Category Archives: Japan

Chinese cities surrounded by US warships, fighter jets


Imperialism seeks recolonization of China

By William West
January 12, 2012

For the past year the Obama administration has been touting the policy of the “Asian pivot,” a gradual redistribution of U.S. resources into southeast Asia. Pres. Barack Obama’s November trip through Asia was promoted as a diplomatic tour designed to reinforce established alliances and forge new allies in the region. That same month, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a report saying that the People’s Republic of China would have the world’s largest economy by 2016, overtaking the United States. The gradual refocusing of U.S. foreign policy towards Asia is meant to stop the OECD’s prediction from coming true.

Obama’s tour began in Myanmar, where he was the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country. The visit coincided with the lifting of sanctions against Myanmar. Myanmar and several of the nations on the tour, such as Cambodia, have long been allies of China and the U.S. appears to be trying to forge alliances with them as a way of curbing Chinese influence in the region.

But other recent actions by the U.S. in Asia have not had nearly so “diplomatic” a flavor. In August, the U.S. launched a “missile shield” in Japan, ostensibly to knock away debris from a North Korean satellite. But experts point out that the trajectory of the “shield rockets” would not intercept falling debris, but could be used against China and North Korea.

In December, the Pentagon announced that there would be an increase in U.S. troops, ships and aircraft in the Philippines, a U.S. client state that has recently been in territorial disputes with China over the Spratly Islands. Chinese leaders have called the expansion of U.S. forces in the Philippines a threat to their national security, with Chinese Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping going so far as to urge the country’s military to “prepare for struggle” without naming the enemy.

Laughably, the United States’ response to China is that the military presence in the Philippines is “humanitarian” in nature, and that the U.S only intends to help the Philippines recover from Typhoon Bopha. How aircraft carriers are supposed to help the Filipino people rebuild is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, the government of the Philippines has continued its policy of torturing and disappearing dissenters while enjoying $700 million in “aid” from Washington, just since Obama took office.

Last summer, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the U.S, which already has 50 percent of its Navy in the Asia-Pacific region, will have 60 percent of its warships—the majority of the largest navy in the world—in Asian waters by 2020. This comes as the U.S. is planning the construction of a large naval base on the South Korean island of Jeju, despite the fact that 94 percent of the residents of the island’s largest village voted against the building of the naval base.

Still, Panetta thoroughly refuted any notion that the buildup of the U.S. war machine in Asia should be any cause of alarm for the Chinese. “Some view the increased emphasis by the United States on the Asia-Pacific region as some kind of challenge to China. I reject that view entirely,” Panetta said. “Our effort to renew and intensify our involvement in Asia is fully compatible … with the development and growth of China. Indeed, increased US involvement in this region will benefit China as it advances our shared security and prosperity for the future.”

But in November, Panetta announced that F-22 and F-35 fighter planes would be in Japan by 2017. This means that China’s major cities would be within striking distance of the world’s most advanced warplanes by the time it becomes the world’s largest economy.

Many in the U.S. government allege that it is nonsensical to claim that the U.S would want to ever wage war against China, as the Communist Party of China has decided to provisionally open the country’s markets up to foreign finance capital, and that capitalists in the U.S have much to gain from China’s market. But it must be remembered that China’s ruling Communist Party, upon coming to power under the leadership of Mao Zedong, ended decades of colonial exploitation of the Chinese people. The CPC still dictates the terms under which foreign companies can enter into the Chinese market. Even this is unacceptable to U.S. imperialism. They would like to overthrow the CPC and see the installation of a regime fully compliant to the whims of imperialism.

In addition, the U.S, as the current master of the capitalist-world, cannot allow a foreign market to overtake it in profitability, as the Chinese market currently seems capable of doing. It must thus seek to break up that market into more easily controlled fiefdoms. U.S. imperialism aspires to the ultimate break-up of the People’s Republic of China, and the recolonization of the Chinese people.



China ready for worst-case Diaoyu scenario


January 11, 2012

Chinese demonstrators march on the Japanese embassy in Beijing, declaring the Diaoyu Islands belonging to China.

Chinese demonstrators march on the Japanese embassy in Beijing, declaring the Diaoyu Islands belonging to China.

According to Japanese media, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have scrambled fighter jets against China’s military aircraft, including fighter jets, which flew to the Diaoyu Islands. It was the first time that military aircraft from both China and Japan confronted each other over the Diaoyu Islands. All of East Asia is now facing intense uncertainty.

Thanks to Japan’s arrogance toward China, the Diaoyu Islands dispute has come to this point. Japanese politicians, including Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara and former prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, are to blame.

China and Japan may stand at a turning point that leads to confrontation. The resentment toward each other has come to the highest level since World War II. The Sino-Japanese relationship is looking dim.

Japan has mistakenly estimated China’s strategic stance toward constant external provocations. A year ago, Japanese politicians wouldn’t have thought that China would send fighter jets.

Some Japanese believed China had to be restrained at any costs to ensure a peaceful period of strategic opportunities. But the fighter jets yesterday proved them wrong.

How far the Diaoyu crisis goes depends on whether Japan is just putting on a show by intercepting China’s military aircraft or it really wants to confront China. If it chooses the latter, then it is choosing a military clash.

Chinese society is tired of simple verbal protests toward Japan. The Chinese people hope the country will carry out actions against Japan’s provocations. China’s sending fighter jets to the islands reflects Chinese public opinion.

A military clash is more likely. We shouldn’t have the illusion that Japan will be deterred by our firm stance. We need to prepare for the worst.

China and Japan are likely to become long-term rivals or even enemies. Japan has become the vanguard of the US’ strategy which aims to contain China.

Chinese society should reach consensus on a number of issues. First, China should firmly respond to any Japanese provocation. It won’t be the initiator of the war, but it shouldn’t be hesitant to take military revenge. Meanwhile, it will not take the lead in escalating the war, nor will it be afraid of any escalation. Last, but not least, China’s strategic aim is to make Japan accept China’s current position on the Diaoyu Islands, rather than extend the crisis to disputes over historical issues.

China should have the courage to face military confrontations with any rival when provoked. At the same time, we should remain cool-headed.

China and Japan have been cooperating in trade and other economic fields. We should try not to let political confrontations affect business. This will minimize China’s losses, which conforms to China’s overall interest and would help the nation gain support from the public in any confrontation.

The Diaoyu crisis is a test of China’s unity in the Internet era. China’s strength has enabled it to take countermeasures against Japan and face any uncertainty. This requires society to remain united.


The Diaoyu islands belong to China


The following statement below was originally published by Red Youth, the youth organization of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), and issued by the International Department of Red Youth in connection with the recent demonstrations in China; not the demo’s promoted in Western media concerning “censorship” [censorship of anti-socialist propaganda] – BUT the really massive, militant and anti-imperialist rallies against at Japanese and US imperialism!

January 9, 2013

This past year China has seen huge demonstrations against the increasingly aggressive and bellicose behaviour of Japanese imperialism. These protests have gripped every region and major city across the country, with protestors shouting “Down with Japanese imperialism!” and “1.3 billion Chinese can smash little Japan!” At a recent protest, Chinese students surrounded the US ambassador’s motorcade in Beijing, shouting at him to answer for his country’s support for Japan.

People from all sections of Chinese society, from middle-school students to the elderly, have participated in the protests holding placards denouncing imperialism, waving red banners and the flag of the People’s Republic of China – and many proudly raising portraits of Chairman Mao.

One of the largest days of protest coincided with the 80th anniversary of the Mukden incident, which marked the beginning of Japan’s invasion of China. Many Chinese are angry that Japan still refuses to acknowledge or apologise for its slaughter of many millions of Chinese. This unrepentant attitude towards its imperial past, as well as its ongoing colonial delusions, disgusts the people of China, who know the price they paid for their freedom from colonialism.

The background to these protests begins in 1895, when Japan forced China to relinquish control over many of its island territories – the Taiwan and the Diaoyu islands to name just two. This was only three years before Britain was able to occupy all of Hong Kong. In this era, China was characterised as ‘the weak man of Asia’, and seen as an easy target by both European and Japanese imperialists. Many European countries controlled swathes of China and their colonial puppets could operate outside of Chinese law.

Even when the Chinese communist party was founded in 1921, European empires dominated Shanghai and the French colonial police attempted to break up the first congress of the CPC. The era of colonial subjugation in China didn’t truly end until the victory of the communist forces in 1949, when Jiang Jieshi’s (Chiang Kai-shek’s) surrogate regime (which was entirely dependent on US capital and weapons) was finally defeated by the People’s Liberation Army.

At the Potsdam Conference of 1945, the USA promised freedom to Japan’s colonial subjects, but, as we know from the case of Korea, the people of Japan’s former colonies in fact just swapped one master for another.

These recent China protests have also highlighted the way the alliance between Japanese and US imperialism. The USA stands with Japan against China and other nations in Asia, including the DPRK. The USA’s backing of Japan is important in its so-called ‘Asia pivot’ of international relations, as it seeks to encircle, contain and weaken an ever-stronger and more confident China. This strategy is reminiscent of the US approach in the late 1940s, when President Harry Truman talked about “containment” of communism. It is clear that the US is as determined as ever to undermine socialism in Asia.

The USA’s ‘pivot towards Asia’ shows that imperialism is preparing military aggression in Asia. The governments of Japan and Taiwan are upgrading and expanding their militaries with huge US help, and large numbers of US troops and bases are being deployed to countries such as Australia in a definite trend towards increased militarisation of the region.

The new right-wing Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said there would be no negotiation or compromise by Japan over the disputed islands and that he is prepared to send more ‘permanent staff’ to the islands. At the same time, the Japanese right wing are calling for a scrapping of a clause in the Japanese constitution which says Japan’s military can only be used in self-defence.

On 6 January this year, Japan’s prime minister ordered the military to consider deploying fighter jets to the Diaoyu islands to prevent Chinese planes flying through the island’s airspace. Meanwhile, as this article is being written, and in another act of unprovoked and unjustified aggression, Japan has boarded Chinese ships near the islands.

Progressive people everywhere must oppose the designs of Japanese and US imperialism in China and throughout Asia.

Down with Japanese imperialism! Down with US imperialism! Hands off China!

For more information on this dispute and Chinese socialism, visit:


BREAKING: North Korea Launches Satellite Missile


UPDATE: N.Korean satellite successfully launches into space

The following article below was originally published by NK News

BREAKING: North Korea Launches Rocket

December 12, 2012

North Korea launched its rocket just before 10am this morning from its Sohae Satellite Launching Station on the West coast of the Korean peninsula, and has claimed to have successfully put its satellite in orbit . A report from North Korean state moutpiece the KCNA said:

The launching of the satellite ‘Gwangmyongsong-3′ using the “Unha-3″ rocket was a success, and the satellite has entered into its planned orbit.

According to some, it is too soon to feasibly confirm if the satellite launch has been a success, but the KCNA has announced that there will be a special broadcast on state television in the next five minutes.

South Korean government spokesman Kim Min-seok told South Korean media gathered for a press conference at the Ministry of Defence in Seoul:

At 0951 this morning, the [North Korean] rocket was launched from the Tongch’ang-dong Space Launch Center. The rocket was tracked until 0958, when the object passed over the West of Okinawa

Kim also told reporters that there were indications of the launch since yesterday, but this information was not revealed to the public. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has reportedly called an immediate national security meeting and Japan has requested that the UN Security Council convene today [Wednesday] and Japanese Prime Minister Noda has called a national security meeting for 1055 Tokyo time.

Speaking to CNN, a senior US official said that they were “surprised” by the launch and that it was “not expected”.

A Japanese government spokesperson also said they estimate rocket debris to have  fallen in Korean coastal waters at 0958KST, and that the first stage of the rocket is likely to drop in the Pacific Ocean, 300km to the East of the Philippines.

Most analysts had predicted the rocket would not be fired until after December 21st. Only yesterday, South Korean media reported that the rocket had been dismantled, and a North Korean press release announced that they had extended the launch window to December 29th.

Speaking from Seoul, John Swenson-Wright, Senior lecturer in East Asian International Relations at the University of Cambridge told NK News “It’s difficult to determine, at this point, whether the launch constitutes a success, but the range of the missile – with reports indicating that it has overflown Okinawa and landed well east of the Philippines may indicate that Pyongyang has succeeded in its ability to test a long-range rocket.”

“Japan’s decision not to intercept the missile in flight was doubtless a wise-one and will not have raised questions about the reliabilty of its missile defence capabilities in the first instance.”

“The decision by Japan and the ROK leaderships to convene two separate national security meetings is a measure of the gravity of the situation. It is likely that this will be seen as a success on the part of the North Korean leadership, which has again demonstrated its independence and ability to challenge and surprise the international community” said Swenson-Wright, who is also a Senior Consulting Fellow at Chatham House.

Nicholas Hamisevicz, Director of Research and Academic Affairs at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington D.C. said “The launch definitely indicates that Pyongyang has calculated that the immediate benefits from a launch outweigh the perceived gains they may receive in 2013.”

Markets have remained stable in response to the news so far, with the Japanese Nikkei up 5%.

More details to follow on NK News. Follow us on Twitter @nknewsorg for more breaking news updates

U.S. imperialism steps up war plans against China


The following article below was originally published by Lalkar, journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

Having previously announced a strategic “pivot to Asia”, US imperialism has, over recent months, been engaged in a whole series of military and diplomatic activities, whose common aim is to threaten, encircle and weaken the People’s Republic of China, ultimately preparing for a devastating war against the world’s most populous nation and second largest economy, a course that US imperialism sees as its only way out from its inexorable and deepening crisis.

New missile defence plans

On 23 August, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the US was planning a major escalation of its “missile defence” programme, ostensibly targeted at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), but in reality leaving China more vulnerable to US nuclear threats.

Adam Entous and Julian E Barnes put matters perfectly succinctly in the opening lines of their article: “The US is planning a major expansion of missile defences in Asia, a move American officials say is designed to contain threats from North Korea, but one that could also be used to counter China’s military.”

Stating that, “the planned build-up is part of a defensive array that could cover large swaths of Asia, with a new radar in southern Japan and possibly another in Southeast Asia tied to missile-defence ships and land-based interceptors”, the WSJ went on to note that:

It is part of the Obama administration’s new defence strategy to shift resources to an Asian-Pacific region critical to the US economy after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The expansion comes at a time when the US and its allies in the region voice growing alarm about a North Korean missile threat. They are also increasingly worried about China’s aggressive stance in disputed waters such as the South China Sea

US defence planners are particularly concerned about China’s development of anti-ship ballistic missiles that could threaten the Navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers, critical to the US projection of power in Asia.

“‘The focus of our rhetoric is North Korea,’ said Steven Hildreth, a missile defence expert with the Congressional Research Service, an advisory arm of Congress. ‘The reality is that we’re also looking longer term at the elephant in the room, which is China’.”

According to the journal, the centrepiece of the new programme would be the deployment of a powerful early-warning radar, known as an X-Band, on a southern Japanese island. The Pentagon is currently discussing that prospect with Japan, one of Washington’s closest allies, which is also embroiled in its own disputes with China over territorial and other issues. According to US officials, the radar could be installed within months of Japan’s agreement and would supplement an X-Band the US placed in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan in 2006.

Officials with the US military’s Pacific Command and Missile Defence Agency have also been evaluating sites in Southeast Asia for a third X-Band radar. According to the WSJ, “this would create an arc that would allow the US and its regional allies to more accurately track any ballistic missiles launched from North Korea, as well as from parts of China.”

In plain words, it would be a further and major step to a military encirclement of China. So far, the most likely site for any third X-Band is the Philippines, one of the south east Asian countries that has, with US instigation and encouragement, taken an extremely aggressive stance towards China over recent months.

Pentagon press secretary George Little claims that: “North Korea is the immediate threat that is driving our missile defence decision making.” But the WSJ report, clearly based on the intimate ties between this right wing newspaper and the US security and defence establishment, continues:

The Pentagon is particularly concerned about the growing imbalance of power across the Taiwan Strait. China has been developing advanced ballistic missiles and anti-ship ballistic missiles that could target US naval forces in the region.

China has between 1,000 and 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, and has been developing longer range cruise and ballistic missiles, including one designed to hit a moving ship more than 930 miles away, says the Pentagon’s latest annual report on China’s military.

The proposed X-Band arc would allow the US to not only cover all of North Korea, but to peer deeper into China, say current and former U.S. officials.

“‘Physics is physics’, a senior US official said. ‘You’re either blocking North Korea and China or you’re not blocking either of them.’”

The WSJ continued: “US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said during a visit Wednesday to the USS John C. Stennis warship in Washington state that the US would ‘focus and project our force into the Pacific’

In addition to the new X-Band site in southern Japan, the US plans to increase the number of marines in Okinawa in the near term before relocating them to Guam. As the marines are pulled out of Afghanistan, going from 21,000 to less than 7,000, the number of forces on Okinawa will rise, from about 15,000 to 19,000, officials said.”

The report makes clear that a major part of the US strategy is to protect the separatist authorities on the Chinese island province of Taiwan, thereby preventing the Chinese people from realising their cause of national reunification and preserving a pro-imperialist base in the region: “Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia non-proliferation programme at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, said any missile defence deployments in the Asian theatre will alarm the Chinese, particularly if they believe the systems are designed to cover Taiwan. ‘If you’re putting one in southern Japan and one in the Philippines, you’re sort of bracketing Taiwan,’ Mr. Lewis said. ‘So it does look like you’re making sure that you can put a missile defence cap over the Taiwanese.”

Mr. Hildreth of the Congressional Research Service said the US was ‘laying the foundations’ for a region-wide missile defence system that would combine US ballistic missile defences with those of regional powers, particularly Japan, South Korea and Australia.” (‘US plans new Asia missile defences’, 23 August 2012)

Think tank prepares war blueprint

The news of the enhanced US missile defence programme followed just weeks after a major think tank report outlined US imperialism’s strategic plans for enhanced military confrontation with China.

A paper by the Washington think tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), entitled ‘US Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment’, effectively amounts to a blueprint for the Obama administration’s military preparations for conflict with China.

Although the CSIS is officially a non-government body, its assessment was commissioned by the US Defence Department, as required by the 2012 National Defence Authorisation Act, giving its findings and proposals at least semi-official status.

The paper is based, inter alia, on extensive discussions with top US military personnel throughout the Pentagon’s Pacific Command. It was delivered to the Pentagon on 27 June, but gained media exposure only after its principal authors – David Berteau and Michael Green – testified before the US House Armed Services Committee on 1 August.

The CSIS asserts that the underlying US geostrategic objective in the Asia-Pacific region has been to prevent “the rise of any hegemonic state from within the region that could threaten US interests by seeking to obstruct American access or dominate the maritime domain. From that perspective, the most significant problem for the United States in Asia today is China’s rising power, influence, and expectations of regional pre-eminence”. What this means in reality is that US imperialist domination must continue and no power must be allowed to challenge it.

The document is clear that military strategy is bound up with economic needs. It identifies “trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the US-[south] Korea Free Trade Agreement” as crucial to “a sustainable trans-Pacific trade architecture that sustains US access and influence in the region”. Whilst claiming that the US “must integrate all of these instruments of national power and not rely excessively on US military capabilities,” the reality is that it is precisely the USA’s stark economic decline, and the rise of China, that is driving the use of brute military power to maintain imperialist dominance in Asia-Pacific, just as in the Middle East.

The report’s authors reject any suggestion of a power-sharing arrangement with China, or, as described to the armed services committee, “a bipolar condominium that acknowledges Beijing’s core interests and implicitly divides the region”, which some US commentators have advanced as the only means of preventing a major war sooner or later. And the report rejects any pull back by the US from Asia.

Having ruled out peaceful alternatives, the CSIS paper sets out a military strategy. The authors are too clever to openly advocate war with China, declaring, with weasel-like caveats, that “the consequences of conflict with that nation are almost unthinkable and should be avoided to the greatest extent possible, consistent with US interests”.

But they specifically do not exclude the possibility of conflict in the event that US interests are at stake, adding that the ability to “maintain a favourable peace” depends on the perception that the US can prevail in the event of conflict.

US force posture must demonstrate a readiness and capacity to fight and win, even under more challenging circumstances associated with A2AD [anti-access/area denial] and other threats to US military operations in the Western Pacific,” the report states.

Just as Hitler did before them, the US imperialists, whilst mouthing sanctimonious words of peace, are actively preparing for a devastating world war, this time taking China as their main enemy.

The CSIS report approves of the repositioning and strengthening of US military forces in the Western Pacific, a process that has accelerated under the Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia. Already this has meant consolidating US bases, troops and military assets in Japan and south Korea; building up US forces on Guam and the Northern Mariana islands, strategically located in the Western Pacific; stationing littoral combat ships in Singapore – relatively small, fast, flexible warships capable of intelligence gathering, special operations and landing troops with armoured vehicles; and making greater use of Australian naval and air bases and stationing 2,500 Marines in the northern city of Darwin. In addition, the paper confirms that the US has held discussions with Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam over possible access to bases and joint training.

The report also reviews US efforts to strengthen military ties throughout Asia-Pacific, from India to New Zealand. Significantly, in ranking military contingencies from low to high intensity, it identifies Australia, Japan and South Korea as critical allies “at the higher spectrum of intensity” – in other words, outright military conflict with China – “with other allies and partners at the lower spectrum of intensity”.

While broadly dealing with all contingencies, the CSIS assessment is mainly focussed on “high intensity”. Its recommendations involve the further development of military agreements with South Korea, Japan and Australia, and also between these allies.

The CSIS document couches its statements as recommendations and it considers all scenarios, including maintaining the status quo and drawing back US forces from the Asia Pacific region. However, it rejects both of these options. Rather, it details a substantial list of steps that could be taken to markedly strengthen the US military throughout the region.

As well as basing a US nuclear aircraft carrier in Western Australia, they include: doubling the number of nuclear attack submarines based at Guam; deploying littoral combat ships to south Korea; doubling the size of amphibious forces in Hawaii; permanently basing a bomber squadron on Guam; boosting manned and unmanned surveillance assets in Australia or Guam; upgrading anti-missile defences in Japan, south Korea and Guam; and strengthening US ground forces. While recommending consideration of all these options, the CSIS specifically calls for more attack submarines to be stationed at Guam, within easy striking distance of vital Chinese shipping routes as well as the country’s key naval bases.

The CSIS assessment points to potential flashpoints, from the Korean peninsula and the Taiwan Straits to the South China Sea and the disputed border between India and China. It clearly represents widespread thinking within the Obama administration, as well as top US military and intelligence circles, which are recklessly preparing and planning for a war against China.

South China Sea – an American lake?

Besides the Korean peninsula and the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea, where a number of countries have territorial disputes with China, constitutes an increasingly important front in the US war plan against the People’s Republic.

At an ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) summit in 2010, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated for the first time that the US had “a national interest” in ensuring “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. She also offered to “mediate” in the territorial disputes, thereby effectively undermining a decade of Chinese diplomacy aimed at resolving the outstanding issues peacefully and bilaterally with its neighbours without outside interference.

Under the spurious signboard of “freedom of navigation” (which nobody except the US is threatening), the US is seeking to reassert its naval dominance over strategic waters close to the Chinese mainland and, in doing so, is encouraging countries like the Philippines and Vietnam to more aggressively press their territorial claims against China.

Clinton has hinted on several occasions that the US would come to the aid of the Philippines under their Mutual Defence Treaty in the event of conflict with China.

And the Obama administration has been actively strengthening the Philippines armed forces. In a recent confrontation with China over the disputed Scarborough Shoal (known in China as Huangyan Island), the vessel first deployed to the area was a former US coastguard cutter that had been supplied to the Philippines last year. Another is due to be provided soon, along with more sophisticated warplanes and other military hardware.

Clinton made clear Washington’s support for the former American colony, and present-day neo-colony, when she visited Manila last November. Amid rising tensions with China, she reaffirmed the 1951 US-Philippines mutual defence treaty, declaring that “the United States will always be in the corner of the Philippines”. Clinton also pointedly referred to the South China Sea as the “the West Philippines Sea”, a new name recently minted by chauvinists in Manila.

Washington is also in discussions with Manila over an agreement to access Philippine military bases. This will be along the lines of the agreement announced last November in Canberra that stations marines in Darwin and expands the US use of Australian naval and air bases. These and other moves are all part of a comprehensive strategy, in keeping with which Defence Secretary Panetta has announced plans to station 60 percent of US naval forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

US naval dominance of the South China Sea, as well as key “choke points” through South East Asia, such as the Malacca Straits, poses a direct threat to China, which relies on these shipping routes to import energy and raw materials from the Middle East and Africa. In the event of a conflict, the US could impose an economic blockade on China.

By such means, the Obama administration has transformed what were previously relatively minor maritime disputes into a major international issue involving the world’s two largest economies.

The divisions this has opened up were evident at July’s ASEAN ministerial summit. On one side, the Philippines and Vietnam, supported by the US, pressed for a discussion on a regional “code of conduct”. The Philippines even insisted that its dispute with China over the Scarborough Shoal be mentioned in the final communiqué. Cambodia opposed these proposals and, for the first time in ASEAN’s 45-year history, no final joint statement was issued.

A speech in Singapore

The announcement that the United States will deploy the majority of its naval forces to the Asia-Pacific region over the next decade was made by Defence Secretary Panetta in a 2 June speech to the annual Shangri-La security conference organised in Singapore by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).

The mobilisation of warships will be accompanied by an increase in the number of military exercises conducted by the US in the region, involving air, sea and land forces. Most will be carried out in conjunction with countries that are openly or tacitly allied with the US against China, including Japan, south Korea, Australia and the Philippines.

In his speech, Panetta elaborated on the “pivot to Asia” announced by Obama last year, in which he indicated that the withdrawal of most US forces from Iraq and the beginning of a similar withdrawal from Afghanistan would allow the US military to deploy far greater resources to the Far East.

All of the US military services are focused on implementing the president’s guidance to make the Asia-Pacific a top priority,” Panetta said, adding: “While the US military will remain a global force for security and stability, we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region.”

The current deployment of the US Navy is approximately a 50-50 split between the Atlantic and Pacific. This will change by 2020 to a 60-40 split in favour of the Pacific, Panetta said: “That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, and submarines.” He called these forces “the core of our commitment to this region”.

Panetta singled out for praise the agreement reached last autumn with the Australian government for the deployment of US Marines in northern Australia, calling it “a critical component” of the US military build-up.

This Marine Air-Ground Task Force will be capable of rapidly deploying across the Asia-Pacific region,” he said, thereby confirming that it will be able to be deployed in any confrontation with China.

He reconfirmed that the US is negotiating a similar agreement for stationing ground forces on a rotating basis in the Philippines and that it is pursuing such arrangements with other countries in the region, although he did not name them. In 2011, the US military conducted 172 military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region, a number that will be surpassed this year.

And, just in case anyone had any doubts as to the point of all this military build-up, Panetta closed his address with this invocation of the history of US wars in the region:

Over the course of history, the United States has fought wars, we have spilled blood, we have deployed our forces time and time again to defend our vital interests in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Panetta followed his appearance in Singapore with visits to Vietnam, where he became the highest-ranking US official to visit the strategic port of Cam Ranh Bay since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975, and to India.

Speaking to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi, Panetta stated:

In particular, we will expand our partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia,” thereby almost perfectly describing an encirclement of China from the east, south and west.

For the last more than two decades, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has plunged headlong into one war after another, in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, in an attempt to preserve its hegemony and reverse its economic decline. However, Obama’s “pivot” to Asia has dramatically raised the stakes, by removing any shadow of doubt that the US’s main target is a nuclear power, the People’s Republic of China.

As in the 1930s, imperialism perceives that its only way out is war. The duty of the entire international working class is to do everything in its power to prevent that war of aggression and to pursue unto victory its own war against imperialist and capitalist barbarism. US imperialism’s selection of China is not by chance – it is the main and most powerful force standing in the way of US domination of the planet.

Notwithstanding the very real issues and concerns regarding many of the internal developments in China’s economy and society, the communist and workers’ parties of all countries should unite in common struggle, demanding:

Hands off China!

Death to US imperialism!

Inside The Anti-Japanese Protests in China


The following article below was originally published by Counterpunch. For those readers whom are interested in acquiring more information regarding China’s sovereign history over the Diaoyu islands and subsequent struggles against Japan and U.S. imperialism, I’d highly recommend you reading the recently published white paper issued by the Chinese govt., “Full Text: Diaoyu Dao, an Inherent Territory of China“: 

Territories Stolen from the Chinese

By Gary Leupp
September 27, 2012

Chinese citizens demonstrating in front of the Japanese embassy in China, upholding their sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands.

They’ve drawn far less attention in the U.S. media than the wave of anti-U.S. protests throughout the Islamic world responding to the infamous online anti-Muslim movie trailer. But the anti-Japanese protests in China might have more enduring significance. These are the largest in the postwar (post-1945) period, involving hundreds of thousands, causing Japanese owned factories and retail shops to shut their doors and even consider closing down permanently. Even Chinese-owned Japanese restaurants are posting Chinese flags and patriotic messages on their doors, hoping to avoid attack.

At the height of the violence,” reports the Los Angeles Times, “dozens of Japanese businesses were attacked, including a Panasonic plant in Qingdao, a Toyota dealership and 7-Eleven shops. Hundreds of Japanese model cars were overturned or burned.” Reuters reports that 41% of Japanese firms feel affected by the protests and are considering altering their plans for investment in China. As of last week Japanese automakers had lost $ 250 million in output due to the protests; Nissan, Toyota and Honda have suspended some operations.

There is a looming general crisis in the economic and political relationship between the world’s second and third largest economies. These have been one another’s top trading partners for some years now. Their total annual two-way trade is around $ 345 billon. Theirs is arguably the most important bilateral trade relationship in the world, after the Sino-U.S. relationship. But plans for a gala event to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and China have been postponed. This is all pretty serious.

What occasions the nationwide protests and unprecedented bilateral tensions? Five small uninhabited islands and three rocky outcroppings northeast of Taiwan and southwest of the Ryukyu island chain, which both China and Japan claim as theirs. The Chinese call them the Diaoyu Islands, the Japanese the Senkaku Islands. Some westerners have dubbed them the Pinnacle Islands. Strategically located in the South China Sea, surrounded by rich fisheries, they are thought to hold huge natural gas and oil reserves. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the seabed around them may hold as much as 100 billion barrels of oil. Sovereignty over them affects control over 21,000 square nautical miles.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has indicated that it does not want the territorial issue to become a “disturbing factor” in the mutually lucrative bilateral relationship with Japan. But the Japanese government has made it such. By moving to purchase three of the islands from their current private Japanese owner, following a campaign by Tokyo’s right-wing governor Ishihara Shintaro, the Japanese government has inflamed the situation.

The Japanese government insists that “there is no dispute” about sovereignty over the islands. By this it means that Japan has a clear-cut claim based on international law, specifically the Shimonoseki Treaty signed in 1895 after Japan had defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War. (That is, it was legitimate war spoils, rather like, say, Guam which was won by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War of 1898.) This legalistic argument not only assumes the respectability of imperialism but ignores important details of postwar legal history.

Some relevant historical facts about the issue:

1. Chinese records dated 1403 and 1534 mention the islets, referring to the largest one as Diaoyu and naming two others. The latter text, ARecord of the Imperial Envoy’s Visit to Ryukyu, documents the visit of a Chinese diplomatic mission to the Ryukyu Island kingdom (centered on Okinawa), which was then not a part of Japan and never had been. Ming-era officials, en route to the investiture ceremony of the Ryukyuan king, regarded the isles as the border between the province of Taiwan and the Ryukyus, which had a tributary relationship with the Ming court. Neither the Ryukyuans nor the Chinese regarded the Daioyu cluster as part of the Ryukyus. They were obviously part of China.

The Record describes the islands as the “border that separates Chinese and foreign lands.” Contemporary Taiwan gazetteers state “Diaoyu Island accommodates ten or more large ships,” indicating that it was visited by Chinese junks. Another record of an embassy in 1561 mentions the islands as landmarks passed on the final stage of the voyage from Fuzhou to Okinawa. There is no record of Japanese visits to the Diaoyu islands or even Japanese knowledge of them as of the sixteenth century.

2. In the 1590s, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the warlord who had re-united Japan after centuries of division, sought to make the Ryukuan kingdom a vassal-state and cooperate in an invasion of Korea. The Ryukyuan king refused. But in 1609, forces from Satsuma, one of the many Japanese baronies of the time, invaded the Ryukyu kingdom and kidnapped the king, Sho Nei. They brought him to Japan and forced him to acknowledge both the daimyo of Satsuma and the Japanese shogun as his overlords. From that point the Ryukyus paid tribute to both China and Japan. Japanese officials saw the Ryukyus as a vassal-state—foreign, not part of Japan proper, but obliged to provide such goods as sugar-cane, tobacco, and products from China and Southeast Asia to Japan.

But the Japanese did not view the Diaoyu islands as part of this Ryukyuan vassal-state. Eighteenth century maps produced in both China and Japan plainly show the Diaoyu isles as Chinese territory. A map drawn up in 1785 by Hayashi Shihei, a military scholar in the castle-town of Sendai, in his Illustrated Survey of the Three Countriesrendered the islands in the same color as that used for China rather than that used for the Ryukyu kingdom. Japan did not claim sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands during the Edo period (1603-1868).

3. Japan did not assert or obtain internationally recognized sovereignty over the Ryukyus until 1872, when it pronounced the former kingdom ahan (barony) under its ruler Sho Tai. In 1879 this became Okinawa Prefecture and Sho Tai was forced to relocate to Tokyo. (He was granted a noble title and disencumbered of any further role in the governance of the islands his ancestors had ruled for over 400 years.) One might say Okinawa was the first Japanese colony. (The Ryukyuans, ethnically distinct from the Japanese of the main islands, and speaking a language incomprehensible to the latter, did not necessarily welcome the regime change.)

Still, Tokyo did not at that point assert sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands south of the Ryukyus. In 1885 the governor of the prefecture proposed that it do so, but the Japanese foreign minister, Inoue Kaoru, and Prime Minister Yamagata Aritomo, refused the suggestion. They felt that since the islands had Chinese names and were considered Chinese by the Qing court, Japan should not lay claim to them. This may have been a purely pragmatic decision, motivated not by any respect for Chinese sovereignty but concern for Japan’s international reputation. In any case, the Japanese rulers did not at that time consider the small islands part of their new prefecture but Chinese territory.

4. In 1894-5 Japanese and Chinese forces fought a war in Korea and Manchuria. China had

responded to the Korean king’s request for assistance in repressing a huge peasant rebellion. Citing an earlier agreement with China, Japan dispatched troops too. They kidnapped the Korean king and forced him to issue an edict terminating existing Sino-Korean agreements and authorizing the Japanese to expel Chinese troops from the country (even though the rebellion had been quelled and the Chinese had pledged to withdraw).

Most historians believe that Japanese forces provoked the Chinese in July 1894, triggering the Sino-Japanese War and a crushing Chinese defeat. (About 35,000 Chinese dead or wounded, compared to 5,000 Japanese, although twice that many Japanese died from disease.) China sued for peace and was obliged to pay Japan an indemnity, cede control over the Liaodong Peninsula in southern Manchuria, and hand over the island of Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (Pescadore) islands west of the island to Japanese colonization. (The Liaodong Peninsula was soon returned to China due to intervention by the Russians, French and Germans.)

Taiwan became, in the words of Diet member and historian Takekoshi Yoshisaburo, Japan’s “colonial university” in which administers honed their skills at civilizing “barbarians.” After 1905 Japanese carefully studied British colonial policies in Africa and elsewhere, the better to administer the Japanese Empire expanding to include Korea, southern Sakhalin, Shandong, the Northern Marianas, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Manchuria, China.

The Shimonoseki Treaty of 1895 specified that “the island of Formosa, together with all islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa” would be ceded to Japan. It did not mention the Diaoyu group by name. But the Japanese claim to sovereignty rests almost entirely on this clause—in an agreement imposed upon China following a war of imperialist aggression.

Tokyo also claims that Japan “discovered” the islands as of 1884 when it carried out a survey. An academic accorded them the name Senkaku in 1890. In January 1895 the Japanese government erected a marker on the Senkaku islands and incorporated them into OkinawaPrefecture as part of Ishigaki City.

5. The establishment of Japanese control over the Ryukyus (1872) and Taiwan and the Diaoyu islands (1895) were all part of a continuum of imperialist expansion appropriately condemned by the Allies in World War II and formally repudiated by postwar Japanese leadership.Following defeat in the Second World War, the Japanese government was forced to accept the Allies’ decision expressed in the Cairo Declaration of 1943 which stated that “Japanshall be stripped of … all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese,such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, [which] shall be restoredto the Republic of China.” The Potsdam Declaration of 1945 had reiterated that “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.” That is to say: the Allies did not acknowledge Japanese sovereignty even over the Ryukyu Islandsmuch less the Diaoyu group.

From the beginning of the Occupation in 1945, the main islands of Japan and the Nansei Shoto (“Southwest Group,” the islands between Kyushu and Taiwan including the Ryukyus) were administered separately by U.S. forces. The Ryukyus became a U.S. “trusteeship,” the main island of Okinawa covered (to this day) with U.S. military bases. Taiwan reverted to Chinese sovereignty and from 1949 became the headquarters of the routed Guomindang, viewed by Beijing as a “renegade province.”

In the spirit of Cairo and Potsdam, the Diaoyu islands between the Ryukyus and Taiwan might have been returned to Chinese control at the end of the war in 1945. Instead the U.S. military treated them as the defense perimeter of the occupied Ryukyus, in effect recognizing the legitimacy of the Japanese claim. In other words, while denying Japanese sovereignty over the Ryukyus, which had been established in 1872 in relatively peaceful fashion, the U.S. recognized the incorporation of the Diaoyu isles into Okinawa Prefecture dating to 1895, established (let us repeat) as the result of a predatory war. It apparently did not regard these islands as “territories…stolen from the Chinese” to be “restored to the Republic of China.”

7. In the San Francisco Treaty of 1951, which formally ended the war and paved the way for the return of sovereignty to the Japanese government, Japan agreed to “concur in any proposal of the United States to theUnited Nations to place under its trusteeship system, with theUnited States as the sole administering authority, Nansei Shotosouth of 29 degrees north latitude (including the Ryukyu Islandsand the Daito Islands).”

Japan thus acceded to the indefinite U.S. colonization of Okinawa and adjoining islands, including Diaoyu/Senkaku.

In its dispute with Beijing, Tokyo can point out that China did not attend the San Francisco conference that formally ended the war. The U.S. did not invite representatives of the newly founded People’s Republic, causing the Soviets and some of their allies to boycott the proceedings or refuse to sign the peace treaty. The Japanese government argues that, having made no agreement with China over the dispensation of the islands, its claim to sovereignty dating to 1895 still holds and that its agreement to return Taiwan to Chinese sovereignty does not include what it calls the Senkaku islands because they’re actually part of Okinawa Prefecture.

8. The Occupation ended formally in 1952, and sovereignty was restored to Japan. (This sovereignty was and is shaped by a “security treaty” with the U.S., the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops, and virtual U.S. veto power over Japanese foreign policy.) But the U.S. continued to administer the Nansei Shoto including Okinawa Prefecture up until 1972, when following a long campaign by the Japanese people and Diet, sovereignty over Okinawa Prefecture as well as the Diaoyu islands was restored to Japanese control. (Again, a limited sovereignty. Japanese leaders have sought in vain to significantly reduce the unpopular U.S. military presence on Okinawa.)

Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty plainly states: “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”

* * *

Such are the basic historical facts pertaining to the conflicting territorial claims. What of the future?

By the terms of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the U.S. must help defend the security of all Japanese territory. Would it challenge a Chinese effort to seize control of these tiny islands? Washington sends mixed signals.

On the one hand, U.S. diplomats have stated repeatedly that the U.S. takes no position on the sovereignty issue. In Sept. 1996 a State Department spokesman proclaimed the U.S. “neutral” on Senkaku. In April 1999 the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Thomas S. Foley, stated, “The United States notes the Japanese claim to these islands, and we are not, as far as I understand, taking a specific position in the dispute…. We do not believe that these islands will be the subject of any military conflict, and so consequently, we do not assume that there will be any reason to engage the security treaty in any immediate sense.” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta again stated in Beijing two weeks ago that the U.S. had no position on the dispute.

On the other hand, in 1996 both Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of defense, and Secretary of Defense William Perry specified that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty covered the Senkaku Islands. In 2004 Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman at the State Department declared, “The Senkaku Islands have been under the administrative control of the Government of Japan since having been returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa in 1972. Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security states that the treaty applies to the territories under the administration of Japan; thus, Article 5 of the Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands.” In 2006 theU.S. ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, told Kyodo News that he considered “the islands as territory of Japan.”

Campbell while acknowledging a U.S. obligation to “defend” the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands if attacked, acknowledges that the sovereignty claim of Japan is dubious. “Sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands,” he observed, “is disputed. The U.S. does not take a position on the question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. This has been our longstanding view. We expect the claimants will resolve this issue through peaceful means and we urge all claimants to exercise restraint.”

Just two months ago a State Department official repeated, “The Senkakus would fall within the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security because the Senkaku Islands have been under the administrative control of the government of Japan since they were returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa in 1972.”

In other words: the U.S. doesn’t have a position on the sovereignty issue, but will still fight to defend Japan’s sovereignty claim, as required by treaty. The remote barren rocks, like all of Japan, fall under the U.S.’s “nuclear umbrella.” This position can only embolden those in Japan eager to provoke China by constructing lighthouses (1978 and 1996) and most recently lobbying for the purchase of the islands by the Japanese government.

* * *

Tokyo’s case for sovereignty is meager. The Chinese were there first, visiting, mapping, and defining the isles as the boundary between China and the Ryukyu kingdom from at least the fifteenth century. Japan only acquired the islands as war booty in 1895, and as such, pursuant to the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations, they should have been returned to their rightful owner at the end of the Second World War. However, the U.S. elected to retain them within its security parameters as administrator of Okinawa up until 1972, then turned over primary defense responsibilities to the Japanese “Self-Defense Forces” in that year. The U.S. proclaims itself “neutral” but it’s not. It’s troubled by the rising power of its Chinese rival, worried about conflict in the South China Sea, but committed by treaty and its geopolitical strategy to support its longtime ally Japan.

It’s a dangerous situation. While angry protesters pelt the Japanese Embassy with eggs, waving banners with such slogans as “Kill Japanese Robbers,” China’s most senior military-political commissar, Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, orders the People’s Liberation Army to be “prepared for any possible military combat.” While the likelihood of war seems remote, the Chinese elite has sought to shift attention from the faltering economy by encouraging nationalistic sentiment, especially among the youth who may find in the Diaoyu cause a relatively safe way to vent dissent. Portraits of Mao Zedong have become regular features of mass demonstrations; Mao is remembered as the heroic leader of the struggle against Japanese and later U.S. imperialism—a sharp contrast to the current leadership in their business suits who embrace capitalist-imperialist investment and steer foreign policy to encourage it. The mix of youth, the reverent memory of the eternal rebel Mao, contempt for a corrupt leadership and indignation over historical injuries might have unpredictable consequences.

The Chinese government routinely accuses Japan, more than any other country, of “hurting the Chinese people’s feelings” (shang hai zhong guo ren de gan qing)—an understated way of saying the Chinese people are getting very ticked off every time the Japanese Education Ministry approves a high school history textbook that prettifies the Japanese invasion and occupation of China in the 1930s; or when politicians and academics question whether there was ever a Rape of Nanking (the moral equivalent of Holocaust denial); or when prime ministers visit Yasukuni Shrine where Class A war criminals are enshrined; or when Japan claims territory not on valid historical grounds but on narrow legalistic grounds rooted in a predatory war.

It may seem irrational for protesters to attack (mostly Chinese-owned) sushi restaurants or Japanese-owned factories or retail stores to vent such hurt feelings. The rhetoric heard is often nakedly racist (“Kill all Japanese devils!”)—plain testimony to the fact that the ideal of proletarian internationalism isn’t as prevalent as it should be in a country whose leaders cling to the pretense of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” But for Japan in the face of this wave of hurt feelings to blithely assert that “there is no dispute” is insulting. It compounds the indignation.

And for the U.S. top say simultaneously, “We have no position” and “The Senkakus fall under Article 5 of the Security Treaty” seems illogical, contradictory. Perhaps Washington thinks it can restrain Japan by affecting neutrality in the dispute, while deterring China from action by asserting a treaty obligation to “defend” these islands as Japanese territory. It’s a dangerous game.

* * *

Many are talking about the South China Sea as the “new Persian Gulf.” Unlike the old—clearly demarcated—Persian Gulf, this one is contested between the PRC, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation last year (Sept. 2011) signed an agreement with PetroVietnam to explore for oil in ocean blocks claimed by both Vietnam and China. (India has become closely allied to the U.S., while former foe Vietnam now welcomes U.S. warships to its shores.)

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded: “China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea… [W]e are opposed to any country engaging in oil and gas exploration and development in waters under China’s jurisdiction.” But it offered “to engage in peaceful negotiations and friendly consultations to peacefully solve the disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights so as to positively contribute to peace and tranquility in the South China Sea area.”

We will see how the claim to “indisputable sovereignty’ over the Diaoyu group and other area islands surrounded by oil and natural gas allows for peaceful solutions with countries backed by the U.S.A. Bloodied by two failed wars, the U.S. is led by officials committed to a treaty that could embroil the country in yet more conflict. It has with some fanfare shifted its “pivot” (or “rebalance of forces”) from Southwest Asia to the Pacific in order to “contain” rising China. On the one hand Defense Secretary Leon Panetta invites China to participate in joint naval operations with the U.S. (such as the planned 2014 Rimpac exercise); on the other hand he tells Chinese vice president (soon to be president) Xi Jinping on September 19 that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

It’s a clear threat to enforce a provision of a shameful treaty signed over a century ago, as Japan and the western powers carved up a weak, demoralized China; ensure that stolen resource-rich territory remains under U.S.-Japanese authority; and remind the peoples of the region that no borders on the Pacific Rim can change without distant Washington’s supervision and approval.

For all their bluster, Chinese officials are unlikely to, as they say, allow Diaoyu to become a “disturbing factor” in the Sino-Japanese relationship (or the Sino-U.S. relationship) at least in the short term. Still, there are those angry Chinese youth demanding action, a modernizing military eager to flex its muscles, and those Taiwanese fishermen planning nonviolent protest with hundreds of fishing boats. Smack in the center of the new U.S. “pivot,” a situation could spin out of control.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at:

People’s Korea: Reorganization of U.S. forces in Japan aims at invasion of Korea


The following article below was originally published by the Korean Central News Agency

Pyongyang, March 14 (KCNA) — Shortly ago, the U.S. and Japan confirmed the basic policy of reorganizing the U.S. forces in Japan which envisages the maintenance of ten thousand U.S. Marines in Okinawa, Japan.

The policy outlines the transfer of the U.S. Marines to Guam Island as a priority step and the gradual follow-up relocation of the Futenma U.S. air force base inside the Okinawa Prefecture. The U.S. seeks to use the rest of its Marines in Okinawa in a cyclic way after deploying them in other Asian regions including south Korea.

Rodong Sinmun Wednesday in a bylined article observes in this regard:

The confirmation of the basic policy is a proof that the U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy has entered the phase of practical implementation.

Citing the theory of “Pacific State”, the U.S. is thinking of giving stronger impact on the Asia-Pacific region.

It regards the establishment of its domination in Northeast Asia as the core in its Asia-Pacific strategy.

The U.S. gives top priority to the Korean Peninsula because it thinks it can realize its ambition of dominating the continent of Eurasia and, furthermore, the whole world only when it occupies the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. has thus directed its efforts to tightening the military alliance with Japan rich in the experience of war of aggression, and south Korea, its lackey.

The U.S. attempts to use Guam Island and Okinawa as strongholds for fighting a war against the DPRK in case of “emergency” on the Korean Peninsula. Its ulterior aim is to amass aggression forces in areas close to the Korean Peninsula and use them in the second Korean War.

The U.S., giving priority to Japan’s role in carrying out its strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region, is giving a shot in the arm of Japan, which is mired in serious political crisis.

With south Korea as a military strategic stronghold the U.S. seeks to attack the DPRK and dominate by force the Asia-Pacific region.

The coiled up tension on the Korean Peninsula will result in the escalation of tension in the Asia-Pacific region while the increasing danger of war on the Peninsula in the mounting danger of war in the region.

2012: Turning point for the Korean peninsula?


By Tim Beal

Kim Jong Un is often compared to his charismatic grandfather Kim Il Sung. A statue of Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang, left, and Kim Jong-un, right. Source: Choe, Sang-hyun. "To Sell a New Leader, North Korea Finds a Mirror Is Handy." New York Times, 1 February 2012.

The end of 2011 saw the death of Kim Jong Il and the succession of his son Kim Jong Un. During 2012 there will be elections in South Korea (for the National Assembly and for the presidency), and in Russia, China, and the United States. We are embarking on a period of change, perhaps of convulsion. Elections aside, we can expect an on-going crisis in the European Union and a deterioration in relations between the United States and China and Russia. The Korean peninsula remains a fissure line, especially between the United States and China.

However, what happens in Korea in 2012 and beyond is a product of the past, and particularly the administration of Lee Myung-bak. Lee’s hardline policy towards the North brought the peninsula to the brink of war at the end of 2010. In particular his exploitation of the accidental sinking of the Cheonan and the apparent fabrication of evidence to implicate North Korea brought a state of tension that nearly ignited in November 2010 when, in violation of the agreement signed by Kim Jong Il and his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun in 2007 planning a ‘Zone for Peace and Cooperation’ the South Korean military conducted provocative live fire exercises in disputed waters off the North Korean coast. The role of the South Korean (and US) military in initiating these inflammatory exercises, and what it could tell us about the balance of power between the presidency and military, is unexplored territory which no one seems to write about.

It would appear that Lee’s nordpolitik was based on the premise that increased pressure and tension would produce a crisis in North Korea leading to a collapse that could be utilised to reunify the country by force. This did not happen for a number of reasons. China, and Russia, in their different ways, moved to preserve stability on the peninsula and China, in particular, made it clear that it would not tolerate an invasion of the North. This should be set again increased tension between them and the united States over issues such as US policies over Libya, Syria, Iran, and missile defense. US aggressiveness elsewhere in the world made China and Russia more resolute over Korea.

Despite sanctions and constant military threat North Korea proved resilient. While the food situation remained dire it did improve. Increased exports to China allowed for an increase in imports of food and fertiliser which in turn helped boost the autumn harvest. Other parts of the economy moved ahead strongly. Investment from Egypt’s Orascom brought about completion of the giant Ryugyong hotel and subscribers to its mobile phone service passed the one million mark. Lee Myung-bak had attempted to cut off trade, investment, and tourism links with the North, but the results were disappointing. For domestic political reasons he was unable to close down the Kaesong Industrial Park, a South Korea processing enclave in North Korea, which continued to grow. North Korea turned to China for trade, which increased some 75% and for tourists – one million of whom visited the Mt Paektu resort on the border.

Although some commentators claim, as they have done for the last two decades, that North Korea’s collapse is just around the corner, there is no reason to believe this. On the contrary, Kim Jong Un’s youthful energy and extrovert personality may be infusing new vigour.

Seoul National University Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology dean Ahn Chul-soo, Roh Moo-hyun Foundation chairman Moon Jae-in, Saenuri Party emergency measures committee chairwoman Park Geun-hye from left. Source: Kim, Bo-hyeop. "Majority of Young Voters Would Choose Ahn for President." Hankyoreh, 14 February 2012.

Meanwhile Lee Myung-bak is racked by a disintegrated party (which changed its name to the New World Party in a futile attempt to escape its past), corruption scandals and economic difficulties, which are compounded by his pro-Americanism; the free trade agreement with the United States arouses a lot of opposition and compliance with US sanctions against Iran would be very damaging to the economy. In addition he is a lame duck president, by the constitution he leaves office in February 2013, so his prestige and freedom of movement is quite constrained.

At this stage it looks as if the progressives will win the legislative and presidential elections but even if the conservative front runner, Park Geun-hye (daughter of the former dictator Park Chung-hee) does win it is almost certain there will be a change in policy towards the North, leading back to some form of engagement. That had limited success during the administration of the two previous (progressive) presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. The Bush administration was hostile. Kim Jong Il was, understandably, suspicious and slow to react.

What will 2013 bring? We can expect continuity from both China and Russia. They will support anything which promotes stability on the Korean peninsula (and limit American influence). The US is more difficult to read. A second term Obama may be more restrained and more willing to accept a Seoul-led engagement policy. A Republican president is likely to be more aggressive and adventurist. In any case it will be the relationship with China that will be paramount. If Washington fears that opposing a South Korean policy of engagement and peace with the North will drive Seoul towards Beijing, then it may well decide that the best course of action is to do the same.

This, in turn, means that Pyongyang’s reaction to changes in Seoul are vitally important. If it does not respond positively, or does not respond quickly enough to get the engagement process underway – there is obviously a large amount of reciprocity involved in confidence building – then a great opportunity will be lost. However if it welcomes, even anticipates, a South Korean spring then things could move quite fast. Much will depend on Kim Jong Un, his own inclinations and his power within the system both of which are at this stage unknown. By the end of the year we may well have a better idea. In addition, the example of Lee Myung-bak’s hardline policy will be an incentive for both governments to re-engage.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the scope for unilateral changes by North Korea are very limited. For instance people often ask whether North Korea will follow the Chinese road to opening to trade and investment. In fact North Korea started on that road, attempting to build economic linkages with the West, in the early 1970s. However, whereas China had considerable leverage, primarily as a counterbalance to the Soviet Union, and so could get the Americans to lift their embargo, North Korea has a far weaker hand. The US stranglehold on North Korea is still in place and while it is, expanding trade and investment, except with China, is severely curtailed. Getting that stranglehold removed is no easy matter but South Korea can play a crucial role. That is an added reason why changes in South Korean policy are critical.

So 2012 is likely to lay the foundations for a very different 2013 on, and around, the Korean peninsula. Good or bad we don’t know, but there are grounds for optimism.

To read the rest of this 55-page report, click here

Russian chess: Russia moves to use economics to promote peace in Northeast Asia


By Tim Beal

Crossed flag pins of Russia and N.Korea

The visit of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to Russia in August 2011 received little attention in the international media, and most of the articles were uninformed. As is often the case, the South Korean media provided the best coverage. The North Korean and Russian media gave little detail and scant analysis. China was a bit better but tended to focus on the Six Party Talks, highlighting Kim (and Medvedev’s) commitment to resuming the talks without preconditions.1 This is understandable, given that the establishment of the Beijing talks, bringing together the two Koreas, and the major world powers –the US, Japan, Russia, and China – was a great achievement. Too great perhaps. It was noticeable how quickly the US used the Cheonan Incident in March 2010 to sink the talks. It is likely that the Obama administration realised that Bush had made a great strategic mistake in giving this diplomatic jewel to China and was glad of a pretext to let the talks wither.

In any case, Kim’s avowed commitment to the talks was not new; it restated statements made on visits to China, most recently in May, and was consistent with long-standing North Korean policy.2 The US, and South Korean, response was the same as before – no talks without preconditions.3 It is an old diplomatic technique; if you don’t want negotiations you merely set preconditions the other side cannot accept without forfeiting their objective for negotiating. It was a common feature of US strategy during the Bush administration.4 Obama was supposed to change all that:

… when asked in a July 23, 2008 presidential primary debate, “Would you be willing to meet separately, without preconditions, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?” candidate Obama replied, “I would.”5

But President Obama is, as we well know now, not the same person as Candidate Obama.

However, the main problem with most of the media coverage was that it looked in the wrong direction and asked the wrong questions. Too often the focus was on Kim Jong Il rather than Medvedev, on North Korea rather than on Russia. It ascribed far too much freedom of action to Kim, a mistake that permeates discussion on North Korea and a subject to be taken up some other time. It portrayed Kim as the active initiator and Medvedev as the passive and compliant host. In fact, a summit only takes place because both sides want it, and the bigger country has the stronger hand in determining that. There have been rumours in the past of an impending visit by Kim to Russia which have not eventuated.6 It may be that there have been requests since Kim’s previous visit in 2002, but only this time has Moscow said yes.

Kim’s reasons for the Russia visit are easy to discern. North Korea needs to develop commercial linkages with Russia to circumvent US-led sanctions which have such a devastating effect on its economy.7 It also needs Russia as an economic and political counterbalance to China. North Korea’s overdependence on China is increasingly evident.8 At the same time Kim does not want to alienate China so it was significant that he returned to Korea via China, significantly meeting with Dai Bingguo, China’s leading official for Korean affairs.9

That’s the easy part, but what about Russia? After all, just last year the Russian ambassador to Seoul was at pains to emphasise that his country was ‘not an ally’ of Pyongyang.10 Now we have the Russian president describing it as a partner.11 What has brought about this change? What have been the Russian objectives for the summit?

Russia’s strategy has two inter-related aspects – the economic and the geopolitical.

Russia wants to sell natural gas to South Korea. This could be shipped from Vladivostok but that would increase costs; the cheapest way is via a pipeline, and that would go through North Korea. The pipeline would be a major undertaking – 1,100 kms long, 700 of which would be through North Korea, and delivering 10 million cubic metres of gas a year.12 But it would complement existing pipelines to Europe and China so there would be no great technical barriers. South Korea itself is potentially a substantial market but the real prize is Japan, where it is anticipated that post-Fukushima antipathy to nuclear energy will boost demand for gas.13 And then there is the China factor. If Russia can develop substantial markets in South Korea and Japan this will give it leverage in what are reportedly tough negotiations with China over the price of gas imports from Russia.

If the gas pipeline goes through, so too do railways which have been bedevilled by the same political barriers. If the railway systems between the two Koreas are reconnected, and the North’s upgraded, then there is a huge rail network connecting South Korea (and perhaps Japan) with Russia and Europe via the Trans-Siberian, and China and beyond, to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and one day to South Asia. The economic, and geopolitical, implications of this, what the late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung dubbed the ‘iron silk road’ are huge and in fact dwarf the impact of the gas pipeline.14 For the moment however, the emphasis is on the gas pipeline.

The economic imperative is clear, but it is complemented by a geopolitical one. Russia believes that a pipeline though North Korea to the south will help lock in peace on the peninsula. South Korea would get cheaper gas, North Korea would get transit fees and presumably gas as well. Both sides would have a strong inducement to keep the peace and avoid tension.15 The same goes for rail links. And there’s the rub, because this would be anathema to the United States. The situation is analogous to the proposed gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan and the objections are the same.16 The arrangement would strengthen an adversary producer (Russia, Iran), empower the intermediary country (North Korea, Pakistan) and make the consumer ally (South Korea, India) either vulnerable or less willing to accept US domination. The United States would lose leverage over the situation. A gas pipeline through the Korean peninsula has been talked about before, but has faltered on American objections.17 Will it be different this time?

It may well be. With both Russia and North Korea committed to the proposal it is difficult for South Korea openly to reject it. The economic benefits would be considerable and with National Assembly and presidential elections coming up in 2012 it could become awkward political issue. Similarly for the US; whatever pressure it might apply behind the scenes, it would have to be careful not to oppose it to openly for fear of re-igniting anti-Americanism – the massive demonstrations against imports of American beef in 2008 are a potent reminder of the dangers.18

However, the key factor is probably Dmitry Medvedev himself. It seems that Russia, like China, was much alarmed by the upsurge in tension on the Korean peninsula in 2010 produced by Lee Myung-bak’s confrontationist policies, which resulted in the first artillery exchange since the Korean War.19 On top of that he must have been annoyed by Lee’s attempt to use Russia to bolster his fabrication of the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan. The South Korean military investigation pinned the blame on North Korea producing at the last moment, a couple of days before the report was scheduled to be released what they claimed to be a smoking gun – the remnants of a North Korean torpedo found, it was asserted, in the vicinity of the sinking.20 This failed to dispel public scepticism so Lee put pressure on Medvedev to send a Russian team to examine the South Korean evidence.21 It seems that the Russian investigators found the South Korean case so flawed that their report was never published, nor was it released to the South Korean government. Publically it was said that the evidence was ‘inconclusive’.22 Embarrassment all around. It could have been worse. Donald Gregg, a former American ambassador to Seoul, said that:

When I asked a well-placed Russian friend why the report has not been made public, he replied, “Because it would do much political damage to President Lee Myung-bak and would embarrass President Obama.”23

Leaks of the Russian report in the South Korean paper Hankyoreh showed why the Russian investigation was too explosive to publish. The Russians concluded that the Cheonan was probably accidentally sunk by a South Korea mine.24 They were also adamant that the torpedo remnant produced by the South could not have sunk the Cheonan (though a South Korean torpedo might conceivably have done so).But there was more. They said that the corrosion on the remnant showed it had been in the water for six months or more, not the two months between the sinking and its miraculous discovery.25 So it looks as if North Korea was not merely innocent, but also framed.

It is unlikely that Medvedev was much pleased by Lee’s attempt to involve Russia in this deception – a deception which raised the spectre of war on the peninsula, something which Russia (and China) feared greatly.26

It seems that the events of 2010 did much to concentrate minds in Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang. To this might be added the de facto Western invasion of Libya and a possible repeat in Syria.27 This is the background to Kim Jong Il’s visit to Russia (and China) and Medvedev’s initiatives. Gas and rail linkages have been talked about quite a bit over the last decade, without real progress. This time might indeed be different.

Beal, Tim. “Korean Brinkmanship, American Provocation, and the Road to War: The Manufacturing of a Crisis.” The Asia-Pacific Journal 8, no. 51:1 (20 December 2010). <>&nbsp;

“Biggest Protest since 1987 Staged in Seoul.” JoongAng Ilbo, 11 June 2008.  <;

Clover, Charles, and Christian Oliver. “North Korea Seeks Allies in Russia Talks.” Financial Times, 24 August 2011. <;

Dae-jung, Kim. “Inter-Korean Relations and the ‘Iron Silk Road’.” In UNESCAP Ministerial Conference on Transport. Busan, 2006.  <;

“Divergent Briefings Raise Questions About Lee-Medvedev Telephone Conversation.” Hankyoreh, 27 May 2010. <;

“Gas Pipeline through N.Korea ‘Part of a Bigger Game’.” Chosun Ilbo, 26 August 2011. <;

Gollust, David. “US: North Korean Nuclear Concessions Welcome, but Insufficient.” Voice of America, 24 August 2011. <;

Gregg, Donald P. “Testing North Korean Waters.” International Herald Tribune, 31 August 2010. <;

Harrison, Selig S. “Gas and Geopolitics in Northeast Asia: Pipelines, Regional Stability and the Korean Nuclear Crisis.” World Policy Journal XIX, no. 4 (Winter 2002/2003 2003). <;

Jung, Ha-won. “Russia ‘Not an Ally’ of Pyongyang.” JoongAng Ilbo, 17 June 2010. <;

Jung, Sung-ki. “Questions Raised About ‘Smoking Gun’.” Korea Times, 20 May 2010. <;

“Kim and Medvedev Propose Six-Party Talks without Preconditions.” Hankyoreh, 25 August 2011. <;

“Kim Jong-Il’s Russia Trip Prompted by Economic Hardship.” Chosun Ilbo, 22 August 2011. <;

“Kim Jong-Il Leaves Beijing after Meeting with Hu “. Global Times, 27 May 2011. <;

“Kim Jong Il to Visit Northeast Area of China.” KCNA, 25 August 2011. <;

Kipp, Jacob W. . “Moscow Seeks Room to Maneuver as Crisis on the Korean Peninsula Intensifies.” The Jamestown Foundation, 18 June 2010.  <;

Lee, Sunny. “Who Decides China’s Policy on North Korea? .” Korea Times, 2010. <;

“N. Korea’s Dependency on China on the Rise.” Hankyoreh, 20 September 2010. <;

“N.Korea, Russia Cancel Summit.” Chosun Ilbo, 29 June 2011. <;

“Russia Hopes Pipeline through Korean Peninsula Improves Economy, Political Climate.” Xinhua, 26 August 2011. <;

“Russia’s Cheonan Investigation Suspects That the Sinking Cheonan Ship Was Caused by a Mine in Water.” Hankyoreh, 28 July 2010. <;

“Russian Gas Pipeline Could Improve Inter-Korean Ties.” Chosun Ilbo, 25 August 2011. <;

“Russian Investigators’ Report on Cheonan Sinking ‘Inconclusive’ “. Chosun Ilbo, 7 September 2010. <;

“Russian Navy Expert Team’s Analysis on the Cheonan Incident.” Hankyoreh, 29 July 2010. <;

Sedov, Dmitri. “The West Scores Another Triumph over the Arab World: Libya on the Brink.” International Affairs, 23 August 2011. <;

“Serial Number of Torpedo Traced to N.Korea.” Chosun Ilbo, 19 May 2010. <;

Sigal, Leon V. “The Cabal Is Alive and Well.” Paper presented at the The Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference Washington DC, 2005. <;

———. “North Korea Policy on the Rocks: What Can Be Done to Restore Constructive Engagement?”. GlobalAsia 4, no. 2 (Summer 2009). <;

Vohra, Subhash “U.S. Concerns over India-Iran Gas Pipeline ” Voice of America, 18 June 2008. <;

1. “Kim and Medvedev propose six-party talks without preconditions,” Hankyoreh, 25 August 2011.
2. “Kim Jong-il leaves Beijing after meeting with Hu “, Global Times, 27 May 2011.
3. David Gollust, “US: North Korean Nuclear Concessions Welcome, But Insufficient,” Voice of America, 24 August 2011.
4. Leon V. Sigal, “The Cabal is Alive and Well” (paper presented at the The Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference Washington DC, 2005).
5. ———, “North Korea Policy on the Rocks: What can be Done to Restore Constructive Engagement?,” GlobalAsia 4, no. 2 (2009).
6. “N.Korea, Russia Cancel Summit,” Chosun Ilbo, 29 June 2011.
7. “Kim Jong-il’s Russia Trip Prompted by Economic Hardship,” Chosun Ilbo, 22 August 2011.
8. “N. Korea’s dependency on China on the rise,” Hankyoreh, 20 September 2010.
9. “Kim Jong Il to Visit Northeast Area of China,” KCNA, 25 August 2011. Sunny Lee, “Who decides China’s policy on North Korea? ,” Korea Times 2010.
10. Ha-won Jung, “Russia ‘not an ally’ of Pyongyang,” JoongAng Ilbo, 17 June 2010.
11. Charles Clover and Christian Oliver, “North Korea seeks allies in Russia talks,” Financial Times, 24 August 2011.
12. “Russia hopes pipeline through Korean Peninsula improves economy, political climate,” Xinhua, 26 August 2011.
13. “Gas Pipeline Through N.Korea ‘Part of a Bigger Game’,” Chosun Ilbo, 26 August 2011.
14. Kim Dae-jung, “Inter-Korean Relations and the ‘Iron Silk Road’,” in UNESCAP Ministerial Conference on Transport (Busan2006).
15. “Russian Gas Pipeline Could Improve Inter-Korean Ties,” Chosun Ilbo, 25 August 2011.
16. Subhash Vohra, “U.S. Concerns Over India-Iran Gas Pipeline ” Voice of America, 18 June 2008.
17. Selig S Harrison, “Gas and geopolitics in Northeast Asia: Pipelines, regional stability and the Korean nuclear crisis,” World Policy Journal XIX, no. 4 (2003).
18. “Biggest protest since 1987 staged in Seoul,” JoongAng Ilbo, 11 June 2008.
19. Tim Beal, “Korean Brinkmanship, American Provocation, and the Road to War: the manufacturing of a crisis,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 8, no. 51:1 (2010).
20. “Serial Number of Torpedo Traced to N.Korea,” Chosun Ilbo, 19 May 2010.
21. Sung-ki Jung, “Questions raised about ‘smoking gun’,” Korea Times, 20 May 2010. “Divergent briefings raise questions about Lee-Medvedev telephone conversation,” Hankyoreh, 27 May 2010.
22. “Russian Investigators’ Report on Cheonan Sinking ‘Inconclusive’ “, Chosun Ilbo, 7 September 2010.
23. Donald P. Gregg, “Testing North Korean Waters,” International Herald Tribune, 31 August 2010.
24. “Russia’s Cheonan investigation suspects that the sinking Cheonan ship was caused by a mine in water,” Hankyoreh, 28 July 2010.
25. “Russian Navy Expert Team’s analysis on the Cheonan incident,” Hankyoreh, 29 July 2010.
26. Jacob W. Kipp, “Moscow Seeks Room to Maneuver as Crisis on the Korean Peninsula Intensifies,” The Jamestown Foundation, 18 June 2010.
27. Dmitri Sedov, “The West Scores Another Triumph Over the Arab World: Libya on the Brink,” International Affairs, 23 August 2011.


Wall Street protests echo in Tokyo


By Suverndrini Kakuchi
October 31, 2011

Young protesters in Japan are upset with the "hopeless" employment situation.

Inspired by the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in the United States, thousands of Japanese youth and workers, dissatisfied with growing unemployment and harsh working conditions in the world’s third largest economy, have taken to the streets to demand stable jobs and government reforms. Two weeks ago, a demonstration in Tokyo, billed by organisers as the largest protest in recent years, drew a crowd nearly 5,000-strong.

Labourers and students from all across Japan converged on the capital with raised fists and chants of protest as rap bands played songs about the anxiety and hopelessness in which much of the country is mired.

The current official unemployment rate is five per cent of the total population but among youth the number has risen to almost nine per cent.

In fact, more than 45 per cent of workers aged 15-24 hold irregular jobs and just 56 per cent of new college graduates receive job offers, representing the worst situation for youth in the country since World War II.

Unforeseeable future

Ichie Kumagai, 28, a daycare worker who travelled more than 359 kilometres from Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, to speak at the rally in Tokyo, said, “I am angry, frustrated and worried about the future.

“Young people like myself face a hopeless situation today because officials and society do not care about us,” she told the indignant crowd.

Intense lobbying by millions of daycare workers earlier this year managed to raise the minimum wage to nine dollars per hour, up 50 cents from 2010.

More than 30,000 signatures have been collected in Saita town in Osaka alone, in a petition to stop planned regulations that will permit such changes as increasing the number of children to a maximum of 30 per daycare worker and hiring part-time workers instead of offering regular jobs.

Kumagai said that her salary has remained static over six years of hard work while her job has only gotten more demanding.

She works at least 12 hours a day without overtime pay each week. She added that saving money has become crucial to protect against an unstable future.

Meanwhile Japan’s huge fiscal deficit stemming from its two decade economic recession, coupled with an ageing population, has ushered in new regulations aimed at reducing public welfare spending.

“The government justifies such moves because public funds are dwindling. We do not agree with that reasoning,” Kumagai said.

Inspired by the US

Japanese protestors are inspired by the rhetoric in the US against bailing out banks and big businesses, as well as against austerity measures that are widely believed to shrink the middle class by slashing public spending and creating widespread, cyclical unemployment.

“We are influenced by the protests in the US but we want to develop our own way of gaining a stable future,” Makoto Kawazoe, a representative of the Kanto Youth Union, a leading labour rights organisation in Japan, said.

Indeed, the Tokyo protests that plan to start again in November, involve a whole spectrum of activists and organisations from anti-nuclear activists and youth lobbying for clean energy to veteran labour unions such as the National Federation of Labour Unions (NFLU), which have been at the forefront of the struggle for domestic workers’ rights.

According to Kawazoe, Japanese society must take the responsibility of creating stability for youth by accepting the fact that youth employment is crucial to Japan’s economic prowess on the world stage.

“People view unemployed youth as irresponsible or lazy and do not support their needs. This attitude must be changed,” he added.

Proposed agendas

The NFLU has identified several issues that need to be addressed in order to guarantee some degree of stability for youth entering the job market.

The government should offer financial support to youth undergoing skills training or apprenticeships until they find work; end the current practice of expecting third year university students to start job hunting before they have completed their studies; and enact regulations to ensure that companies offer stable employment terms, it says.

While these demands are widespread, they are by no means universal throughout Japan.

Daiji Kawaguchi, professor of economics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, explained that while he is sympathetic to the ongoing youth protests, the call for reforms must also focus on active solutions.

“A burning question facing the Japanese job market is how to make it more international. Youth must develop skills to face an increasingly globalised market and engage with the debate about accepting more foreign labour,” he said.

“With the focus simply on expanding the safety net, the youth-led movement is weak,” he added.

Economists point to the dramatic changes under way in the business world, such as Japanese manufacturing relocating to cheaper sites abroad and more local companies engaged in cost-cutting measures to meet stiff competition from rising Asian tigers such as South Korea in the global marketplace.

Gross National Happiness researcher Masao Fukunaga added that the Japanese youth dream of a stable future is based on the memory of an older Japan, in which the economy was expanding and the lifetime-employment system was still in place.

“But that era is ending in Japan,” Fukunaga said. “The future is difficult and I hope youth who are taking to the streets to call for support will also tackle this emerging reality,” he said.