As Japanese nationalism is fueled by friction with neighbors over territories and World War II legacy issues, hostile demonstrations against the country’s Korean residents are gathering steam, raising concerns among political leaders and setting off soul-searching among Japan’s largely homogeneous population. While attendance at the rallies is small and such extreme actions are far from entering the mainstream of Japanese politics, the demonstrations of nationalist activists using hate speech and intimidation have grown in size and frequency in recent months. Anti-Korea sentiment in Japan grew right after the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Korea went to the semi-finals, while Japan remained in quarter-finals. Anti-Korea sentiment also grew in March 2009, when Kim Yuna won against Asada Mao. This kind of supports the idea that anti-Korean sentiment in Japan is caused from a sense of inferiority.
The U.N. Committee against Torture issued a statement pointing out that Japan’s criminal justice system should do away with its traditionally strong reliance on confessions by suspects, and demanded it implement safeguards such as electronic recordings of the entire interrogation process to prevent wrongful convictions. That’s a welcome statement from the UN’s Committee against Torture (CAT), I wonder if Japan will take it to heart. According to reports on Twitter and in Wednesday’s Tokyo Shimbun, Japan’s representative at the CAT meeting, Hideaki Ueda, made another statement which raised eyebrows at the forum. When the other international representatives present chuckled in response to a gaffe made by Ueda, he’s said to have quickly shot back with a not so diplomatic “SHUT UP” uttered in perfectly clear English and chided the group for laughing. When state officials from anywhere behave like that with the eyes of the world on them, I shudder to think what goes in their corner of the globe when no one is looking. When state officials from anywhere behave so badly with the eyes of the world on them, I shudder to think what goes in their corner of the globe when no one is looking.
As international leaders fear what Pyongyang may do beyond its borders, perhaps the biggest issue is what happens within. North Korea operates a growing network of prison camps containing up to 200,000 prisoners in conditions likened by survivors to Nazi concentration camps. This atrocity gains little international attention, though the United Nations Human Rights Council is considering a formal inquiry for possible crimes against humanity. Information about the camps is limited to reports from the few successful escapees, notably Shin Dong-hyuk, who told 60 Minutes about spending 23 years behind the wire. North Korea’s prison camps are a closed-off world of death, torture and forced labour where babies are born slaves, according to two survivors who liken the horrors of the camps to a Holocaust in progress.
The UN urged Japan to admit responsibility for forcing women into sexual slavery during World War II and prosecute any surviving officers who were involved in their trafficking. The UN Committee Against Torture said the Japanese government should refute attempts to deny the facts by the government authorities and public figures and to re-traumatize the victims through such repeated denials. Instead, it should inform the young generation in school textbooks of Japanese wartime atrocities so that they are never repeated. The recommendations appear especially aimed at Mayor Hashimoto, who denies that Japan forced women into prostitution for the Imperial Army. Japan argued at the time that the mobilization of sex slaves occurred during World War II 70 years ago and does not fall under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was only enacted in 1987. The UN rejected the argument.
In the wake of the recent repatriation of a group of young North Korean defectors from Laos, South Korean diplomats in overseas missions plan to hold a meeting to discuss follow-up measures and ways to better deal with the sensitive issue. The nine North Koreans, aged between 15 and 23, fled their country in 2011. They hid in China before moving to Laos in hopes of settling in South Korea, but they were rounded up there by authorities on May 10. South Korea had appealed to both Laos and China to send them to Seoul, but the plea was rejected. They were deported to China on May 27, and the following day flown home. The U.N. human-rights chief criticized Laos and China on Friday for returning nine young defectors – all reportedly orphans – to North Korea, where they could face harsh treatment. Under North Korean law, defectors face a minimum of five years of hard labor and as much as life in prison or the death penalty in cases deemed particularly serious. Activists say they could face torture.
Hatoyama Yukio, foremer Prime Minister of Japan, denounced the Abe administration. I have complained here before about the apathy and inaction of the Japanese people in the face of their leaders’ refusal to apologize to the surviving victims of sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. Since that time, Japan has changed its leaders, and they remain determined to take action. Unfortunately, such action will lead them even further into the realm of public ignominy. The Murayama Statement, issued by Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on 15 August 1995, was a clear apology to the victims of Japanese aggression in the war. However, earlier this year Abe began discussing a possible revision of the statement, and in late April he argued that what is labelled ‘aggression’ may be viewed differently depending on what side you are on. Mr. Abe must realize that he needs to make enormous efforts to put to rest the suspicions that his words have stirred not only among the victims of Japan’s 20th-century aggression in Asia, but also in the capital of its most important ally.
North Korea is often described as having the fourth largest military on the planet. That’s quite an accomplishment for a country of 24 million but the numbers are achieved at the expense of quality and sustainability. The 950,000 personnel in the active military are four percent of the population. When you include reservists who can be called to service in wartime, over 25 percent of the population gets involved. That means the economy, as shabby as it is, pretty much shuts down until the war is over. Fortunately, that won’t take long. Since North Korea has drawn on its war reserves of food and fuel over the last decade (because of bad harvests and little cash to buy oil), it’s likely that North Korea would be out of fuel for military operations after about a month and food shortages for the entire population would quickly become catastrophic. That’s because the military takes over much of the vehicle transport in wartime and enemy air attacks would cripple the railroads. Without transportation, food cannot be moved to areas that don’t produce much of it. North Korea are in a very difficult situation domestically because of the growing famine. They have a real shortage of food.
Experts commissioned by the operator of a Japanese nuclear plant that faces possible closure because of a suspected active seismic fault say a decision should wait, citing insufficient data. Operator Japan Atomic Power Co. disputes that view. The decision is being closely watched as the pro-nuclear government moves to restart plants suspended since the Fukushima nuclear crisis. The plant’s owners plan to appeal the regulators’ decision. Still, the development comes as a number of other plants are awaiting determination whether their sites contain active faults. The decision could also be viewed as a setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which took office in December. Mr. Abe’s administration effectively wants to reverse a decision to eventually phase out nuclear power, a move taken by the previous government that was in office during the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident. For the company, which is jointly owned by Japan’s major utilities, the closure of the Tsuruga plant would eliminate its only source of revenue and pose large-scale costs for a permanent decommissioning of the facility.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe likened the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which houses the remains of Japan’s war dead including convicted World War II criminals, with the Arlington National Cemetery in the US. 14 convicted World War II criminals are enshrined in Yasukuni. Suppose the Germans had decided to enshrine Nazi war criminals at an altar in the middle of their capital and the chancellor, Cabinet and lawmakers paid homage there every year. The EU would not exist, and Germany would have faced global condemnation and isolation. Japan’s war criminals are no different than Nazi war criminals. Comparing Yasukuni with the Arlington National Cemetery is simply absurd. Japanese politicians are trying to win votes for parliamentary elections in July by appealing to populist, rightwing sentiment with their attempts to whitewash the unimaginable atrocities and slaughter of tens of millions of people in neighboring countries committed by Japanese troops during World War II. Nobody dares to counter that dangerous lurch to the right, in which Abe is a leading figure. That is why the country cannot be allowed to revise its pacifist constitution and arm itself again.
Is China seeking regime-change in North Korea?
The sudden reduction in aggressive rhetoric and actions by North Korea has led to suggestions that Pyongyang has realized it has pushed its only ally in the region to the brink of severing its friendship. Intelligence sources have stated that Beijing has a contingency plan in place for when Kim Jong-un’s control over the country crumbles. The reports confirm that China is indeed quietly encouraging regime change and is grooming Kim’s brother, Kim Jong-nam to take over his role. The reports suggest that after Kim Jong-nam is installed in Pyongyang, his brother will be permitted to go into exile, probably in China. China may be dreaming of appointing Kim Jong-nam as the new king. The atmosphere between the two nations is changing. China may have decided that it is time for a regime-change in the North, they will not permit the collapse of the country because they do not want chaos on their own borders.