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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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Japan's Prime Minister's Pearl Harbour Visit

    Prime Minister Abe Shinzo made a visit to the American naval base Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on 27 December, local time.  It was this base that the Japanese naval air force attacked on 7 December 1941, where 2,400 Americans died, thus bringing America into a war.  In Japan the war is usually thought to have started on 8 December.

   After making a visit to the memorial built on the sunken battleship Arizona, Abe made a speech. It was essentially a speech of condolences meant for the Americans.  There were no words of regret, let alone of apology.  The visit itself was described as the return visit to Mr. Obama's Hiroshima visit earlier this year.

   The speech is bound to raise several questions.  First, he talked of Japan sticking to the principle of peace.  He said nothing of the sort in concrete terms, however.  Rather he talked of the episode of a Japanese Zero pilot who died there on that day and was later buried by the Americans with appropriate military honour.  He said the brave respect the brave.  He likes to talk on these topics more.

   More seriously, he talked of the firm Japan-US alliance, and called it the alliance of hope.  But it is a military alliance.  If it is not against China it is against whom?  In the meeting with Mr. Obama prior to the speech, Abe nodded on the ongoing construction of the huge and permanent US base in Okinawa. This is a dreadful scenario.

   Above all, he said nothing on the nature of the war Japan forced on the US on that day.  Why did we have to fight the US, or for that matter with Britain and the Netherland also, when we were already fighting China?  It was because we were not winning in China, and desperately tried to do so by defeating the US.  It was a hopeless war from the beginning.  It was the Asian nations that really suffered.  In fact the Japanese landed on British Malaya(Malaysia) one hour before attacking Pearl Harbour.  Abe's speech will not go far in convincing the Asian nations.