Friday, April 29, 2005

China's ties with Iran and Israel

Two more snippets from Jane's:

China issue undermines US-Israeli defence ties

Tensions between the US and Israel over Israeli defence exports to China remain unresolved, despite recent visits by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to Washington.

No doubt Israel's arms exports to China annoy the US administration -- although they could stop them tomorrow if they wanted, just by threatening to cut US aid and arms exports to Israel. I imagine that China's links with Iran annoy the US adminstration more. Among other reasons, they make it close to certain that China would veto any UN Security Council resolution calling for armed intervention against Iran's nuclear programme.

China, Iran forge closer ties

China and Iran have forged an increasingly close relationship in the last few years, to the extent that they did US$7 billion worth of business in 2004. John Hill examines the international implications of the burgeoning relationship between Beijing and Tehran.

Defence Development Advisory Commission established to reform Korean armed forces

Another story from Jane's:

RoK establishes advisory body

The Republic of Korea (RoK) has established a Defence Development Advisory Commission (DDAC) under President Roh Moo-hyun to simultaneously promote armed forces reform and expand civilian influence over the military.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Japan to buy Hostile Artillery LOcator (HALO) systems from BAE

Here's a sample of the kind of news you get if you sign up for Jane's Defence email briefings. It's annoying that you can't read the whole story without a paid subscription.

Japan seeks further HALO systems

Japan's Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) is looking to buy 15 more BAE Systems Hostile Artillery LOcator (HALO) systems after successfully completing the evaluation of a single system, originally ordered in 2002.

It seems that HALO is a "battlefield-wide system for collecting acoustic signals from many types of source and combining the data in a number of ways [including but not limited to] for computing the position of guns, mortars and shell bursts on the battlefield"

See the manufacturers' sites: Roke, BAE

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Sub wreck could reveal Japanese peace offer"

I missed this interesting story when it appeared in The Guardian last week:

Sub wreck could reveal Japanese peace offer

An American Vietnam veteran could be about to answer one of the most intriguing questions arising from the second world war: was Japan preparing to seek peace with the allies more than a year before the war ended?

Paul Tidwell, a shipwreck salvager, said yesterday he believes wreckage of a Japanese submarine sunk by US warplanes in the Atlantic on June 23 1944 could contain a peace proposal from Tokyo that never made it into the hands of its intended recipient.


Read the complete article

He has been down there twice before and found opium, apparently.

Worst Japanese rail crash in 40 years

The latest news I have is this AP report:

A packed commuter train that was behind schedule and may have been speeding jumped the tracks Monday and hurtled into an apartment complex, killing 57 people and injuring 440 in Japan's worst rail accident in 40 years.


Read the complete article

This has been headline news all over the world, and I have nothing to add, except to collect some photographs:

Friday, April 22, 2005

Japanese group urges commitment to non-proliferation

From a Japan Times article:

Scientists, academics urge major nuclear powers to dispose of weapons

A seven-member group of Japanese scientists and academics has urged the world's five major nuclear powers to stick to a global treaty on nuclear nonproliferation and work toward the complete abolition of nuclear arms.

The Committee of Seven for World Peace Appeal, which includes Nobel physics prize laureate Masatoshi Koshiba, also urged the Japanese government to again examine the situation regarding nuclear weapons and appeal for peace as the only country to have suffered atomic bombings.

Their two statements were issued Wednesday ahead of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in New York in May and in light of the 60th anniversary this year of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Read the rest.

Yongbyon reactor shutdown reported

It could be that North Korea is harvesting plutonium for nuclear weapons from the fuel rods. Or it could be that they want the US adminstration to think that. Or perhaps there's a technical fault. Or...

Previously, a shutdown at Yongbyon has tended to damage NK-US relations, because of the first possibility.

Yongbyon reactor from the air

Yongbyon reactor

Reuters report.

Discussion on North Korea Zone (I should say that I am really glad that some of these people don't run US foreign policy. On the other hand, some of the comments are interesting).

Amnesty urges South Korean legislators to abolish death penalty

A Special Bill on Abolishing the Death Penalty is currently before the Legislation and Judiciary Committee (LJC) in the 17th National Assembly. Details are from a press release from Amnesty International:

In December 2004, 175 members of the National Assembly (which consists of 299 members in total) from the ruling and opposition parties proposed the Special Bill to abolish the death penalty on humanitarian and religious grounds. The Special Bill was introduced in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in February 2005. Amnesty International welcomes the large bipartisan support for the Special Bill by the National Assembly members and sees this as reflecting the resolve of the 17th National Assembly members towards abolishing the death penalty in South Korea.


A majority of the countries in the world, 120, have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Since 1990 over 40 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, all countries except South Korea, Japan, the United States of America (USA) and Mexico have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Mexico has abolished the death penalty for all ordinary crimes.

Since its independence in 1948, at least 900 people have been executed in South Korea, most of them by hanging. The last executions in South Korea took place in December 1997 when 23 people (18 men and five women) were executed at short notice. There has been an unofficial moratorium on executions since President Kim Dae-jung (who was himself sentenced to death in 1980) took office in February 1998. However, at least six people were sentenced to death in South Korea in 2004 and at least 60 prisoners remain under sentence of death at the end of the year.

In November 2001, 155 members of the last National Assembly (which consisted of a total of 273 members) supported a bill calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Despite this support which constituted over 56 percent of the National Assembly members, there was no progress in the status of the bill; it appears to have been stalled in the LJC of the last National Assembly.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

China suppresses Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch published a report, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

According to the accompanying press release,

The Chinese government is directing a crushing campaign of religious repression against China’s Muslim Uighurs in the name of anti-separatism and counter-terrorism...

The 114-page report, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, is based on previously undisclosed Communist Party and government documents, as well as local regulations, official newspaper accounts, and interviews conducted in Xinjiang. It unveils for the first time the complex architecture of law, regulation, and policy in Xinjiang that denies Uighurs religious freedom, and by extension freedom of association, assembly, and expression. Chinese policy and law enforcement stifle religious activity and thought even in school and at home. One official document goes so far as to say that “parents and legal guardians may not allow minors to participate in religious activities.”

“The worldwide campaign against terrorism has given Beijing the perfect excuse to crack down harder than ever in Xinjiang,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “Other Chinese enjoy a growing freedom to worship, but the Uighurs, like the Tibetans, find that their religion is being used as a tool of control.”

The Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking minority of some 8 million people, whose traditional homeland lies in the oil-rich Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwest China, have become increasingly fearful for their cultural survival and traditional way of life in the face of an intensive internal migration drive that has witnessed the arrival of more than 1.2 million ethnic Chinese settlers over the past decade. Many Uighurs desire greater autonomy than is currently allowed; some wish for a separate state, although there is little recent evidence of violent rebellion.

Highly intrusive religious control extends to organized religious activities, religious practitioners, schools, cultural institutions, publishing houses, and even to the personal appearance and behavior of Uighur individuals. State authorities politically vet all imams on a regular basis and require “self-criticism” sessions; impose surveillance on mosques; purge schools of religious teachers and students; screen literature and poetry for political allusions; and equate any expression of dissatisfaction with Beijing’s policies with “separatism” – a state security crime under Chinese law that can draw the death penalty.

At its most extreme, peaceful activists practicing their religion in ways that the Party and government deem unacceptable are arrested, tortured, and at times executed. The harshest punishments are saved for those accused of involvement in so-called separatist activity, which officials increasingly term “terrorism” for domestic and external consumption.


Click here for the complete press release


Abductees, DNA and Nature

An article by Gavan McCormack for Japan Focus summarises the dispute between North Korea and Japan over the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s, and quotes an alarming series of comments from the journal Nature.

The Japanese government, under considerable pressure from public opinion in Japan, has taken a harder line with North Korea in recent months. One key moment of tension came when DNA analysis in Japan of ashes supposedly belonging to Megumi Yokota, one of the abductees, apparently showed that they were not hers but from the remains of two different people.

Sachie Yokota holding a photograph of Megumi Yokota
Sachie Yokota holding a photograph of Megumi Yokota

Now Nature has cast doubt on these findings, as McCormack describes:

An article in the 3 February 2005 issue of the prestigious international scientific journal, Nature, revealed that the DNA analysis on Megumi's remains had been performed by a member of the medical department of Teikyo University, Yoshii Tomio.[8] Yoshii, it later transpired, was a relatively junior faculty member, of lecturer status, in a forensic department that had neither a professor nor even an assistant professor.[9] Remarkably, he said that he had no previous experience in the analysis of cremated specimens, described his tests as inconclusive and remarked that such samples were very easily contaminated by anyone coming in contact with them, like "stiff sponges that can absorb anything." In other words, the man who had actually conducted the Japanese analysis pronounced it anything but definitive. The five tiny samples he had been given to work on (the largest of them 1.5 grams) had anyway been used up in his laboratory, so independent verification was thereafter impossible. It seemed likely as a result that nobody could ever know for sure what Pyongyang's package had contained.

When the Japanese government's chief cabinet secretary, Hosoda Hiroyuki, referred to this article as inadequate and a misrepresentation of the government-commissioned analysis, Nature responded, in a highly unusual editorial (17 March), saying that:

"Japan is right to doubt North Korea's every statement. But its interpretation of the DNA tests has crossed the boundary of science's freedom from political interference. Nature's interview with the scientist who carried out the tests raised the possibility that the remains were merely contaminated, making the DNA tests inconclusive. This suggestion is uncomfortable for a Japanese government that wants to have North Korea seen as unambiguously fraudulent. ...

The inescapable fact is that the bones may have been contaminated. ... It is also entirely possible that North Korea is lying. But the DNA tests that Japan is counting on won't resolve the issue. The problem is not in the science but in the fact that the government is meddling in scientific matters at all. Science runs on the premise that experiments, and all the uncertainty involved in them, should be open for scrutiny. Arguments made by other Japanese scientists that the tests should have been carried out by a larger team are convincing. Why did Japan entrust them to one scientist working alone, one who no longer seems to be free to talk about them?

Japan's policy seems a desperate effort to make up for what has been a diplomatic failure ... Part of the burden for Japan's political and diplomatic failure is being shifted to a scientist for doing his job -- deriving conclusions from experiments and presenting reasonable doubts about them. But the friction between North Korea and Japan will not be decided by a DNA test. Likewise, the interpretation of DNA test results cannot be decided by the government of either country. Dealing with North Korea is no fun, but it doesn't justify breaking the rules of separation between science and politics."[10]

Apart from a brief reference in one weekly journal, no word of this extraordinary exchange penetrated into the Japanese mass media. Three weeks after it, the Foreign Minister told the Diet, in answer to a question, that he knew nothing about the Nature article.[11] Meanwhile, anger at North Korea mounted and preparations went ahead for what was expected to be the largest-yet protest meeting scheduled to be held in Tokyo, on 24 April. As for Mr Yoshii, one week after the Nature editorial he left Teikyo hospital, promoted from lowly university lecturer to the prestigious position of head of the forensic medical department of the Tokyo metropolitan police department. Nature reported, in its third discussion of the case (7 April), that it had been told Yoshii was therefore not available for media comment.[12] The suggestion, in a parliamentary question on 30 March, that this smacked of government complicity in "hiding a witness" drew outrage and the comment from the Minister of Foreign Affairs that it was "extremely regrettable" for such aspersions to be cast on Japan's scientific integrity.[13]

Beyond the immediate parties to the dispute, South Korean forensic scientists also expressed skepticism about the Japanese findings, on grounds of the low possibility of DNA material surviving cremation and the high probability of contamination,[14] and Time magazine (4 April) reported that the technique that Yoshii had used, known as "nested PCR," was one that professional forensic laboratories in the US avoided because of the risk of contamination.[15]

The only certainty is that both governments are lying. Previously it was obvious that both governments were stalling, but I thought that only the North Korean government was lying.

Japan's Peace Constitution -- documentary

From another excellent Japan Focus article:

Rarely does a documentary film, many months in production, appears as timely as the nightly news when it's released. But the premiere in Tokyo on April 23 of "Japan's Peace Constitution" (Japanese title: "Eiga Nihon-koku Kempo"), directed by Japan Focus associate John Junkerman, comes at a moment when tensions with China and Korea over Japan's war past are at their highest levels in decades. The film, produced by the Tokyo independent production house Siglo, shows that the drive to revise the Japanese Constitution cannot be divorced from an understanding of that history or from the impact revision will have on Japan's relations with its neighboring countries.

In order to provide an international perspective on the constitution, the filmmakers traveled to eight countries, with interviews ranging from American historian John Dower on the making of the constitution to Syrian and Lebanese journalists on the dispatch of the Self Defense Force to Iraq. Chalmers Johnson provides a grounding in the "base world" American empire, and Korean historians Kang Man-Gil and Han Hong Koo appeal to Japan to fully acknowledge its past in order to embrace a future of constructive engagement with Asia.

John Junkerman

John Junkerman, director of Japan's Peace Constitution

If Japan revises the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 and officially designates its military as such, other parts of Asia will increase their arms buildups and war will become a possibility, according to American film director John Junkerman.

The Tokyo-based director, who recently completed the documentary "Japan's Peace Constitution," said in an interview that Article 9 has kept Japan from resorting to use of force and reassured other parts of Asia that the country does not pose an aggressive threat.

"But if Article 9 is revised and the Self-Defense Forces are called a military and given that right of being engaged in collective . . . defense, Japan's neighbors are going to say 'there is nothing anymore that constrains Japan, therefore we have to rebuild up our arms as well,' " Junkerman said.

On Tokyo's disputes over South Korea-controlled islets known by Japan as Takeshima, and the Japan-controlled Senkaku islets, which are claimed by China and Taiwan, he said, "They could very easily escalate into increased tensions and to wars."

Junkerman's film tells how the constitutional revision is an international issue, not a domestic one, through views of 12 intellectuals from Japan and overseas, including China, South Korea and the U.S.

Chalmers Johnson, director of the Japan Policy Research Institute in San Diego, said that Japan had apologized for its aggression in East Asia by renouncing the use of force via Article 9.

"To formally renounce Article 9 is to renounce the apology," he said in the film.

The film also shows testimony from South Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army, and their protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, where they demanded that Tokyo apologize and stop its alleged militarization.

To discuss the Constitution, Junkerman noted it is indispensable to look at the history of Japan's aggression in Asia. He said one of the reasons for making the film was to educate Japanese youth, who are less aware of what happened.

The film traces the process of establishing the Constitution from 1945 to 1947 through interviews with John Dower, an expert on Japan's postwar history and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and former University of Tokyo professor Rokuro Hidaka.

Although the Liberal Democratic Party claims the Constitution was drawn up by the U.S. and Japan should make its own, the experts argued that citizens' groups and political parties debated the Constitution and the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces incorporated their proposals in its draft.


Read the complete article

Robert Oppenheimer, the Bomb, and Nuclear Insecurity

A Japan Focus article on early attempts to prevent proliferation:

Robert Oppenheimer, the Bomb, and Nuclear Insecurity

by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin

In his interviews and writings over the past decade, Osama bin Laden has repeatedly talked about America's atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He believes (incorrectly) that it was the atomic bombings that shocked the Japanese imperial government into an early surrender -- and, he says, he is planning an atomic attack on America that will shock us into retreating from the Middle East.


There were alternative policies at the beginning of the nuclear age that our government could have followed -- and could still promote -- that would have mitigated the dangers we face today. There were people then, as now, who recognized that the knowledge of how to construct and deploy atomic bombs could not be kept secret for long. And there were people then, as now, who recognized that such bombs could be smuggled into major urban areas -- meaning there is no defense against nuclear terrorism. Chief among those who clearly saw the nuclear future -- as we have lived and are living it -- was the "father of the atomic bomb," J. Robert Oppenheimer, who developed a plan for a nuclear-free world and did his best to promote this alternative path.

The history of Oppenheimer's failure to contain the nuclear genie makes clear that unilateralism and hubris are hardly unique to the Bush Administration; they have been a recurrent characteristic of US decision-making ever since the latter years of World War II. America's nuclear monopoly was "the great equalizer," Secretary of War Henry Stimson triumphantly declared in July 1945 at the Potsdam conference upon learning of the success of the atomic bomb test at Alamogordo, New Mexico. The bomb was our "trump card," our "ace in the hole," President Truman and his closest advisers believed. But others, more informed and more thoughtful, like Oppenheimer, realized that the bomb was a Trojan horse that would soon threaten our own security as much as it threatened the security of others. Oppenheimer's efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons at the beginning of the atomic age are as applicable today as they were then.

Read the complete article

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Japan emerges as America's deputy sheriff

Simon Tisdall in The Guardian on Japan's gradual steps towards re-militarilsation.

Japan emerges as America's deputy sheriff in the Pacific

Escalating tension with China, violently illustrated by renewed anti-Japanese protests in Shanghai and other big cities at the weekend, is increasing pressure on Tokyo to expand its military capabilities and back a deepening strategic alliance with the US reaching from east Asia to the Gulf.


According to Kazuya Sakamoto of Osaka University, Japan and Britain are central to a far-reaching, post-9/11 US review of its overseas force deployments.

"The basic idea is that the US will gradually withdraw from the Eurasian landmass while assigning the two island nations at the east and west of Eurasia, Japan and Britain, even greater importance as strategic bases to ensure stability in Europe and Asia," Professor Sakamoto writes in the current issue of Japan Echo magazine.

An important element in this transformation fell into place last week when Japan agreed in principle to allow the command headquarters of the US Army's 1st Corps to transfer from Washington state, on the US Pacific coast, to Camp Zama, near Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

The 1st Corps has responsibility for operations in the Pacific and Indian oceans, extending to the conflict zones and oilfields of the Gulf. The primary focus of its forward deployment is likely to be the defence of Taiwan, regional challenges posed by China's military expansion, and the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

But the US has also reportedly proposed that command operations of the 13th Airforce, now on Guam in the Pacific - a base for long-range bombers and tanker aircraft frequently deployed in the Middle East - be moved to Yokota airbase in Tokyo.

"The ramifications of this would be that Japan would essentially serve as a frontline US command post for the Asia-Pacific and beyond," said Christopher Hughes of Warwick University in a paper published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The American forward deployments are certain to be viewed with suspicion in China and farther afield - and face political opposition in Japan. The US-Japan security treaty states that US bases may only be used "for the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the far east". It says nothing, for example, about Iran.

But Dr Hughes said that since Japan had given the US a free hand to use its bases for previous Middle East operations, Tokyo "might have to accept its enhanced role as a fulcrum for US military commands".

Japan's worries about China are the main reason for acquiescing in US plans that effectively shatter any remaining pacifist illusions. But Tokyo is in any case growing more militarily assertive under its prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi.

Japan sent non-combat troops to Iraq while its navy has joined the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative. Military cooperation with Australia, South Korea and south-east Asian states is developing.

It is acquiring a ballistic missile defence system and new satellite intelligence capabilities. It has pledged to help keep the peace in Taiwan. And there has even been talk of pre-emptive strikes against North Korea and a Japanese nuclear deterrent.

In short, Japan, emerging from the shadow of its past, is again becoming a military power with a global role and hopes of a permanent UN security council seat.

China's actions may thereby be more easily explained. But further demonstrations of hostility will only exacerbate the slide towards an Asian cold war.