertical integration of Asian markets.

The Bank's lending patterns suggest that they reflect Japanese preferences. Indonesia, one of the main recipients of Japanese bilateral aid, has also been a main recipient of the Bank's multilateral loans. Indonesia received the highest percentage of Ordinary Capital Resources (OCR) loans among all recipient countries between 1978 and 1992, receiving more than 30 per cent of total OCR loans between 1983 and 1992. 43 China has also consistently been a major recipient since it joined the Bank in 1986, receiving 12.3 per cent of total OCR loans in the 1988-1992 period and 31.5 per cent in the 1993-1996 period. 44 Smaller but growing countries in South-East Asia such as Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines received approximately 6 per cent of total loans in 1996, which coincided with Tokyo's interest in the South-East region. 45

Some point out that such lending patterns at times conflicted with socio-economic rights in certain poorer countries in the region. The Bank, however, has put more emphasis on poverty reduction and social infrastructure since the 1980s and, more recently, on governance issues to increase transparency in economic management. But, like the World Bank, the ADB continues to resist overt and explicit linkage to human rights. As at the World Bank, governance issues are understood mostly in accounting terms like transparency, not in terms of democracy and civil rights.

The general reluctance in the ADB to implement political conditionality based upon human rights records can be overcome in the case of exceptionally severe human rights violations, under the pressure of some key shareholders such as the United States. One such case was China, where after the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989 Japan followed the United States and other Western donors in suspending ADB loans to China. World Bank loans were also frozen after the event. In general, however, Japan played an intermediary role between China and major Western donors in the post-Tiananmen ADB process. This was consistent with Japan's intermediary role in getting China to join the ADB in 1986. 46 After Tiananmen, having supported an early partial freeze on ADB loans to China, Japan then successfully lobbied in November 1990 for an approval of a US$50 million agricultural loan and a US$480,000 technical assistance (TA) grant to China. 47 In April 1991, at the ADB Board of Directors' meeting, Japan pressed for a full resumption of loans to China. 48 These actions inside the ADB coincided with Japanese actions outside the Bank. The ADB, nevertheless, was not the only agency to resume loans to China. The World Bank also decided partially to resume loans to China in February 1990, a move that indicated waning US interest in continued sanctions against China through multilateral banks as well as through private transactions. 49

After the 1997 coup in Cambodia by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, the processing of ADB loans and TA grants was suspended, although the implementation of existing loans and TA projects continued. No explanation was given by the Bank about its position in response to the coup. Given the complexity of the problems this coup entailed, there was a general lack of consensus on what measures could realistically and legitimately be taken among the ADB shareholders.

Since the 1990s Japan's traditional development philosophy has been in some disarray, mainly because of the new thinking about development stemming from the East European situation. There had been a tendency among the economic ministries in Tokyo to argue that there is an Asian model of development, which favours political stability and an active and large governmental role, and that this model is more suitable to developing countries. Preference for this Asian or non-Western model of development persisted in the Japanese economic bureaucracy, despite rhetoric from other parts of the state rejecting Asian values and endorsing universal human rights. Japan's continuing support for this model can be compared to Western liberal models of development integrating liberalization, democratization, and other human rights simultaneously.

As Japan started to provide economic aid to Eastern Europe, where democratization was an official objective of the transition from communism that was supposedly as important as the introduction of a market economy, it found itself supporting both development models — the liberal one in Eastern Europe and the illiberal one in the non-Western world. This was not necessarily irrational, but it was not fully consistent with the new rhetoric, as at Vienna in 1993, in favour of universal human rights.

In 1990, for example, then Prime Minister Toshiaki Kaifu visited Europe and agreed that Japan would provide economic assistance to Eastern Europe aiming at democratization and privatization. 50 He also agreed to support the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The EBRD is the only development bank that includes advancing democracy and human rights in its mandate. The Bank does take democracy and human rights into account in its loan making, and Japan has been supporting these policies, holding a share of 8.5 per cent, second to that of the United States and the same as that of Germany, France, and England. 51

Japan's support for the EBRD can be understood as compatible with its policy to collaborate with the Western states. Japan's involvement in the EBRD is also quite limited compared with that of ADB, where Japan holds a predominant status and influence in management. However, these developments in the context of Eastern Europe are adding another dimension to Japanese multilateral aid policy, even though opinions are not at all uniform among policy-makers about the compatibility of such developments with the older approach.

United Nations

Since it joined the United Nations in 1957, Japan has attached particular importance to the organization, placing it in the centre of its foreign policy concerns together with cooperation with Western states. 52 Tokyo has considered it imperative to cooperate with other states in the United Nations to endorse the purposes of the organization, including human rights, partly as a means to heighten its international status, which suffered greatly under the legacy of Tokyo's policies in the 1930s and 1940s. As already noted, Japan's policy towards human rights at the United Nations became more active from the early to mid-1980s when the government and private experts became members of various UN human rights bodies. Against the background of membership in the General Assembly, Japan's participation in the Human Rights Commission from 1982, and its nationals' involvement in the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities from 1984, enabled Japanese, whether as instructed governmental representatives or as uninstructed individual experts, to take part in the regular UN forums concerning human rights, thus diversifying its activities in the field of human rights. As is true for other states, most uninstructed Japanese experts, although not state officials, are drawn from a social network that broadly includes state officials, and they normally stay in close contact with state officials. Japan was also sometimes elected to the UN Security Council, which increasingly dealt with human rights issues after the Cold war. In addition, after the ratification by Japan of the two Covenants in 1979, Japanese nationals began to be elected to the Human Rights Committee that monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Even though, as we shall see, Japan tends to be clearly cautious in openly practising human rights diplomacy in bilateral relations, in the UN forums it has maintained in essence a liberal position on human rights very similar to that of other Western-style democracies. This tendency became clearer as the 1990s progressed, partially reflecting Tokyo's greater interest in a more active multilateral diplomacy. This activism, in turn, was said to be linked to Japan's interest in securing a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

In grave humanitarian crises in the post-Cold War period, such as in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Somalia, Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo), and elsewhere, Japan was in general supportive of all UN Security Council resolutions and decisions, providing large financial contributions to UN peacekeeping and humanitarian activities. It has also supported the establishment of international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It voted in favour of the draft statute for a standing international criminal court, linked to the United Nations, at a diplomatic conference in Rome in July 1998. Even though it has not made special efforts to increase the small budget allocated for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a budget amounting to merely 1 per cent of the total UN budget, it has contributed special resources for its technical assistance and handling of information. Japan has made major contributions to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, where a Japanese national, Sadako Ogata, heads the agency centrally involved in many human rights and humanitarian issues. Yet, within this broader framework of liberal multilateral diplomacy, Japan reserves some degree of flexibility in its approach towards certain individual countries, as exemplified by its attitude to China — and more recently to Myanmar.

Since the Tiananmen incident, Japan has joined other Western states in the UN Commission on Human Rights to sponsor draft resolutions critical of China's human rights record. The draft resolutions, initiated by the United States and European states such as Denmark and the Netherlands, nevertheless were never adopted owing to Chinese blocking actions supported by much of the global South. The attempt to pass a critical resolution gradually lost impetus even among Western states after 1995, however, mainly owing to shifts in the policies of the larger European states to favour access to the Chinese market. Japan was among the defectors in 1997, together with France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Spain, and did not co-sponsor the draft resolution on China, even though it voted against the Chinese blocking, or no-action, motion. 53 The loss of Western cohesion on the issue was one factor that encouraged Japan to prioritize the improvement of its bilateral relations with China, which had deteriorated in 1996-1997 over events that heightened Japan's security concerns in East Asia. 54

With regard to Myanmar, both the Commission on Human Rights and the Third Committee of the General Assembly expressed concern over its human rights situation. It was an uncontested fact that the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) government had ignored the 1990 general election results and repressed political opponents. In the Commission on Human Rights, Japan has not co-sponsored the resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted every year without a vote, even though it has welcomed its adoption and endorsed it. 55 Likewise, Japan has endorsed, without becoming a co-sponsor, the Third Committee's consensus resolution on the situation on human rights in Myanmar. 56 Yet, in 1990 and in 1991 Tokyo attempted to mediate the positions of the Western sponsors and Myanmar in the Third Committee. 57 When Sweden introduced a draft resolution in 1990 in the Third Committee, demanding that the Burmese military government hold new elections and release political prisoners, 58 Japan proposed that the Committee refrain from taking action that year in view of the forthcoming completion of the report by the UN Independent Expert on Myanmar, appointed by the Commission on Human Rights. The reasoning given by the Japanese government was to avoid prejudging the consideration of that report, or any decision it might lead to. 59 In the following year, Sweden introduced a new text again addressing the continuing repression of the political opposition. Japan then proposed to soften the language of the resolution and, with Sweden's concession, the resolution was adopted without a vote. 60

Thus in UN meetings in New York and Geneva Japan usually adopted a position in favour of human rights, but occasionally tried to mediate between Western states and the targets of critical resolutions in Asia. Even more important was Japan's leadership for human rights in Cambodia, where it led a second-generation or complex peacekeeping mission. 61 This major field operation, between 1992 and 1996, was headed by a Japanese and largely funded by Tokyo. It sought to organize and supervise national free and fair elections for the first time in Cambodian history, as well as to carry out human rights education and to reform the police and military establishments so as to make them more sensitive to human rights. This is not the place for a detailed analysis of the activities of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). Suffice it to say that its long-term record of success was mixed, particularly given the unwillingness of some of the major Cambodian political leaders and movements to live up to human rights provisions in the related agreements. Nevertheless, Japan was certainly a major player, perhaps the most important state, in trying to create and consolidate democracy with human rights in Cambodia. Likewise Japan was quite active, including the supplying of military personnel, in a UN effort to bring a liberal democratic peace to Mozambique. 62 These extensive activities, which in Cambodia included the placing of Japanese military personnel on the Asian mainland for the first time since the days of Japan's misguided policies during the 1930s and 1940s, were generally regarded to be linked to Japan's quest for a permanent place on the Security Council.

V. Bilateral policy

Linkage to trade/aid

It was in the middle of the 1970s that some aid agencies such as the World Bank began to question the wisdom of extending financial assistance to countries that were under authoritarian rule and characterized by corruption. They were pushed into this new orientation by certain Western states such as the Netherlands and the Scandinavians. They focused on countries such as Chile under Pinochet and the Philippines under Marcos, and on some African states. For Japan, however, which was becoming one of the leading donor countries, this policy of linking foreign aid to the human rights record of a recipient country was not yet a reality. This is confirmed by the fact that annual reports of the Japanese government on foreign aid in the 1970s made no reference to the human rights situations of the recipient countries. As noted above, the main concerns of the Japanese aid agencies at that time were economy and security.

Again as noted earlier, in the 1980s Japan began to pay more attention to the human rights record and to the condition of the human environment when extending assistance to a developing country. The issue became acute for Japan, as we have noted, when the Burmese/Myanmar military took power in 1988, and also when the Chinese authorities used violence at Tiananmen in 1989. There were strong pressures within and outside of Japan, both public and private, to criticize such repressive acts by the military and to stop extending foreign aid to these governments. In the wake of these events, the Japanese government adopted the Official Development Assistance Charter in June 1992, in which the government regulates how military spending, human rights, and democratization relate to ODA. 63 The core of the ODA Charter reads as follows:

Taking into account comprehensively each recipient country's requests, its socio-economic conditions, and Japan's bilateral relations with the recipient country, Japan's ODA will be provided in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter (especially sovereign equality and non-intervention in domestic matters), as well as the following four principles:

1. Environmental conservation and development should be pursued in tandem.

2. Any use of ODA for military purposes or for aggravation of international conflicts should be avoided.

3. Full attention should be paid to trends in recipient countries' military expenditures, their development and production of mass destruction weapons and missiles, their export and import of arms, etc., so as to maintain and strengthen international peace and stability and from the viewpoint that developing countries should place appropriate priorities in the allocation of their resources on their own economic and social development.

4. Full attention should be paid to efforts for promoting democratization and introduction of a market-oriented economy, and the situation regarding the securing of basic human rights and freedoms in the recipient country.

Although the ODA Charter is clearly a step forward in the direction of placing human rights as a central goal of the Japanese government's foreign policy, it is by no means an ideal document from the viewpoint of human rights. First of all, the human rights element is included as the fourth principle instead of the first or second. Certainly there is no wording to suggest that the consideration of human rights in the recipient country is the sine qua non of Japanese ODA. As long as "[f]ull attention" is paid to "the situation regarding the securing of basic human rights and freedoms in the recipient country," the aid may continue. Even more troubling, the application of the four principles is subjected to the maintenance of Japan's bilateral relations with the recipient country and the principle of "non-intervention in domestic matters." The wording of the Charter suggests a certain reserve on the part of the Japanese government in addressing human rights abroad. According to one observer, in "implementing these principles, however, Japan makes it a rule to closely observe trends in the specific situation in which each country is placed since the security environment surrounding each country and its cultural and social conditions vary. When there are problems in the eyes of the international community and the Japanese people, Japan will first confirm the case by checking with the country involved and, if necessary, express its concern. If the situation is not improved, Japan will review its aid policy toward that country." 64 The policy toward Myanmar/Burma and China illustrates this sort of flexibility. Tokyo's willingness to act on human rights is heavily conditioned by other considerations, not least of which is pressure to act from the West.

As a general background factor behind this cautious flexibility, the importance Japan attaches to the development of the Asian region in general must be pointed out. In Tokyo's bilateral ODA, Asia has long been considered as the most important area given the economic and strategic importance of the region. In the late 1960s, 90 per cent of Japan's bilateral ODA went to the Asian region, with about 70 per cent concentrating on East Asia. As the recipients of Japanese ODA diversified to include Africa and the Middle East after the 1970s, the figures went down to between 40 and 50 per cent. 65 In the 1990s, Japan still provided around 55 per cent of its bilateral ODA to the Asian region, whereas Africa received 12.6 per cent, Latin America 10.8 per cent, the Middle East 6.8 per cent, Europe 1.5 per cent, and Oceania 1.5 per cent (1995 figures). 66

China has been one of the largest recipients of Japanese bilateral ODA. Since Japan normalized its diplomatic relations with China in 1972, Japan has sought to develop economic, cultural, and political ties with the country. In his 1979 visit, Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira agreed that the first loan of {Y}330.9 billion would be provided in 1979-1983, to build up its economic infrastructure. A second loan followed in 1984-1989 totalling {Y}470 billion, again including transportation, energy, communication, and other infrastructures. On his visit to Beijing in August 1988, Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita announced that Japan was prepared to provide a third loan of {Y}810 billion in 1990-1995. 67 Between 1982 and 1986, authoritarian and undemocratic China was the largest recipient of Japanese bilateral ODA, and between 1987 and 1990 it was the second largest. 68 After dropping to become the fourth-largest recipient of bilateral aid in 1991 (largely owing to the Tiananmen incident), by 1995 China was again the largest recipient of bilateral ODA — with technical cooperation in the amount of US$304.75 million (8.8 per cent of all technical cooperation) and ODA loans of US$992.28 million (24.07 per cent). 69 Grant aid however was reduced in 1995, following China's much criticized nuclear tests, from {Y}7.79 billion in 1994 to {Y}480 million (US$83.2 million) in 1995. 70

The Tiananmen incident on 4 June 1989 illustrated that, under pressure from Western states, grave human rights violations in an aid recipient country can affect Japan's aid policy, despite the strategic importance of the country. 71 After the incident, though with a delay, Japan followed Western countries on 20 June in freezing new economic assistance to China. It stopped processing new grants and loans, while promising to implement already agreed, on-going projects. Diplomatically, albeit in milder language and with a slower reaction, many of the Japanese policies in the months following the event did not differ much in substance from those of the Western states. 72 Japan joined other members of the Paris Summit of G7 states in issuing a communique expressing concern over the incident and approving the punitive measures taken by individual countries. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did try to restrict the return of Japanese business to China, a process already under way only one month after the incident, by issuing a special request to three major Japanese business associations on 22 June that asked each corporation to decide "with prudence" whether to allow its employees to return to or visit China. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry postponed the establishment of a business association for investment in China, which had been planned for 7 June, and lowered China's credit rating to reflect the higher risks associated with commerce and trade. 73

Tiananmen, however, affected Japanese aid to China only briefly, and Tokyo had already moved to normalize its relations with Beijing one year later. Even during the Paris Summit, Japan was trying to persuade other Western states not to pressure China into diplomatic isolation, referring to the importance of China in maintaining security in the region, which led to the adoption of a joint communique short of imposing new joint sanctions, while encouraging China to do its utmost to avoid international isolation. 74 In August 1989, in the area of technical cooperation, Japan began to resume some volunteer missions as well as emergency disaster relief. In September, restrictions on travel to China were lifted. In December, an agreement was reached concerning the continuation of existing grant programmes. 75 In early 1990, LDP leaders, in particular former Prime Minister Takeshita, and Japanese government officials started to discuss a partial resumption of the third yen loan to China. 76 This move was in a way stimulated by events in the United States, including the approval by President Bush of the sale of three communication satellites to China in December 1989, as well as his decision earlier in the year to renew China's most-favoured-nation status for another year. The World Bank also decided to ease the freeze of its loans in February 1990. At the Houston Summit of G7 states in July 1990, Japan officially announced its decision partially to resume its loan programme to China. In late 1990, Japan provided a loan of {Y}120 billion, and in 1991, {Y}120 billion. 77 Further, on 18 December, a five-year trade agreement was signed, promising China US$8 billion in technology, plant, and construction equipment in exchange for oil and coal. 78

Thus, after a brief halt in bilateral aid, Japan's aid programme to China returned more or less to normal. The resumption of ODA reflected, most of all, Japan's traditional concern for China's importance for the security and prosperity of the region, and, indeed, for world security. It was understood by the Japanese government that the isolation of China was a serious matter, and suspension of Japan's ODA, the largest in the world, was more destabilizing to China than sanctions imposed by other countries. 79 There was also profound business interest in China, even though some business leaders, such as Takashi Ishiwara of Keizai Doyu Kai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), were vocal advocates of Japan acting closely with other Western states. 80

Overall, the Tiananmen incident again illustrated the difficult balance Japan maintained between its role as a Western partner and that as an Eastern state. Although economic assistance was halted in line with the policy of other Western states, Japan, from security concerns, refrained from taking an overly critical stance verbally, and also from continuing with the cancellation of its ODA to China for any length of time. Concerns about avoiding criticism and isolation from other Western states had to be balanced against the danger of isolating China. In addition, as Prime Minister Uno himself remarked on 7 June, it was widely recognized that past Japanese involvement in China made it inappropriate for Japan to take sides. He observed as well that Japan's relations with China could not be understood in the same way as US relations with China were. 81 There was thus persistent support for the principle of non-interference within the Japanese government and direct reference to human rights was often avoided, even though there was constant mention of humanitarian concerns. 82

In 1995, in protest against the nuclear tests that China had carried out, the Japanese government applied the principles of the ODA Charter, thereby withholding its grant aid — except for humanitarian and grassroots assistance. Despite this action, Japan was still the largest bilateral aid donor to China, providing more than US$1.38 billion in 1995. 83

As for Myanmar, the Japanese government has applied a policy of constructive engagement, as exemplified by its actions in the UN forums noted above. However, in terms of bilateral aid, Japan's action has been more consistent than in the case of China.

Until the end of the 1980s, the Japanese government considered Myanmar (then Burma) to be an important recipient of Japanese bilateral ODA, together with ASEAN states, for economic and strategic reasons. 84 After Myanmar was classified as a least developed country (LDC) in December 1987, Japanese grants to Myanmar increased to about {Y}10 billion in 1988. Loans to Myanmar started in 1969 with a yen loan of {Y}10.8 billion and increased in 1976 to {Y}20 billion, and in 1982 to about {Y}40 billion. 85 Dependence of Myanmar on trade with Japan was the highest in the region, with its imports from Japan amounting to over 40 per cent of its total in 1987. Japan was the largest aid donor to Myanmar, providing more than 71.5 per cent of all aid the country received in 1987 and 80 per cent in 1988.

However, in September 1988, Japanese ODA to Myanmar in effect had to be halted, 86 owing to the coup d'etat and lack of normal relations with the new military government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs communicated to the new government that Japan would be unable to resume economic assistance until the political situation calmed down and efforts were made to reform the economy. 87 As a result, total bilateral ODA dropped from US$260 million in 1988 to US$71 million in 1989, US$61 million in 1990, and US$85 million in 1991, while grant aid also dropped from about {Y}10 billion in previous years to {Y}3.7 billion in 1988, no grant aid in 1989, {Y}3.5 billion for debt relief in 1990, and {Y}5.0 billion for debt relief in 1991. 88 The freeze on new aid continues at the time of writing. Nevertheless, Japanese aid to Myanmar remains by far the largest among the countries of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). In 1994, Japan provided US$133.8 million of the total US$142.8 million the country received as ODA from DAC countries. 89 Moreover, the Japanese government split from the Western position in order to recognize the SLORC government in February 1989 and started partially to resume assistance to on-going projects as well as emergency humanitarian relief, including food and disaster relief. The Japanese government maintains that it has continued dialogues with the Myanmar government in order to encourage it to release political prisoners. In response to the release of the democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in July 1995, the Japanese government decided to implement suspended on-going projects and those based upon the assessment of basic human needs. In October 1995, it decided to provide grant aid for the expansion of the Institute of Nursing in Myanmar. However, as the situation deteriorated again in 1996, no new commitments of foreign assistance have been made. 90

Indonesia, Peru, and Thailand were cases that exhibited less flexibility in Japanese aid policy. Indonesia has been one of the largest recipients of Japanese bilateral aid, second only to China. In 1987-1990, it was the largest recipient. In 1995, it was the second largest, receiving about US$892 million. 91 In November 1991, the Indonesian military harshly suppressed a generally peaceful demonstration in East Timor, which resulted in more than 100 deaths. This incident did not lead to a halt in Japanese aid to Indonesia, however, despite pledges by the opposition party, based upon the judgement that diplomatic pressures from Japan and the international community had led to a calming of the situation and that the Indonesian government had taken measures to investigate, punish those responsible, and prevent the occurrence of similar events. 92 In this case, Japan officially took no stance with regard to the conditionality of aid linked to the human rights performance of a recipient country. Similarly, events in Peru in April 1992, when President Fujimori resorted to emergency measures to dissolve parliament, or in Thailand in May 1992 did not lead Japan to reconsider its aid policy to these countries, on the basis that they were heading back to normalcy under effective international pressures. 93

As regards North Korea, Japan has provided emergency relief, based purely upon humanitarian concerns, despite persistent problems in the normalization process. In 1997, Japan provided US$27 million in response to the UN appeal and SFr 11 million in response to the International Federation of Red Cross appeal. However, North Korea's firing of a missile over Japanese territory in September 1998 forced Japan to halt these transactions.

The spirit of the ODA Charter has been most closely followed in the context of Eastern Europe. In 1990 Prime Minister Toshiaki Kaifu promised to provide a US$150 million loan through the IMF to Poland, technical cooperation of US$50 million, a five-year loan of US$500 million from the Export-Import Bank, and export credits to Poland and Hungary. 94 Japan has expanded its aid to other East European countries where democratization is a key issue, even though the sums remain small in comparison with key Asian aid recipients. As regards African countries, Japan has suspended aid to Nigeria, the Sudan, and the Gambia, on the grounds of serious human rights violations, and reduced aid to Kenya and Malawi. 95

Such examples signify an inconsistent application of the 1992 ODA Charter, which would suggest uneven political support for the text itself. Although the ODA Charter is certainly a cornerstone of Japanese aid philosophy, inconsistency in its application as well as ambiguity in its content remain issues to be addressed in the future.

VI. Conclusion

This paper has attempted to demonstrate the change that has occurred in Japan's foreign policy on human rights. Because of various historical, domestic, and international factors, Japan did not have a clear-cut foreign policy on human rights from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s. But from the 1980s a changing international environment and, to a lesser degree, changing domestic politics moved Japan to pay more attention to human rights in other countries. Japan presents an interesting case of a non-Western state with a different political and foreign policy tradition gradually moving to accommodate increasingly salient human rights issues.

As part of the Western coalition of liberal democratic states, Japan has been under informal and formal pressure to act with them in order to advance human rights in world politics. This has been especially so given the importance of the Japanese economy and associated foreign assistance programme. At times, and within certain limits, Japan has responded positively to these Western pressures for action on human rights abroad. Tokyo spoke out for universal human rights when some of its authoritarian neighbours were pushing "Asian values." It applied some economic pressure on both Myanmar and China in the name of human rights. It supported a transition to market democracies in Eastern Europe. It made a major commitment to a liberal democratic state in Cambodia, and a minor commitment to a liberal democratic order in other failed states such as Mozambique. That Japan had other interests in some of these situations, such as securing a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, does not detract from the reality of its support for democracy and civil rights in several situations.

At the same time, apart perhaps from Cambodia, it is difficult to chart a bold policy of Japanese leadership in the field of international human rights. Frequently its support for human rights has been tinged with caution and reservation. Often it has tried to play an intermediary or mediating role between those Western states willing to press for progress on the human rights front and the targeted Asian states. Japan has frequently combined its interest in human rights with other interests, particularly economics and security. Thus its interruption of business with China was brief after the events of Tiananmen Square, and Tokyo has also been less willing than certain Western states to apply major and consistent sanctions against Myanmar. For the most part, its policies on trade and aid have not been seriously influenced by human rights considerations.

Although Japan has been under international pressure at times to play a more active role on human rights, the nature of domestic politics in Japan is a restraining factor. Public demand for more attention to human rights abroad is relatively weak, especially as demonstrated by the lack of interest among Japanese human rights NGOs and media in human rights situations in other countries. Pressures from the Diet are also weak, and the strong Japanese bureaucracy is still dominated by economic and security interests — although there has been some slight change toward incorporating greater concerns for human rights in agencies interested in UN and refugee affairs. Still, in relation to many of the Western liberal democracies, Japanese political culture is more deferential than demanding on the issue of human rights in foreign policy.

There has indeed been change in Japanese foreign policy regarding human rights in the past 50 years, but the future direction and strength of that change remain uncertain on the eve of the twenty-first century.


Note 1: International Symposium in Commemoration of the Centennial of the Japanese Association of International Law, Japan and International Law: Past, Present and Future, Kyoto International Conference Hall, 13—14 September 1997, p. 189.  Back.

Note 2: Kentaro Serita, "Japan's Adoption and Implementation of Human Rights in Law and Practice," in Japan and International Law: Past, Present and Future, op. cit., 191 and Pierre-Marie Dupuy, "Western Views of Japanese Practice in the Field of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law," in ibid., 212.  Back.

Note 3: The very first case of the application of this act was against a student movement in Kyoto called "the Kyoto Gakuren Incident." Serita, "Japan's Adoption," op. cit., 192.  Back.

Note 4: Nobuyoshi Ashibe, Kenpogaku [Constitution], vol. II (General Theory of Human Rights) (Tokyo: Yuhikaku Publishing Company, 1997), 62.  Back.

Note 5: See, for instance, Amnesty International, "Japan's Human Rights Record Must Be Challenged," News Release, 26 October 1998 (London, Amnesty International, International Secretariat); "JAPAN: Japan Complacent over Human Rights — Government Must Implement UN Human Rights Committee's Recommendations," News Release, 9 November 1998 (London, Amnesty International, International Secretariat).  Back.

Note 6: Yozo Yokota, "Kironi tatsu Nihon no Seihu Kaihatsu Enjo" [Japan's ODA in Transition], Kokusai Mondai 451 (October 1997), 18.  Back.

Note 7: John Peek, "Japan, the United Nations, and Human Rights," Asian Survey 32/3 (March 1992), 218—219.  Back.

Note 8: Ibid.  Back.

Note 9: The LDP lost popularity over a series of scandals involving high-ranking LDP officials at the end of the 1980s. The LDP lost in the general election in 1993 against a coalition of the New Frontier Party, the Social Democratic Party (SDPJ, former Socialist Party), and the Clean Government Party. The reformist government soon gave way in 1994 to the historic coalition of the LDP and the Social Democratic Party, in addition to the Sakigake New Party.  Back.

Note 10: Ahn notes the increased difficulty in party—bureaucracy coordination during this era. C. S. Ahn, "Government—Party Coordination in Japan's Foreign Policy-Making: The Issue of Permanent Membership in the UNSC," Asian Survey 37/4 (April 1997), 368—382.  Back.

Note 11: In the 1990s, movements demanding apologies and compensation from the Japanese government became strong, particularly in Korea. Following this, in December 1991, then LDP Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa started the investigation of six ministries that might have kept relevant documents to reveal whether or not the then Japanese government was involved in the matter. Official documents provided by the Asia Women's Fund.  Back.

Note 12: See further Kozo Igarashi, Kantei no Rasen Kaidan (Tokyo: Gyosei, 1997).  Back.

Note 13: Dennis T. Yasutomo, The New Multilateralism in Japan's Foreign Policy (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1995), 146.  Back.

Note 14: Among scholars, however, there is a strong view that, by ratifying the First Optional Protocol to the Civil and Political Rights Covenant, Japan will not violate the relevant constitutional law provisions.  Back.

Note 15: See, for example, Shigeki Miyazaki, ed., Kokusai Jinken Kiyaku (Tokyo: Nihon Hyoron Sha, 1996), 5  Back.

Note 16: John Peek, "Japan and the International Bill of Rights," Journal of Northeast Asian Studies 10/3 (Fall 1991), 3—15.  Back.

Note 17: Ibid., 10; Miyazaki, Kokusai Jinken Kiyaku, op. cit., 240.  Back.

Note 18: Seiichiro Takagi, "Japan's Policy towards China after Tiananmen," in James T. H. Tang, ed., Human Rights and International Relations in the Asia Pacific (London: Pinter, 1995), 98—99.  Back.

Note 19: See Gaimusho [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan], Waga Gaiko no Kinkyo, 1957 (Tokyo), 123—124.  Back.

Note 20: Gaimusho, Waga Gaiko no Kinkyo, 1967, 86—89.  Back.

Note 21: Ibid.  Back.

Note 22: Statement by Nobuo Matsunaga, Envoy of the Government of Japan and Representative of Japan to the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 18 June 1993.  Back.

Note 23: Statement by Seiichiro Otsuka, Minister, Embassy of Japan in Thailand and Representative of Japan to the Regional Meeting for Asia of the World Conference on Human Rights, Bangkok, 30 March 1993.  Back.

Note 24: For the complexity of human rights issues in Asia, see Susumu Yamakage, "Tonan Ajia ni okeru Jinken mondai no Tayosei" [The Diversity of Human Rights Problems in South-east Asia], in Akio Watanabe, ed., Asia no Jinken [Human Rights in Asia], Kokusai Mondai Kenkyu-jo (Tokyo: Japan Institute for International Affairs, 1997).  Back.

Note 25: The most vocal advocates of Asian approaches to maintaining domestic peace, stability, and prosperity are political leaders and members of the elite such as Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore and Mohamed Mahathir of Malaysia.  Back.

Note 26: Joseph Chan, "The Asian Challenge to Universal Human Rights: A Philosophical Appraisal," in Tang, Human Rights, op. cit.  Back.

Note 27: Yasuhiro Ueki, "Japan's New Diplomacy: Sources of Passivism and Activism," in Gerald Curtis, ed., Japan's Foreign Policy after the Cold War: Coping with Change (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1993). See also Ogata's earlier account of Japan's pragmatism — Sadako Ogata, Kokuren karano Shiten [A View from the United Nations] (Tokyo: Asahi Evening News, 1980), chap. 4.  Back.

Note 28: Ueki, "Japan's New Diplomacy," op. cit.; David Arase, "Japanese Policy toward Democracy and Human Rights in Asia," Asian Survey 33/10 (October 1993), 935-952, esp. 943-945.  Back.

Note 29: Gaimusho, Waga Gaiko no Kinkyo, 1958 (Tokyo), 5. Ueki, "Japan's New Diplomacy," op. cit., 350.  Back.

Note 30: See, for example, Arase, "Japanese Policy," op. cit., and K. V. Kesavan, "Japan and the Tiananmen Square Incident," Asian Survey 30/7 (July 1990), 669—681.  Back.

Note 31: Takagi, "Japan's Policy toward China," op. cit., 108.  Back.

Note 32: Press conference by the press secretary, 11 July 1997 and 15 July 1997.  Back.

Note 33: GA 49/189; E/CN.4/1997/34.  Back.

Note 34: The Diplomatic Bluebook 1995 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Tokyo) states Japan's interest in multilateral cooperation. The possibility of growing importance being attached to multilateralism is suggested by Curtis, Japan's Foreign Policy, op. cit.  Back.

Note 35: Dennis T. Yasutomo, "The Politicization of Japan's ´Post-Cold War' Multilateral Diplomacy," in Curtis, Japan's Foreign Policy, op. cit., 329; Susumu Amanohara, "The US and Japan at the World Bank," in Peter Gourevitch, Takashi Inoguchi, and Courtney Purrington, eds., United States—Japan Relations and International Institutions after the Cold War (San Diego: University of California, San Diego, 1995).  Back.

Note 36: For the Japanese leadership in the Bank, see for example Ming Wan, "Japan and the Asian Development Bank," Pacific Affairs 68/4 (1995), 509—528; Yasutomo, "The Politicization," op. cit. Concerning the US as well as Japanese interest in establishing the Bank, see Meredith Woo-Cumings, "The Asian Development Bank and the Politics of Development in East Asia," in Gourevitch, Inoguchi, and Purrington, United States—Japan Relations, op. cit.  Back.

Note 37: Both Japan and the United States donate 16.054 per cent of the total subscribed capital, and are entitled to 13.2 per cent of the total voting. Asian Development Bank, Annual Report, 1996 (Manila).  Back.

Note 38: Yasutomo, "The Politicization," op. cit.  Back.

Note 39: Asian Development Bank, Annual Report, 1996, 302.  Back.

Note 40: Ibid., 303.  Back.

Note 41: Ibid., 304.  Back.

Note 42: Woo-Cumings, "The Asian Development Bank," op. cit.  Back.

Note 43: Asian Development Bank, Annual Report, 1996, 268—269.  Back.

Note 44: Ibid.  Back.

Note 45: Ibid.  Back.

Note 46: Yasutomo, "The Policization," op. cit., 328—329.  Back.

Note 47: Ibid.  Back.

Note 48: Ibid.  Back.

Note 49: Kesavan, "Japan and the Tiananmen Square Incident," op. cit., 675.  Back.

Note 50: Juichi Inada, "Nihon no Enjo Gaiko" [Japan's Aid Diplomacy], in Atsushi Kusano and Tetsuya Umemoto, eds., Nihon Gaiko no Bunseki [An Analysis of Japanese Diplomacy] (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1995), 158.  Back.

Note 51: Ibid.  Back.

Note 52: Gaimusho, Waga Gaiko no Kinkyo, 1958 (Tokyo), 5—7.  Back.

Note 53: United Nations, Report of the Commission on Human Rights on its Fifty-Third Session, E/CN.4/1997/150, 30 March 1997.  Back.

Note 54: In 1998 a draft resolution was not submitted to the Commission, indicating a substantive change in US policy, given the earlier indication that European states would not sponsor another China resolution. China also made sure that certain concessions on rights issues, including its promise to sign the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, were announced with the right timing.  Back.

Note 55: See the explanation given by the Japanese government, for example, E/CN.4/1995/SR.62.  Back.

Note 56: Japan's statements in A/C.3/51/SR.54, A/C.3/48/SR.53, and A/C.3/47/SR.59.  Back.

Note 57: For a critical view of this policy, see Arase, "Japanese Policy," op. cit., 946.  Back.

Note 58: A/C.3/45/L.58.  Back.

Note 59: See the Japanese delegate's statement on 29 November 1990, A/C.3/45/SR.57.  Back.

Note 60: A/C.3/46/SR.56, 29 November 1991 meeting.  Back.

Note 61: See, for instance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, "Japanese Participation in UN Peace-keeping Operation," Foreign Policies: UN Peace-keeping Operations (Tokyo: MOFA, January 1997).  Back.

Note 62: Ibid.  Back.

Note 63: Study Group for Cross-Cultural Communication, Japanese Viewpoints (Tokyo: Japan Times, 1995), 74.  Back.

Note 64: Ibid.  Back.

Note 65: See Gaimusho, Waga Kunino Seifu Kaihatsu Enjo, 1990 [Japan's ODA, 1990] (Tokyo), 86.  Back.

Note 66: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan's Official Development Assistance Annual Report 1996 (Tokyo), 89.  Back.

Note 67: Waga Kunino Seifu Kaihatsu Enjo, 1990, 88.  Back.

Note 68: Ibid., 86.  Back.

Note 69: Ibid., 93, Chart 36.  Back.

Note 70: Ibid., 41.  Back.

Note 71: See also Inada, "Nihon no Enjo Gaiko," op. cit., 161.  Back.

Note 72: Akihiko Tanaka, "ATiananmen igo no Chugoku wo Meguru Kokusai Kankyo" [International Environment for China after Tiananmen], Kokusai Mondai, no. 358 (January 1990), 36.  Back.

Note 73: Ibid.  Back.

Note 74: Kesavan, "Japan and the Tiananmen Square Incident," op. cit., 674.  Back.

Note 75: Waga Kunino Seifu Kaihatsu Enjo, 1990, 89.  Back.

Note 76: Kesavan, "Japan and the Tiananmen Square Incident," op. cit., p. 676.  Back.

Note 77: Inada, "Nihon no Enjo Gaiko," op. cit., p. 161.  Back.

Note 78: Arase, "Japanese Policy," op. cit., 944.  Back.

Note 79: Takagi, "Japan's Policy," op. cit., 102.  Back.

Note 80: Tanaka, "ATiananmen," op. cit., 35; Takagi, "Japan's Policy," op. cit., 101.  Back.

Note 81: In his remark in the Diet session on 7 June; Tanaka, "ATiananmen," op. cit., 35.  Back.

Note 82: Takagi, "Japan's Policy," op. cit., 101.  Back.

Note 83: Japan's ODA 1996, 93; Gaimusho, Gaiko Seisho: Waga Gaiko no Kinkyo 1997 (Tokyo), vol. 2, 22.  Back.

Note 84: Waga Kunino Seifu Kaihatsu Enjo, 1989, 118.  Back.

Note 85: Ibid.  Back.

Note 86: Waga Kunino Seifu Kaihatsu Enjo, 1991, 131.  Back.

Note 87: Inada, "Nihon no Enjo Gaiko," op. cit., 156.  Back.

Note 88: Waga Kunino Seifu Kaihatsu Enjo, 1993, 133.  Back.

Note 89: Japan's ODA 1996, 278.  Back.

Note 90: Ibid., 41.  Back.

Note 91: Ibid., 93.  Back.

Note 92: Waga Kunino Seifu Kaihatsu Enjo, 1992, 33.  Back.

Note 93: Ibid.  Back.

Note 94: Inada, "Nihon no Enjo Gaiko," op. cit., 158.  Back.

Note 95: Japan's ODA 1996, 41.  Back.