Cherry blossoms first casualty of Kim Jong Un

Many people celebrate cherry blossom in famous Yoyogi park on Apr. 4, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan.

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  • Prime Minister Noda is "knuckling under to Pyongyang’s intimidation" by cancelling annual cherry blossom viewing @michaelauslin

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  • Prime Minister Noda has made a bad decision to reward Kim Jong Un for his aggressiveness

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  • Japan should blow that missile out of the sky — to avenge the fleeting cherry blossoms @michaelauslin

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Japanese like to think their aesthetic sensibility is shaped in no small part by the cherry blossom: its vibrant beauty, celebrated in art and literature for centuries, is all too quickly blown away by the wind and rain. People who live short, tragic lives are often compared to cherry blossoms: falling away as suddenly as they bloom. This year the cherry blossoms have fallen more quickly than usual, at least metaphorically, as the government announced the cancellation of next month’s annual cherry-blossom viewing party in downtown Tokyo. Lest you think it a mere trifle, the party is a pretty big deal for Japan, and more than 10,000 invitations go out every year, including to the imperial family, politicians, and movie stars. Think of it as Japan’s equivalent to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"Prime Minister Noda has made a bad decision to reward Kim Jong Un for his aggressiveness." -- Michael Auslin

Why the cancellation?  Fear and loathing over North Korea’s planned “satellite” launch for mid-April.  Of course, the government like everyone else knows the launch is really a disguised test for an intercontinental ballistic missile, but did it really need to cancel a major social event because of a test that may or may not happen (though it probably will) and which the North Koreans have indicated will be launched towards the southern seas, thousands of miles away from Tokyo and mainland Japan?

Japanese defense officials have already talked about shooting the missile down — if the announced launch trajectory is correct, that would then have to happen over Okinawa — which would actually be a far more interesting punctuation point to any fireworks that might have been planned for the viewing party. But preemptively cancelling the celebration seems not only like a bit of overkill, but more important, like knuckling under to Pyongyang’s intimidation. That’s half of what the tests are about: making the North seem irrational enough to make other countries wait in trepidation for what’s about to happen. Prime Minister Noda has made a bad decision to reward Kim Jong Un for his aggressiveness. At the very least, then, Japan should blow that missile out of the sky — to avenge the fleeting cherry blossoms.

Michael Auslin is a resident scholar at AEI.

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About the Author


  • Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Asian regional security and political issues.

    Before joining AEI, he was an associate professor of history at Yale University. A prolific writer, Auslin is a biweekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal Asia, which is distributed globally on His longer writings include the book “Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations” (Harvard University Press, 2011) and the study “Security in the Indo-Pacific Commons: Toward a Regional Strategy” (AEI Press, 2010). He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, a Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, and a Fulbright and Japan Foundation Scholar.

    Auslin has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. from Indiana University at Bloomington, and a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University.

    Follow Michael Auslin on Twitter.

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