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December 20, 2010 / Richard Smart

Wikileaks and Japan — an idea of what to expect (3)

With so few cables discussing Japan so far released, understanding the implications of Cablegate can be a challenge. There are, however, techniques that allow us to set a basis now for future analyzes of the cables. Previously, we have on this site discussed the way currently released subject lines offer clues as to U.S. dealings with Japan, and how an awareness of historical events can be used to predict, or request a look at, unreleased cables. A search for the word Tokyo, rather than Japan, can also be helpful.

The U.S. State Department refers to Japan as “Japan” (rather than Tokyo, land of the rising sun, etc.) This means that Japan references are talking ABOUT the country. It appears, however, that the word “Tokyo,” means in general that a document should be shared with the Tokyo Embassy, and thus represents a subject that the U.S. is discussing WITH Japan. *1

What does this mean? Essentially, the Cables can be read in two ways. One set, in which the name of a country is searched for, represents the U.S. State Department’s opinion of a nation. A second set, in which a nation’s capital is searched for, represents the U.S. State Department’s opinion on what information selected embassies CCed on cables should be aware of, for whatever reason.

The second search, which refers to capitals rather than countries, allows us to narrow down our view of the United States. One cable in particular that includes the keyword Tokyo illustrates this point.

Lee Kuan Yew on Burma’s “stupid” generals and the “gambler” Chen Shui-Bian, dated Oct. 17, 2007, includes a section on the Minister Mentor of Singapore’s opinion on the way Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda could help change Taiwanese politics:

Japan should speak out to restrain Taiwan from making provocative moves towards independence, MM Lee said. He asked what Japan had agreed to do in response to the proposed referendum on joining the UN under the name Taiwan. DAS Christensen noted that Japan has expressed its opposition privately with President Chen, but did not agree to make any public statements opposing the referendum. MM Lee suggested that Japan might be willing to make a public statement now with Yasuo Fukuda serving as prime minister. Fukuda has close ties to the KMT and his father even risked China’s ire to attend former President Chiang Ching-kuo’s funeral in 1988, according to Lee.

the cable states.

Clearly, the news of this cable that discusses Japan made it at least as far as Tokyo. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was, at the very least, aware that Singapore wished to see Japan intervene in Taiwan’s political process in connection to China.

As much cannot be said for the cable Ambassador’s parting thoughts on taking the Dutch, in which a U.S diplomat documents the strategic importance on working together with the Netherlands on numerous strategic issues. We are yet to find out whether or not Ambassador Clifford Sobel opinion that the Dutch “presence provided the political and military cover necessary for Japan to commit forces.” We can, however, infer, that despite Japan’s strategic importance is as an ally, it is still seen as part of a bigger picture.

Perhaps this should not be a surprise, but it is noteworthy for those looking to place Japan in the larger world.

The cables shared with the Tokyo not mentioning Japan so far read as diplomatic “press releases,” presenting U.S. perspectives on other nations and discussing matters that seem unrelated to Japan.

Some 99 percent of the U.S. cables are, however, still to be released, and it is likely that there will be revelations in their contents. For those wishing to find information quickly on Japan, as well as searching for the country’s name, searching for “Tokyo” offers further clues to the nation’s place in the world as it is seen by the U.S. State Department.

For looking into this series of leaks, the website Cablesearch has so far proved the best tool for me.

EDITS *1: Often, in cables where the word Tokyo can be found, it is in a header that operates seemingly as a CC. As such, Tokyo mentions do not necessarily mean the cable includes Japanese involvement or discussion of Japan, but rather mean that the U.S. Embassy in Japan has been sent the information. (Added after a comment via Twitter from ourmaninabiko)

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