This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the division of the Korean Peninsula. Yet full peace and reconciliation is far from being achieved in Northeast Asia.
Tensions between Japan, China, and the Koreas over territorial disputes, historical issues and nuclear weapons programs, exacerbated by overall regional trends of nationalism and militarism, are triggering an arms race and creating a climate of increasing mistrust among key Northeast Asian countries. The security environment in the region has been additionally complicated by the US “rebalancing” to Asia, including its strengthening of alliance in Northeast Asia. Ongoing efforts by the current Japanese administration to revise the country’s war-renouncing constitution play a further detrimental role in this regard.
According to SIPRI’s latest report, there is a 16% increase in the volume of arms transferred around the world. The world’s biggest arms exporters in the past five years were the US, Russia, China, Germany and France. China’s exports of major arms rose by 143% in the five years to 2014 from the previous five years. Germany’s arms exports fell by 43% and France’s dropped 27% in the same time frame.
India was the world’s largest single arms importer. Four other Asian countries, China, Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore, are also among the top 10 largest arms importers.
British MPs voted in favour of keeping defence spending at 2% of GDP. Just 40 MPs voted and the result carries no legal force.
Rory Stewart, Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border and chairman of the defence select committee, warned MPs that Britain could not continue to rely on the military might of America and be a “freeloader”. “This 2% is needed because the threats are real. The world is genuinely getting more dangerous,” he said.
In Seumas Milnes’s piece ‘The demonisation of Russia risks paving the way for war‘, he argues that “Ukraine – along with Isis – is being used to revive the doctrines of liberal interventionism and even neoconservatism, discredited on the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hundreds of US troops are arriving in Ukraine and Britain is sending 75 military advisers of its own. This is a direct violation of last month’s Minsk agreement, negotiated with France and Germany – Article 10 requires the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Ukraine.
But when the latest Minsk ceasefire breaks down, as it surely will, there is a real risk that Ukraine’s proxy conflict could turn into full-scale international war.
After the Cold War, the Pentagon needs to find a new way to justify its wasteful spending and the defense and security contractors need to find a new cause to make profits. Bob Hennelly tells the story:
In 1998, President Bill Clinton tasked former Senators Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat, and the late Warren Rudman, a New Hampshire Republican, to chair the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. The Commission panel was a cross-section of the military-industrial-media complex. Its members included Leslie Gelb, longtime New York Times correspondent and editor; Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed-Martin; and Army General John Galvin.
The panel gave its report and recommendations in January 2001. Both Senators Rudman and Hart concluded that it was not a matter of “if” the U.S. would suffer a mass-casualty terrorist strike but “when.” Among the panel’s recommendations was the massive integration of all of the nation’s domestic security, disaster planning and recovery functions into one behemoth called the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
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“Japan could be building an irresistible terrorist target, experts say,” 11 March 2014, The Center for Public Integrity
Robert Windrem, “Japan Has Nuclear ‘Bomb in the Basement,’ and China Isn’t Happy,” 12 March 2014, NBC News
… But government officials and proliferation experts say Japan is happy to let neighbors like China and North Korea believe it is part of the nuclear club, because it has a “bomb in the basement” -– the material and the means to produce nuclear weapons within six months, according to some estimates. And with tensions rising in the region, China’s belief in the “bomb in the basement” is strong enough that it has demanded Japan get rid of its massive stockpile of plutonium and drop plans to open a new breeder reactor this fall. …
Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, “Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick: Japan tilts right,” 02 February 2014, USA Today
… Today, Kishi’s grandson, Shinzo Abe, is prime minister and is doing to Japan what Attorney General John Mitchell predicted Richard Nixon would do to the U.S. — drive the country “so far to the right you’re not even going to recognize it.” …
Zack Beauchamp, “Why Everyone Needs To Stop Freaking Out About War With China,” 07 February 2014, ThinkProgress
… It’s wrong to talk about incentives to go war in purely military terms. A key component of the Senkaku/Diaoyou is economic: the islands contain a ton of natural resources, particularly oil and gas. But far more valuable are the trade ties between the two countries. China is Japan’s largest export market, so war would hurt Japan more than China, but it’d be pretty painful for both.
John Feffer, “The Sun Also Rises: Resisting Militarism in Japan,” Truthout, 20 January 2014
… Japan’s current prime minister, however, is not big on apologies. Shinzo Abe is a right-wing nationalist who wants to revive Japan as a “normal” military power. He has been brusque in his rhetoric and his actions. At the end of December, his government announced a major increase in military spending of 5 percent over the next five years, which will include purchases of 28 U.S. F-35s and two Aegis-equipped destroyers. Japan under Abe has more aggressively asserted sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands that China also claims, pledging to use force against Chinese patrols and rejecting any compromise on the islands’ status. On the home front, his administration has pushed through textbook revisions that offer the same airbrushed treatment of Japanese history that the Yushukan displays. …
Stephen M. Walt, “National Stupidity,” Foreign Policy, 14 January 2014
From Sea to Chinese Sea
… But that same force is also leading China to engage in a number of foolish and self-defeating behaviors. In particular, its aggressive territorial claims in the South China Sea, its recent unilateral declaration of an offshore “air defense identification zone,” and its hard-line stance in the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute have discredited Beijing’s earlier assurances about a “peaceful rise” and alarmed many of its Asian neighbors. Whatever one may think of China’s claims, this behavior is dumb, because it encourages China’s neighbors to balance more vigorously and makes them eager for more U.S. protection. It would be smarter for Beijing to play the long game and refrain from such demands until China is much stronger than it is today. But given national feeling in China itself, it is not clear that China’s leaders can maintain such a wise and patient approach.
“Japan boosts military forces to counter China,” BBC News, 17 December 2013
Japan’s cabinet has approved a new national security strategy and increased defence spending in a move widely seen as aimed at China.
Over the next five years, Japan will buy hardware including drones, stealth aircraft and amphibious vehicles. Continue reading
Trefor Moss, “Okinawa: the Scotland of Asia?,” The Diplomat, July 24 2013
The tension over the large U.S. military presence on Okinawa seems never to subside, the U.S. Marines’ deployment of noisy, and possibly quite dangerous, MV-22 Osprey aircraft having been one recent trigger. And yet, if asked to vote today, Okinawans would overwhelmingly stick with the status quo: a recent poll by Ryukyu Shimpo found that only 5 percent of citizens favor independence, with 62 percent opposed. Then again, these things start from humble beginnings, and independence is at the very least being discussed seriously. Okinawa has a complex relationship both with Tokyo and with the U.S. military, and it is too casual to dismiss the notion of independence as the pipedream of just a handful of local activists.