Category: Asia (Page 1 of 6)

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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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)

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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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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A disaster of a summit

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying could have chosen a better Chinese proverb to describe the meeting between North Korean sadist Kim Jong-un and Korean president Moon Jae-in. “Disasters are never powerful enough to separate real brothers, and a smile is all they need to eliminate the hard feelings,” Hua said.

And VX nerve agent is all it takes for a dictator to murder his actual brother.

The headlines said in 1994 and 2007 that North Korea would end its nuclear program. The headlines say now that they will make a peace deal.

The negotiators on the North Korean side are wily and skilled manipulators. Sitting on the Korean side was a liberal president with sympathies for “peace,” who served in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, which abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses; and a chief presidential secretary, Im Jong-suk, who served prison time for organizing a propaganda trip to North Korea as a radical student activist in the 1980’s. The chief American negotiator, should a purported meeting go forward, is skilled at getting manipulated, has called Kim “very honorable” for hosting a series of propaganda summits in order to boost his own standing and already appears to trust North Korea enough to give them credit for things it hasn’t agreed to.

These are not things that inspire confidence.

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Before anyone sells you a “short war” with North Korea…

On November 28th, amidst a relative calm, North Korea tested its intercontinental ballistic missile. It was a matter of time, before North Korea managed to develop a system which is capable to reach mainland US. Regardless of whatever Washington might say, North Korea did what it intended to do. They have now successfully demonstrated that their weapons system is capable, and has achieved what we call the minimum credible deterrence, vis a vis an adversary.

There has been a misconception about what North Korea wanted to do. What, for all practical purposes, is the aim of North Korea. The reality has always been, that North Korea wants to survive. The Westphalian state system which ran from the 19th century to 1991, was upended with unipolarity. North Korea internalized the lessons of Saddam, Kosovo, and most importantly Gaddafi. The toppling of these regimes, and the resultant chaos, and the inability of these states to deter any foreign invasion, often at the cost of destruction and personal deaths of the leaders are a stark reminder that there’s no such thing as international order, but simply great power whims. And the recent experience of unipolarity was not uniform.

North Korea’s missile flew around 1000 KM, but went to an altitude of 4500 KM, and stayed up for over 50 mins. The missile trajectory, straight up to the sky instead of angled path shows that it is capable of withstanding enormous atmospheric pressure on reentry. In a normal ballistic missile trajectory, it would cover the continental United States.

The reality has not dawned in Washington, perhaps. Beijing and Moscow understand the fait accompli, but DC is still on with the basest of talking points. That North Korea will never be accepted as a nuclear power (it is), or the fact that North Korean nuclear weapons provide a ready deterrence (it does). The latest salvo comes from Nikki Haley in the United Nations. While she started with long-standing US position of no war with North Korea, she also mentioned that the “North Korean regime would be utterly destroyed” if there were a war between it and the US.

This is not going to happen.

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Trump campaigns for himself in speech to Korean legislature

Donald Trump can’t help but brag and campaign to an American audience in any speech he gives abroad.

The latest victims of Trump’s egotism were Korean legislators who heard him speak to their chamber. After going over the inspiring history of Korea’s development, Trump pivoted to one of his favorite topics:

Like Korea, and since my election exactly one year ago today, I celebrate with you.

The awkward syntax makes it seem like he only has been celebrating Korea’s success since his election. Probably he meant to say “since I read a one-page briefing a few days ago.”

Either way, he went on:

The United States is going through something of a miracle itself. Our stock market is at an all-time high. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. We are defeating ISIS. We are strengthening our judiciary, including a brilliant Supreme Court justice, and one and on and on.

That Trump’s overbearing language has become routine shouldn’t make it anymore acceptable. Miracle? Yahoo Finance’s Myles Udland reports, “The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October… … Economists were looking for job gains of 313,000… … Wage gains in October were disappointing…”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie was attacking the economic conditions in Virginia in a race that he lost by nine, a referendum on Trumpism.

The stock market numbers and unemployment rate have been on long-term trajectories, of course. Unemployment has declined from 9% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2013, 5.7% in 2015, 4.8% at the start of 2017, and 4.1% now, and Trump hasn’t enacted any major economic policies in his ten months as president.

The mention of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is most insulting of all to Korean lawmakers, who have justices of their own to approve. Gorsuch is a qualified profession, as are the other eight justices on the Supreme Court, and there’s no reason he merits mention whatsoever in Korea.

But it’s a long-standing tendency of his to go off on brazen, self-congratulatory tangents at what are supposed to be speeches about serious international issues.

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Incheon, 1950: Where the freedom of 50 million stood in balance

One of the most daring amphibious military operations in human history took place 57 years ago this month, between 15 and 19 September, with 70,000 UN combatants going into harm’s way that day. Few amphibious operations surpass the Incheon Landing-sure one can point to D-Day on Normandy in Northern France, but that was years in the planning and preparation and at the close of the most costly, bloody, and horrendous war in human history with 160,000 allied troops going to do battle with the Nazis. The Incheon Landing was done on the fly-12 weeks after North Korean forces had pushed South Korean (ROK) forces all the way to the tiny and isolated Pusan Perimeter, encapsulating said city of Pusan (Busan)-we had US boots on the ground giving then leader (ostensibly not yet “eternal”) Kim Il-sung hell served up with all the tenderness, tact and civility that US Marines are world renowned for. 

As a prior service US Marine, I can attest to the importance that the United States Marine Corps places on her history in regards to the Korean Conflict, and the Incheon Landing is definitely a large part of Marine Corps lore. In boot camp, we had these small green binders that a recruit could fit into their cargo pockets (and we DID, mostly out of requirement) called “The Big Green Monster.”  We ran around the recruit depot for three months carrying that thing in our cargo pockets. In it were uniform regulations, advise on how to live in the new culture that we found ourselves in-and Marine Corps history. The Korean Conflict and the Incheon Landing were among those events that made those books thick. 

General Douglass MacArthur was quick thinking in assuming that he could effectively dissect the Korean Peninsula, thereby bringing relief to Pusan Perimeter. One of our most firebrand generals who exhibited his own unique brand of compassion-once calling the Filipinos (Pinoys) his “little brown friends,” he also recommended “strategic nuking” of key cities along the coast of the Peoples’ Republic of China in order to bring about a swift end to the Korean Conflict. Love him or hate him Stateside, it is hard to find a detractor of him on the ROK where people live in freedom thanks to UN actions and MacArthur wit and US optimism. 

There is a huge monument in front of the main gate leading to Suwon AFB about an hour south of Seoul that proudly proclaims, “We defend the freedom of 50 million people!” Had it not been for the Incheon Landing, those 50 million would probably be living under the all-encompassing tyranny of Kim Il-sung’s grandson.

Feature photo of First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez scaling the seawall. Lopez, who would give his life in the Battle of Incheon, was awarded a Medal of Honor posthumously. Photo by a fellow Marine, public domain.

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