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The DPRK Way March 22, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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The headlines in many of today’s media sources look like this… “No progress at North Korea talks” (BBC News), “North Korean nuclear envoy abruptly leaves talks” (CTV News), “North Korean nuclear talks break down” (China Daily) and even “Abduction issue may cripple 6-way talks” (Asahi Shimbun).

Although there are more than one reason for North Korea to leave the talks, blame is being passed around from the US to Japan to North Korea. Either way, the DPRK’s abrupt departure shouldn’t surprise anyone at all. It’s the DPRK way.

According to the BBC News story, “Six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme have ended without progress after its chief negotiator flew home amid a row over money.

The Beijing talks stalled after Pyongyang refused to discuss a deal to disable its nuclear facilities until it recovers $25m held in a Macau bank.

The transfer of the money has been delayed due to unexplained problems.”

The Russian envoy, Alexander Losyukov, simply blamed the Americans (of course) and said (China Daily) “the United States failed to assure the Chinese side that the Bank of China could receive the funds, which were linked to a counterfeiting and money laundering investigation, without fear of facing US sanctions or a negative attitude from the banking community and the US government.”

However, as reported by the Asahi Shimbun, “the major hurdle to further progress has increasingly become how to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang.

Host China as well as the United States and Russia are urging North Korea and Japan to engage in more constructive debate.”

Will Japan and North Korea ever meet in the middle on this issue? I doubt it.

As a matter of fact I believe Japan should stock up with even more Patriots (Asahi Shimbun 19-03-2007) than originally planned, because in a few years North Korea will once again shock the world when they successfully demonstrate that they can arm their missiles with nuclear war-heads. It’s the DPRK way.

At that time, the world will wake up after years of “being nice” to that so-called state and realize that none of it (talks, concessions, aid packages) served to benefit the Region.

When that day arrives, Japan will be in even greater danger of being on the receiving end of North Korean aggression, than it is today. That is why they should do what ever it takes to protect themselves and their interests.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. ‘Dear Leader’ could die abruptly, and the next-in-line could actually want to do the right thing for the North Korean people.

Japan Increasing Security March 16, 2007

Posted by David in China, Japan, North-East Asia.
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Although it constantly states that it poses no threat to the world, China must really wonder if the message is actually getting through… Especially after Japan and Australia recently agreed to, and signed, a Security Pact set to benefit both nations.

The Pact is the second arrangement on permanent security cooperation for Japan, the first being with the USA, and will undoubtedly serve to counter China’s growing military presence in the Region. Of course, both Japan and Australia “have expressly denied the pact is intended to contain Japan’s giant neighbour” (Japan Times 14-03-2007).

Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, wants “assurances from Japan and Australia that their new bilateral security accord is not targeted at the country.” He goes on to say, “Beijing does not pose a military threat to others. We will not invade others, and not threaten others.”

At this point,  a country called Taiwan should immediately come to mind, and maybe places like the Tibet too.

In order to strengthen its security, and Japan is seeking closer ties and greater co-operation with other countries that “share common basic values of democracy, human rights and the market economy.” Australia more than fits that description, and is a very logical choice.

A BBC News article published 14-03-2007 mentions that this latest pact “reflects the fact that Japan is moving to develop a more assertive defence and foreign policy.”

“The bilateral arrangement is also a boost to Canberra’s long-term efforts to make more friends in Asia.”

“Australia wants to engage more with its neighbours in Asia for two main reasons: to pursue economic opportunity and to enhance security.”

According to the Japan Times article, “the United States will be a key component of the Tokyo-Canberra security setup.” The draft statement states, “the U.S., Japan and Australia will strengthen trilateral diplomatic and defence co-operation.”

In my opinion this latest Security Pact does indeed strengthen Japan, and will allow it to develop assertive foreign policies, and help protect its interests in the Region, more effectively.

I’ve always been in favour of these types of agreements between democratic states. Umm… Here’s a thought (not a new one though), get rid of the United Nations, and create the United Democratic Nations instead.

Raising Interest in Japan February 21, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North-East Asia.
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In the West, when the average person thinks of the Land of the Rising Sun, not much comes to mind except the typical stereotypes, myths, a few cultural aspects, and an extra-ordinary amount of absolute BS about the society in general (Usually from returning English Teachers or just plain idiots).

Other-than-that, not much consideration is given to Japan, its role on the international stage, and how its general welfare can have a direct effect on all types of people throughout the world.

As the world’s second largest economy, Japan plays a key role in the over-all health of the global economy. Therefore, keeping that in mind, what’s good for Japan is good for the world. Which is why, learning that “Japan’s central bank has raised interest rates to 0.5%” is welcome news. Their economy is improving day by day.

According to a 21-02-2007 BBC News article, the decision to raise the rate was made because of the “steady growth in the economy”, and the fact that “Japan’s recovery was likely to continue.”

However, although the rate hike lifted borrowing costs, it was “not enough to interrupt the huge but potentially volatile flow of cheap yen out of Japan that now helps prop up global stock and real estate markets.” (International Herald Tribune 21-02-2007).

“The flow, known as the yen carry trade, is the product of the yawning gap between Japan’s rock-bottom borrowing rates and the much higher rates in other countries.” It also serves as an example of Japan’s importance to the world economy.

Think of the mess that would be created if that trade was to suddenly stop.

There are many other examples that demonstrate how and why Japan is such an important player in the world. But to list them here would take too long.

However, I would ask you to consider the following, in another BBC News story (21-02-2007) it was reported that during US Vice-President Dick Cheney’s recent talks with Japanese leaders, Japan was praised as “one of America’s closest allies”. It was also stated that their alliance was for “Asia and for the world”.

I couldn’t agree more. Especially, when the words are coming from the biggest player around. In fact, I would go so far as to say Japan is the USA’s greatest ally.

Obviously I am not an expert on Japan (and my writing skills are limited) but I think it’s important that we get to know more about this particular country, and not just the old war stories, manga, or crazy TV shows. People like Shingen are a great source of information on all sorts of Japan-related matters, and there are tons of reading material out-there.

Go read.

Japanese Sex Slaves February 19, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North-East Asia.
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In war, all parties involved do things that can be considered atrocities and/or just-plain-awful. During the Second World War Japan committed its fair share, as it sought to increase and maintain its sphere of influence throughout Asia.

Officials and representatives, of different levels, have also apologized for Japan’s “aggression” to a variety of groups, organizations and governments numerous times since the end of the war. However, their apologies (and loads of money paid out) don’t seem to be enough, and they’re always being asked to “formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility.”

A 19-02-2007 BBC News article talks of the latest call, this time by the Americans, for Japan to apologize for one of those terrible things they did during the war, the use of Comfort Women.

“A resolution before the US Congress is calling on Tokyo to apologise for the country’s use of sex slaves in wartime.” This after they heard some of the victims tell their stories.

In all honesty, I don’t recall if Japan ever did apologize explicitly for the use of Comfort Women, but I know that in 1993  Japan acknowledged “that the imperial army set up and ran brothels for its troops during the war,” and in 1995 “the government set up a special fund, which relies on private donations, to provide compensation.” It should be enough, “but many former comfort women reject the fund and want formal compensation from the government.”

This seems illogical to me because it doesn’t matter which entity forks out the money, it all comes from the Japanese people anyway. Where do you think the government would get the money?

Besides, although I am not attempting to take anything away from all the pain and suffering these women had to endure, I think it is now time to let it go. All that should have been said and done has been said and done.

Furthermore, I do understand why China constantly brings up these types of issues but I don’t understand why the US would choose to upset its strongest ally in North-East Asia with that above mentioned resolution.

Maybe a visit from “Prince Pickles” is in order. That “perky cartoon character with saucer-round eyes, big dimples and tiny, boot-clad feet” (The International Herald Tribune 16-02-2007) is Japan’s military mascot, and apparently “very endearing”. A word or two from him would do the trick.

Too childish?

Maybe the Americans should keep in mind “a new report (The Japan Times 18-02-2007) by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage”, in which he “calls the U.S.-Japan alliance the United States’ greatest strategic asset in Asia and encourages Washington to support Tokyo as a growing global power.”

The report says “the alliance should remain at the core of U.S. strategy in Asia”. Congress better recognize that Japan “stands as a powerful model for the region of what leadership based on democratic values means.”

Doing things that you know will anger your friend, and is not required, is not wise.

China’s Policy Toward Japan February 16, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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This coming Spring, the Chinese Prime Minister will “deliver a speech to the Diet detailing Beijing’s policy toward Japan”. A Japan Times (Friday, Feb. 16, 2007) story mentioned that according to China “there are three main pillars for Sino-Japanese relations: to cement the base of the two countries’ political ties, including issues related to history; to recognize each other as a diplomatic partner; and to maintain friendly relations to contribute to peace and stability in Northeast Asia as well as the whole world.”

Encouraging words!

Another encouraging bit is (Taipei Times 16-02-2007) Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing’s comment that China “understood Japan’s concerns over North Korea”, and it would co-operate. I’m not sure what form of co-operation they have in mind but in return, the Japanese are asked for “understanding over China’s satellite-killer test last month.”

All-in-all the warming relations between China and Japan is good news. Even more good news is that in his upcoming trip to Japan, Prime Minister Wen will “bring ideas to Tokyo on how to resolve one of the most bitter disputes between the two nations — how to mark the maritime border in the gas-rich East China Sea.”

The Japanese may hope for something like this… China realizes that the area in question belongs exclusively to Japan. Therefore, China will no longer attempt to lay claim to it, in exchange China would appreciate a steady supply of gas from said area, at a reasonable price.

Way Being Paved for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao February 15, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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As part of the on-going efforts to improve Japan/China relations, China’s Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing arrived in Tokyo on February 15, 2007 (China Daily 15-02-2007). This trip is “the highest-level visit by a Chinese official since the two countries began repairing tense relations last year.”

The visit’s aim is to “lay the groundwork” for Premier Wen Jiabao’s April trip to Japan. Of course, the two sides will most likely discuss (as mentioned in a related 15-02-2007 BBC News article) the Yasukuni Shrine, Japanese school textbooks, gas field exploration rights, and the ownership of Senkaku islands.

However, I think another important point of discussion will be the deal recently reached with North Korea.

There is little doubt that Tokyo’s refusal to give aid to the DPRK will be brought up more than once. After-all the deal is a direct result of China’s efforts to make the 6 Party Talks a success. But I don’t think this will be an easy discussion.

According to a February 15, 2007 Japan Times article, the DPRK has already started to whine about their new deal. What a surprise!

The article mentions that a “North Korean Foreign Ministry official said that Pyongyang was unhappy with Tokyo’s refusal to give aid as part of the six-party deal struck this week in exchange for the North’s denuclearization.” The official goes on to say, “Japan must fulfill its commitment as a member of the six-party talks.”

Yes, that’s correct. The hermit-state is lecturing others on the importance of fulfilling commitments.

“Japan has refused to provide energy aid to North Korea until the abductions issue is resolved,” and that angers Pyongyang since it “considers the abductions of Japanese by its agents in the 1970s and 1980s an issue that has already been settled.”

What will also be a topic of discussion between Li Zhaoxing and his counter-part (and eventually anger ‘Dear Leader’) is that Tokyo “has no plans to lift economic sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests in the past seven months.”

The US may have backed down in its dealings with the DPRK, but for the moment, at least, Japan has not. Unfortunately, this “hawkish” stance may not last much longer (Asahi Shimbun 15-02-2007). “It is just a matter of time before Japan takes part in the assistance measures. With Russia and possibly other European nations participating, it will not be possible for Japan not to take part.” Sadly the comment does hold a certain amount of truth.

It’s a Deal… For the Moment. February 13, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to read through the usual media sources during the last few days, and won’t get to do it for another day or so.  So, I’m kind of feeling out-of-the-loop.

However, I did manage to learn that North Korea has agreed to a deal. It’s all over the radio and television. They’re calling it a success.

In my opinion, this is a victory for the DPRK, and (to me) this kind of thing demonstrates the need for Japan to take a more aggressive role in the Region… I guess it could be the topic of one of my upcoming posts.

Deal or No Deal February 12, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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When the Six Party Talks resumed last week, they started in a rather optimistic environment. Now, one could say inevitably, they have “faltered over the amount of energy aid the North was demanding in exchange for disarming.” According to a BBC News report (12-02-2007) North Korea “has demanded two million tonnes of fuel oil – four times as much as was offered under a deal brokered in 1994.”

This quantity is seen by some as quite an excessive demand, but in a CTV News article (11/02/2007) it was stated that “South Korean and Japanese news reports gave varying accounts of how much energy North Korea was demanding, from two million kilowatts of electricity to two million tonnes of heavy fuel oil. Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported late Sunday that North Korea wanted one million tonnes of oil annually before disarming and two million tonnes every year afterward.” I imagine the true figures lie somewhere in the middle.

The fact is that no matter what the DPRK agrees to receive in energy aid, it will be a far greater amount than they actually deserve. In my opinion very little logic exists in these attempts to appease this so-called government.

Regardless, the success of these latest rounds of discussions rest entirely on North Korea. It’s up to them to decide whether or not to accept the deal which among other things (Xinhua 12-02-2007) “reportedly proposes halting within two months the work at nuclear sites in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including the Yongbyon reactor, and supplying Pyongyang with alternative energy sources.” The Taipei Times (12-02-2007) reports that “in an attempt to move forward, the negotiators — from the US, China, Russia and South Korea as well as Japan and North Korea — held a series of two-way meetings at a Chinese government guest-house.”

However, the DPRK is taking its time in deciding on this latest deal, and this leads to frustration among the participants.

One of the “frustrated” participants is Japan, who will not “provide direct energy assistance to North Korea”, because of the lack of progress on the abduction issue, but “it could provide experts to help identify exactly what North Korea’s energy needs are.” In a story published in the Asahi Shimbun (12-02-2007) The Japanese government said “such indirect assistance could be provided through a working group to discuss energy assistance for Pyongyang.” On the other hand, should the abduction matter see positive movement, “Japan is prepared to join not only a working group on economic and energy assistance, but also a study group to grasp the actual state of the North Korean economy and draw a true picture of its electric power shortages.”

“Sources close to the talks also said there was no guarantee North Korea will agree to allow an economy and energy study group to cross its borders.” I have a feeling the North will not agree to a lot of things as time goes on, no matter how many deals are reached.

As I posted previously, in a few years we’ll be back here again, and the whole “song and dance routine” will start once more. North Korea, what is it this time? Deal or no deal?

North Korea: Getting Not Giving February 9, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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It’s a major topic in North-East Asia these days. Today the BBC News, Taipei Times, Asahi Shimbun, and China Daily all have stories on the recently resumed nuclear talks involving the US, Japan, China, South Korea, Russia and, of course, North Korea.

What’s the latest? All parties involved are “discussing a draft agreement which reportedly calls on Pyongyang to shut down its nuclear facilities in the next two months, in exchange for aid.”

Doesn’t it all sound familiar?

In any case, everyone is optimistic about these new rounds of talks because, “Washington is reportedly showing an increased willingness to sit down and discuss North Korea’s demands to lift financial sanctions.” As well, we can’t ignore “reports that the North is enduring a winter food crisis”. Once again due to terrible management of the country, but which will hopefully make the North Koreans more flexible during their negotiations.

However, as they often claim “the isolated nation’s chief atomic envoy said disarming was a possibility, but that the onus rested with the US.” North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said, “We are ready to discuss the initial steps, but whether the US will give up its hostile policy against us and come out for mutual peaceful co-existence will be the basis for our judgement. There are still lots of contentious points yet to be settled. It depends on how we settle those contentious points. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Yes, let’s all wait and see how North Korea will pretend to play along, for a while, until they believe it is time to demand more from their neighbours.

Those countries being asked to give more will eventually begin to object, and point out that the North should be doing much better, considering all the aid they are receiving.

Words will be exchanged. North Korea will throw a tantrum.

Then we will all be shocked to learn that their nuclear ambitions had remained strong, and that the DPRK possesses several nuclear missiles.

Japan and China: Exchanging Social Knowledge for People February 8, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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In 2006 Japan’s population peaked at 127.7 million (The International Herald Tribune 08-02-2007) “and is expected to plummet to about 100 million in 2050”. By that time, “fully one-third of the population is projected to be 65 years old or more.” Needless to say, Japan has a lot of serious thinking to do, and I refer to the dreaded ‘I’ word. Immigration.

“A United Nations projection that assumes Japan would want to maintain its recent population peak of 127.5 million shows that this could be achieved with an average net increase of 381,000 immigrants per year. This would mean a net increase of 17 million immigrants into Japan from 2005 to 2050, with the result that by 2050 the immigrants and their descendants would total 22.5 million people, comprising 17.7 percent of the total population.”

I recommend Howard French’s excellent article, published in today’s International Herald Tribune, entitled “Japan and China have much to gain from each other.” It highlights just how both China and Japan can benefit from each other, by having China provide Japan with the bulk of its immigration needs and by Japan providing the Chinese with what French describes as, “social knowledge”.

According to the article, this type of integration “may even help China find its way toward another elusive goal: achieving pluralism and loosening the tyranny of central government control.” This would surely be welcomed in North-East Asia, and the world.

However, the road to a day when Japan will accept the need for immigration as reality will not be easy. An example of this difficulty can be seen clearly with the current perception by the Japanese (exaggerated and encouraged by the media) that foreigners cause most of the crimes in Japan. Shinichiro Fukushige of fukumimi.wordpress.com has more on this, in his February 8, 2007 post, “Statistics for crimes committed by foreigners.” Take a look, its worth a read.

Personally, I believe Japan will face reality sooner rather than later, and their already high level of infrastructure, quality of life, and positive world contributions will continue to improve.