Monday, April 18, 2005

a tremor in the Force

Inexpert speculation follows. Please ignore in favor of actually reading the news and some history books. Please read if your purpose is to be entertained. I've done no research to back up the claims and conjectures I make in this post. You've been warned.

East Asian current events in a nutshell:

North Korea's pissed off and demanding an apology of Japan.
Japan's pissed off and demanding an apology of North Korea.
South Korea's pissed off and demanding an apology of Japan.
China's pissed off and demanding an apology of Japan.
Japan's pissed off and demanding an apology of China.

There you have it.

Notice that "Japan" ends up in all the above sentences. Note, too, that Japanese conservatives are pissed off about the above sentences. Maybe the Japanbloggers know more, but I sense that Japan is going to be remilitarizing soon. It'll take its cue from Korea's inexplicable* estrangement from America and move closer to America-- two huge economic and technological powers acting as a counterweight (shit, that term again) to China's growing economic and military might.

Lots of variables, though. Always in motion is the future.

Is China's growth real, or just a bubble? Japan's own bubble burst a while back and Korea went through the shame of the IMF crisis, but both economies, though battered, are doing fine overall from what I see.

Also: can China's growth be considered one phenomenon? China's huge in terms of both surface area and population, and growth isn't occurring everywhere equally.

And what about China's hegemonic intentions toward Taiwan, or its possibly hegemonic intentions toward North Korea? What about South Korea's largely blind eye toward China's hungry stare? Hmmm.

All the above makes Japan nervous, and that's why I think it's going to seriously consider remilitarization sometime in the next decade. This will give North Korea something new to think about. I suspect it'll also drive North and South Korea closer together, because both share a deep resentment of Japan. This, in turn, will produce more nationalistic sentiment in Korea that will help force out the American/UN troop presence here. Many Americans think we should leave, anyway. (I agree.)

North Korea will continue its nuke program with renewed fervor. The South will tacitly condone this, probably more through omission of action than through openly supportive rhetoric. A remilitarized Japan, a militarily powerful China, and a nuclearized Korean peninsula will make for a very tense situation, largely because no one is willing to let go of history and move forward. I'm not condemning that fact: I'm sympathetic to older Koreans who remember the horrors of Japanese occupation with anger. They have a right to their feelings, even though times have changed. But the fact itself-- the attachment to anger-- leads to current difficulties.

Japan will be thinking, initially, about self-defense against NK nukes. This, however might expand to the notion of self-defense in general, and at this point it's hard to blame the Japanese for thinking that way, what with China flexing its muscles. I don't see the situation unraveling into chaos anytime soon, but if someone were to make a move, I suspect it'd be China moving against Taiwan and testing American resolve to help Taiwan out. This plays against the tension that exists between American political rhetoric-- the One China policy we ostensibly uphold-- and American economic and military interests, which are heavily interwoven with Taiwan's.

But however the details unfold, my lone prediction is Japanese remilitarization-- or at least the first steps toward such remilitarizaton-- within ten years.

What's unfortunate is that I also think we need Korea siding with us and Japan against China, should it come to a radical polarization of East Asia, but I don't know how likely that is. Korea's still making doe-eyes at the Middle Kingdom.

Now write me some emails and tell me I'm full of shit.

*Well, not really inexplicable. I use the word to express bemusement more than to express ignorance of causes.


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