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    核廃絶

    Posted by Sean at 21:36, January 4th, 2010

    In the Mainichi, a typically confused argument for the global abolishment of nuclear weapons (Japanese original here, though the English version is well done):

    “Every American should visit Hiroshima,” said Balbina Hwang, a Northeast Asia specialist and a senior policy advisor during the administration of President George W. Bush. She was addressing reporters after giving a lecture in Tokyo in November following a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and other locations in Hiroshima. “I was overwhelmed by a sense of humility,” she continued. “I was struck speechless upon seeing (what happened) with my own eyes.”

    Still, what Hwang saw was not the actual reality of the atomic bomb. Witnessing an exhibit — which can only offer a hint of the actual barbarity of the bomb — with one’s own eyes will shake any American’s soul to the core. Even today, the starting line toward the elimination of nuclear weapons lies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    I don’t know. I didn’t find that Hiroshima shook my soul to the core. It was very sobering. I was sorry it had to exist. I hope it’s never necessary to deploy nuclear warheads again.

    But when you read opinion pieces like this one, it’s easy to forget that when we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were not, say, retaliating against Japan for dumping cheap Sony electronics on our markets. World War II is called that for a reason. Japan thought it could play the USSR against the other Allies and capitalize on our exhaustion. It was wrong. America decided that it was not worth sacrificing more of our people and materiel waiting for Japan’s military command to figure out in its own time that surrender not only was inevitable but had to be immediate.

    Besides, the Mainichi editors make an interesting exception to their call for everyone to start beating their nuclear warheads into ploughshares:

    A basic international roadmap should be laid out at this year’s conference. Obama has already publicly announced his goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. Though the road to that finish line may be a long one, small, visible steps are necessary along the way. If the countries that possess nuclear weapons fail to demonstrate goodwill in the upcoming meeting, discontentment toward the NPT will be further exacerbated, getting in the way of international cooperation that is crucial to the prevention of nuclear terrorism. What is most important now is the reconstruction of an international consensus toward the goal of nuclear abolishment.

    Hwang, whose area of expertise includes North Korea, remains doubtful that the rogue nation’s nuclear arsenal will be completely eliminated. She says this is because North Korea is overwhelmed by insecurity. [!] As a result, says Hwang, North Korea is demanding not only the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from South Korea, but wants the entire U.S. nuclear umbrella to be removed from East Asia, including Japan.

    We seek the complete abolition of nuclear weapons from the world, and support President Obama’s efforts toward nuclear disarmament. At the same time, however, we do not see the protection we receive from the U.S. nuclear umbrella as unreasonable as long as the North Korean threat exists, and we will not accept our allies’ admonishments to give up on North Korean nuclear disarmament.

    So using nuclear weapons for protection—in fact, outsourcing nuclear protection to another country—is okay if you’re Japan, with North Korea a stone’s throw across the sea.

    But only temporarily, you understand.

    Just until everyone agrees to disarm.

    What’s never explained is how this is supposed to happen. “International consensus” sounds great, but I don’t recall one on any issue that involved agreement by every country on the entire planet. The international community can’t even stamp out age-old rogue behaviors such as piracy in shipping lanes, drug trafficking, and currency counterfeiting. In today’s world of decentralization and advanced telecom and transport technologies, it seems quixotic at best to believe that we can ever return to a state in which we can reliably say that no malefactor has nuclear weapons. It’s a bummer to have to think that way, but as long as human beings are born with human nature, there will be some bummers we have to stare in the face and prepare to deal with forcefully. In the universe we actually inhabit, the weaned child who puts his hand on the cockatrice’s den is going to get bitten.


    副作用

    Posted by Sean at 14:34, February 17th, 2009

    Secretary of State Clinton–who’d have thought a year ago that we’d be typing that?–has visited Japan, where she met separately with Prime Minister Taro Aso, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hirofumi Nakasone, and Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada.

    Secretary of State Clinton, at a joint press conference after her meeting with the Foreign Minister, issued a warning, strongly underscoring that “North Korea has intimated that there is a possibility of missile launches, but such behavior serves no purpose, and it will not aid in the progress of (US-DPRK) relations.” At the meeting with the Prime Minister, she stated, in connection with North Korea issues, “We would like to come to a decisive solution within the framework of the six-party talks, and that would include the Japanese abductee issue.”

    At the meeting with the Defense Minister, she touched on the activities of the Maritime Defense Force, which is investigating Japanese deployments to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, and issued a request: “We would be grateful if you could look into the possibility of providing aid and defense to foreign ships in times of emergency.” The Defense Minister responded, “We’re considering that and looking into a new law [that would make it possible to provide defense for foreign-registered ships as well].”

    It’s hard to tell whether the “comprehensive solution” referred to in the headline will come to pass. It’s not even certain that the DPRK knows where all the abductees as yet unaccounted for ended up, painful as that is for the Japanese families in question. Tokyo has tried to get Washington and Beijing to put pressure on Pyongyang, but the issue tends to get backburnered, and it’s not really because of callousness. The nuclear and black-market issues are very pressing, while the abductee issue doesn’t appear to be. There’s been no information that I’ve seen recently to suggest that there are known living abductees waiting to be repatriated.

    And yes, I’ve heard about soon-to-be-former Minister of Finance Shoichi Nakagawa’s unfortunate sensitivity to his cold medicine. You really have to watch out for those side-effects.


    納得できない

    Posted by Sean at 12:03, June 26th, 2008

    The families of Japanese abductees are, not surprisingly, unhappy with the Bush administration’s decision to remove the DPRK from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states:

    “Even though they tell us they won’t forget…we can’t accept this.” On 26 June, when the United States government announced that it would drop North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism, voices of despair and hopelessness were raised by the families of [Japanese] abductees, which had expected cooperation and effort from the US toward resolving the issue. The move also fomented mistrust toward the Japanese government, which approved of the removal: “Why didn’t they take a harder line?”

    The families are questioning whether the US should have changed its position based on the documents submitted. Their bitterness is understandable–those who were abducted disappeared in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and several are still almost entirely unaccounted for. It’s hard to say what the best approach is, though. Slowly coaxing the DPRK to open up–assuming such a thing is possible–may ultimately be the only way to get access to such records of the abductees as remain.


    Abductee issue still on the table

    Posted by Sean at 14:40, June 25th, 2008

    The Yomiuri prints an AP story relating that President Bush has promised not to forget the importance of the abductee issue to the Japanese:

    U.S. President George W. Bush told Japan’s premier Wednesday he understands Tokyo’s concern about Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea.

    Bush telephoned Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and told him that he “would not forget the abduction issue,” said a statement from Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

    The 20-minute phone conversation came a day before North Korea is expected to provide a list of its nuclear activities, a process that could lead to taking Pyongyang off Washington’s terrorism and sanctions blacklists in exchange for the regime giving up its nuclear weapons program.

    North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 80s is a high-profile issue here, and Tokyo has long pushed for the resolution of the abductions as a condition for providing aid and improved relations to the communist nation.

    Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura on Tuesday suggested that Tokyo would not want Pyongyang taken off the U.S. terrorism blacklist until the abductions were resolved.

    Komura is expected to voice Tokyo’s concern during talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is to visit Japan Thursday for a Group of Eight foreign ministers’ meeting.

    Japan has been frustrated with the DPRK denuclearization talks because the abductee issue is consistently back-burnered. The Bush administration has regularly expressed sympathy with the families of abductees, and, of course, kidnapping of civilians is an act of aggression. But it’s not surprising that the DPRK hasn’t given Japan any real satisfaction on most of them. Their records may just have disappeared or not been kept systematically in the first place, and who knows how methodically the corpses of those now dead were processed.


    Fukuda and Aso speak

    Posted by Sean at 22:42, September 17th, 2007

    Since we all know that polls are the last word in reliability, Yasuo Fukuda supporters can take comfort in last week’s Asahi poll. 53% of voters polled preferred Fukuda as the new Prime Minister, while 21% supported Taro Aso.

    Of course, that poll was taken on 15 and 16 September, and a lot can change in the run-up to an election. Fukuda and Aso appeared at Shibuya Station on Sunday to lay out their policy positions for the public, now that they’re the only two remaining contenders for Prime Minister this coming weekend. The Asahi probably has the best overall summary. Both took care to play to the LDP’s rural voting base by promising to address economic inequalities between urban and non-urban areas. (Aso assured voters that he did not support unbridled market liberalization and competition–as if we needed to be told that.)

    They also addressed foreign policy:

    Disturbed by the serious souring of Japan’s relationships with China and South Korea during the Koizumi era, Fukuda was trying to mend the ties. Abe’s visits to the two countries soon after he came to power have changed the atmosphere between Japan and these countries. But Fukuda appears to be hoping to bring fundamental changes to these important relations.

    Aso vowed to promote the “arc of freedom and prosperity” initiative he proposed as Abe’s foreign minister. This initiative is based on the idea of supporting countries that share such basic values as freedom and democracy. But his vision of the “arc” doesn’t include China and is therefore criticized as an attempt to create a network of countries around China to contain the expansion of its regional influence.

    Aso seems to be advocating a dual approach to dealing with China that combines dialogue with diplomatic maneuvering to put a brake on its influence.

    There’s a transcript of a lecture Aso gave about his “arc” vision here. It might be noted that he doesn’t mention post-Soviet Russia as part of the “arc of freedom and prosperity” either, and in a way it comes off as a more pointed omission than China, because he discusses the democratization and EU membership of the Baltic States and the need for greater stability in Georgia and Ukraine.

    The objective is for us to help democracy take root in a region that we envision as an ‘arc of freedom and prosperity,’ extending from the Baltic Sea to the Black and Caspian Seas.

    Hmmm…any ideas what we might be arcing around? (He does mention the importance of improved relations with both the PRC and Russia at the beginning.)

    North Korea, of course, is one of the biggest issues. The issue of the Japanese abductees is always in play here, and voters liked Aso’s firm line. Fukuda promises to take a more flexible approach:

    In Osaka, both candidates addressed the North Korea abductee issue. Fukuda stated, “I want to be the one to solve this problem,” and his indicated that he had resolved to effect normalization of Japan-DPRK relations through dialogue. Aso stated emphatically, “Without pressure, no dialogue will get off the ground.”

    Abe’s approach was to patch things up with economic heavy-hitters China and South Korea while taking a hard line toward economic empty set North Korea. It was popular. The abductee issue tends to be back-burnered in favor of nukes at the six-party talks, so Japan has essentially resigned itself to trying to resolve the problem with catch-as-catch-can support from its allies. But I’m not sure there is a resolution. The DPRK has been jerking around the families of abductees (notably poor Megumi Yokota’s parents) for years now. Maybe there is no approach that’s going to get Japan the information it wants.

    It wasn’t just Fukuda’s position on the DPRK that came off as dithery; his delivery was shaky, too. Aso was more confident; on the other hand, he hides his lust for power about as well as Hillary Clinton does, and his glee at being in the running for the top spot was possibly a bit too naked. But there are plenty of points that could be scored and lost this week. And as the Asahi notes, neither of them really explained how he planned to work with the newly strengthened opposition parties. For now, Fukuda still has the support of all the major factions.


    You can’t fight fate

    Posted by Sean at 00:12, March 7th, 2007

    This weekend, the delivery guy brought an envelope bearing those three little words every gay man loves to hear: “Unframed art enclosed.” A present for my birthday (today–exactly ten years younger than Taylor Dayne) from my old roommate in New York. Of course, since I haven’t found a new apartment yet–in the middle of looking–it’s going to stay enclosed and unframed for a bit.

    In less aesthetically pleasing news, Empress Michiko is suffering from stress-induced intestinal bleeding. (Irreverent question: if they’re the intestines of the sitting empress, do we call them 御腸–miwata, maybe? Seems like a word that might do nicely in a waka written by her exalted husband to celebrate her recovery.) I’m being flippant about the level of detail, but of course the condition is serious enough. For those who might have thought that Princess Masako’s adjustment problems were the kind of thing that might iron itself out in a decade or three, the example of the empress, who’s been beset by stress-related ailments pretty regularly, sadly offers little hope. Empress Michiko was also a commoner before marrying Akihito. She wasn’t an up-and-coming diplomat like Masako, but she was the active daughter of a rich industrialist and lived a varied life.

    Japan and the DPRK will be discussing the abductee issue and possible normalization of relations between the two countries. You will not be surprised to hear that it’s Japan that wants to know what happened to the remainder of its abducted citizens and the DPRK that wants money:

    Japanese and North Korean delegations agreed Tuesday to discuss the abduction issue on Wednesday and diplomatic normalization Thursday during a two-day bilateral working group meeting within the framework of the six-party talks.

    The two sides agreed during informal talks Tuesday that the two sides would separately discuss “pending issues including the abduction issue” on Wednesday and “normalization” on Thursday.

    The government welcomed the fact that the North Korean side agreed to first discuss the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, as Pyongyang has claimed the issue has already been settled. The government hopes to see some progress during the Wednesday talks.

    I guess we’ll know by the end of the day.


    拉致

    Posted by Sean at 01:10, January 16th, 2007

    The new movie about Japanese abductee Megumi Yokota looks to be an interesting treatment of her case. Next to Hitomi Soga, who gained fame as the wife of US Army deserter Charles Jenkins, Yokota is the abductee who’s received the most publicity. Her family has been very vocal in its demands that the Japanese government use all diplomatic means possible to find out what happened to her and the other abductees who are still unaccounted for. There’s been little development on the issue lately, but those who are interested in the push and pull over the last few years can click the category button below to see some of the news items that have appeared.


    全面的に拒否

    Posted by Sean at 01:01, July 16th, 2006

    The UN Security Council resolution on the DPRK’s missile tests went along predictable lines:

    The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday for a resolution requiring nations to prevent North Korea from getting dangerous weapons and demanding Pyongyang halt its ballistic missile program.

    North Korea immediately “totally rejected” the resolution. Its U.N. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon told the council that Pyongyang’s missile development served “to keep the balance of force and preserving peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”

    Agreement came after Japan and the United States bowed to a veto threat from China and dropped a reference to a provision in the U.N. Charter, usually used to impose mandatory sanctions. In turn, China and Russia accepted stronger language in the resolution than they had first proposed.

    The resolution requires all U.N. member states “in accordance with their national legal authorities” to prevent imports and exports of any material or funds relating to the reclusive Communist nation’s missile programs or weapons of mass destruction.

    It demands North Korea “suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program,” and re-establish a moratorium on the launching of missiles.

    The Nikkei report additionally mentions that North Korea has accused Japan of using the missile test issue as a point of departure for “internationalizing” the abductee issue.

    Internally here in Japan, the spin is that the resolution was a good thing for Japan:

    Early on 16 July, Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Aso spoke to the Foreign Ministry press corps about the unanimous adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the DPRK: “North Korea must see this as a decisive message from the international community. There is no change to the binding power [of the resolution].”

    He’s referring to the compromise on Chapter 7 of the UN charter, the result of which was to water down commitments to sanctions against the DPRK. “There is more power in a unanimous vote” than in allowing Japan’s proposed tougher resolution to fail, said Aso.

    On the morning of 16 July, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe also made a public statement: “This nation sought ‘a resolution powerful enough to bind [member nations] to responses including sanctions,’ and [the version adopted] reflects that position; we were able to articulate the decisive will of the international community.” He also called for action on the abductee issue: “All surviving abductees should be repatriated immediately.”

    So that’s that for now. Fingers have been duly wagged at Pyongyang, but the PRC and Russia haven’t committed even nominally to sticking it to the DPRK. And, as usual, for all the blather about the unified front presented by the international community, the real lesson for the five countries in Northeast Asia is quite the opposite. Each has been pointedly reminded yet again why it doesn’t trust any of the others–both in terms of motivation and in terms of the ability to assess danger accurately. At least no one appears poised to blow anyone else up in the foreseeable future, so, you know, well played overall.


    More about missiles

    Posted by Sean at 09:05, July 10th, 2006

    So is everyone else on the edge of his seat like us in Japan…you know, waiting to see whether the chair of the UN Security Council will set the DPRK on its ear by deeming its missile tests “not all that neighborly” or “very naughty”? In between errands, I’ve been watching NHK’s reporting. Today we were very pointedly informed the cool and not-so-cool people are (as in this Yomiuri article):

    Japan, Britain, France and the United States on Friday jointly submitted to an informal U.N. Security Council meeting a resolution condemning North Korea’s missile launches.

    Clauses referring to sanctions in an original draft crafted by Japan had been modified.

    “All options are on the table,” he said, suggesting China has not ruled out the possibility of vetoing the resolution.

    According to sources, Russia, which has called for the issuance of a U.N. Security Council presidential statement, did not speak out during the meeting. Some U.N. diplomats have interpreted this silence as an indication it will abstain from voting.

    China and Russia can veto the resolution, abstain from voting, or demand that it be modified.

    I didn’t catch all the numbers, but NHK also reported the results of its latest poll. Unfortunately, the interesting parts don’t seem to be posted: IIRC, 69% of respondents thought Japan should pursue economic sanctions against the DPRK. (Remember that the Japanese are thinking not only about missile testing but also about the still-unresolved issue of the Japanese abductees.) A plurality, if not a majority, believed that Japan’s best avenue for pushing its North Korea policy was the UNSC; somewhat fewer thought it was the G7.

    The Koizumi administration appears to have other ideas:

    Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga said the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) should have the capability to attack foreign countries’ missile bases following North Korea’s test-launch last week of seven missiles.

    “As an independent state, Japan should have the minimum capability (to attack foreign countries’ missile bases) within the framework of the Constitution to protect its people,” Nukaga told reporters on Sunday.

    “We shouldn’t jump to conclusions even though such a situation (the test firing of missiles) occurred. I’d like the ruling coalition partners to thoroughly discuss the issue,” Nukaga said.

    He made the remarks in response to North Korea’s test-firing of seven missiles, including Taepodong 2 long-range ballistic missiles, last week.

    His view was shared by Foreign Minister Taro Aso. “It’s absolutely right (to attack missile bases within the framework of Japan’s right to self-defense) to protect the safety of the people,” he told an NHK program on Sunday.

    The original Japanese story has Nukaga continuing: “As things are now, we have the Japan-US alliance, and we’ve been sharing [defense] roles. Strikes against enemy territory would be carried out by the US.”

    Instapundit’s newest podcast, featured Austin Bay and Jim Dunnigan and was mostly about the North Korea situation. It provides a good primer on the diplomatic power plays involved. If you live in East Asia, it’s also a good reminder that a lot about your everyday reality is news to people elsewhere (for example, the commonalities between Great Britain and Japan that are based on their both being island countries).

    There was one moment that made me say, “WHAT?!” Jim Dunnigan said something on the order of “I’ve asked South Koreans I know whether being prickly and taking offense easily is a Korean characteristic, and they said, ‘Not really,’” which he appeared to take at face value.

    Please. The Koreans are in fact notoriously touchy about their position in East Asia…and do you wonder? Like Poland (just to spread the comparisons to Europe around), Korea has spent much of its history being overrun by its larger, hungrier neighbors. And look what’s happened in the last half-century: Japan went from the humiliated pariah of the industrialized world to an economic titan that, for a decade or so, had academics and managers from the West looking to it reverently for secrets of success. China and Japan have had a massive tastemaking influence on global popular culture. Korea’s coolness factor in Asia has increased noticeably over the last several years, and the ROK’s economic growth since democratization has won much admiration from business analysts; still, nternational consciousness about Korea remains relatively low. I doubt many people sit around in Seoul seething about this in any focused way, but the feeling that Korea is misunderstood and put-upon is hard to miss.

    Of course, the North has the additional problem of a non-functioning economy. It’s hemorrhaging refugees. Have I mentioned the word 脱北 (dappoku: “escape to the north”) lately? Oh, yeah–I haven’t mentioned anything lately because I haven’t posted. Well, it’s a compound that, whatever its origins and at least in Japan, is used exclusively to refer to defecting from the DPRK over its border with the PRC. That is, the phenomenon has its own word. Jim Dunnigan, I think, mentioned that word about what a hellhole North Korea is has arrived in the South. It’s arrived in Japan, also, largely through Japanese nationals who’ve returned from the DPRK. All of which is to say, the DPRK knows that, aside from the occasional puff piece by gullible lefty sympathizers from the West, how bad things have gotten there is no longer a secret.

    One last stray thing: The NHK report I watched last night struck me as odd for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on. Then, while a later segment about the opening of a border checkpoint between India and the PRC–you can bet the Japanese are watching how trade relations are going to develop between those two!–it hit me. The experts interviewed had all talked about how Japan’s options for responding to the missile tests would be limited by whether the US was willing to back it up. What was strange was that they seemed to be regarding the tests as a regional problem, as if the US had no reason to get involved except to do right by its primary East Asian ally. Of course, that’s part of it. We’ve known since 1998 that the DPRK can get missiles to Japan. (That was a fun day to watch NHK, too, IIRC.) But North Korea not only likes to get antsy about perceived US threats to its sovereignty and develop ICBMs but also likes to drag big-guns backers such as the PRC and Russia into things. The Koizumi administration appears to understand the import of that; it was strange that the commentators didn’t.


    Bush touched by families of abductees

    Posted by Sean at 09:47, April 30th, 2006

    This is kind of old news by now for those who have followed the abductee issue, but President Bush met with the families of several abductees and a few North Korean defectors last week:

    “It is hard to believe that a country would foster abduction. It’s hard for Americans to imagine that a leader of any country would encourage the abduction of a young child,” Bush said about the North Korean regime and its leader, Kim Jong Il.

    Wearing a blue badge on his suit lapel to express solidarity with the families, Bush called on Pyongyang to return abductees, saying, “If North Korea expects to be respected in the world, that country must respect human rights and human dignity and must allow this mother to hug her child again.”

    In her press conference later Friday, Sakie Yokota expressed her hope that the U.S. president’s first meeting with an abductee’s family would encourage other world leaders to unite in pressuring North Korea to resolve the issue.

    “I thanked the president for sharing time with us in his busy schedule. He said he was never too busy to find time to talk about human dignity and freedom. I really wish leaders of all countries would share that thought,” Yokota said.

    Of course, “solidarity” is a rather vague term. To judge by precedent, the abductee issue will be readily backburnered at future meetings with the DPRK once negotiations over nuclear development start getting sticky. That’s not to cast aspersions on Bush’s sincerity or sympathy; it’s just to say that if the Yokotas and others expect a change in diplomatic approach, I’m not so sure they’ll get one.

    Just in case you need your memory jogged about what a vile hellhole North Korea is, Human Rights Watch gives the genteel version here. Note that while I focus on the thirteen Japanese abductees here, the number of South Korean abductees numbers in the thousands:

    According to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, a total of 3,790 South Koreans were kidnapped and taken to North Korea between 1953 and 1995, of whom 486 remain detained. Some of the abductees have been used in propaganda broadcasts to South Korea, while others have been used to train North Korean spies. North Korea has rejected repeated requests from families of the South Korean abductees to confirm their existence, to return them, or, in the cases of the dead, to return their remains.

    It’s not clear that having the US play policeman–a role for which it’s usually criticized–will have much effect on the issue. At the same time Washington can hardly prove to be more impotent than, say, the UN:

    The North Korea Human Rights Act, which the U.S. adopted in 2004, opens up the possibility for North Korean refugees to be admitted for resettlement in the United States. Thus far, however, little action has been taken, and it is unclear how many refugees could benefit or when. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution for the third straight year calling on North Korea to respect basic human rights. In November 2005, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution against North Korea, citing “systemic, widespread and grave violations of human rights.”

    North Korea has largely shunned talks with U.N. human rights experts, except for a few meetings on children’s and women’s rights. It has not responded to repeated requests by Vitit Muntarbhorn, special rapporteur on North Korea, to engage in dialogue.

    Dialogue only works as a problem-solving tool among people who can trust one another to be working from similar principles.