Politics & Society

Japan – North Korea Relations
In a recent meeting in Beijing, North Korea proposed a firm date on which it plans to return to the nuclear negotiating table after 13 months of self-imposed exile from the six-party talks. According to the Asahi Shimbun, sixparty framework countries Russia, America, Japan, China and South Korea saw the gesture as a positive step toward North Korea scrapping its nuclear development initiatives and rejoining the international community’s nuclear non-proliferation agreement. However, the major sticking point of lifting economic sanctions on North Korea remains a pivotal fulcrum on which neither North Korea nor the international community seem willing to shift their weight. At the time of printing, in a strange reversal of policy, the U.S. surrendered concessions to Pyongyang in return for nuclear non-proliferation. The durability of this agreement remains to be seen. Analysis: Throughout history, the U.N. has consistently sanctioned countries (see Iraq, Cuba, Iran, India and Pakistan for examples) and the world has consistently witnessed their complete futility in deterring behavior or compelling action. The international community likes them because they mean no soldiers in harm’s way, North Korea likes them too because it means they don’t really need to comply with anything. Willingness to negotiate on sanctions seems a peculiar change in policy for the stubborn rogue state. Look for the talks to break down in the upcoming second round – the round concerned specifically with lifting sanctions.

International Relations

Japan – Nepal Relations
In the first significant move since being upgraded to a legitimate ministry, the Defense Ministry has approved a plan to deploy ten SDF personnel to a collaborative U.N. military observer mission. According to a recent article in the Japan Times, the Defense Ministry’s new mandate is to focus on “international cooperation efforts abroad.” The move comes in the wake of Prime Minister Abe’s commitment to sending Japanese Defense Ministry personnel into conflict areas as long as the forces are used only to bolster international peace and stability. In Nepal, the main task of the U.N. military observer group will be to monitor the implementation of the most recent ceasefire between Maoist rebels and the Nepalese government, but the Defense Ministry will be specifically tasked with arms management and information gathering between the two sides. Analysis: Prime Minister Abe’s got himself a shiny new toy and now he’s got parliament’s permission to go out and play with it. Nepal is still considered a hot zone and Abe’s urgency at having Defense Ministry personnel involved there is probably a precursor for things to come. Abe has always been an outspoken advocate for increasing the role of Japan’s military so look for Defense Ministry personnel being deployed to conflict areas throughout the world (Afghanistan & Sudan in the immediately future), and don’t be surprised when reports start showing that situations compelled Japanese troops to become more than just “observers.”

North Korea's Other Deterrent
By William Brooks

Since 2000, the government of South Korea has gone out of its way

to engage with its communist northern neighbor. The so-called “Sunshine Policy” has indeed produced stronger trans-border business ties and created generous aid packages bound for Pyongyang. The policy has also encouraged the South to tone down the content of radio programs it broadcasts into the North – now featuring fewer shrill and bellicose denouncements of communism. However, with the citizens of the North being continuously denied basic human rights and Pyongyang’s recent demonstration of nuclear capability, officials all over Asia, not least in Japan, feel that the Sunshine Policy is failing. Although a plethora of more advanced technology exists, radio broadcasts still play a powerful role in modern politics in democratic countries. For example, though the content varies greatly, talk radio is still hugely popular among conservative and liberal listeners in America. In Britain, recent controversy over an episode of the BBC’s Today program brought about the Hutton Report and with it, an investigation into the British government’s use of pre-war intelligence in Iraq. A more poignant example of the power of radio broadcasting is the integral role played by Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and the BBC World Service in arousing the dissent that forced the collapse of communism in Europe. So popular were these services that many newly democratic governments at the time requested they stay on-air even after their raison d’etre had long passed. The proven success of radio-based campaigns is one reason Seoul continues giving aid and refrains from outwardly aggravating Kim Jong Il, even in the face of nuclear proliferation and dreadful human rights abuses. Unfortunately, South Korea’s actions are neither international altruism nor simple appeasement. If the Northern population overthrows its rulers and Korea is reunited, the South will have lost its principal military threat but gained a huge economic burden. Although the German economy was badly affected after its reunification in 1990, that economic struggle would pale in comparison to the potential downturn taken by the South Korean economy. Neither, it would seem, do the citizens of the South feel particularly charitable towards their poverty stricken cousins in the North. In a National Assembly poll in 2005, 45% of voters said they would refuse to pay even Page 14

one penny towards reunification. Moreover, 65% believe that the North should receive less economic aid from the South. With youth unemployment rising and the wealth gap widening in the South, many want to see public money go towards projects in which they can see realistic benefits. According to CIA estimates, the North’s per capita GDP is approximately $1,800 compared to $24,200 in the South. Due to an increasingly constricting military budget, every other sector of industry, agriculture and public service is chronically underfunded. As long as the major concern of the Northern elite remains holding onto power, major reform is unlikely. After all, they certainly don’t want to repeat the former Soviet Union’s suicidal mistakes of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (transparency). The United Nations’ sanctions against luxury items – one of the more novel ways to undermine the regime – appear to be having the desired affect. According to Kim Sung Min, a northern defector who now runs Free North Korea Radio in the South, Kim Jong Il would routinely give away hi-tech prizes to winners of state sponsored sporting events, but that three months ago, winners received live chickens instead. Only thanks to hunger relief and world food programs can the population in the North keep mass starvation at bay. Add to this an educational system bent on political indoctrination and a complete rejection of the fundamentals of basic market economics, and the result is a recipe for disaster. While a survey by the Korean Institute of Criminal Justice Policy and Cheongju University found that while only 0.5% of South Koreans had been targeted and cheated of financial assets, this figure jumps to 21.5% for northern defectors over the same period. It would seem the only people in the South who may reap any financial benefits from unification are con artists. Without a doubt, maintaining the status quo means war is a possibility for the South. However, if the 38th parallel disappears, economic disintegration for Korea is definite. Many Korean families dream of being able to freely visit relatives on the other side of the heavily fortified border and while for them blood is thicker than water, for nations, cash flow is thicker than both.

Japan – China Relations
According to an article on CCTV.com, China Central Television, the nation’s largest and most popular television network, plans to air a 20-part series called Yangsong (Eyes on Japan), which will focus on Japanese lifestyle, history, economics and politics. According to the website, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie, former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, famous author Junichi Watanabe and actor Ken Takakura will be interviewed for the inaugural season. As a lead-up to production, China has plans to send its largest-ever contingent of journalists to Japan for 20 days of interviews, fact-finding and prescreening. Keiji Ide, a minister in the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, “hopes the project will contribute to Japan’s efforts to boost China-Japan ties.”

Japan – Thailand Relations
Every month, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) issues a report on business performance in ASEAN countries Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, from the perspective of Japanese investors. The report – based on a ratio of positive to negative factors called a diffusion index (DI) – is designed to quantify the performance of the respective economy and monitor business trends ripe for investment. According to a recent article in the Bangkok Post, JETRO Bangkok president Yoichi Kato cites political instability, baht appreciation and rising oil, interest and inflation rates as justifications for Thailand’s receiving the lowest grade in each of the last three months. Japanese parent companies might even be inclined to relocate offshore investments from Thailand, especially if the Thai baht continues to drop against the dollar. The article is quick to point out however, “the index is unlikely to cause Japanese decision-makers to immediately withdraw their investments in Thailand since they are part of the business plans drawn two or three years earlier.” Analysis: Since the beginning of the Koizumi administration, Japan has invested billions of yen in the development of basic infrastructure in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Although foreign aid will continue, look for already-conservative JETRO investments to decrease unless Thailand’s lucrative tourist industry can rebound from recent political unrest. Page 15

Analysis: “An important breakthrough.” “A realignment of thinking.” “A new era in relations.” Headlines like these permeate current media stories about the future of Japan-China relations. Despite the mutual admiration society growing between the Asian giants, both seem to be ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room: Japan’s fundamental foreign policy is structured around building democracy and respecting human rights, China’s is decidedly not. Besides, Prime Minister Abe still has yet to go on record about a certain controversial shrine in Tokyo.

Japan Scope Vol.6 March 2007

Japan Scope Vol.6 March 2007