By YVONNE FRENCH
The United States and Japan should form a humanitarian partnership of global leadership to protect the 23 million refugees in the world, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata proposed at the Library.
Her comment came towards the close of the Mansfield Pacific American Lecture, held March 10.
Ms. Ogata was welcomed by Dr. Billington, who said, "I am very pleased that the lecture is now being given at the Library of Congress." She was also welcomed by Charles D. Ferris, chairman of the board of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, which co-sponsored the lecture with the Library's Office of Scholarly Programs. Former Sen. Mansfield (D-Mont.), was Senate majority leader for 16 years and served as ambassador to Japan from 1977 to 1988. His 96th birthday was March 16.
Ms. Ogata was introduced by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas R. Pickering, himself a career ambassador, who noted she is the first woman to hold the office of high commissioner for refugees.
Ms. Ogata asked the 200 people in the audience, which included Minister Kobayashi of the Embassy of Japan, "Why not together set a common humanitarian agenda based on a joint commitment to global solidarity toward refugees and other deprived people?
"The United States and Japan can and should be essential to the world's wealth and stability. Let me go even further: They should be the driving force behind the achievement of global peace and prosperity."
However, she fears that the two nations are increasingly turning inward.
"I am very worried that the public commitment of the United States to provide international leadership is receding. Look at its elected representatives, its administration, its media, its civil society associations: with many notable exceptions, their focus is often based on an internal political agenda, and often an electoral one."
She continued: "In this context, the unpaid American-assessed contributions to the United Nations are a very serious problem. … They are perceived as reflecting a diminished interest in the international organization."
Meanwhile, Japan is at a "delicate juncture" in history. After rebuilding its economy to world power status in the 54 years since World War II, it has foundered in its current economic crisis and "insufficiently responded to its recent problems. The crisis has hit and seriously undermined Japan's very source of strength — the economy. Its reaction can be described almost as a paralysis," Ms. Ogata said.
"The Japanese must not forget that not only their economy, but also their political and security interests have a global base. It must now continue to endorse an internationalist approach."
Ms. Ogata said that the Japanese felt bypassed by President Clinton's nine-day visit to China last year, and the feeling was reinforced by subsequent criticism by the United States and China of Japanese financial policies. "Indeed, Japan today is increasingly being seen as contributing to the risk of a major world recession."
Both nations, she concluded, must choose to be internationalist. "We always speak of U.S.-Japan relations, but we should think of U.S.-Japan commitments. This commitment to inclusiveness has two facets: it must be turned externally, toward less developed countries, and internally, toward the most vulnerable elements of societies, especially minorities, migrants, refugees and the deprived.
It must be directed toward working for the realization of an inclusive international community, prosperous and secure, based on democratic values."
She said she knew it was unusual to include herself in the title of the lecture — "Japan, the United States and Myself: Global Challenges and Responsibilities" — but she wanted to discuss Japan's evolution from a personal vantage point because she is not an expert.
Ms. Ogata has been High Commissioner for Refugees for eight years. She is the great-granddaughter of Japanese Prime Minister Inukai, who was assassinated in 1932. As a child, she lived with her diplomatic family in the United States and China. She lived in the United States again during the 1950s and early 1960s, when she studied the causes of World War II. She earned an M.A. in international relations from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley before concentrating on the study of Japanese political and diplomatic history at the University of Tokyo. Her dissertation is on the making of Japanese foreign policy in Manchuria in the early 1930s.
Her lecture focused on Japan's national identity and international pressures. She recalled early postwar Japan as a place of tremendous determination. "The country was eager to regain an honorable place in the world. It was also deeply antimilitary and antiwar."
U.S.-Japan relations were close during the Cold War as the Japanese economy grew three times faster than the United States' and Japanese management became an admired, studied and imitated model.
By the late 1980s, Japan had become the largest creditor nation to the United States, marking a turn in U.S.-Japanese relations. "When Japan started purchasing U.S. government bonds, substantial portions of real estate in Hawaii, and even American landmarks such as Rockefeller Center in New York, it began to be perceived as a threat to the United States … and the United States began criticizing Japan for not sharing enough of the world economic and financial burden.
"This provoked a backlash in Japan. A nationalistic, arrogant mood resurfaced." Ms. Ogata said the flash point was the Gulf crisis. "Although 70 percent of Japan's oil imports were from the region, the country was not ready to send forces to Operation Desert Storm. In the end, taxes were raised, and Tokyo contributed 13 billion U.S. dollars (more than its annual development aid budget) to the effort. But, much as there had been pressure on Japan to contribute, there was — at least from the Japanese point of view — very little international appreciation for a major effort."
During the question-and-answer period that followed the lecture, Ms. Ogata responded to a reporter for Asahi Shimbun, the large Japanese daily newspaper, who asked whether Japan's military should become more involved in peacekeeping. "I am not a pacifist per se," she said. The only way to repatriate refugees in a displacement as serious as that in Kosovo is diplomacy backed up by force, she said.
During the height of the Gulf crisis, Ms. Ogata was elected to her current post. Her first field mission, in April 1991, was a helicopter reconnaissance of the mountains between Turkey, Iran and northern Iraq, where more than 1 million Kurds had taken refuge in the fastest mass exodus in contemporary history. She also mentioned the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which displaced millions of civilians, and a new explosion of genocidal violence in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, which caused the flight of millions of people from Burundi and Rwanda. And following 10 years of fighting since the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced to camps in Iran and Pakistan, she said. "More recently, conflicts in Kosovo and Sierra Leone dashed the hopes that the post-Cold War turmoil would just be a transient adjustment period.
"I feel sad and frustrated that so little attention is paid, for example, to Sierra Leone," said Ms. Ogata, who recently visited the country and three others in South Africa. "It is a good example of how a crisis mounted. Nobody stopped the arms flow or the mercenaries. Somebody has to be more attentive to that situation.
"There are enormous suffering and casualties and catastrophes, and I would like that to be taken note of," said Ms. Ogata. "I feel I have to appeal for more political attention." She asked members of the media to write more about the refugees. "These people are human and they're suffering."
Past Mansfield American-Pacific lectures have included some of the most distinguished leaders in their fields: Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard professor and acclaimed scientist; Hiroshi Inose, one of Japan's leading scientists; Cokie Roberts of ABC News (formerly of National Public Radio); Ayako Sono, award-winning novelist and social critic; Robert Bellah, renowned philosopher; and Hayao Kawai, distinguished Jungian psychoanalyst. For each lecture, the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs selects an American and a Japanese speaker. They address the same subject — this year, "National Identity and International Pressures" — in each other's capital. Their two speeches are published in a single volume. The American lecturer for Tokyo had not been confirmed at press time.
The Mansfield Center directs the public policy and international outreach functions of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation. Founded in 1983, the foundation is dedicated to building on Sen. Mansfield's lifelong efforts to bring about improved relations and greater understanding between the United States and Asia.
Ms. French is a public affairs specialist in the Public Affairs Office.