The American President tells the Japanese Prime Minister to apologise to wartime victims. The PM in return asks if the President would do likewise!
The hot line rang in its old fashioned tone, more tired than hot. Nishihara let it ring a couple more times.
“Mr. Prime Minister? The President of the United States wishes to speak with you. Is it convenient?” A man’s voice came through.
“Ah, yes, of course.”
“Please hold Sir.”
While holding, Nishihara took a comb from his breast pocket and ran it through his thin hair. A strand of hair came off with it. He noticed regretfully that the oily dandruff had returned. He wiped it off carefully, almost ceremoniously, with a paper tissue, then folded it into a perfect square before depositing into the top secret dust bin.
A voice came through, energetic and charming: “Sorry to keep you waiting Mr. Prime Minister.”
“No Poblem Mr. Pesident. Just call me Yoshio.” Nishihara had been advised to always be casual and relaxed with the Americans.
“It’s OK Mr. Prime Minister,” the President’s tone was casual and relaxed, nearly bouncy. “You guys change so often I find it easier to address you Prime Minister. That’s how I have it on my contact list you know.”
“Ah so. Uh . . .” Yoshio’s head reeled for an appropriate response. This was only his second telephone chat with the President. His first call was two weeks ago to congratulate him for becoming Prime Minister.
“Just joking Yoshio! My apologies! Too much stress in this job.”
“Ah! Mr. Pesident, you are vely humourlous.”
“Listen Yoshio. Sorry to rush. I’ve only got a few minutes. To make a long story short, I need to talk with you about apologies.”
“Yes. That’s all it takes. You know I’ve decided to pivot back towards Asia Pacific. Your refusal to apologise has created, should we say, unnecessary resistance from your neighbours, since we are the closest allies.”
“Ah! So sorly.” Yoshio regretted being casual too soon. The President had neglected to reciprocate, and he was too polite to just go ahead and “call him Bob”. Now he was at an unfair disadvantage.
“Would you issue a formal apology about World War Two, so we can get this over with once and for all?”
“Ah nor . . . Mr. Pesident. This issue nei . . . Maybe little complicated. Ah nor —”
“Sorry to be blunt Yoshio. But what’s the big deal about saying sorry. Germany did that long ago.”
“Uh you see, Mr. Pesident, historly —”
“Let’s face it Yoshio —” Nishihara had been told that American Presidents seldom waited for Japanese Prime Ministers to finish their sentences. Just a cultural difference, nothing personal. “— With respect, Japan did kill a lot of innocent people after all didn’t it? Come on, just a show. Makes you look generous and civilised.”
Yoshio’s face turned red, and was glad that this wasn’t a video phone. He scratched his scalp with the pinky of his free hand, then noticed he had run out of tissue paper to wipe it. “Mr. Pesident,” he said, doubling his normally thoughtful pace, keeping his pinky stuck out like a sore thumb. “So sorly to be lude, but you killed a lot of people in Yilaq too. Have you apologised?”
“Come on Yoshio, we’re not talking about the same thing now.”
“Mr. Pesident, you went into Yilaq to catch Osama san. He was never there. You said Yilaq had weapon of mass destuction, which was not so. More than one million have died. Perhaps you should also apologise?”
“You know I was not the president then Yoshio.”
“Ah, I was not even bon during the war Mr. Pesident.”
A little pause.
“Yoshio, why don’t we talk about this when we meet.”
“As you wish Mr. Pesident.”
“How’s things otherwise?”
“Ah, not so good. Our rating is down to 11%.”
“Hmm. That’s not good. But as long as the other party’s lower, you know...”
“The LDP is 24%,” Yoshio reported.
“Well, I’m sure you know how to make theirs lower.”
“Thank you for your confidence Mr. Pesident. We’re hoping to make theirs less than 9% before the Febualy election.”
“Hey, that’d make the combined approval below 20. Are you aiming for the Guinness Record or something?”
“Ha ha. You are so humourlous Mr. Pesident.”
“Look, Yoshio, got to go. I’m seeing you here in March right?”
“I vely much hope so Mr. Pesident. Either me, or my successor.”
“Good talking to you Yoshio.”
“Good talking to you Mr. Pesident.”
Nishihara put down the phone and pressed the intercom for his secretary: “Mrs. Nomura, can you bring me a new box of tissue?”
“Hai, right away. Mr. Prime Minister.”
Approval Rating of Japanese Cabinet as of Aug 2012:
Approval Rating of both Japanese parties as of Nov 2012: DPJ 11%, LDP 24%. Combined 35%!