China Korea Japan, wrestling with past, depict the future
Japan’s latest apology: What's the motive?
While August 15th is the date of World War II celebrations and mourning with the defeat and surrender of Japan Imperial armies, a date useful to all "apprentis sorciers" of geopolitics, I attended an interesting exhibition at the Tokyo National Musuem of Ueno which happened to describe the deep interaction between China, Korea and Japan. The theme is the "Yellow river valley and its civilization and its impact on the whole Asian culture."
Various sections here, one shows the birth of dynasties and explains how the governments were locally organized and centralized both in knowledge and power, and it does give sights for the origin of politics and governance in Asian nation as blended in the Mediterranean "Mare Nostrum" of Europe.
The second section of this Ueno National Museum exhibition is about the birth of craftsman-shift and shows daily life in ancient China, and offer the comparisons with rural Korean and Japanese societies who demonstrated more talents in the non-said than the media flocks tend to believe...
I did not see anything or anyone showing any concern for the prime minister latest jig-jag bait for popularity. The Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, said sorry to South Korea for its colonization of the Korean Peninsula against the will of the Korean people 100 years ago. Expressing “deep remorse”, Mr Kan offered a “heartfelt apology” for the 36 years of colonization, which ended with Japan’s surrender in the Second World War on August 15, 1945.
And that's it.
Reaction: critical moot point as of no practical significance or no juicy game with a dividend of practical consequences for Japan, a well known player in this game. Besides, former prime minister Murayama sent the message of Japan's apologies in... 1995.
One can vaguely understand why a Democrat, able for a while to diffuse a vague idea of "alternance" after decades of conservative Liberal Democratic party regime, is trying to make a statement. With no compensation and revision of slavery, and brutality, the sincerity of these Kan's apologies is left in the basket of amateurish policy making.
The victims' answer was expected: In Seoul former "comfort women" and members of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan held a protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul, last Wednesday, demanding full compensation from Tokyo. They also urged Japan to offer a genuine apology for its annexation of the Korean Peninsula 100 years ago.
In China, the media gave the news plenty of attention. While expressing anger that Japan had chosen to ignore its colonial history in China, newspapers speculated that Japan had an ulterior motive. That motive, they claimed, was that "Japan was trying to counter China’s rise by recruiting South Korea on its side, in a greater scheme masterminded by the US. "In the 1990s, the US needed a unified Europe to counter the rise of Russia. Recently, the US has been trying to split Asia apart, to check China’s development," the analyst Liu Zhiqin wrote in Global Times, member of the official People’s Daily press group.
On the front page: "The timing of Japan’s apology came at a sensitive moment, China and South Korea used to be allies in the struggle against Japan’s invasion history. Now, will the "détente" between South Korea and Japan be the beginning of Japan’s effort to improve its relations with other Asian countries or will it serve as a turning point for Japan, together with South Korea, to counter China?" Here is the point, loud and clear.
Asian countries victimized by Japan during the Second World War often compare the former Hirohito Empire with Germany. "Japan’s apology was more sincere than before. But it’s not yet at the level we can wholeheartedly embrace." wrote Choi Woon-do who is a researcher with the Northeast Asian History Foundation, a South Korean official affiliated institute established in 2006 to examine disputes with neighboring countries: "But in Germany’s case, there was domestic consensus to admit its wrongdoing. Japan didn’t have a domestic consensus among themselves. This creates a credibility problem of Japan’s apology."
Liu Jiangyong, a professor of Japanese politics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, is on the same line: "Some people in Japan oppose the apology. Different Japanese leaders have different historical views. That would also influence the relationship Japan has with its neighbors. Germany and Japan are completely different, Germany’s apology was very easier to do as one group, [quite followed by the whole Germany folk] the Nazis, took the responsibility. But for Japan, all the Japanese have to take responsibility for its colonial and World War Two wrongdoings."
Japan this time pointed out that the annexation was done against Koreans’ will. But importantly, it didn’t admit the illegality of doing so.
One can imagine how Sir Ernest Satow, a British diplomat in Tokyo, would disagree as he witnessed and described the motives of Japan's annexation of Korea after he mentioned the horrific murder October 1895 of the influential Queen Min by the assassins led by Japan's legation in Seoul First Secretary Sugimura. Skillful Queen Min had the control on King Kojong and she was known for her alliance with China against Japan's advance. She paid the full price stabbed and slashed then burnt alive in the garden of the Korean palace as witnessed by an American military advisor, the General William Dye with others. A murder planned by Miura Goro, follower of the Yamagata clique, tool of Japan economic expansion in North-East Asia.
Then the question to be asked after Kan's apology: what is to be the next magic formula of Japanese compensation to the victims? Apologies alone won't be remembered long as a sincere admittance of wrongdoing in today's lucrative Asia. And apology from Emperor demanded by Koreans, according to the Korea Times: the Japanese emperor is to make a "sincere apology" over past wrongdoings. KOreans are claiming Kan’s statement was carefully engineered to dodge Japan’s responsibility for forcefully annexing Korea 100 years ago. "Kan just said Japan’s annexation of Korea was against the will of the Korean people. He did not acknowledge its unlawfulness. Until Japan fully admits to its past wrongdoings and offers a genuine apology, we will continue to fight in cooperation with other civic groups at home and abroad."
While experts argue, the reality battle on seas continues.
Today... "The United States and ROK must continue their efforts to enhance vigilance of the North and lessen any defensive weaknesses that may tempt further provocative acts. Both countries must avoid military operations that only serve to goad or intimidate North Korea, however appealing that may be to those wishing to settle scores. For this reason, future exercises, patrolling activities, and command and control arrangements including rules of engagement must be regularly reviewed with this concern in mind."
With reciprocal threats... "The nuclear deterrent has been supplied all along by the Ohio-class subs that are within the START II limits and are armed with Trident nuclear-tipped missiles. There are two of these super weapons on patrol (probably off Hawaii) at all times and each has the capability of firing 26 missiles, each of which, in turn, is capable of carrying six nuclear warheads with yields of approximately 4.5 megatons . Some of these missiles are targeted on Russian sites in Siberia, but it is likely that the bulk of the targeting is on China. The total of American nukes pointed at the Chinese during each may exceed the entire reported Chinese stockpile of 200 nuclear warheads (although the Chinese are supposed to be adding to and renovating their stockpile). In addition, the US reportedly maintains an additional stock of 2,000 nuclear weapons in Asia which are available for delivery by ships and planes. The American missiles are reportedly pointed at Chinese launch sites. Any US nuclear attack on such sites in Henan and the adjacent provinces would, given the prevailing winds, kill millions in a diminishing swathe all the way over to Shanghai (although the fallout is projected to be only 50 REM near Shanghai). There are apparently at least 20 Chinese 4 megaton missiles targeted on American cities. They are believed to be targeted on cities because the Chinese do not have the capability---and probably never will---to target the American subs that carry the deadly Trident missiles. There are all sorts of complications -whether to overfly Russian territory for one- to estimating which American cities are at risk, but Los Angeles is certainly in the cross hairs."
IN NBR quoting November 2006 "Kristensen Report"
Federation of American Scientists/Natural Resources Defense Council
With this in mind, the United States plans "to design its next generation of ballistic-missile submarines for nuclear deterrence missions," a high-level Navy official said last month according to Elaine M. Grossman Global Security Newswire. Defense leaders had earlier said that new submarines in the fleet which are to begin replacing the service's 14 Ohio-class "SSBN" boats in 2029 could carry both nuclear and conventionally armed missiles.
What about Japan versus China's influence?
Time is far when Toyotomi Hideoshi was defeated by a Korean king's fleet allied to suzerain power of China in bloody naval battles in the 16th century. Today's Japan navy is powerful. For Japanese joining other Asian powers, update alliance and fix the memories, question of a regained influence is timely objective and will.
What would be the key features that determine a nation's weight in the international arena? Answers are the economic strength, the technological advancement, the demographic vitality, the ethnic cohesion and it goes without saying that military expenditures power and political momentum factors are key specifics. The specific pre-targets are the Arabic Indian China Pacific maritime zones.
From here, a wider development is expected to come in the East Asian seas as demonstrated with the latest naval military maneuvers and drills, the Cheonan corvette incident was just a pretext. Real objective is to assess needs and develop new naval technologies. Both the western Nato and an undefined secondary role left to Japan and South Korea versus the China Russia led coalition of forces are to forcefully modify geopolitics in the region.
Region where conflicts remained thanks to government and media fueled tensions. For how long? How China and Russia, more open and market-oriented, would join forces to achieve this goal, turning Asia into a leading financial center (China holds much of the U.S. treasury bonds) and boosting their industry for civilian and military industrial strategies? Prospective watchers are getting ready now that China and Russia will have much more to gain from cooperation than from rivalry.
One China-Russia and others' cooperation field is the maritime fleet industry.
Large multipurpose warships are unlikely to disappear from the fleets any time soon. Legacy systems, from nuclear powered aircraft carriers to destroyers to nuclear submarines "will remain for several generations and rather than single-purpose ships, commanders prefer maximally capable ships under all possible fighting conditions."
With this the idea that ships should fight together to maximize their effectiveness is well established. Added to the fact it comprises highly integrated local and wide-area networks supported by high-speed computers that process and transmit intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance obtained through an overwhelming number and great diversity of geographically dispersed sensor -radar, optic, acoustic, electronic- which then will be shared by the surface ships, submarines, aviation, and land based stations, thus providing them with a common operational picture and real-time battle space awareness.
Knowledge as power
While tens of millions of people flow to the Shanghai expo, not to the Mao's mausoleum in Bejing, joined by Japanese tourists, vigilance on both side is requested, and for this as a prerequisite, knowledge and people are accounted as a reliable power.
History moving on, Asian society will change and Japan too after balance of power changes in the Far-East, and Japan will again and certainly cruise under a new equivocal role, less for the values of free market to reach the number 1, 2 or 3 rather than to regain a sphere of influence and a dividend of sovereignty that she lost 65 years ago, while stuttering apologies each first weeks of August in tune between horror in Hiroshima and amnesia on the premises of the Yasukuni shrine revisionist's museum.
This is the somber aspiration of politics as well as its promise while a powerful China is said to continue to flourish and quite smoothly renounce more often to Marxism and redefine her cultural nationalism to embark on more concrete steps of policy-making with a less utopian deadline. That being said, if the generals agree to run for it...
- News agency, Korea Times, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi shimbun, BBC.
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 2009.
- 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy.
- Intelligence Community Annual Threat Assessment.
- The SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.
- Russia: Back to the Future? Testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate.
- Ray Cline 1975. World Power Assessment.
- Halpin, Tony. 2009. Brazil, Russia, India, and China Form Bloc to Challenge US
Dominance. London Times.
- Jean Ziegler. The swiss, the Gold and the Dead. And talks in Sorbonne, Paris.
- A telling battle over China's history curriculum. Ross Terrill, The Weekly Standard.
- Reporter's notes.