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Sunday, May 7, 2017

War Clouds in Asia?

     In his 100 days' commemorative speech, Mr. Donald Trump once again talked of a strong America and a great America.  His Administration is going to increase the military budget for the next year by over 10 %.

     Not only this.  A huge aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson has travelled all the way into the Japan Sea(which name is not liked by some nations in Asia, for example both Koreas, who prefer to call it the East Sea).  The mighty ship has not just been travelling.  Even on her way she has been escorted by two Japanese destroyers, which was in itself an exercise in joint naval operations.

     These Japanese ships, by the way, are officially called 'escort ships'.  Escorting what?  We have at last got a clear image that they are for escorting US carriers, to make up powerful air-and-sea strike forces.  The idea must have been in the brains of some far-sighted strategists of both countries, in spite of all that our Constitution says on non-possession of military potential.  The idea itself was a product of Japan's rearmament.

     Needless to say, Carl Vinson has come as a probable restraint against North Korea who has been experimenting missiles and rockets for the past months, and presumably is also planning to experiment nuclear weapons.  Where would you place China?  Mr. Trump has called Chairman Xi a good man in the above  speech.
DPRK to the contrary has openly criticized China for following the US.  Have the battle lines been drawn then? Not necessarily.  Mr. Trump has suddenly said he would like to meet Mr. Kim.  As another good man?  More importantly, three new US Secretaries have issued a statement which called for peaceful means to be adopted as well.

     There is a model called the Six-nation Conference for the non-nuclearization of DPRK.  The reconvening of something like this must be the immediate aim.  China is its Chair-country, but she is not confident enough at present.  So is Russia or South Korea.  The US is almost a one-man show, unpredictable, with most of the political appointments yet to be made.  Japan is simply a US follower with no independent initiative of her own.  A diplomatic vacuum prevails in the Far East.

     One thing more.  Unless the present nuclear powers get really serious with their nuclear disarmament, DPRK would not be willing to talk.      

       

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mr. Trump's Speech

     Mr. Donald Trump spoke on his policies in the joint session of the US Congress for about an hour on 28 February, his first in the Congress.  Let me extract a few relevant passages from there and place them in the broader question of peace and security in Asia-Pacific.

     He has confirmed his plan to build a gigantic wall along America's southern border, but we will not go into the problems of the Western hemisphere here. More familiar to our region is his determination to 'protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism'.  He also talked about new sanctions on Iran, and firm alliance with Israel.  I wonder, however, if, to be fair, in the eyes of an unarmed people of Palestine, Israel does not owe its existence to its armed might, call it terrorism if you like, assisted mainly by the US and Britain.  I wonder also if the Muslim countries including Iran have not been invaded either by the US or US-sponsored countries in recent history.  These issues have been discussed in these columns more than once, and let me not repeat them right now.

     Let me call attention to the phrase, 'My job is to represent the United States of America'.  Looks innocent, ordinary, and normal, in the first appearance.  But read it together with what he says on America's 'partners' in Europe, Middle East, and the Pacific having to increase their defence expenditure, upto, say, 2% of their GDP.  Almost simultaneously he declared that he wants to increase the American military expenditure by $ 5 billion, and the number of the US aircraft carriers from the present 10 to 12.

     What for?  The US is forcing Japan, or rather the present obedient(what a shame!) Japanese Government, to build a huge air and naval basis at Henoko, Okinawa.  They are similarly pressurizing the South Korean Government to build an enormous naval base at Cheju Island, off the main Peninsula.  They are selling a large amount of weapons to Taiwan.  Would it be possible, under the circumstances, to think of any other country than China, PRC, as their main target?  And naturally the now economically resilient China is trying to counter the move by building their own carrier task forces, leasing many ports around the Indian Ocean(presumably a part of their plan of encircling India also), and other measures.  Thus the military expenditure has been increasing all over the Asia-Pacific.  China's figure at the moment is about a quarter of that of the US, although there is a lot of talk on its transparency.

     Mr. Trump has complained in his speech that the US has spent $ 6,000 billion on the Middle East at the expense of maintaining her own infrastructure in good shape.  But why not spent it the other way round?  He has devoted a considerable time of his speech to mentioning and introducing various categories of the US patriots and their families.  They must deserve it.  But why did he take so much time when he should have mentioned and introduced his main policies?  Not to let the people to take the heavy doses once again?         

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"America First" vs. "Japan-US Relations First"

     When Mr. Trump stresses "America First" the implications are that the interests of every other country should be subjected to this single standard.  In Mr. Abe's case, however, as his policy slogan "Japan-US Relations First" would show, Japan's interests have been made subservient from the beginning, namely before the US-Japan summit, held at Washington on 11 of this month, Japan time.  The dialogue was not on an equal footing.  It was held under the US tutelage.  I am deeply ashamed of it, and so are many of my fellow countrymen/women.

     It was said that the alliance between the two is a cornerstone for peace, prosperity and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region.  Has the statement said anything about the possibility of peaceful solution of whatever problem may prop up?  No. It refers to the security situation in the Asia-Pacific becoming more serious, but it provides only for military measures to cope with it.  It also approves the construction of the huge airbase at Henoko, Okinawa, which goes against the view of by far the majority of the residents there.

     Mr. Abe is happy that the US has reiterated its intention to apply Article 5 of the Security Treaty to the Senkaku islands, that is, to defend them.  Who else is going to threaten the security of these islands but China?  Similarly the statement talks about the freedom of navigation and other matters in the East and South China Seas.  These words are meant only for China.  But strange to say, Mr. Trump had a very cordial telephonic conversation with the Chinese Chairman only the previous night.  Then what are these policies for?  Or are they mostly with DPRK in mind?   Mr. Trump is going to increase the defence budget by a huge sum, but again for what? There is no real military threat in the Asia-Pacific, and the strengthening of the US-Japan military alliance itself is increasing the tension in this region.  In this sense the summit was a complete failure, making no contribution to the peace of this area.    

       

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Resident Korean Baseball Players 1981

     May I take it that the readers are reasonably familiar with the rules of baseball.  A game is participated in by two teams, each consisting of 9 players-a pitcher, a catcher, four infielders and three outfielders.  It is played for nine innings.

     From almost the time immemorial there has been an annual national tournament in baseball of high schools.  Hundreds of them take part.  In 1981 the final game, to decide what team comes to the top of the whole high school baseball world in the country, was fought between Hotoku Gakuen High from Hyogo Prefecture and Kyoto Commerce High.  The daily Asahi has started writing a column for 20 consecutive days on this game for entertainment starting today, 21 February.  The following is based on the first installment which appeared today.

     What I would like to tell here, however, is not the game itself(Hotoku beat Kyoto by 2-0).  I was rather keenly interested to know from the above that, the two teams put together, as many as seven of the players were of Korean origin(not seven out of eighteen but of fifty or so including the substitute players). Moreover, two of them from Kyoto were there by their real, namely the Korean, names.  This was unheard-of, when many of the resident Koreans were living under adopted Japanese names, although some of those names would suggest the national origin of their users.  Those two with the real Korean names were particularly popular with the Korean audience, receiving phone calls as well as letters from those unknown to them.

     Thirty-six years on, and I am hereby expressing my respect to the courage that the above seven, especially the two, faced the prejudice by the Japanese from which we are yet to be free.     

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mr. Trump Inaugurated

     Mr. Donald Trump was inaugurated as the new US President on 20 January.  The messages he wanted to convey in his 16-minute speech were the following.  The transfer of power was taking place from Washington D.C. to the people.  From now on they are going to be of one heart, one home, one destiny.  The sad depletion of the American military will be restored.  Now we are looking only to the future, and its going to be only America First.  We will bring back our border, jobs, dreams.  For that buy American, hire American.  The civilized world will fight the radical Islamic terrorists to the finish.  He concluded by stressing that America will be strong again, wealthy again, proud again, safe again, and great again.

     There are some questions on the above.  Why did America lose so many jobs?  Are they able to create them when the import from China, Mexico and others have stopped?  If they have stopped importing, are they still able to export, and to where?  Expert opinion says that the loss of jobs in the US has been because of the progress in automation.  Are the US going back by several decades back?  And are the US not concerned with the possible loss of jobs in Mexico and other countries?

     Then why do the Americans have to be strong?  They are already strong enough.  Look at the US bases in Japan.  The residents around them, and there are millions, are harassed by the terrible noise of the newly introduced aircraft, one after another.  If the US wants to get still stronger, it must be against China, North Korea, and Iran.  China has been often mentioned by Mr. Trump during the elections and after.  The other two are mentioned in the official policy document published by the new White House.  Are they, the Americans, not taking non-military measures to solve whatever problems they see existing with these countries peacefully?

     Incidentally the said document maintains that the Second Amendment should be observed. We have heard this often enough as the ground on which people go against gun control.  Needless to say there is nothing about gun control in the speech, and the policy document.  But is the Second Amendment really the legitimate ground to be referred to for such a purpose?  Would it be wrong to say that it was a substitute at a time, in 18th Century, when the US had no regular army, and was a measure to strengthen the militia in the hands of the Federal administration?

     The speech talks about the Islamic terrorists.  This is the only distinct social group mentioned there.  It conveys the feeling that the Muslims as a whole are anti-American, anti-social, or at least suspicious.  At the same time the above document promises to build a wall along the Mexican border, suggesting that the Hispanics are also anti-American, anti-social.  The expressions like wealthy 'again' or great 'again' would suggest going back to the time when by far the majority of the Americans are whites.  Again, the personnel to man the new White House would strongly suggest that it would be pro-Israeli. All put together, it is difficult to think that the new Administration is going to be fair to all the communities comprising America, making it a unique, composite, multi-cultural society worthy of respect.

     Finally, on what Mr. Trump said about the media the next day at the CIA.  He said something like 'the most dishonest people'.  He said it on the media, or at least a part of it.  It was on a small issue, the number of attendance at his inauguration.  He had deliberately avoided, in the presence of many, to nominate a CNN correspondent in his press conference on the day before the inauguration.  Those are very un-statesman like, to say the least.  I am afraid such a behaviour, such an expression, such an attitude, would provide a very convenient model to follow by many authoritarian-minded politicians, now and in the future, around the world.