Australia’s “Korean” Foreign Policy

For years I marveled at the emotional and dramatic absurdity of Korea’s foreign policy, particularly as it was directed towards the best political, military and economic friends of Korea, the US and Japan, and how this damaged Korea’s national interests. For years President Roh openly expressed his interest in making Korea a “balancer” in East Asia — about as stupid as public diplomacy can get, which worked to alienate him from his US allies, which won him no new friends. Then there was Korea’s outraged reaction to Japan’s assertion that, Japan had sovereignty to rocks in the middle of the Japan Sea that Korea occupied militarily in the 1950s. Had they ignored this, the status quo would have been quietly preserved, but the loud, international outrage broadcast by Korea has ultimately resulted in many people believing that this is actually a proper border dispute. Basically, foreign policy is supposed to be handled by adults with a cool head, and an undergraduate with a basic foundation in realism or diplomacy could have picked apart the multiple and sophomoric stupidities in the conduct of Korean foreign policy.

Which brings me to Australia and its reaction to Japan’s whaling. For decades, Japan has hunted whales in international waters for “scientific research”, following an unorthodox reading of the treaty banning whale hunting, and sold the meat from the whales in Japan. This serves to preserve a few isolated communities with fisherman who hunt whales, but the meat is so unpopular it has a hard time being sold. The public in Australia are morally outraged by the hunt, seeing whales as the gentle and noble giants of the sea, and are appalled by Japan permitting and sponsoring the whale hunt. Australia has abstractly threatened legal action for years, although a winning legal action (except by outside observers), or how it would successfully be brought to the International Court of Justice. Japan basically thinks this is just Australian domestic electoral politics and is basically ignoring these threats of litigation.

Lacking a clear legal strategy, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has instead reverted to threatening and snubbing Japan in public, and recently announced a decision to skip a nuclear nonproliferation summit to be held in the US. Australia and Japan co-chair the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. The announcement also came just before Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada made his first visit to Australia.

What can we make of Rudd’s grandstanding for cheap domestic political gain? Australia’s conservative opposition is bluntly honest. Deputy opposition leader and shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop said, after returning to Australia from a trip to Japan, the she detected “a sour note in the Australia-Japan relationship” caused by the threats and posturing by the Rudd government. East Asian specialist Malcolm Cook called it “Australia’s single silliest strategic decision.”

The risks to Australia? It sours a relationship with a longstanding trade partner and its newest military ally; it could be cut out of the proposed East Asia regional community; and it undermines Okada, probably the strongest and most influential proponent of Australia in the new government. A government can denounce Japan’s whaling and not frenzy itself with self-righteousness — just look at New Zealand, which has a relatively careful policy on opposing Japan’s whailing activities with the clear objective of killing the fewest whales, preferably none, and achieving that objective with utmost urgency. Indeed, this policy is most certainly “realist” and “realistic.” But you could get more “Korean” in your foreign policy with the drama of Rudd’s government on the topic. I can only look forward to watching its spectacular failure, especially as it should help him with short-term domestic victories and perpetuate his term in office.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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21 Responses to Australia’s “Korean” Foreign Policy

  1. Aceface says:

    BTW,just learned via phone chat with press officer of WWF Australia that Kevin Rudd government had drastically cut federal budget that relates with endangered species protection program.Talk about hypocrisy.

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  3. Mye says:

    Yep. Sure sucks that those Australians are so bad at foreign policy, just like the Koreans. Damn.

  4. hoju_saram says:

    I’m just going to copy and paste the comment I left at the Marmot’s Hole:

    Japan is targeted by anti-whalers because:

    1. They hunt (or hunted until recently) whales that are endangered (fin) and vulnerbale (humpback).

    2. They hunt these animals in what Australia considers its own territorial waters. Australia designated and manages the Australian Antarctic Territory (at great cost to the tax-payer) as a gigantic research area and breeding sanctuary, so that the whale stocks might increase from their current (depleted) levels.

    3. Whale-watching is an important industry in Australia and the South Pacific. In Tonga and Fiji, for example, whale-watching is very important to their tourism industries, the funds benefiting many poor local communities. Also, some people happen (myself included) like watching them, swimming with them and surfing with them (gasp!)

    4. The techniques used to kill whales are cruel when compared to other animals. Whales often take up to an hour or more to die.

    5. Japan claims to hunt whales for “research”, a clear, bald-faced lie. If Japan was to be honest about the reasosn for the annual hunt, I suspect they would have far more sympathisers in Oz.

    6. Some Japanese also claim a cultural and historical mandate for hunting whales. This is also a weak claim; Japanese traditional hunters used to take a small catch within range of shore; it was only in 1930 that they began to use factory ships to bring in industrial-sized catches.

    6. Japan is targeted by Australia more than, say, Norway, specificaly for reasons 2, and 3.

    I might also remind Curzon of Japan’s history with regard to whaling. The League of Nations raised concerns about the over-exploitation of whale stocks (perhaps due to the falling price of whale oil) and called for conservation measures in 1925. This eventually led to the Geneva Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was presented in 1931 but did not enter into force until 1934 and was completely ignored by Japan.

    As a result Japan almost single-handedly wiped out the Blue Whale. Had it not been for concerted, international pressure, Japan would almost certainly had destroyed several whale species. Thats the Japanese whaling pedigree: complete disregard for sustainable hunting, or for other countries sharing in what is a special, finite resource.

    This is hardly the petty issue you make it out to be, particuarly when you take into account the territorial dispute.

    Can you imagine the repurcussions of Japan hunting an endangered species, dear to the Chinese, in what Beijing considered Chinese territiory?

  5. James says:

    HOJU_SARAM:

    1) Compare the numbers of those whales Japan hunts to the total population estimates. Even at the lowest estimates of population, the number of whales killed by the Japanese is so low that it would be ludicrous to claim that Japanese whaling is a danger to those species.

    2) If Australia wants to defend its shaky territorial claims, it should. I’m sure if the Japanese were killing less “special” creatures in those waters, it wouldn’t even matter.

    3) Once again, look at the number of whales killed compared to overall population numbers. It is unreasonable to think that whale herds would be depleted so much that the whale watching industry would suffer.

    4) The whales may take a painful hour to die, but it’s just an hour. Many of the cows, pigs, and chickens that we eat spend their lives in cramped conditions on factory farms. That seems a lot crueler.

    5) There is absolutely no lie. Australians are just under the misconception that it’s not research when whales are killed. No IWC rule says that killing the whales is not permitted. The Japanese whaling program published many research papers. This is not a “loophole.” The IWC deliberately left this open so that nations like Japan could engage in small scale hunts.

    6) Japan is not allowed to engage in coastal whaling because whale populations around the home islands are depleted. This population depletion took place because Western nations destroyed the whale populations around Japan.

    7) Perhaps, but a sense of cultural superiority is clearly visible. Some might even see racism in it.

    8) Thanks for the little story, but there is no evidence that Japan’s current whaling program is wiping out any species of whale.

  6. IJ says:

    Foreign policy priorities? No doubt some think that Australia and South Korea have wrong foreign policy priorities; Curzon praises New Zealand for a choice it has made.

    There is no agreed formula; national interests reflect the influence of local lobbies. The ranking of such interests is therefore likely to differ from nation to nation around the world. Territorial rights is an example of especially emotive worries, often put ahead of the projected future well-being of the nation.

    Before WW1 Norman Angell also took a detached view and placed economics within the ruling global framework as a high priority for a nation. But these rules deny international audit and therefore allow manipulation by local politics [including big bailouts from public funds]; they morever put the security of assets in other political regimes at risk.

    Maybe NATO will deal with the fractious matter of sovereign rights when it pursues Article 2 of its treaty – see Kaplan in Tokyo.

  7. Aceface says:

    “1. They hunt (or hunted until recently) whales that are endangered (fin) and vulnerbale (humpback). ”

    No.Japan listed two species(50 individual each)as bargaining tips for the negotiationat IWC last year.But has stopped hunting Fin whales since 1986,Humpback since 1966.

    Iceland,however hunts Fin whale since 2007.

    “2. They hunt these animals in what Australia considers its own territorial waters. Australia designated and manages the Australian Antarctic Territory (at great cost to the tax-payer) as a gigantic research area and breeding sanctuary, so that the whale stocks might increase from their current (depleted) levels. ”

    The AAT has been recognized by four nations in the world.UK,New Zealand,France and Norway.Japan does not and so are the rest of the world.

    BTW,Japan established the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932′.It was recognized by 20 nations by 1945.

    “3. Whale-watching is an important industry in Australia and the South Pacific. In Tonga and Fiji, for example, whale-watching is very important to their tourism industries, the funds benefiting many poor local communities. Also, some people happen (myself included) like watching them, swimming with them and surfing with them (gasp!) ”

    Whaling and Dolphin hunting is an important industry in Japan.And the funds benefiting not so wealthy fishing villages.Also some people happen to like eating them(Myself included).Japan is also a major contributor of foreign aid to both Tonga and Fiji.

    “4. The techniques used to kill whales are cruel when compared to other animals. Whales often take up to an hour or more to die. ”

    We really can’t compare the cruelty of the techniques of killing animals since we have no way to obtain opinions from these animals.Whales often take quite some time to die due to their size.

    “5. Japan claims to hunt whales for “research”, a clear, bald-faced lie. If Japan was to be honest about the reasosn for the annual hunt, I suspect they would have far more sympathisers in Oz. ”

    Not really.Because Australian chose to forget the historical background of how 1this research whaling was implemented.IWC(stands for International Whaling Commision)was organized to discuss sustainable whaling.However,some countries hijacked IWC and imposed moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982.”Research Whaling” is legitimate byway for the member state that cannot agree on decision of majority.Japan is not the only nation that used this byway.
    the U.S,USSR,Canada,South Korea has been used this excuse to maintain it’s whaling fleet.Even Australia had conducted “research” on Sperm whales in 1966.

    I suspect Japan would have far more sympathisers in Oz. if only the Aussies bring back their own lost memories.

    “6. Some Japanese also claim a cultural and historical mandate for hunting whales. This is also a weak claim; Japanese traditional hunters used to take a small catch within range of shore; it was only in 1930 that they began to use factory ships to bring in industrial-sized catches. ”

    Wrong.Japanese claim a cultural and historical mandate for eating whale meat.Hunting happens to the means to get the whale meat,not the purpose.
    Besides,questioning the historical legitimacy on whaling procedure is a weak claim.Town of Taiji in Wakayama has been hunting dolphine for more than 4 centuries,but still animal rights activists are against the hunting at the cove,including the Academy award winning film crews.

    “6. Japan is targeted by Australia more than, say, Norway, specificaly for reasons 2, and 3″

    I think you meant “7″.And I also believe Japan is being targeted by Australia because of poor coverage by Australian press.

    ”This eventually led to the Geneva Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was presented in 1931 but did not enter into force until 1934 and was completely ignored by Japan.”

    Which is not a surprise.Japan left the League of Nation on February 24,1933.
    We were busy killing Chinese,not whales at the time.

    “As a result Japan almost single-handedly wiped out the Blue Whale. ”

    No way.It was UK who almost single-handedly wiped out the Blue Whale in the post WW2 years.Japan had tough time sending fleet far away from it’s territorial waters.

    “Had it not been for concerted, international pressure, Japan would almost certainly had destroyed several whale species. ”

    Japan has been the member of IWC and has been respecting it’s decision for most cases.I don’t think such cases would’ve occured as the history shows.

    “Can you imagine the repurcussions of Japan hunting an endangered species, dear to the Chinese, in what Beijing considered Chinese territiory?”

    Funny you mention that.
    The freshwater dolphin of the Yangtze river,the Baiji has been on endangered species list of IUCN for years.Japanese government has been contributing financial assistance in Baiji preservation since the 90′s.But Baiji officially anounced it’s extinction in 2006.The first Cetacean species being extinct because of the human activities.

  8. Markus Wolf says:

    Why would Australia take Japan to the courts which would be expensive and there is no guarantee of winning? The simplest and cheapest remedy is to simply say that whaling ships and vessels which support whaling activities are not permitted to be refuelled or supplied in Australian waters as whaling is incompatible with our national policy.
    Problem solved.

  9. Aceface says:

    Because Australia is the member of IWC and IWC recognize the Japanese research whaling.Australia must leave the IWC first to implement your plan,Markus.

  10. Markus Wolf says:

    Why would you have to leave Aceface, you can just opt out through the objection procedure? Also, I wonder whether the IWC is truly legally binding anyway, surely your local national laws have precedence over club memebrship rules, especially a toothless club like the IWC.
    The IWC is comparable to a men only club for countries, with a couple of transsexuals (the great seafaring nations of Switzerland & San Marino) in its membership. You can say that these are the rules in-house but really you know that they are breaking local laws on gender equality and if the case ever came to court the club rules would be dismissed.
    Simply Australia or its port operators can block the ships from refuelling whilst remaining a member of the IWC as it would not be in any countries interests if Australia leaves the IWC. The IWC will find a way to accommodate Australia’s stance, just as it has found a way to kowtow to Japan.

  11. Aceface says:

    “Also, I wonder whether the IWC is truly legally binding anyway,”

    It’s legally binding enough to make Japan not to hunt Fins and Humpbacks.

    “surely your local national laws have precedence over club memebrship rules, especially a toothless club like the IWC.”

    While IWC as “toothless”as the UN itself,still it’s the only international body to discuss on whaling.I believe Canberra had signed International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling of which IWC’s authority is based on.Which means it’s authority must be respected even in the Australian national laws.

    “The IWC is comparable to a men only club for countries, with a couple of transsexuals (the great seafaring nations of Switzerland & San Marino) in its membership”

    I have no idea what you talking about.But you should also understand that Japan objected allowing non-whaling countries to enter IWC.The anti-whaling nation such like Australia expanded the membership to outnumber the pro-whaling camps.The delegation from Republic of Seychelles had been occupied by guy like South African new age writer Lyall Watson.You may want to check this page to see how open IWC was and it was far from “men only club”.
    http://luna.pos.to/whale/iwc_vb.html

    “Simply Australia or its port operators can block the ships from refuelling whilst remaining a member of the IWC as it would not be in any countries interests if Australia leaves the IWC”

    Perhaps.But “block the ships from refuelling” especially on it’s mission legitimized by international treaty will be a huge violation of international maritime law.
    And it would probably make Australia’s “Korean” policy would look more like the one up in the north of the 38th parallel.

  12. Spindlylegs says:

    “I have no idea what you talking about” I understand as what he was trying to say is countries like the Swiss shouldn’t have a voice in whaling.

    I actually agree with MW and I believe that Australia (where I live) should take a dramatic action such as banning the Japanese ships from our waters, else we will talk for years and nothing will happen.
    If the Japanese want to hunt whales, let them, but we don’t have to provide material support. Why not let our actions represent what we think? The IWC will not collapse, instead it will absorb the ramifications from Australia’s ‘hypothetical’ decision and move on. Any government measures against the Japanese whaling ships would be warmly welcomed by the electorate here and they would not care about the impact it has on IWC.

    In regards to Rudd snubbing the Japanese, well that is simply childish, we should expect better from our leaders as it is strongly in our national interest to remain friendly with Japan. We can tell Japan that we respectfully disagree with your views on whaling and we have decided as a country not to support your activities, however lets work together on nuclear deterrence, trade issues etc… Too naive? Maybe! But why let whaling, which really is an immaterial subject, get in the way of our relationship with the Japanese.

  13. Aceface says:

    I have to take back some of my claim.
    I just learned Australia,along with other nation nearby,already don’t allow Japanese whaling fleet to visit their ports.So the whaling fleet gets support by supply vessel from Japan and sail non-stop for three months.

    Wonder why our government don’t take this issue to the international maritime court・・・・・

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  15. Nathan says:

    Deeply frustrating stuff. Unfortunately, much of the Australian population ‘found religion’ in regards to the big fishy mammals and there’s no fanatic quite like a converted fanatic. Sigh.

    I’m an Australia myself but I find it pretty damn hard to get worked up over it, beyond being pissed off its happening in the AAT.

    The idea of bashing on one of our most critical alliances because Rudd wants to score some cheap domestic points is just mind-boggling. And it’s despairing to think of someone so willing to set aside the international good of the nation for his domestic well-being leading the nation (saying this as someone with the greatest of reservations about the Opposition Leader).

  16. Austin says:

    It’s not Australia’s foreign policy. It’s Kevin Rudd’s foreign policy. Rudd happens to be the worst Prime Minister Australia has ever had. More and more people are coming to realise this. He’s an embarrassment to the nation. The sooner he’s gone the better.

  17. Nathan says:

    Rudd’s biggest problem is that he never stopped campaigning, merely shifted to campaigning-as-governance. He was a great campaigner, but its no way to run a nation.

  18. Simon Catheter says:

    Whaling is a very contentious issue here in Australia. Most people I know (yes, hardly a huge sample of the population) strongly oppose whaling – I bet this is echoed en-masse across the country. Rudd realises that to do nothing will alienate these people, yet to do something will alienate the Japanese (maybe). So he’s carefully treading water for the moment, as any astute and Asia-savvy leader would do. I love Japanese food, and I’ve eaten whale and I (and several Japanese friends) cannot understand why anyone eats it. Erk!

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