Serious business

Published 3 March 2014 in:

Photo: Catarina Axelsson/MFA

Russia’s invasion of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine’s territory, is a stark reminder of the fact that the world powers are still not synchronized when it comes to international law. Some believe they have rules of their own. An invasion of this kind is not only a serious threat to European stability, not to speak of the future of Ukraine, it is also a behaviour which belongs to past centuries, not to our 21st century. An invasion of another country’s territory is perhaps the clearest violation of international law you can find. Especially when there is no reason whatsoever to act militarily.

The seriousness of this invasion somehow puts everything else in a different light. Ukraine was, for understandable reasons, on the agenda when our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Bildt, a few days ago visited Tokyo and met the H.E. the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Kishida Fumio. Minister Bildt was here on an official invitation from the Japanese government and also met, among others, the Japanese Minister of Defense, Mr. Onodera Itsunori.

Before the arrival of Mr. Bildt I had the opportunity to visit Okinawa with some colleagues from Stockholm. We went to the U.S. air base Kadena for an interesting briefing, but also met with several other people, among them the U.S. Consulate General, Mr. Alfred R. Magleby, and the Mayor of Nago, Mr. Inamine Susumu. Our list also included a visit to the fabulous Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST).

A few days ago, I was also privileged to experience a traditional danpatsushiki (断髪式) here in Tokyo. It was time for the famous sumo wrestler from Estonia, Baruto, to retire and have his traditional top-knot cut off. I was among some two hundred people, who were called up to take turns in cutting a few hairs while the wrestler sat quietly on a chair in the sumo ring. Only in Japan is it possible to have such an experience.

In the middle of last month, the Asiatic Society of Japan was supposed to hold its annual general assembly in the Alfred Nobel Auditorium at the Embassy, but it was the day of the unusually heavy snowfall in Tokyo. The event was quickly rescheduled and held one week later. After the regular meeting, Professor Donald Keene (91), the undisputed authority on Japanese literature, gave a lecture on the poet Ishikawa Takuboku (石川啄木, 1886-1912), who like so many of his generation tragically died at a young age of tuberculosis. Professor Keene’s lectures are always informative and most interesting to listen to, and for me at least much of the information was new.

Later this week I will host a press conference, where this year’s winner of the Hasselblad Award will be announced. The Hasselblad Award can perhaps best be described as the Nobel Prize in Photography.

And then it is time for the 34th annual Vasa ski race in Asahikawa, Hokkaidô.