-The 2001 December 22nd "Suspicious Boat" Massacre Incident
by Jing Zhao
December 22nd of 2001 marked the day to end Japan's 56 years of nonetheless peaceful Post-war period. In the high sea of East China Sea, the Japanese Coast Guard gunboats chased a small Asian boat first within Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), then fired at it out of Japan's EEZ, and eventually sank it and killed all of its crew members in China's EEZ waters. The whole process lasted more than 29 hours after the boat was "first" sighted. This is a planned massacre by the Japanese government. Japan launched a new undeclared war against Asian people. This incident formally declared the revival of the Japanese militarism at the national government level. It makes no difference whether the victims are Koreans or Chinese, or any other nationals.
Let us first review the Japanese current constitution. The constitution is still valid, and the Japanese government supposedly should obey it. Especially, Chapter II "Renunciation of war" has only one article, which states:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."
The Asian people have hoped that as long as Japan's peace constitution has not been revised, especially as long as the above Article 9 has not been removed from the constitution, the Japanese government would respect its own constitution and will not participate into a war killing Asian people. Some may argue that this is no longer true after Japan sent its "Self-defense Forces" to the Gulf War in 1991. Nonetheless, people expected that it would take at least several years from now on for the Japanese forces to kill innocent Asian people directly outside Japan's territory. Obviously, however, the Japanese government cannot wait that long to rearm Japan.
Unlike the 1931 September 18th Incident, which was planned and launched by the Japanese Kwangtung (Kanto) Army and "drew" the whole Japan into a total war invading China, the 2001 December 22nd Incident has been prepared for years, especially after 1999, planned for days, and executed by the Japanese Coast Guard and Navy Self-defense Forces directly under the Japanese cabinet instruction.
It is reported that the unidentified "suspicious" boat was "first " found by Japan's Navy Self-defense Forces' P3C patrol plane at the high sea of East China Sea, 150 kilometer northwest from Japan's nearest island Amami Oshima. This should be the nearest spot of the boat from any Japanese islands during its days-long journey. At this time the small boat was outside of Japan's territorial waters but within a 200-mile boundary claimed by Japan as its EEZ. Most people would not challenge the viewpoint that, generally, maritime laws allow Japan to enforce its fishing regulations in that kind of zone. Fishing violations within Japanese EEZ waters allegedly being investigated by the Coast Guard are punishable by up to 10 months in jail, according to the Japanese fishing law.
The Japanese government claims that based on Japan's fishing law, the Coast Guard attempted to stop the boat in order to determine if it was fishing. However, as it turns out, this boat had little fishing tools (thus it is named "suspicious" boat, not a fishery boat), by no accounts it resembled a fishing vessel. From the beginning the Japanese Coast Guard knew that this boat was not doing fishing or any other illegal or hostile activity. There was not any suspicion of the boat itself. This is merely one of the many normal ships passing through the high sea which happens to be within a Japanese EEZ.
The whole world now knows that the U.S. surveillance aircrafts fly in China's EEZ daily spying China's coast; its aircraft carriers even passed China's domestic waters (the Taiwan Strait) in 1996. China did the U.S. nothing harm even a U.S. surveillance crashed and killed one Chinese pilot in the same year's April. In fact, according to the 1998 "The Current Situation of Waters Security," issued by Japan's Waters Security Agency, the agency found 816 suspicious ships within Japan's territorial waters in 1997 and it acted nothing. There was no incident until 1999 March. Outside of Japan's territorial waters, there should be much more foreign "suspicious" ships, found or unfound by the Japanese authorities, passing through Japan's EEZ. Japan monitors them every day. Japan has no right to interrupt their journey.
Why did Japan choose this boat at this time?
Considering the catastrophic consequence of this incident, it is impossible that Japan could take this kind of military action without conclusive information of this boat. To execute this killing, Japan must make sure that this boat does not belong to China, Russia or South Korea. Many Japanese ships fish in disputed waters claimed by these countries and these countries' coast guards have the power to arrest or sink them easily. Under today's circumstance, Japan can only arrest and kill North Korean people without serious international sanction. It is still too dangerous to manipulate the Japanese public opinion in hatred of Chinese. The boat becomes the target because it belongs to North Korea and the Japanese government needed a North Korean victim for its own purpose. The Japanese ruling class hates North Korea because North Korea's existence itself is a condemnation of Japan's wartime as well as post-war imperialism and militarism. North Korean people are described as non-human in the Japanese mainstream media. In fact, when a Japanese man had a quarrel with his wife on the new-year day of 2002, he knew how to eject his bad feeling: he simply called the 911 number and falsely claimed that he saw 5 or 6 foreign language speakers climbed to Enojima beach. A North Korean cargo-boat just arrived at a nearby port. The Japanese mobilized Waters Security Agency's Number 3 District, Kanagawa and Chiba's polices, and even the agency's heavily armed Special Security Team from Osaka to investigate this "incident" for seven days.
However, this time, even after Japan had correctly identified that it is a North Korean boat, it takes days of time to make the necessary preparation plan to arrest and sink the small boat. In fact, according to Mainichi Daily December 24th, 2001, this boat had been sighted since it took off from North Korea's western coast by America's surveillance satellite, and Japan's Defense Agency monitored the boat's wireless communication on December 18th western of Japan's Taneko Island. The Japanese government does not have any evidence that the boat was conducting any illegal activity, so they could not utilize the monitored communication record to disclose the boat's identity. Claming the boat "unidentified" gives the Japanese government free hands to deal with the boat without trouble. This "suspicious" boat was chosen as a victim of Japan's breaking through its own law restrictions of firepower usage.
Sensed the coming threat, the boat speeded up to flee away from the dangerous Japanese EEZ. Normally, the Japanese Coast Guard would stop chasing when the boat was out of the Japanese EEZ, as the Coast Guard did so before. However, this time the Japanese Coast Guard continued chasing the boat even out of the Japanese EEZ and into China's EEZ waters. During the chase out of the Japanese EEZ waters, the Coast Guard fired more than 300 rounds of what they called "warning shots," and some of which hit directly the hull of the fleeing boat, according to the Coast Guard account. This is even a violation against Japan's newly revised Coast Guard law. Kazumine Akimoto, who retired just in 2001 from the Japanese Navy Self-defense Forces after serving as a liaison with the United States Navy, acknowledged the pursuit of the boat into Chinese EEZ waters is legally questionable. "'Hot pursuit' rights are only from territorial waters to the open sea," he said. "We don't have hot pursuit rights from an EEZ to another EEZ."
This is the second "suspicious boat" incident. In March 1999, Japan dispatched 4 big escorts (including one if the four Aegis warships), 15 cruisers (including some carrying helicopters) and 12 aircrafts (including a P3C plane), fired more than 1300 rounds of "warning shots" in the high sea of Japan Sea. That time the firing was really for warning. The then Chief Cabinet Secretary Nonaka admitted in his March 14th press briefing: "Our current laws prohibit us from attacking the boats as long as we are not attacked." "We paid attention carefully not to directly hit the body of the boat." The then Defense Agency Director (Minister level) also admitted on the same day: "Due to the legal limitation of the usage of weapons, the two suspicious boats were allowed to escape away."
The Japanese government utilized the 1999 "suspicious boat" incident to revise its Coast Guard law and Self-defense Forces law. The revised laws allow the Coast Guard to shot at a suspicious ship directly even without attack from the ship. In the Congress meeting revising these three relevant laws, even the opposition party, the Japanese Communist Party, voted to approve them. However, the revised laws still have some restriction: the Coast Guard can only enforce them within Japan's territorial waters. The Japanese government needs to create another incident to further revise the revised Coast Guard law and Navy Self-defense Forces law to allow Japan to participate into fight in high seas.
As expected, after the second incident, Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the incident proves the need for easing the strict rules on when Japanese forces can use firearms, and has called for changes in laws that have bound Japan's forces since Japan's last war. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda also criticized the rules that restrict Japanese forces to "defensive" use of firepower. It is reported that Koizumi has instructed the new revision to be presented in the January 2002 Congress meeting.
In the Chinese EEZ waters, the wounded boat had to slow down its fleeing speed. Its crew made the last resistance with their rifle guns - it is normal for a boat carrying simple firearms defending pirate ships. The Japanese Coast Guard gunboats fired 186 rounds of shots at the boat, and sank the boat with all its crew. Ignoring maritime salvage laws, from a 300-meter distance, the Coast Guard gunboats watched at least 15 people floating out from the sinking boat but let them die. They picked up two bodies back to show that these two crew members were not shot to die.
"The problems begin when we do not act on legal frameworks, but on political decisions," observed retired vice admiral Kazui Sakairi, a former chief of staff of the Japanese Navy Self-defense Forces. "We have to remember our history" in which the military led Japan into World War II, he said.
This is also a further indication of the death of the Japanese democracy, especially at the national congress level. Only Social Democratic Party demanded parliamentary hearings on the incident. "The shooting was outside Japan's territorial waters and outside the authority of the Coast Guard law." "It is extremely doubtful the use of weapons on the open sea is within Japanese policy." (Sekisuke Nakanishi). The Japanese Communist Party usually requests the Japanese government to take "firm" actions on foreign "illegal" ships, such as China's "scientific research" ships around Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. They have betrayed people's hope in the Congress to approve the revision of the Coast Guard and Navy Self-defense Forces laws. This time, they provided nothing of its own opinion. Its official organ Akahata Daily merely copied whatever the Japanese government claimed on this incident.
In both the 1999 and 2001, the "suspicious boats" did not cause the incidents. Japan caused the incidents by issuing "Waters Security Action" to dispatch Japan's Navy Self-defense Forces and the Coast Guard. Was there any necessity for Japan to issue "Waters Security Action"? According to the Defense Agency's director answering to the Senate Security Special Committee Hearing on April 14th, 1981, the Self-defense Forces Acts Article 82 defines the following conditions to issue the "Waters Security Action:" when emergency comes close and suspicious ships seriously disrupt Japan's water transportation; when piracy actions are so frequent which seriously threat Japan's national lives and properties; and when the Coast Guard cannot cope with the situations. It also requires the admission from the Premier Minister. In the Congress Security Consulate meeting immediately after the 1999 "suspicious boat" incident, the then Defense Agency Director answered that the above 1981 stance was still valid. There was no necessity for Japan to issue "Waters Security Action" in these two "suspicious boat" incidents.
In March 1999, the necessity to issue the "Waters Security Action" to dispatch 4 escorts, 15 cruisers and 12 planes, is to create an example to force the Congress to pass of the new Guidelines for Japan's rearmament. As reported by the rightist newspaper Sankei Daily March 24th, 1999, under the big title "Emergency: the Japan Sea Waves Are High:" "According to the officials, the Defense Agency and Self-defense Forces are conducting a kind of pre-exercise for the coming Guidelines." To pass the Guidelines, the Japanese government dared not clarify what was the definition of "area around Japan" mainly because of China's protest. They created a threat from North Korea. The Guidelines have become Japan's law, now Japan needs another incident to show the Japanese forces can be "legally" used in the high sea, even inside China's EEZ.
Since all the crew members have been killed, Japanese Coast Guard claimed that it is a spy boat and, since it is a spy boat, its crew blew its engine room to sink themselves; thus they are not killed by the Coast Guard. Koizumi claimed Japan's barbaric murder "a legitimate self-defense." However, according to Mainichi Daily December 24th, 2001, the Japanese Coast Guard from the beginning was determined to arrest or sink the boat. Regarding directly shooting the boat's body, Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda admitted in his December 24th, 2001 press briefing: "We have instructed so from the beginning of the incident." It is clear that the Japanese government, from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, Cabinet Emergency Management Officer Yasuhiro Sugita, to Coast Guard Director Kokuhiko Nawano, directly ordered this massacre. We have to agree that the statement of North Korea is closer to truth: Japan's claim is sheer rumor, the sinking of the boat is nothing but brutal piracy and unpardonable terrorism committed by samurais of Japan in defiance of international laws.
Since the Japanese constitution and relevant domestic laws could no long restrict the Japanese government, we should appeal to international society for the justice for the murdered crew, whether they are or are not Koreans. Rather than the controversial arrest of Yugoslavia's former democratically elected President Slobodan Milosevic, these Japanese murders should be arrested and be judged to Hague International Court.
Unfortunately, no government in today's world will enforce justice for the boat's victims of the Japanese militarism. China should know that Japan's rearmament is eventually targeting at China. The PRC Foreign Ministry spokeswoman expressed Beijing's concern over the incident, "China is seriously concerned about the Japanese side employing arms while pursuing the boat, and about the fact that it sank in China's exclusive economic zone." "We are requesting the Japanese side to further brief us on relevant situations." However, Beijing is most concerned if the boat turned out to be a Chinese ship. In that case, the PRC would be forced to revise its current "friendship" with Tokyo. From that "friendship" most ordinary Chinese benefit little.
It is an outrage that the U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary arrived at Tokyo to encourage Japan's war. As observed from a Chinese professor at Berkley: "If the boat was an American boat and was sunk by the Chinese coast guard, what do you think the U.S. government and the American media will do?" "When the U.S. submarine accidentally sank the Japanese fishing boat off the coast of Hawaii earlier and killed several Japanese students, the Japanese government screamed bloody murder, demanded full investigation and raising of the sunk boat." He concluded: "The aggressive military posture of Japan is completely in line with and a vital component of the U.S. global hegemonic plan in Asia... I believe some of Bush's advisors think a war with China is inevitable." This is the worst scenario we never want to think of further.
When a dozen of Saudi citizens used an extreme method to demonstrate their nonetheless righteous requests, including that the U.S. withdraw its 5,000 troops from Saudi Arabia, the U.S. mobilized the total resource to engage an "anti-terrorist" war destroying all relevant or irrelevant enemies, and innocent people, without enough evidence. At the meantime, the Bush Administration is encouraging and conspiring with an ally to conduct a terrorist massacre. How hypocritical is the U.S. foreign policy! What a bankruptcy of the U.S. imperialist policy!
The so-called Post Cold-war period, from June 4th, 1989 to September 11th, 2001, is over. We now all regret that Hitler had not been stopped at his early stage of invasion. Now even though no one is prepared for the coming of the so-called of "Globalization" of economy, politics, and war, we still have the last chance to save the human civilization by resisting this global war against the human being.
[Note: The only objective analysis on this incident I read is Yoshikazu Takashima's article published in The Kakehashi weekly, January 14th, 2002, by New Time Press, Tokyo. This essay used information from Takahashi's article.]
by Jing Zhao, Comparative Policy Review, January 2002 (http://cpri.tripod.com).
List of LinksReturn to CPRI:
From: Ashkenazi Ashkenazi@mjash.demon.co.uk
While I disagree with many of the conclusions reached by Jing Zhao, there are two points he raises that I think are significant and worth pondering.
1. The event is highly significant in the Post WWII internal rehabilitation of Japan as a military power. Whether this event, in itself, is as represented by Jing Zhao or as represented by Japanese officialdom is a moot point. It is, however, the first time insofar as I know, that Japanese forces have shed blood (can't think of a better euphemism) since WW II. Thus, though the _substance_ of the event may be in dispute, I think its _symbolic_ aspect is highly significant, and Professor Zhao may be right: it will probably go down in the annals as the start of Japan's newly militarised posture.
2. In the post 11/9 atmosphere, it has become very clear that
countries are willing to cast aside semblance of law and of morality in
favour of droit de main. In effect, the US has been a weathervane: so long
as its morality and its law were congruent, other countries were
constrained to act (in public, at least) in a similar manner. This has
become increasingly difficult with the growing sophistication of
'attacking' organizations (states, 'terrorist organizations', 'opposition
groups' or whatever) in exploiting a combination of legal loopholes, public
opinion, superior courts (e.g. the Hague; European High Court), etc. Once
the US threw aside its own pretensions to morality=law in favour of naked
self-interest/retaliation/revenge/display of power/economic
opportunism/self-defense (take your pick: they're all evident in the post
11/9 actions), other countries, presumably, felt free to do the same. The
Japanese state, more than many others, is run by elite consensus rather
than law. Thus the direct violations of Japan's law and constitution
should not be at all surprising, and, indeed, could be anticipated under
The only method I can rely on is the Internet to analyze this incident. I know my conclusion may not be complete or accurate. Unless there is an international justice to investigate this incident, Tokyo will not provide the truth to the public. Since all the boat crew members were murdered, the truth has been buried in the high sea too. The Coast Guard picked two bodies, not for the rescue, but for the purpose to show that these two bodies were not shot to die. I didn't make any imagination that the other at least 13 crew members were shot. The pure fact is that the Coast Guard is determined to kill all of them. If one of them was allowed to survive, we will know about this incident completely differently.
My analysis was based on the facts I can collect from the Japanese sources. I respect NHK but I also know NHK as Japan's government agency under today's political situation cannot keep political independence. I looked the 2-minute video posted by the Coast Guard but found nothing supporting the Japanese claim. As an engineer working on the internet publishing technology, I can easily "edit" (make up) a better result for the Japanese government. The Coast Guard and the SDF monitored the boat so long, they should have provided much more information to support their claims if they could.
My main point is to point out that this is a very important incident in Japan's modern history. For the first undeclared war, if you read all Japan's media on the September 18 Incident, you will not have the conclusion of the incident leading to a total war against China. Until today, all information on this 2001 December 22 Incident are from the Japanese government and I cannot expect we can have a impartial report from the Japanese media and I think H-Net is the best place to discuss this kind of issues. Maybe it is still too early to judge whether this is a planned massacre, or an undeclared war against Asian innocent people, but I firmly believe that it ended Japan's Sengo (Postwar) period and started a new period with a new kind of war, not with peace.
As my essay's title indicates, I cannot find a similar incident from Japan's post-war peaceful period. I have to trace back to 1931.
Honestly, I have not studied the so-called "racchi giwaku." I don't want make a conclusion from the result (Japan utilized them not to recognize North Korea) that these "giwaku" are made up by the Japanese government. I don't know Korean language and I don't have enough knowledge on Japan-Korea relations. The Japanese ruling class declared the closing of Japan's "sengo" several times but they always have to add a note: "except North Korea." I can understand how they hate the North Korean regime. However, this time, even the Japanese government did not mention the boat suspicious of "removing Japanese nationals from prefectures with beach access to the Sea of Japan." As I pointed out in my essay, the nearest spot of the boat's journey was 150 km away from Japanese territories.