Speaking to the BBC in Tokyo on 27 June, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono warned that if Britain were to embrace a ‘hard Brexit’ by leaving the European Union without a deal, many of the 1,000 or so Japanese companies based in Britain, employing some 160,000 British workers, might feel compelled to relocate their operations to other parts of Europe.
This is not an idle threat and is particularly acute in the automobile sector where Japanese companies produce some half of the 800,000 vehicles produced annually in Britain. Already, following Honda’s decision to close its British factory by 2021, and Nissan’s cancellation of plans to build its X-Trail SUV in its Sunderland factory, the shock impact of Brexit on British jobs and manufacturing strength is being keenly felt.… Seguir leyendo »
Japan’s Emperor Akihito is the country’s first monarch in more than 200 years to abdicate, bringing an end to its Heisei era.
Akihito’s decision to abdicate represents a sharp break from royal tradition for the world’s oldest monarchy.
The last official abdication took place in 1817, and so when Akihito announced in 2016 his desire to step down due to old age and ill-health, immediate reaction in Japan was mixed.
For many of Japan’s conservative politicians, for whom Japan’s national identity is tied closely to the notion of an unbroken monarchical line stretching back to the 7th Century BC, abdication was seen as an anomaly, conflicting with the notion that the monarch should serve out his term for the length of his natural life.… Seguir leyendo »
Friday’s dramatic meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Chairman Kim Jong-un, represents an unambiguous historic breakthrough at least in terms of the image of bilateral reconciliation and the emotional uplift it has given to South Korea public opinion.
Whether the agreement announced at the meeting – the new Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula – offers, in substance, the right mix of concrete measures to propel the two Koreas and the wider international community towards a lasting peace remains an open question.
The symbolic impact of a North Korean leader setting foot for the first time on South Korean soil cannot be underestimated.… Seguir leyendo »
It is no exaggeration to say that the bolt out of the blue commitment by US President Donald Trump to sit down for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has had a severe impact on Japan’s government.
A carefully crafted, US-Japan coordinated strategy – of unremitting political and economic pressure on North Korea – has been a replaced by a new unilateral US policy of (albeit perhaps temporary) moderation. The shift is informed by Trump’s confident optimism that he will be able to reach a deal to negotiate away the North’s nuclear weapons and advanced missile programme.
But the unexpected talks will have an impact in Japan not unlike the July 1971 announcement by then-president Richard Nixon that he planned to travel to Beijing to meet Chairman Mao Zedong.… Seguir leyendo »
Wednesday’s dramatic launch by North Korea of its new Hwasong-15 long-range missile is, in the eyes of some analysts, capable of striking as far afield as Washington or New York. After six nuclear tests since 2006 and more than 20 missile launches in 2017, could the North have reached a point where its military advances give it a de facto nuclear deterrent credible enough to discourage the US from ever attacking North Korea? The question is not an academic one.
If Pyongyang feels secure – and the North’s leaders have routinely claimed that their nuclear and other WMD assets are purely for defensive purposes – then presumably Kim Jong-un can negotiate from a position of strength with the US to secure a relaxation of economic and political sanctions.… Seguir leyendo »
Is there anything the US could give North Korea that would make it end its nuclear and missile programmes?
Given the escalating war of words between the US and North Korea, and Donald Trump’s warning of ‘fire and fury’ if Kim Jong-un overtly threatens the United States or launches missiles against the US territory of Guam, it is unclear how useful diplomacy is as tool for moderating regional tensions.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior Trump administration officials have stressed the importance of diplomacy, and even Trump has in the past offered to talk to Kim, but there are no signs that the North Koreans are open to dialogue.… Seguir leyendo »
North Korea’s confident announcement that it has successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking the US is another iteration in the high-stakes game of international poker that Pyongyang appears to excel at. Carefully timed to coincide with the 4 July holidays in the US, Kim Jong-un’s triumphal blast has simultaneously allowed the North Korean authoritarian leader to make good on his promises of military modernization to his own people while exposing the hollow overconfident tweets of President Donald Trump that an ICBM launch ‘won’t happen’.
The launch of the North’s Hwasong-14 rocket is in practical terms merely an incremental step forward from an earlier launch in May, when a similar rocket flew for 30 minutes, to a height of some 1,312 miles over a distance of some 489 miles.… Seguir leyendo »
Moon Jae-in’s success in winning the contest with some 41% of the vote in South Korea’s presidential election, while not a foregone conclusion, confirmed the expectations of many observers that the population would move leftwards, rejecting the trend of the past eight years that has seen conservative candidates occupying the presidential residence, or Blue House, since 2008.
At 64 years old, Moon’s personal biography epitomizes South Korea’s progressive politics and the civic activism that shaped the democratization movement that transformed the country in the 1980s and 1990s. The eldest son of North Korean refugees who fled south in 1950 at the height of the Korean War, Moon grew up in poverty, and like many of his generation spent his student days actively protesting against the authoritarian government of Park Chung-hee who dominated the country from 1961 to 1979.… Seguir leyendo »
Japan’s foreign policy will now be dominated by the need to maintain positive relations with the US.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s November meeting with Donald Trump has been an important first step in building a relationship with the new administrations, and initial contacts with key Trump officials (most notably Michael Flynn, the new national security adviser) have encouraged some in Tokyo to believe that a major bilateral row over defence burden sharing is unlikely. Abe will take some reassurance from initial signs that a number of key former Bush administration Asia hands are being considered for senior level positions, and a tougher US posture on security policy towards China may be an opportunity for closer coordination between Tokyo and Washington.… Seguir leyendo »
For South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, the jury is quite literally still out. Impeached by the country’s National Assembly on 9 December over claims of corruption, cronyism and influence peddling, she defiantly rejected – in a detailed statement – all of the charges leveled at her by an independent prosecutor. Any resolution of the issue must now await the ruling of the country’s Constitutional Court on the legitimacy of the impeachment vote – a decision that most likely will come early in the new year.
For the special prosecutor’s office, which is due to start its formal investigation on 21 December, the challenge is to find unambiguous evidence of the president’s direct responsibility for any of the corruption that may have taken place.… Seguir leyendo »
What are North Korea’s motives?
The North Korean leadership is trying to do two things:
Firstly, to strengthen Kim Jong-un’s authority by demonstrating that the North is moving forward in its goal to enhance the country’s military capabilities and specifically its nuclear deterrent. Since the 1960s, successive leaders of the DPRK have sought to develop an effective nuclear weapons programme as a means of underlining the country’s political and strategic autonomy, while also boosting the reputation of its individual leaders. Kim Jong-un, since coming to power in December 2011, has made the goal of a strong economy and military the centrepiece of national policy.… Seguir leyendo »