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Japanese leader’s trip to China in ’72 was diplomatic gamble

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Japanese leader’s trip to China in ’72 was diplomatic gamble

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese leader who normalized relations with China 50 years ago feared for his life when he flew to Beijing for the high-stakes negotiations at the height of the Cold War, according to his daughter, a former Japanese foreign minister.

Kakuei Tanaka’s mission to normalize relations with China just two months after taking office was a huge gamble, his daughter, Makiko Tanaka, said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the 50th anniversary Thursday of the historic communique that Tanaka signed with his counterpart, Zhou Enlai.

The then-prime minister told his daughter before his departure that he would resign if his mission failed, recalled Makiko Tanaka, who served as foreign minister and in other key posts from 1993 to 2012.

Opposition was so fierce in Japan, she said, that some ruling party hawks came to their home the day before the trip to try to stop him from leaving. He told his daughter that he feared being poisoned in China, which was a largely closed country in 1972.

Earlier that same year, U.S. President Richard Nixon had made his visit to communist China that would transform China’s position in the world. His trip led to the U.S. establishing diplomatic relations with China in 1979 and the parallel severing of formal ties with Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own.

Much has changed, too, in the China-Japan relationship over the past half-century. The neighbors enjoy deep business and cultural ties. Japan has given China more than $25 billion in development aid over the years, and China is Japan’s biggest trade partner.

But the underlying tension that marked Tanaka’s diplomatic foray remains.

China, a relative backwater then, is now the world’s No. 2 economy and a growing military power. Tensions surround Beijing’s rivalry with Washington and its increasingly assertive activity in the region, especially around Taiwan.

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Japan considers China a security threat and is particularly worried about Chinese naval activity around Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that Beijing also claims.

Top-level visits have stalled in recent years, and Japan has been steadily building its military, largely in response to China.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government has pledged to further reinforce military power and to nearly double its spending over the next five to 10 years.

“Japan’s alliance with the United States is a lynchpin of our diplomacy, but we should not isolate China,” Makiko Tanaka said.

She raised worries about U.S.-led groupings of like-minded democracies, including Japan, as a counter to China, and cautioned against pushing Beijing toward closer ties with Russia.

“We are just banding together and being confrontational” toward China, said Tanaka, who was foreign minister in 2001-2002 under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. She criticized U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August for escalating tensions.

Wang Jiaxun, president of the China Enterprises Association in Japan, which includes 150 Chinese companies, acknowledged difficulties but said the neighbors need each other as business partners.

“China and Japan have thousands of years of up-and-down relations,” said Wang, whose association sponsored a weekend Japan-China festival in Tokyo in hopes of improving rocky ties.

China has not forgotten Japan’s support after the 1972 normalization, and even though his country has become a major power, the two countries can learn from each other. China can provide a huge market for Japan and further contribute to the Japanese economy, he said.

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When Tanaka, who died in 1993, made his trip, memories were fresh in Beijing of Japanese brutality during the first half of the 20th century. There was also opposition from anti-communist lawmakers in Tokyo.

Makiko Tanaka accompanied her father on many foreign trips, but he refused to take her to Beijing because of safety worries.

The main sticking points in 1972 were Japan’s apology for wartime aggression and differences over Taiwan — issues that strain relations today.

Kakuei Tanaka, however, was determined to make amends with China and change the state of the relationship with a country he saw as a growing power, his daughter said. He believed energetic diplomacy was the only way his resource-poor country could rise from the devastation of the war and survive global competition.

Makiko quoted her father as saying that “leaving the China issue dangling is not good for Japan’s future. She said her father “was ready to lower his head and apologize to China (over Japan’s wartime atrocities) to create a win-win relationship for Japan’s major benefit.”

Contrary to his worries, Tanaka was treated in China with extreme hospitality.

His biggest relief centered on Zhou’s pledge to waive China’s right to seek war compensation, which he said saved Japan from going bankrupt. Makiko Tanaka says the waiver was in exchange for Japan’s pledge to sever formal ties with Taiwan.

The East China Sea islands dispute was not part of the 1972 communique. Kakuei Tanaka raised the issue but Zhou said he did not want to discuss it, according to diplomatic records released by the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

In response to Chinese concerns, the Japanese side strengthened an apology over Japan’s wartime aggression in the communique.

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Makiko Tanaka said an improvement in the current political relationship between Beijing and Tokyo is hopeless, but she is pushing for deeper ties in the private sector. She has been invited to speak at Qinghua University in Beijing, and she is planning to invite a Chinese delegation to visit her father’s tomb in his hometown of Niigata later this year.

“If business, scientists and cultural exchanges were prompted more, there would be a sense of closeness” between the countries, Tanaka said. “Diplomacy is about people, and whether you can develop personal relations and talk when needed, but politicians who can do this are rare.”

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

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The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

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Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

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In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

___

Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

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Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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