The normally unflappable diplomats in the Japanese Embassy in Canberra are enraged by yesterday’s outburst by Foreign Minister Downer criticizing Tokyo for withdrawing support for the so called war on terror.

According to yesterday’s New York Times, ”Japan’s Defence Ministry ordered home its naval ships from the Indian Ocean on Thursday, ending for now a six-year mission in support of the war in Afghanistan that raised the nation’s military presence overseas but has recently drawn increasing criticism domestically.”

Downer, who was assessed when he was a serving diplomat as being of fair average quality, barged straight into Japanese domestic politics when making his attack.

Our mole in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said even for Downer the breach of protocol was a ham fisted intervention and DFAT has gone into damage control in an attempt to pacify one of our most important allies.

Downer’s extraordinary statement that Australia “has borne a special sacrifice with the recent loss of two soldiers in Afghanistan and our resolve not to walk away” caused confusion in the Embassy, mainly because Japan was only providing naval refuelling assistance.

One diplomat told Crikey Downer was using emotional blackmail, which he said was “misplaced and insulting”.

Crikey’s own sources within the Embassy said the decision was made by the new Japanese government and was in line with world-wide opinion that the invasion of Iraq and the foreign presence in Afghanistan were “ill-conceived” mistakes and Tokyo distances itself from more involvement.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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