Posts tagged ‘East Asia’

04/11/2012

Korea: Time to Close Military Bases

The U.S. has roughly 39 disclosed military bases in South Korea, 57 years after an armistice put an end to the Korean War (1950-53), and the question now is whether they serve any purpose, or has our ongoing American military presence actually become an obstacle to reunification, and a roadblock to demilitarization?

A U.S. presence in Korea followed a vacuum caused by the defeat of imperial Japan in WWII. After trade started with Korea in 1875, the Japanese decided to simply take resources by force in the 20th Century, and their abuse did not stop until 1945, when the U.S. occupied South Korea, and the Soviets entered North Korea.

While the U.S. and Soviets forced Japan to grant independence, neither of the wartime allies was particularly focused on the needs of the Koreans. As the American and Russian forces withdrew in 1948, they divided Korea into a North Korean People’s Republic, north of the 38th Parallel, and the Republic of South Korea, south of it.

Two years later, the North invaded the South in an effort to reunite Korea. The United Nations, with Russia absent from the vote, found a breach of the UN Charter, and authorized the use of collective force to repel the invasion, in what became the Korean War (1950-53). Mao’s China soon entered the conflict on the side of the North, causing a stalemate, and an ultimate ceasefire. A 2½-mile Demilitarized Zone has separated two Koreas ever since.

After both North and South Korea joined the UN in 1991, train travel between the two was attempted to ease tensions, but the labeling of the North as a terrorist state, and fear of conflict, has kept both sides on edge, and has caused occasional flare-ups.

From the perspective of the North, since the Americans still have 30,000 troops stationed at various military facilities in the South along with their weapons, they must maintain a large military to repel a possible attack.

So what would really happen if the U.S. unilaterally withdrew all forces? Hawks may in a knee jerk fashion predict an invasion by the North. What is much more likely is a demolition of the barrier between North and South, and the commencement of trade. The North would gladly take the benefits of trade from the Southern economy, one of the strongest in Asia.

While a total unilateral withdrawal is largely a pipe-dream given the dysfunctional American political system, since very few American politicians would have the courage to do something so bold, progress always begins with an idea, and the idea is to unilaterally close our bases in Korea, and withdraw from their soil. Such a move would ease tensions, lead to reciprocal demilitarization, and eventual reunification.

04/10/2012

Japan: Close All Military Bases

The U.S. still has at least 22 military facilities in Japan, 67 years after the end of World War II, a conflict that transformed the Japanese government from a militaristic chain of command into a liberal democracy, such that now they pose no threat whatsoever to the U.S. So why do we still have a military presence in Japan?

While Korea is in the neighborhood, where the U.S. military has an even greater presence, Japanese bases add little to their needs. China, also nearby, is really no threat to the U.S. Since Hong Kong and Taiwan are part of sovereign China, the U.S. could not act lawfully, even if unrest developed in those enclaves. In the 1960s, we listened in on the Soviets from undisclosed bases in Northern Japan, but the Cold War ended over 20 years ago, and Russia has been our ally ever since.

While reports show some U.S. forces are now being moved to Guam, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and the Philippines, the best place for them is back home in the U.S. We should work on withdrawing all of our forces from the following Japanese bases:

TOHOKO REGION (N Honshu)
Air Force: Misawa Air Base, Misawa-Aomori

KANTO REGION (SE Honshu, Tokyo)
Army: Camp Zama
Air Force: Yokota Air Base

SHIZUOKA PREFECTURE (SE Honshu)
Marines: Camp Fuji

KANAGAWA PREFECTURE (SE Honshu)
Navy: U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka
Naval Air Facility Atsugi

YAMAGUCHI PREFECTURE (SW Honshu)
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

KYUSHU ISLAND (Far SW)
Navy: U.S. Fleet Activites Sasebo

OKINAWA (Far S, Ryukru Islands,  Kyushu Region)
Army: Torii Station
Army: Fort Buckner
Marines: Camp Smedley Butler
Marines: Camp Courtney
Marines: Camp Foster
Marines: Camp Gonsalves
Marines: Camp Hansen
Marines: Camp Kinser
Marines: Camp Lester
Marines: Camp McTureous
Marines: Camp Schwab
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Naval Forces Japan, Okinawa
Air Force: Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

12/19/2011

North Korea: Kim Dead; Time to Reunify

The People’s Republic of North Korea fell silent today, because their leader, 69-year-old Kim Jong II, passed away, following 17 years in command. He had assumed power when his father Kim Sung died, after ruling for 46 years, from 1948 through 1994, during a term that included the Korean War (1950-53). With the passing of Kim II, the North now has a chance to move away from a family dynasty, reunite with the South, and formally end the Korean War, which only stopped in 1953, due to an armistice.

Over the past 136 years, Korea has gone through change. As a Chinese Province, trade treaties were forced upon them by Japan in 1875, before Tokyo invaded, in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), and simply seized the entire Korean Peninsula. When Russia tried to wrestle Korea away, Japan humiliated Moscow in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), and proceeded to industrialize the region, under the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty (1910).

In the last days of WWII in 1945, as U.S. troops were poised to enter South Korea, the Soviets quickly declared war on Japan, and occupied North Korea. Korea remained partitioned at the 38th Parallel in 1948, when the Soviet Army withdrew, giving rise to the North Korean People’s Rep., and the U.S. Army ended their occupation of the South, giving birth to the Rep. of South Korea.

Just two years later, the Korean War (1950-53) erupted, as troops from the North invaded the South, in what they believed was a mission to reunite their nation, artificially divided by the U.S. and Russia. The UN instead determined the conduct was a “breach of the peace,” and resolved to take collective military action.

UN forces, led by the U.S. Army, landed near Seoul, and drove a wedge through the North Korean supply lines, forcing them to withdraw from the South. As they were pushed back, nearly into China, Chinese volunteers entered the war in Nov. 1950 on the side of North, and drove the UN troops back down into the South, by March 1951. Shortly afterward, President Truman fired Gen. MacArthur for making insubordinate comments about the war. The Korean conflict then dragged on for two more years, until a ceasefire was signed in July 1953. Korea would remain divided, with a 2½-mile De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) between the two states.

While the Kim family firmly controlled the North for 63 years, dictators, propped up by the U.S., ruled the South, at least initially. Following the 1987 South Korean elections, the two states started talks as to re-unification. Progress slowed in 1988, when the North was labeled a terrorist state, for allegedly selling missiles to Iran, but despite this, and speculation the North was building a nuclear bomb, both Koreas joined to the UN in 1991.

In 2000, progress towards reunification advanced when the two Korean leaders shook hands, but it slowed again in 2002, after 911, when President George W. Bush labeled the North part of an Axis of Evil. With the start of Six-Nation Talks in 2003, hope re-emerged, as some travel between South and North was allowed, and passenger trains started crossing the border in 2007, but progress slowed again, when the train travel stopped in 2008.

Now with the death of Kim II, the UN is should be poised to bring about change, particularly since Ban Ki Moon, a South Korean, has been serving as Secretary-General since 2006. The UN has the right leader to dismantle the De-Militarized Zone, and to finally end the Korean War. President Obama could help by re-deploying to other locations, the 30,000 U.S. troops we no longer need in South Korea. The time is now to reunite the two Koreas.

05/05/2011

Thailand’s Claim to Ancient Cambodia

Fighting broke out again last month along the frontier between Thailand (Siam) and Cambodia, over which country has the right to control certain ancient sites along their mutual border

The ancient areas were historically within the Kingdom of Siam. When Colonial France arrived, they took Cambodia (1863), and made it part of French-Indochina. As the French moved further inland, they pressured Siam to give up what is now western Cambodia, under the Franco-Thai Treaty (1904). A Boundary Commission set the border between Siam and Indochina (1904-07), and a Frenchman prepared a map that put the ancient sites in Cambodia, which they agreed to under a treaty protocol (1907). Cambodia thereafter owned the temples, pyramids and stone figures at Angkor Wat, the Preah Vihear Temple, and other sites.

When France surrendered in WWII (1940), Siam (now Thailand) invaded Cambodia in the Franco-Thai War (1940-41), and seized the ancient lands, but they had to give them back five years later, as France threatened to veto Thailand’s UN membership (1946).

After France surrendered in Vietnam (1954), they withdrew from Indochina, and Cambodia became independent. Thailand filled the void by sending troops to seize the ancient sites (1954), causing Cambodia to sue in the International Court of Justice (1959).

In Cambodia v Thailand (1962), the issue was whether the Preah Vihear Temple was inside of Thailand or Cambodia. Even though the French border map contained mistakes, and the Preah Vihear Temple should have been located on the Thai side of the border, the court found Thailand accepted the old map 50 years earlier, and ruled they were now barred from arguing otherwise.

International law has ruled upon the border, and even though Siam had the famous temples before the colonial French arrived, the world has lived by an international rule-of-law since WWII, and Thailand must now make every effort to keep the peace with Cambodia, by staying on their own side of the fence.

04/06/2011

China Will Not Apply Western Law

The news reported yet another crackdown against dissidents and rights advocates in China. While we may and should criticize human rights abuses, we also need to understand why the Chinese distrust of the western approach to law.

China never set out to colonize the world. They instead built a Great Wall to keep people out. From the arrival of the colonial Portuguese (1517) through the 20th Century, western European powers imposed their will on China. At the point of a gun, Britain seized Hong Kong (1842), and later the Kowloon Peninsula. They forced China to surrender their seaports to nine western states, under unfair treaties (1860). China was required, for example, to give Britain a lease to Hong Kong, rent free, for 99 years (1898). The west ultimately controlled 60 Chinese ports.

The unfair treaties led to anti-Western sentiments and the Boxer Rebellion (1898-00). Troops from England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Russia and the U.S. were sent to suppress it. Following WWII, Mao Tse Tung’s troops won the Chinese Civil War (1949) and ushered in a People’s Republic, which ousted the Europeans from the mainland, for the first time in 432 years.

As the American War in Vietnam (1965-73) escalated, Mao feared the infiltrating power of the U.S. and started a Cultural Revolution to purge China of all western influence (1966-68). A Red Guard of 22 million teens moved all persons educated in the West to the rice fields. They carried Mao’s little Red Book and quoted his works, as they closed schools and universities, to restructure the curriculums. They attacked those who resisted, such as journalists and intellectuals. Some were forced to wear dunce caps, and were given manual work to get their minds right.

When Mao died, his anti-western policies were reversed (1976) and the Gang of Four (including Mao’s wife) were put on trial for Cultural Revolution excesses (1978). President Carter established diplomatic ties, ending decades of strained relations (1979). China reopened their law schools and resumed trade with the west, as they moved from a controlled to a market economy (1979). The law schools started graduating attorneys again in 1983, following a 17-year hiatus. President Reagan traveled to China and signed trade deals, which allowed U.S. businesses to conduct trade (1984).

I personally witnessed the Chinese legal system that year. I toured a prison in Beijing in 1984, which housed 1,900 prisoners, of whom 50 were counter-revolutionaries. As I walked through the facility, the inmates were making bicycles. They could not look at me. Their inability to even glance away, for just a split second, was chilling. I had been in U.S. jailhouses, as a lawyer, but the strict atmosphere in this prison, made a lasting impression.

I also visited the People’s Court in Shanghai, where I noticed no trials in progress, even though the city had millions of residents. I asked how many lawyers there were in Shanghai and was told there were only 850. Individual rights were at great risk in China, given the shortage of lawyers, caused by the Cultural Revolution.

While China subsequently increased their number of attorneys, they still give the state more respect than the individual. When students rallied for democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and demanded a free press in 1989, the army fired upon them.

While China today is now willing to conduct trade with the west, they still distrust the Anglo-American western legal system, which was so unfair to them for hundreds of years during the colonial era. This is why it is difficult to convince China to accept our approach to law. The Chinese politely reject westerners who lecture them regarding law, particularly when the preachers are from one of the countries that historically abused their rights.

03/16/2011

Japan: A Power Without Nuclear Power?

Since the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, their nuclear power plants are at risk of a meltdown. The question now is whether Japan will continue nuclear power or seek alternatives.

Japan has an industrial economy based on the consumption of energy. Their need for coal explains why they seized some of Korea from China (1895), part of Manchuria from Russia (1905), the remainder of Korea (1910), and the rest of Manchuria (1931).

Japan also has a need for oil. When Japan annexed East China (1941), President Franklin Roosevelt subjected them to a complete oil embargo (July 1941). The Japanese interpreted it as a declaration of war, since 100% of their oil was imported. Japan felt their only option was to seize the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), controlled by the Netherlands. Once the Dutch surrendered to Germany, Japan made plans to take the Dutch oil. Their only obstacle was the U.S., which explains why they attacked the U.S. Navy in the Philippines and at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. As American forces closed in on Japan in WWII, incendiary devices were dropped on 66 cities, but it was not until atomic bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the war ended.

In the postwar, without natural sources of coal or oil, Japan turned to nuclear energy. This was ironic since their first exposure to the unleashing of atoms was so destructive. Japan rebuilt their economy and by 1968 emerged as the second largest auto producer. It was not until this year that China replaced them as the second largest global economy. Even so, Japan remains a major trading partner and what happens to them may affect us all.

It appears Japan will probably return to nuclear energy, since they have no domestic oil or coal. On the other hand, this is the type of crisis that may finally push scientists into developing a currently unknown energy alternative.