Category: Foreign Policy (Page 1 of 18)

Korean court ruling on compensation for forced labour to hurt relations with Japan

The Japan-Korea relationship, already strained by the ‘comfort women’ controversy, faces new challenges after a Korean court ruled in favor of workers coerced to work for Nippon Steel during Japan’s 35-year occupation of Korea.

Japan resists further demands for compensation or new apologies related to its colonialism and war in Asia. It views the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea as having settled all controversies. But controversies continue to spring back up time and time again.

In 2015, Japan arrived at agreement with Korea on a plan to compensate Korea and its few remaining ‘comfort women’ with 1 billion yen (US$8 million) in exchange for “permanently” settling the issue. But after the Korean government refused to remove statues of ‘comfort women’ set up outside the Japanese diplomatic offices in Seoul and Busan, Japan threatened to withhold the money.

Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in threatened to try to renegotiate the ‘comfort women’ agreement, as he (and a majority of Koreans) opposed it. He felt it did not account for the wishes of the living former sex slaves and that Japan hadn’t apologizes forcefully enough. Japan, for its part, feels that Korea is always moving the goalposts.

Earlier in October, Japan did not participate in an international naval review held in Korea after Korea demanded that Japan’s navy remove its ‘Rising Sun’ flag. Japan had participated in fleet reviews before with that flag–the same flag it flew during World War II–but Korea apparently raised the issue strenuously this time because anti-Japan sentiment has been running high in recent years.

The ruling by Korea’s Supreme Court came 13 years after the case was first filed in Korean courts. The claimants, who were forced to work in the Japanese steel industry and had compensation withheld, originally filed in Japan, but their case was dismissed by Japanese courts in 1997 on the grounds that the 1965 treaty addressed compensation.

The treaty’s terms on individual compensation were limited, causing it to be unpopular in Korea, but it did call for Japan to provide $800 million to Korea in economic development. Japan provided that much and much more in additional investment and aid. Japan’s aid and investment was important, but not sufficient, for Korea’s development during the 1960’s and 70’s. (Ironically, many Koreans even resent Japan for sometimes trying to take too much credit for Korea’s development.)

Dining with Gov. Choi at the South Korea vs North Korea soccer game

This week, the DPRK youth soccer team crossed the 38th parallel and entered a province divided in two for a showdown against the Republic of Korea. The Fifth U-15 International Football Games for the Ari Sports Cup, currently taking place in Chuncheon, Gangwon province, are meant to continue the wellspring of good feelings started by the South inviting the North to the 2018 Olympic Games held in Pyeongchang in February.

Bombs + Dollars reporter Patrick Rincon was present for the match and spoke to Gangwon Governor Choi Moon-soon before the game. As governor of a province divided in two as a result of war, Choi is heavily involved in reconciliation endeavors.

He was instrumental in getting these games going and even in inviting North Korea to the Pyeongchang Games in February. Everyone was initially surprised that they accepted and even more surprised by the Unified Korean hockey team. Moon-soon said that things were looking up in recent trips to Pyeongyang compared to previous trips. He cites the lack of “patriotic” anti-Western propaganda banners (which previously were more numerous than stop lights in Pyeongyang). He noted this as more harmonious outlook on the South and a view that he believes, with some cautious optimism, that Kim Jong-un fancies himself a reformer and a progressive.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex is still defunct, but he sees a real possibility of it coming back on line as there is already cooperation between the two countries—in cosmetics, boxing and golfing. Moon said there were some excellent boxers in the North and he wanted to bring them South to train and even compete against US boxers on the world stage.

As for the game, the North Korean team won, 3 – 1. They scored the first goal and it was clear from the get go that they were the superior team. It was interesting to meet some of them and converse.

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UN’s attack on French burqa ban illustrates absurdity of UNHRC

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) passed a resolution today condemning France’s burka ban as a violation on human rights, claiming that it is an attack on religious freedom and self-determination of these women. This is strange because last I remember, the UNHRC has Saudi Arabia, Rwanda and China as members.

If we want to improve human rights, we’ve got bigger problems than secular, religious-freedom-promoting France banning the wearing of burqas. Just look to Saudi Arabia, where men are beheaded for loving men, Christians are forced to worship behind 30 foot walls, and anyone with an Israeli stamp on their passport isn’t even allowed to enter. Rape victims are blamed for being raped, and honor killing is allowed. Women are still required to have male “guardians” to do anything for them, and the law actually requires women to wear a niqab or a burka in public.

Compulsion to wear burqas is maintained in many countries and societies not just by laws but also by social pressure. No wonder France took the action it did.

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100% of headlines on People’s Daily about Xi Jinping

From September 3-4, Beijing has hosted the 2018 China-Africa Forum. Headlines from the summit continue to dominate the news in China.

On the front page of the People’s Daily from September 5 to 7, 100 percent of the headlines were about Xi Jinping.

Typical were headlines like this from September 6:

Xi Jinping meets Nigeria president Buhari
Xi Jinping meets Madagascar president Hery
Xi Jinping meets Chad president Déby

The entire front page of the paper on September 6 used the same structure for each of the ten headlines in the main section.

Since Xi Jinping took power, he has been glorified more than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. A Reddit user with 36,000 “karma points” who frequently presents charts has used data from people.com.cn to show that Xi is mentioned on the front page of the People’s Daily more than any leader since Mao.

And since Xi became president for life at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, he has been mentioned almost every day.

Chinese citizens are being arrested for vandalizing propaganda of Xi.

Now the question might be not how many days is Xi featured on the front page, but how many times in one day.

Sources for charts:
Xi Jinping is being mentioned almost every single day on People’s Daily front-page headlines, something only Mao had done during the cultural revolution. (1949-2018)
Is Xi Jinping mentioned in a headline of the People’s Daily front page today? (2007-2018)

Editor on Trump’s threats against Iran

The greatest strategic mistake by the United States in the opening decades of the 21st century has been to get stuck in unwinnable wars in the Middle East, a region with declining strategic importance relative to Asia.

At the time when a predecessor, George W. Bush, invaded Iraq, Donald Trump supported the war. Later, during the 2016 presidential campaign he pretended – loudly and without shame – that he had opposed the war. What would he do if he had a similar decision in front of him as president? We may well get to know sometime soon.

Trump unleashed his vitriol against Iran on July 22, threatening war in an all-caps screed on Twitter.

“To Iranian President Rouhani,” he said. “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”

Trump practices “honor politics.” Please take note that the cause of the Trump’s outburst wasn’t anything Iran had actually done vis-à-vis America, but rather words used by his Iranian counterpart Trump took as a “threat.”

Rouhani had issued a boilerplate statement in response to Trump’s previous provocations, declaring: “Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Sniping back and forth is nothing unusual in U.S.-Iranian relations and certainly nothing for the American leader to get angry about. However, Trump seems to have chosen to believe Rouhani’s words were something the U.S. should “not stand for.”

Were Trump’s empty rhetoric the only thing on display, that would be worrisome enough for what it says about the mindset of the commander-in-chief of the largest military in the world. What is more concerning, however, is that Trump has been stoking the flames against Iran since he was elected, and his provocations have intensified of late.

On May 9, he made good on his pledge to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran. Now, he is warning other countries not to import Iranian oil, or else he will impose sanctions against them. Sanctioning a country that continues to comply with the nuclear deal – respected by all signatories except the United States – is an inherently provocative act.

Iran is already facing economic problems and unrest. Now, European companies, including France’s largest oil producer, Total, are reluctantly pulling out of Iran in order to avoid problems. Is it any wonder that Trump’s escalatory actions began shortly after neoconservative hardliner John Bolton became National Security Adviser in April?

Read full article: Column: Trump threatening war with Iran

U.S. designed the World Trade Organization, TPP to benefit itself; Trump wants to stop the benefits

Donald Trump has made his intentions to leave the World Trade Organization clear with his proposed “FART” bill, which would put the US in violation of WTO rules. He has been telling aids for a while, it has been reported, that he wants to leave the organization.

“We always get fucked by [the WTO] I don’t know why we’re in it. The WTO is designed by the rest of the world to screw the United States,” he said in one such rant.

Statements like this expose the ignorance of Trump and the incoherence of his isolationist positions. It is often the case that the truth is the exact opposite of what Trump says. There could be no better case than this one.

Who does Trump think designed the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, and other international organizations?

“The United States was a leading force in establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995,” the United States Trade Representative wrote.

Of course the United States did. The US is the world’s strongest power and has been since the end of World War II. The US has had the leadership and leverage to influence the rules behind the international organizations it takes the lead in creating. The US leadership since World War II has been a key factor in US hegemony since then. It helped the US win World War II.

It is why America can win special benefits when it negotiates (not when it throws Starbursts at Germany’s PM, as Trump has done):

In 2000, the U.S. won special provisions guaranteeing that the U.S. can export 360,000 tons of rice to Japan each year, nearly half the total amount of tariff-free rice Japan imports. Now that the U.S. is negotiating unilaterally with Japan, it is likely that the U.S. will again win special treatment.

Trump wants to abandon that. He has little to point to when it comes to unfair trade terms with American allies. Trump left the TPP, the deal America was leading the way in writing. He whines about America’s nominal trade deficit with Canada, for example, but American exports to Canada make up 48% of all trade between the US and Canada—it is almost exactly balanced, that is.

Trade has expanded America’s economy and increased its people’s standard of living. Overseas troops expand America’s power projection. International organizations can be utilized for the pursuit of America’s interests.

Without them, America will see its power decline.

1949 All Over Again? How US-NK Deal Threatens ROK’s National Defense

The June 12 summit between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been hailed by Trump supporters as a historic success and received generally credulous coverage in the press as a harbinger of peace. The truth could not be farther from this naive wishful thinking. In fact, the real outcome of the Singapore summit was and is frankly miserable.

There was no promise for complete or verifiable dismantlement, not even a promise for any kind of denuclearization whatsoever. North Korea repeated the same vapid rhetoric like they had said many times before. Yet despite Kim Jong-Un giving him few concessions, Trump remarkably caved in on US-Korea joint defense exercises, a long-sought-after goal of the Kim regime, and even defended the thuggish dictator from criticisms of his human rights record.

“Complete, Verifiable, and Irreversible Dismantlement” (CVID) is probably the only denuclearization model that will work with North Korea, considering its track record of lying and dishonest negotiation. In both 1992 and 2005, North Korea, strongly asserted the a willingness for denuclearization and made promises to stick to a process, but each time, the rogue kingdom quickly broke its promises after extracting the concessions it desired. This time, American officials had talked about CVID in the run-up to the meeting, but the statement that emerged out of Singapore made no mention of CVID whatsoever.

An important and critical difference between CVID and the meaningless PR phrases in the document is that simply breaking a CVID agreement could be a direct justification for war in an extreme case. [Editor’s Comment: Is there a source for this?] Not only Trump, but also his officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton who are notable hardliners claimed to make CVID happen in the first place.

Pompeo was angry when asked by reporters about the lack of agreement for verification mechanisms. “I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous. “I just have to be honest with you. It’s a game and one ought not play games with serious matters like this,” he said at a press conference in Seoul on June 13, the day after the meeting. He asserted that there was other work done that did not appear in the public statement. One may forgive observers for not particularly trusting North Korea’s seriousness to follow through on any hypothetical agreement that it did not even agree to put on paper.

Secondly, Trump administration has announced that UFG (Ulchi Freedom Guardian), which is the US-ROK annual joint military exercise, has been cancelled due to the summit. The status of other US-ROK joint exercises remains in doubt as the details of Trump’s promise to end what Trump has referred to as “war games” is ironed out. This decision is extremely irresponsible and ignorant; UFG and other cooperative exercises have existed to practice military and civic operations in wartime contingency. As the name suggests, there are defense operations to maintain preparedness in the face of extreme and intense North Korean threats.

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On Trump’s meltdown at the G7

On the day the G7 started, Donald Trump was agitating for Russia to be allowed to join the G7/G8, despite the fact that Russia still occupies Ukrainian land and interfered in the American election (and the U.S. has a nominal trade deficit with Russia, an issue Trump makes of G7 members). Then after Trump had already agreed to the G7 joint statement and left the meeting early, he withdrew his agreement in a fit of social media rage after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement against Trump’s tariffs.

Initial reactions from B+D Facebook page and Editor:

U.S. doesn’t need anything from North Korea and shouldn’t meet

Kim Jong-un has threatened twice in the past week to cancel the meeting that he himself proposed with U.S. president Donald Trump. He appears to be acting out in his typical manner in order to try to put pressure on the United States and Korea and to win concessions.

The United States isn’t in a dire position, however, and the U.S. doesn’t need anything from Kim Jong-un so badly as to justify making extreme concessions. If Kim doesn’t want to denuclearize for limited concessions, if he is unwilling to negotiate sincerely, then the U.S. shouldn’t meet him.

The first time Kim threatened to pull out was after Trump’s National Security Advisor and former Bush advisor John Bolton called for a “Libya-style” denuclearization. Bolton is a hawk who has long called openly for overthrow of the North Korea regime, a worthy and moral goal (if reasonably possible) to be sure, but talking about or implying it obviously isn’t something that will help get to an agreement for Kim to voluntarily denuclearize.

The next and present reason Kim is using to threaten going forward with the meeting is much less reasonable. He wants the U.S. and Republic of Korea to end joint-self defense exercises. He thinks those exercises–and indeed the presence of U.S. troops in Korea–threaten his regime. Those troops are present because his grandfather invaded the Republic of Korea, his father sunk a Korean ship, and he shelled an island with civilian residents. They kidnapped Koreans and Japanese and tortured people for watching DVDs. Aggressive acts and attacks beyond borders are almost always caused by the totalitarian regime north of the 38th parallel.

The U.S. and Korea have already delayed military exercises, before the Korean Olympics, and now before the proposed meeting. But North Korea’s foreign ministry continues to make demands, saying, as characterized by Reuters, “the future of summit is entirely up to Washington.”

Well, if Kim doesn’t want this summit to happen, then it doesn’t have to happen. Washington doesn’t have to–and shouldn’t–do anything more for it to happen than it already has.

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The real Nobel comparison? Kim Dae-jung and the failed Sunshine Policy

Donald Trump’s supporters and those optimistic about prospects for his apparently upcoming meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un are preemptively calling for Trump to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Remember, Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize at the end of just his first year in office, before he even accomplished anything? And the prize was criticized by conservatives then, and rightly so. I address the argument in my new video, contained at the end of the post. But a better comparison might be Korea’s third democratically-elected president, Kim Dae-jung (president from 1998-2003).

Kim met with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in 2000. As with the meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un and the proposed meeting between Trump and Kim, there were high hopes for “peace” and expectations that things would change. Kim Dae-jung began implementation of the “Sunshine Policy”, which offered unconditional aid to the North and opened up the Kaesong Industrial Region. The idea was to promote good will, but North Korea’s regime took much of the aid for itself and its military, and the policy did not prevent North Korea from developing its nuclear program.

The Nobel committee, as they often do, awarded the prize prematurely. The meeting happened, but nothing substantial ultimately came out of the meeting. Later it was revealed that the Kim Dae-jung administration had paid the Kim Jong-il government US$500 million for the meeting.

Kim might have been deserving of the Peace Prize for his non-violent campaigning for democracy in Korea. He nearly lost his life multiple times, once when he was kidnapped by the Park Chung-hee government, while living in exile in Japan in 1973, and nearly murdered, and again when he was sentenced to death after the Chun Doo-hwan government’s 1980 coup and martial law crackdown. The Nobel committee says he was awarded “for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular.”

See my video on Trump and the Nobel:

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