8.02.2016 In Depth Look

japan mask theater theatre 17th_century_Noh_maskA FULCRUM OF ANY ‘PIVOT TO ASIA,’ & DRY TINDER AMID MANY FLAMES
A very brief overview of a complex and important topic, broadly the geopolitical background of Northeast Asia, more particularly matters that deal with militarism and nuclear proliferation in and around the Korean Peninsula, to begin with a briefing from Global Research that takes note of recent repression and censorship on the part of Republic of Korea government in regard to powerful currents in favor of peace in South Korean society, a fairly focused assessment that leads to the broader point of view  that CounterCurrents presents in an article that discusses the new anti-missile system that Seoul has agreed to deploy, that many critics and peace advocates view as a profound shock to any strategic balance in the region; both of which, in turn, complement an entire installment of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which examines the geopolitical fractures in the region with considerations of the status of North Korea’s nuclear program at the center of the analysis, all of which ought to wake up any scrappy scribe or stalwart citizen to the unimpeachable fact that the cascading fires that might easily escalate and extinguish the human flame are right now guttering amid variable winds on the Korean Peninsula: “On July 26, 2016, the South Korean government blocked the entry of two Korean American peace activists – Juyeon Rhee and Hyun Lee – into its country.  The two are representatives of the U.S.-based Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea.  They had traveled to South Korea to participate in the annual Jeju Peace March as well as join protests against the recent U.S.-South Korean decision to deploy the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.
After being detained by immigration officers at Incheon International Airport, the two were deported pursuant to Articles 11 and 12 of the Korea Immigration Law, which prohibits the entry of foreigners who, among other things, are ‘deemed likely to commit any act detrimental to national interests of the Republic of Korea or public safety.’  The two activists had traveled to South Korea numerous times in the past with no problems.  They have never broken any laws in South Korea and had never been denied entry nor deported in the past.

Since announcing its decision to collaborate with the U.S. military to deploy the missile system in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, the government has waged an aggressive campaign to crack down on all those who oppose the government’s decision. President Park recently referred to those voicing opposition as “subversive forces” and declared, “It’s important to block subversive forces from all affairs, and we must be thorough in weeding them out.”

The South Korean government’s action of refusing entry to peace activists shows just how much it has devolved into a police state under the Park Geun-hye administration and that it deems international solidarity a threat to its policy of military confrontation.  Indeed, only the strength of international solidarity between citizens of the United States and South Korea can stop the two governments’ provocative action towards increased militarization.  The Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea is resolved to redouble its efforts of solidarity with the people of South Korea fighting for democracy and peace and call on all those who stand on the side of justice to join the opposition against the dangerous U.S. move to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.”—Global ResearchWAR plane russia
            “(The United States asserts) that deployment (of the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense Missile System, or THAAD) is necessary to protect it from North Korea but this logic has been rejected by China.  According to the Xinhua News Agency the ‘THAAD, which has a 200 km-range for intercepting missiles, is to be set up some 300 km southeast of Seoul in Seongju county, far from the border with the DPRK.  That means the capital and the surrounding areas, the country’s most populated region, will not be protected.  While Washington’s reasoning for the THAAD deployment is untenable, its self-serving motivation sticks out a mile.  THAAD’s X-band radar is believed to have a detection range as far as 2,000 km in forward-based mode.  Thus once placed in South Korea, the United States would be able to peer conveniently deep into China and impos(e) a grave threat to the security interests of the two countries and to regional peace.’

(This situation is taking place in a context of intense volatility in nearby or otherwise connected arenas, such as the South China Sea, the solidarity between Russia and China, and the baskets full of issues that concern Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Russia).  The deployment of the THAAD missile is therefore quite an important development for the region though it may take more than one year to make it operational; in any case, the harsh criticism from China and Russia shows that a new cold war is evolving.  The nature of this nascent conflict has several new elements which differ from the previous age.navy war military
The new cold war is not ideological in nature but instead is aimed at controlling resources and power system; for China the resource considerations are more prominent than any other thing.  The control of the South China Sea is strategically essential for both logistical and petrochemical reasons.  The alliance with Russia is advance further due to the access to strategic minerals and carbon stocks that the Russians can offer.  Russia in the near future will be a primary innovator in exploring for oil and gas resources in the Arctic region.  Being so close means that China cannot disown Russia, in a similar ways as Russia also does not want to lose Syria because it offers a sea avenue for shipping resources in MENA.  For the US, power maintenance and resource mobilization are the major objectives; hence the control of the South China Sea is central and continuing to lead its allies is natural policy.  It never wants a bipolar or multi-polar world.  It wants to remain a unilateral power all over the globe.

The deployment of THAAD is one thing; if more intervention by the US in the region follows up on THAAD, then the Chinese-Russian reaction will become even more stringent.  The Chinese policy is clear that it will not allow any state to have any stake in the South China Sea.  The US for the time being has collaborated with its allies Japan and Australia to play the issue down but what is the threshold of an outbreak of open conflict is very difficult to know, but this new cold war could change rapidly into hot war, even though that will remain difficult to predict; but the world has moved into a new phase that is now well established after the deployment of THAAD.”—CounterCurrents
            “Japan has already accumulated about 11 metric tons of separated plutonium on its soil—enough for about 2,500 nuclear bombs.  It also plans to open a nuclear spent fuel reprocessing plant at Rokkasho designed to separate eight tons of plutonium—enough to make roughly 1,500 nuclear warheads a year—starting late in 2018.  The Japanese plutonium program has raised China’s hackles.  China’s new five-year plan includes a proposal to import a reprocessing plant from France with the same capacity as Rokkasho.  Meanwhile, South Korea insists that it should have the same right to separate plutonium as Japan has.japan shinto temple asia
Each of these countries emphasizes that it wants to separate plutonium for peaceful purposes.  Yet in each country, there are skeptics who respond whenever this argument is made by a neighbor.  China and South Korea suspect that Japan’s large stockpile of plutonium and its plans to operate the Rokkasho plant are designed to afford Tokyo some latent form of nuclear deterrence, i.e. a nuclear weapon option.  A huge new Chinese commercial plutonium separation program could give Beijing an option to make far more nuclear weapons than it already has.  It is unclear what Russia might make of all of this, or North Korea.  One possibility is that either might use such ‘peaceful’ plutonium production as an excuse to further expand its own nuclear arsenal.  China might do the same as deterrence to Japan.  If Seoul joined in, it would be even more difficult to cap North Korea’s nuclear program.
American officials appreciate these dangers but so far have only hinted at them in public.  On March 17th, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noting that the United States was considering the possibility of not renewing its 30-year-old civilian nuclear cooperative agreement with Japan as leverage to encourage a discussion of Japan’s plutonium program.  In an interview with the Japan Times, Jon Wolfsthal, senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, said that if Japan were to change course, it would ‘find the United States to be supportive;’ he was concerned that if Japan did not, a plutonium race in East Asia might ensue.  Meanwhile, Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and several key Democrats have called for a time out in the commercial separation of plutonium in East Asia.
So far, Japan’s leadership has not reacted to those calls.  Indeed, it is pushing ahead, enacting a new law that mandates that power companies pay for the reprocessing of their spent fuel.  The Abe administration also refuses to terminate its plutonium-fueled Monju prototype fast breeder reactor, even though safety and technical problems have prevented its operation for more than 20 years.  Why have Tokyo officials shown such an insensitivity to US concerns?  They have made clear that they don’t consider any of the statements US officials have made to constitute an official request from the US government, dismissing them as little more than private musings.  ‘There are many different views in Washington policy circles,’ they said, also noting quite correctly that none of comments from Washington has been followed by concrete actions.

(This needs to change).  (H)aving the plutonium discussion between Japan and the United States is critically important; the Abe administration puts a high priority on security issues and is also very pro-United States.  Now is the time to speak clearly on these security issues—before China and Japan lock themselves into a plutonium production rivalry that will make cooperation between them and South Korea on pressing issues, including North Korea’s nuclear program, all the more difficult to secure.”—Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists