Archive for the ‘North and South Korea’ Category

Abenomics and the State of Japan

By Johan Galtung

From Kyoto, Japan

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was forced out of office on September 2007 his focus had been on a strong foreign policy, against the peace Article 9 in the constitution, rewriting history and patriotic education, but not on economic improvement. This time Abe has added strong economics, dubbed abenomics; including the hyper-capitalist TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership. Not to irritate the US, Abe-LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) sees itself as the guardian of Japan’s security against China and North Korea.

On April 4 the Bank of Japan announced a policy of QE, “quantitative easing” – Orwellian for printing money–doubling the circulating money to 270 trillion yen in two years to turn Japan’s 0.3% deflation to 2% inflation. With so much yen around devaluation follows, making Japan more competitive. With the Bank of Japan buying state bonds, public works could follow, for employment. With both, economic growth.

As a consequence the dollar soared, from 76 yen some years ago to 100; the Nikkei market index soared to above 13,000 for the first time since August 2008, and Abe’s approval rating to 70%. So far so good.

And then, what happens? The hope is to regenerate the golden 1960-70-80s Japan. But both the world and Japan have changed. Read the rest of this entry »

USA-East Asia looking in the abyss

By Johan Galtung

From Kyoto, Japan

It has never been this bad since the 1950-53 Korea war.

October 1962, the Cuba-USSR-USA crisis, comes to mind. There were horror visions of mushroom clouds. A proud Cuba, with a strong leader-dictatorship, a social revolution in the near past, was denied a normal place in the state system, bullied by the USA and some allies with sanctions and boycotts into isolation for now more than 50 years.

Soviet Union shipped nuclear-tipped missiles for deployment as close to USA as the US missiles deployed in Turkey to Soviet Union. And in that was the solution, tit for tat, one nuclear threat for the other, in negotiations kept secret, ultimately revealed by McNamara.

Three countries were involved in 1962; in the current crisis five countries, a pentagon and not two but three nuclear powers:

North Korea < - > China

South Korea < - > Japan < U.S. >

– with the USA-Japan and USA-South Korea alliances pitted against the tacit China-North Korea alliance.

With the unreconciled traumas, of Japan having colonized Korea 1910-45, attacking China and USA during the Pacific War 1931-45; USA using nuclear bombs against Japan 1945; occupying Japan and South Korea; North Korea attacking South Korea; UN-USA counter-attacking, including China (MacArthur), ending in 1953 with an armistice; then 60 years of immensely frustrating quest for unification with the annual USA-South Korea+ Team Spirit exercises close to North Korea.

And, more recently, the USA-China competition for the No. 1 economic world position, the US effort to build economic alliances with the EU and with the Pacific in Trans-Pacific Partnership, and then the Japan-China conflict over the Daiyou-Senkaku islands. To top it: North Korea’s threatening with nuclear weapons, fascist like anybody threatening to turn others into ashes, but so far only verbal violence.

Nonetheless, even against a background like that, there are some ways of defusing this Three against Two pentagon. Read the rest of this entry »

There is no alternative but to negotiate with North Korea

By Jonathan Power

The diplomats and pundits were right: transition after the death of Kim Jong-il in North Korea, they said, might well produce an unstable and frightening situation. Kim Jong-un, his son, is a cut off the old block.

But they forget too easily America’s stance in the negotiations that began during the presidency of Bill Clinton. It led to major progress and the unprecedented visit to Pyongyang by his Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, which was meant to pave the way for Clinton’s own visit which was likely to lead to major changes in the relationship. (The demands of the Camp David Israel-Palestine-US negotiations in the last days of his administration meant it couldn’t be fitted in.)

After seven years of erratic US policies under President George W. Bush – met by equally erratic and bellicose North Korean ones – the Bush Administration’s negotiations ended up achieving almost the same as Clinton’s, albeit with no plan to take the final, big step, as Clinton had planned. Read the rest of this entry »

Against a third world war – constructively

By Johan Galtung

From Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany

The probability of a devastating Third World War is not zero, but very far away from 100%. Let us explore why.

The worst case scenario is a world war between the West–NATO, USA, EU with Japan-Taiwan-S. Korea–on the one hand, and the East—SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), Russia, China, Central Asia, with the observers India, Pakistan, Iran. With 4 vs 4 nuclear powers, and West vs Islam as a major theme.

In the center is the explosive mix of a divided territory, and a divided capital, by a wall.

We have been there before: the Cold War, Atlantic and Pacific theaters; 3 vs 2 nuclear powers, and West vs Communism as major theme.

In the center was the explosive mix of a divided Germany, and a divided capital, by a wall; and a divided Korea, by a zone.

And yet no direct, hot war, except by proxies; Korea, Viét Nam. Why? Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. encirclement of China

By Jonathan Power

Not since early Cold War days when the US and NATO effectively
encircled the Soviet Union, feeding Stalin’s paranoia, has America
moved to be so profoundly counterproductive. It is now beginning to
encircle China- at least that is how China is seeing it.

Of course “encircling” is a bit of an exaggerated notion since the
Soviet Union was too large ever to be totally encircled. Likewise
today China is content with the state of affairs on its long Russian,
Mongolian and North Korean borders. But “encircling” does suggest a

Why of all people is President Barack Obama initiating this? We may
not know the answer to that but we do know what he is doing. Read the rest of this entry »

North Korea – an opportunity not to be missed

By Gunnar Westberg, TFF Board

The changes felt in North Korea during my visit there in October 2011 are sensed by others. In a recent issue of Science (Vol. 334, Dec 23 2011, p 1624-1625, ), there is a report from the new Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, PUST, by the scientific journalist Richard Stone. Read the rest of this entry »

The U.S. is off the mark in North Korea

By Jonathan Power

The pundits and diplomats are right: transition after the death of Kim Jong-il in North Korea could well produce an unstable and frightening situation. Kim Jong-un, the son of the dear leader, is too young to dominate the military and chief advisors as his father and grandfather did. There will be power struggles. Anything can happen depending on who gets the upper hand. This nuclear weapon-armed power is worrying to behold.

But on everything else the comments of outsiders have been way off the mark. Do they forget so easily America’s stance in the long negotiations with the North- negotiations that began during the presidency of Bill Clinton, arguably his one foreign policy near success? Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Jong-Il has died – Isn’t that an excellent opportunity for new policies?

By Jan Oberg

Most media focus on the nervous reactions, that this event may trigger instability and perhaps foreign-directed “provocations” as ambassador Donald Gregg is saying here. Well, it’s hard to know.

But while there could be a kind of successor problem or even a military takeover, one could also see Kim Jong-il’s death as an opportunity for improving relations both regonally and with the West. Read the rest of this entry »

North Korea: Changes in the air?

By Gunnar Westberg

Gunnar Westberg has made a revisit with a small group of doctors to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, DPRK

Already on the train from Beijing towards Pyongyang do I feel a different atmosphere from that at my visit in 2005. The custom officials look briefly at our documents, register and seal our mobile phones as in previous years, but pay no attention to our computers, written material and CD:s. The train is overflowing with packages and trunks, at least some of it smuggled. At the first DPRK stop an expensive new car picks up four big bags from the train. All houses are newly painted, maybe for the benefit of the Dear Leader who passed through in his special train two years ago.

Mobile phones – yes they are here now! Read the rest of this entry »


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