Colombian President: Pope has ‘tremendous leadership’
Villavicencio, Colombia (CNN)Amid lush greenery and tropical humidity, Pope Francis touched down in Villavicencio on Friday, bringing his message of peace to one of the most notorious sites of guerrilla warfare in Colombia for the past 50 years.
Here, in one of the last major cities before the vast expanse of the Amazon, the Pope listened to powerful testimonies from ex-guerrilla fighters and from victims of their violence, such as Pastora Mira Garcia, who lost her father, husband and two children during the civil war.
“Do not be afraid of asking for forgiveness and offering it,” the Pope told them. “It is time to defuse hatred, to renounce vengeance.”
It is a message the Pope has echoed throughout this five-day visit in the country, aiming to help Colombians, many of whose memories are still fresh with crimes committed against them, embrace the historic peace agreement reached in December 2016.
Rebels ask for forgiveness
There are signs that Francis’ words may be having an effect.
In an open letter to the Pope published on Friday, Rodrigo Londono, former leader of the leftist guerrilla group FARC, asked for forgiveness from Francis for the actions of his group during five decades of war.
“Your repeated expressions about God’s infinite mercy move me to plead your forgiveness for any tears and pain that we have caused the people of Colombia, Londono wrote.
At a Mass on Friday, Pope Francis beatified two Catholic priests who were murdered during the years of the civil war, calling their martyrdom a sign “of a people who wish to rise up out of the swamp of violence and bitterness.”
Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca was kidnapped and shot twice in the head by Colombian Marxist guerrillas in 1989.
The Rev. Pedro Maria Ramirez Ramos, known asNM! the “martyr of Armero,” was killed at the start of the Colombian civil war in 1948. The conflict claimed an estimated 220,000 lives.
Pope meets Venezuelan bishops
On Thursday, in an unscheduled private meeting, Pope Francis briefly spoke with bishops who had come from Venezuela.
Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, told reporters in Bogota that the bishops had come to ask the Pope for help for the “desperate situation,” in their country.
“There are people who eat garbage,” Urosa said, “yes, the garbage, and there are people who die because there is no medicine.”
“So we want to remind the Pope of this again and especially the serious political situation, because the government is doing everything possible to establish a state system, totalitarian and Marxist.”
Francis continues his visit in Medellin on Saturday and Cartagena on Sunday, before returning to the Vatican later that evening.
Tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers will stage a mock 10-day war against the Hezbollah terrorist group in northern Israel beginning Tuesday, marking the IDF’s largest exercise in nearly 20 years, the army announced Monday, amid tensions over growing Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon.
The drill, known as “the Light of the Grain,” or “Or Hadagan” in Hebrew, will start at daybreak Tuesday and end on September 14, the military said. The war games will include naval ships, drones, helicopters and fighter jets taking part.
Tens of thousands of soldiers, including thousands of reservists, will take part in the exercise, which is being run by the IDF’s Northern Corps and its commander Maj. Gen. Tamir Hyman, along with the head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, and the head of the IDF’s General Staff Corps, Maj. Gen. Yossi Bachar, an army official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The exercise will simulate a conflict with Hezbollah that starts with a sudden, small attack and develops into full-scale war. The official said the military’s goal in the drill will be to “vanquish” the terrorist group.
Hezbollah, with its suspected arsenal of over 100,000 rockets and thousands of fighters, is seen by the IDF as its central threat. The Iran-backed terrorist group is therefore the standard by which the army measures its preparedness.
Israeli officials have raised alarms in recent months over increased Hezbollah activity in southern Lebanon, as well as plans for an Iranian missile factory to supply the terror group with more accurate rockets. They have also expressed misgivings over a ceasefire in southern Syria that they say allows Iran to establish a foothold along Israel’s northern border.
However, the military stressed the exercise was planned in advance and was not connected to Iran’s or Hezbollah’s current activities in the region.
A map showing the type of full-scale attack by the Hezbollah terrorist group that the army will simulate during its ‘Light of the Grain’ exercise, the army’s largest in 20 years, on September 4, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
The navy and air force will also take part in the drill, as well as the military’s cyber units, which for the first time in a large-scale exercise will simulate the “cyber arena,” both actively engaging in electronic warfare and defending its networks.
The exercise was named for Meir Dagan, a former head of the Mossad intelligence service and former commander of the Northern Corps, who died last year.
The head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, speaks to senior officers ahead of the ‘Light of the Grain’ exercise, the army’s largest in 20 years, on September 4, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
They will be fighting against soldiers pretending to be Hezbollah terrorists, using “flags and enemy uniforms, fake weapons, fake explosive belts and more,” the army official said.
The costumes and props are part of a new army program known as “Red Containers,” which the officer said is a “breakthrough” for military simulation.
According to the official, this will be the “most significant” exercise in the history of the IDF Teleprocessing Corps, which is responsible for military communications, as the technological unit will “become the central headquarters” for directing the various units and branches of the military.
The IDF prepares for the ‘Light of the Grain’ exercise, the army’s largest in 20 years, on September 4, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
The number of reservists taking part in the drill is also “unprecedented,” the army officer said.
“The purpose of the large call-up of reservists is to prepare the reserve force for war in the northern arena and to adapt it to the changes and developing threats of recent years,” the official said.
The army also used the exercise to test a new contact system and ensure that it will work if needed in the future, the officer added.
For most units taking part in the exercise, including IDF Military Intelligence, it will be their largest in nearly 20 years, since a 1998 exercise known as “Gates of the Sky,” or “Shaare Shamayim.”
As part of the exercise, the regional divisions in the area will guard the communities in the north, carry out patrols, collect intelligence and build earthenware berms, the official said.
The IDF’s elite Yahalom combat engineering units will take part in the exercise, practicing disarming bombs, crossing waterways, uncovering hidden weapons caches and fighting in the types of tunnels that Hezbollah is believed to have dug in Lebanon.
The IDF prepares for the ‘Light of the Grain’ exercise, the army’s largest in 20 years, on September 4, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
The Artillery Corps and Combat Intelligence Corps will also use their respective drones in order to assist commanders on the ground, the official said.
In addition, the IDF Home Front Command will practice its “Safe Distance” plan, in which civilian populations along the Lebanese border will be evacuated farther south in order to keep them out of harm’s way, as the military believes that in a future conflict Hezbollah would try to send fighters to attack northern Israeli communities and their inhabitants.
“The decision to carry out the transfer of communities will be made at the political level, with the intention of preserving the safety of the citizens of the State of Israel,” the military official said.
The officer would not specify which communities would be evacuated during the exercise.
The IDF prepares for the ‘Light of the Grain’ exercise, the army’s largest in 20 years, on September 4, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
As the exercise will deal not only with offensive fighting, but also home front defense, the army will work alongside civilian emergency services, like the Israel Police, the Fire and Rescue Authority and the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
In addition to the dozens of ground forces brigades taking part, the military will also deploy aircraft and naval ships to the drill.
An Israel navy ship fires a Harpoon sea-to-sea missile at a decommissioned boat during an exercise on July 5, 2016. (Israel Defense Forces)
The navy will practice a number of scenarios that it expects will occur in war-time. Submarines, gun boats and patrol vessels will take part in the exercise, as will naval units on shore that monitor the coast for potential infiltration.
A naval officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that the military fears Hezbollah will attempt to enter the country from the sea, using either ships, small submersibles, or scuba diving. The Iran-backed terrorist group is also believed to possess the Russian Yakhont missile, an advanced anti-ship weapon.
The air force, meanwhile, will practice bombing runs and close air support, as well as supplying troops on the ground with materiel and sending back intelligence so that ground forces can “maneuver on the front and behind enemy lines,” the army official said.
This will be the first large-scale exercise since the air force’s Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle was declared operational last week.
A test of the David’s Sling missile defense system (Defense Ministry)
In addition, the air force’s Aerial Defense Command will have its mettle tested, as the military expects thousands of rockets, missiles and mortars to rain down on Israel in a future conflict with Hezbollah. During the drill, the air force will operate its Iron Dome, Patriot, Arrow and David’s Sling systems, the official said.
Approximately 40 senior officers will monitor the exercise in order to assess the army’s capabilities, the officer said.
It took the military more than six months to prepare the “Light of the Grain” drill and the plans for it were personally approved by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
The 10-day exercise will in many ways serve as an answer to the difficulties faced by the military during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The campaign saw intelligence failures and a breakdown in communication between different branches of the military. As such, information gathering and intra-army cooperation are two central aspects of “the Light of Grain.”
Seoul tries to ignore Trump’s criticism: ‘They worry he’s kind of nuts,’ one observer says
Trump responds to North Korea’s most powerful nuclear weapon test yet
North Korea detonated their most powerful nuclear weapon yet in a test on Sunday, Sept. 3. President Trump responded to the test, calling the actions “hostile” and saying “we’ll see” about a retaliatory attack on North Korea. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)
TOKYO — South Korea’s president tried late Sunday to dismiss talk of a dispute between Seoul and Washington over how to deal with North Korea following its sixth nuclear test, after President Trump criticized the South Korean approach as “appeasement.”Moon Jae-in’s office said that his government would continue to work towards peaceful denuclearization after tweets and actions from Trump that have left South Koreans scratching their heads at why the American president is attacking an ally at such a sensitive time.
As if to underline Seoul’s willingness to be tough, the South Korean military conducted bombing drills at dawn Monday, practicing ballistic missile strikes on the North Korean nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.
The South Korean military calculated the distance to the site and practiced having F-15 jet fighters accurately hit the target, the joint chiefs of staff said Monday morning.
“This drill was conducted to send a strong warning to North Korea for its sixth nuclear test,” it said.
After North Korea conducted its nuclear test Sunday, Trump tweeted: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”
Trump did not talk to Moon on the phone Sunday — in stark contrast to the two calls he had with Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan and a leader who has proven much more willing to agree with his American counterpart. This will worsen anxieties in Seoul that Tokyo is seen as “the favorite ally,” analysts said.
Moon, who was elected in May, advocated engagement with North Korea but has also acknowledged the need for pressure to bring the Pyongyang regime back to talks. He has also come around to an agreement between his predecessor and the U.S. military to deploy an antimissile system in South Korea.
Trump’s tweet was widely reported across South Korean media, and Moon’s office responded to the tweet with a measured statement Sunday night.
“South Korea is a country that experienced a fratricidal war. The destruction of war should not be repeated in this land,” it said. “We will not give up and will continue to push for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means working together with our allies.”
North Koreans watch a news report showing North Korea’s nuclear test on a screen in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kyodo/via REUTERS (Kyodo/Reuters)
Analysts said Trump’s actions were puzzling.
“It’s strange to see Trump going after South Korea more aggressively than he’s going after China, especially since China also thinks that dialogue is central to solving this problem,” said John Delury, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul.
In an earlier tweet, Trump had said that China “was trying to help,” although he added it was “with little success.”
Delury said that the “passive aggressive” tone of Trump’s tweets suggested that Moon had been standing up to the American president during their previous phone calls. They spoke Friday after North Korea sent a missile over Japan.
“It sounds like Moon is saying, ‘We’re going to have to talk to these guys’ — which is true — and Trump is frustrated,” Delury said, noting that the latest tweet seemed to address Moon directly, with its “like I told you.”
Trump’s tweet was even more puzzling, analysts say, because Trump himself — both as a candidate and as president — had repeatedly suggested he would be willing to talk to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
On the campaign trail, Trump said that he would be happy to have a burger in a boardroom with Kim, and in recent months he has called Kim a “smart cookie” and has said he would be “honored” to meet him.
South Korea’s response overall to Trump’s recent pronouncements has been much more muted than its past explosions against its protector — a sign that they know Trump is a different kind of president.
“They think they’re dealing with an unreasonable partner and complaining about it isn’t going to help — in fact, it might make it worse,” said David Straub, a former State Department official who dealt with both Koreas and recently published a book about anti-Americanism in South Korea.
“Opinion polls show South Koreans have one of the lowest rates of regard for Trump in the world and they don’t consider him to be a reasonable person,” Straub said. “In fact, they worry he’s kind of nuts, but they still want the alliance.”
On the Sunday talk shows in the United States, there was plenty of criticism of Trump’s words.
“You gotta watch the tweets,” Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force general and former head of the National Security Agency and the CIA who has been critical of Trump, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I think we had an unforced error over the weekend when we brought up the free trade agreement with our South Korea friends on whom we have to cooperate. . . . It’s wrong on the merits, and it’s certainly not integrated into a broader approach to northeast Asia,” Hayden said. He served as NSA director from 1999 to 2005 and led the CIA from 2006 until 2009.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also questioned Trump’s decision to admonish South Korea when the nation appears to be facing a growing threat.
“We need to be working hand in hand with South Korea, and with Japan,” he said, also on CNN. “Why we would want to show divisions with South Korea makes no sense at all.”
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Even before the nuclear test, Trump’s approach to South Korea, an ally since the end of World War II, had been under question. Analysts were asking why Trump would rip up the free-trade agreement with South Korea at all, rather than revising it, let alone at a time when a united front was needed in the region.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “no decisions” had been made but that trade deals must be in the United States’ economic interest.
“The president has made clear that where we have trade deficits with countries, we’re going to renegotiate those deals,” Mnuchin said on Fox News.
Yoonjung Seo in Seoul and Hamza Shaban in Washington contributed to this report.
This morning Kim Jong Un, the idiot who controls North Korea with an iron fist set off a nuclear bomb. China says that they do not want there to be nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula yet they have helped create this lunatic in North Korea. I say this because there is plenty of picture evidence that shows that the missile launchers North Korea uses are Chinese. The very rapid development of their missile and Nuke programs makes it obvious that North Korea is getting ‘State’ help from someone. There are only two choices as to which States, China or Russia. There is also plenty of solid proof that North Korea is helping Iran with their missile and Nuke programs. All of the signs point to China being behind North Korea and China’s President Xi Jinping has stated this past week that China will not tolerate a Regime change in North Korea under any circumstance.
China’s President Xi Jinping has proven himself to be almost as flagrant of a liar as President Trump, the difference between those two men is that Xi Jinping is very intelligent and Donald Trump if a complete idiot. China’s government would love nothing more than for the United States military to totally exit the Asian realm so that they can more easily totally dominate every country in Asia. I do not believe that China and I mean by that, Xi Jinping will order a ‘hit’ on Kim Jong Un even though that would be the best solution to this crises. One mans blood being spilled is far better than the blood of thousands or even millions being spilled.
Being China is actually helping Kim Jong Un with his Nuclear and military programs the world can not wait on China to do anything to this crazy fool. While the world waits on the UN to produce results with their talks and sanctions North Korea is perfecting their Missile and Nuclear technologies with the help of Beijing. China continues to warn the U.S. and our allies in that region of the world that if North Korea is attacked preemptively that China will militarily join North Korea. So, to me that sounds a lot like the U.S., South Korea or Japan should just sit back and wait to be hit with Nuclear bombs first before they respond. I am not saying that the U.S. should Nuke anyone first but what I am saying is that if Xi Jinping will not kill Kim Jong Un then the U.S. needs to make it very clear to Kim Jong Un that if he tests even one more missile, Nuke of otherwise that the U.S. and our Allies will hunt him down and kill him, no if and or buts about it, he will die.
Some 70,000 people in Frankfurt will have to leave their homes this weekend in one of the biggest such evacuations in post-war Germany, police said on Wednesday, after an unexploded World War-II bomb nicknamed “blockbuster” was uncovered.
The operation on Sunday will allow for the safe defusal of the 1,400-tonne British bomb, which German media said was nicknamed “Wohnblockknacker” (blockbuster) during the war for its ability to wipe out whole streets or buildings.
The unexploded bomb was discovered on Tuesday during building work a stone’s throw from the Westend Campus of the Goethe University Frankfurt, police said in a statement.
Officers are guarding the site and there “is currently no danger”.
Police said the bomb in question was a HC 4000, a so-called high capacity bomb used in air raids by British forces.
“Due to the large size of the bomb, extensive evacuation measures must be taken,” police said.
The Wismarer street where the ordnance was found is close to the city centre and just some 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) north of the main Zeil shopping area.
More than 70 years after the end of the war, unexploded bombs are regularly found buried on German land, legacies of the intense bombing campaigns by the Allied forces against Nazi Germany.
One of the biggest such evacuations to date took place last Christmas, when another unexploded British bomb forced 54,000 people out of their homes in the southern city of Augsburg.
Another 50,000 residents had to leave their homes in the northern city of Hanover in May for an operation to defuse several WWII-era bombs.
This afternoon I turned on my TV to CNN and heard the following quote from President Trump two times within about 30 minutes concerning North Korea, “all options are on the table.” Two of the online publications that I read quite often are the Shanghai Daily News (evidently they are changing their name to SHINE) and I read Global News China. Make no mistake, these News Agencies are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party so when you see ‘policy statements’ written in them they were put there as warnings to certain audiences. About three days ago in this Blog I posted their articles with the warnings to the U.S. and to our Allies about how they feel about North Korea.
In the official statements from China’s President Xi Jinping he stated the following concerning North Korea. Mr. Xi Jinping said that if North Korea attacked the U.S. or our Allies that China would stand pat and not get involved except in securing their own borders. He also said that if the U.S. attacks North Korea first then China would get directly involved in aiding the North Korean government. He said that either way China will never allow a Regime change in North Korea. What he means by this is that China will never allow a non-Communist government to be put in place in North Korea. He did not say that he wants or cares if North Korea’s President Kim Jong Un is removed from his position, so China has no problem if that lunatic dies. What China is saying is that they will not allow South Korea and their democratic and free government to possess the land that is now North Korea. China is insisting that North Korea remains a Communist country and an Allie of theirs. So, when our Lunatic In Chief says “all options are on the table” he better not mean “all options” as in a first strike against North Korea. Another side issue involved here also is not only a direct war with China but an end to economic ties and trade with China. On another note, if the U.S. quits all imports from China all the North American Wal-Marts stores would be about 90% empty, they would be forced to start buying products that are American made. Instead of Wal-Mart giving about 100 billion dollars a year to the Chinese government which they in turn create war machines with, that money could stay here in America to help create jobs here in America, what a novel thought.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN.COM, THE LONG READ, AND ANDY TAI’S WEBSITE)
Could Trump’s blundering lead to war between China and Japan?
China and Japan’s postwar truce has always been an uneasy one – and if Washington cools its support for Tokyo, the dynamics in the region could shift dangerously. By Richard McGregor
Thursday 17 August 2017 01.00 EDT
For news out of east Asia, it is difficult to compete with North Korea’s youthful, jocular despot, Kim Jong-un, and his near-daily threats to fire a nuclear-tipped missile at US territory. On Monday, Kim was pictured surrounded by his top generals mulling over maps with targets closer to home, in South Korea and Japan, while warning again that he was ready to “wring the windpipes of the Yankees”. The young Kim, and his father and grandfather before him, have long tossed violent epithets at their enemies, but Pyongyang’s new capabilities – to potentially deliver a nuclear warhead across the Pacific – have injected fresh danger into the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
The North Korean crisis is one of the few creations of the cold war to have outlived the Berlin Wall, despite persistent predictions that the communist dynasty would collapse. There are many factors driving the confrontation, chief among them paranoia in Pyongyang, where the Kim dynasty is focused above all on preventing regime change. In neighbouring China, Beijing is paralysed: it is caught between anger at Kim for destabilising the region, and fear that if it pushes Pyongyang too hard, the regime will collapse, and fall into the hands of South Korea, an ally of the US. The US itself also seems impotent, knowing that starting any war could lead to devastating attacks on its allies in Seoul and Tokyo.
Lost among the headlines is the fact that the crisis is just a symptom of a bigger drama unfolding in east Asia, where an entire postwar order, built and maintained by the US since 1945, is slowly coming apart.
While the US military bases still dotted across the region have a whiff of latter-day imperialism, for the past seven decades Pax Americana has underwritten an explosion in wealth not matched in the world since the industrial revolution. Since the 1950s, Japan, and then South Korea, Taiwan and China, have been able to put bitter political and historical enmities aside to pursue economic growth.
At the same time, the US presence in east Asia has papered over serial diplomatic failures. All of the frozen-in-the-1950s conflicts buried during the decades of high-speed economic growth are starting to resurface. China and Taiwan have drifted further apart than ever politically. The Korean peninsula remains divided and bristling with conventional and nuclear armoury. The Sino-Japanese rivalry overflows with bitterness, despite a bilateral business relationship that is one of the most valuable in the world.
The Chinese often quote an ancient idiom when speaking about Japan: two tigers cannot live on one mountain. China is in growing competition with Japan to be the dominant indigenous power in Asia, and many view this as a zero-sum game. Any clash between them would not be a simple spat between neighbours. A single shot fired in anger could trigger a global economic tsunami, engulfing political capitals, trade routes, manufacturing centres and retail outlets on every continent.
Whether these tensions play out peacefully depends not just on the two superpowers, the US and China. Japan – which has at different times threatened to eclipse them both – is also pivotal to regional stability. Prior to Donald Trump’s emergence, it was assumed that just about any scenario for the US in east Asia would involve broad continuity for the core elements of past policy, including trade liberalisation and a commitment to alliances, such as that with Japan. But Trump is also a living embodiment of the larger trend that the days of US dominance of the region are numbered.
Today the relationship between the three powers resembles a geopolitical version of the scene in the movie Reservoir Dogs in which a trio of antagonists simultaneously point guns at each other, creating a circle of cascading threats. In the east Asian version of this scenario, the US has its arsenal trained on China; China, in turn, menaces Japan and the US; in ways that are rarely noticed, Japan completes the triangle, with its hold over the US. If Tokyo were to lose faith in Washington and downgrade its alliance or trigger a conflict with Beijing, the effect would be the same: to overturn the postwar system. In this trilateral game of chicken, only one of the parties needs to fire its weapons for all three to be thrown into war. Put another way: if China is the key to Asia, then Japan is the key to China, and the US the key to Japan.
In recent months, it has become fashionable among American journalists and foreign policy analysts to warn of the so-called Thucydides trap – the idea that a rising power (China, in this case) is destined to go to war with an established power (the US). But there is another geo-strategic dilemma identified by the same ancient Greek historian, which is more pertinent. It is dangerous to build an empire, Thucydides warned; it is even more dangerous to give it away.
This “other Thucydides trap” encapsulates the real dilemma faced by the US in east Asia. After more than seven decades as the region’s hegemon, the US now has a choice to make. It could stand and fight to maintain the status quo, at potentially massive cost. Or it could retreat from east Asia, potentially leaving a trail of chaos in its wake.
During the presidential campaign, Trump suggested that Japan and South Korea had become over-reliant on US security, and that it was time for the US to pack and up and go home. But Asia’s economic rise has only magnified the dangers of an American drawdown. “It is not only true that China changed the status quo by getting strong,” said Yan Xuetong, one of China’s most prominent hawks, “but also that America and Japan changed the status quo by getting weak.”
AChinese friend, trying to describe how Washington views east Asia, came up with a disarmingly simple formula. “The Americans like the Chinese, but they don’t like China,” he said, and then: “They like Japan, but don’t like the Japanese.” George Kennan, the renowned strategist, called Japan’s partnership with the US “an unnatural intimacy”, born of conflict between two very different countries, which, over time, developed into a close relationship of its own. This intimacy – if that is what it is – has been hard won. A remarkable number of senior US officials, starting with Henry Kissinger, have not hidden their dislike for dealing with Tokyo. In his authorised biography, Brent Scowcroft, a hard-nosed veteran of America’s national security establishment, called Japan “probably the most difficult country” the US had to deal with: “I don’t think we understood the Japanese and I don’t think the Japanese understood us.”
It is not only the Americans who feel uneasy about the relationship. Washington originally saw the alliance as a way to ensure that Japan was on its side in the cold war and, later, that it stayed in sync with the US’s broader global strategy. By contrast, for Tokyo, according to the Japan scholar Kenneth Pyle, the security pact was an “unpleasant reality” imposed on the nation after the war, but one it cleverly and cynically made the best of. All the while, Tokyo has harboured the fear that the US and China are natural partners – big, boisterous continental economies and military superpowers that wouldn’t hesitate to bypass Tokyo in a flash, if only they could find a way to do so.
Into this volatile landscape strode Donald Trump, Republican candidate and now president, a man who cut his teeth politically in the 1980s with attacks on Japanese trade practices. On the campaign trail, Trump criticised Japan and South Korea for free-riding on US military power, and said both countries should acquire nuclear weapons if they wished to reduce their reliance on Washington. On trade, he singled out China and Japan for cheating Americans, in league with the domestic Visigoths of globalisation, Wall Street and big business.
In the White House, Trump has slightly altered his rhetoric, paying lip service to the conventions of the postwar order. When Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, visited soon after the election, Trump repeated a commitment made by his predecessors, saying that the two countries’ bilateral defence treaty covered the Japan’s Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by the Chinese, as the Diaoyu. Diplomats in Washington told me after the meeting that Trump had only done this after being talked into it by his daughter, Ivanka, who had been lobbied by the Japanese.
Even if Trump accepts that the US, for the moment, has to abide by its treaty obligations to Japan, and other regional allies, he has never made the argument, during the campaign or in office, as to why it should. On the question of the other “Thucydides trap” – the principle that it is dangerous to build an empire but more dangerous to let it go – Trump had seemed quite unconcerned; that was something for other countries to worry about. Far from fretting about Japan’s ability to defend itself against China, Trump seemed to believe it would do fine.
In an interview with the Economist in September 2015, Trump was asked what would happen if China started bullying its neighbours without the US being there to protect them. He cast his mind back to more than a century earlier, when Japan and China began to fall into conflict. “If we step back, they will protect themselves very well,” Trump said. “Remember when Japan used to beat China routinely in wars? You know that, right? Japan used to beat China, they routinely beat China. Why are we defending them at all?”
Trump, in his clumsy way, had hit on an existential point, one that he exploited brilliantly in his campaign. Why do Asian countries need the US in the region anyway? Why can’t they get on with each other independent of the US? To fully grasp this dilemma, it is essential to understand the poisonous relationship between China and Japan.
Most accounts of Sino-Japanese relationspaint the two countries’ differences as the inevitable result of Japan’s invasion and occupation of China in the 1930s, and throughout the second world war, until Tokyo’s surrender in August 1945, followed by an extended squabble over responsibility for the conflict. Alternatively, their clash is depicted as a traditional great-power contest, with an ascending superpower, China, running up against a now-weaker rival. A third template takes a longer view: one of a China bent on rebuilding the influence it enjoyed in Asia in imperial times.
None of these templates alone, however, captures the tangled emotions and complex psychology of the Sino-Japanese relationship. For centuries, China had been both the Athens and the Rome of east Asia, an empire that established a template of cultural, political and institutional values and structures that permeated the region. Japan’s scripts, its merit-based bureaucracy, hierarchical social relations and exam-intense education system – all of which remain embedded in the country’s 21st-century way of life and governing institutions – originated in China.
In small, striking ways, the Japanese display an authentic affinity with their Chinese heritage. In early 2016, at a farewell reception for a senior Japanese diplomat in Washington, each guest, including the Chinese ambassador, was given a copy of a poem as he or she departed. Penned by the diplomat in whose honour the reception was held, the poem – which celebrated the seasonal blooming of cherry blossoms in Washington – was written in Chinese characters in the style of revered Tang dynasty poets. The gift was an homage to the enduring influence of Chinese culture and to contemporary education in Japan, where schoolchildren still learn the art of classical Chinese poetry.
The histories of modern Japan and China have much in common as well. Both were forcibly opened in the 19th century at the point of a gun wielded by an imperialist west. In the century that followed, they both battled to win the respect of the intruders who considered themselves racially superior to Asians. And yet, far from displaying solidarity with each other, the two nations went in different directions: Japan modernised rapidly, while China disintegrated. Ever since, they have struggled to find an equilibrium of their own. If one country was ascendant, the other was subordinate.
Despite their shared roots, Japan and China have remained as psychically remote as they are geographically close. In Europe, an acknowledgment of the second world war’s calamities helped bring the continent’s nations together in the aftermath of the conflict. In east Asia, by contrast, the war and its history have never been settled, politically, diplomatically or emotionally. There has been little of the introspection and statesmanship that helped Europe to heal its wounds.
A corrosive mutual antipathy has gradually become embedded within Japan and China’s ruling parties, and in large sections of the public. In turn, seemingly unavoidable political divisions – partly driven by constant demands from China for Japan to apologise for its wartime conduct and Japanese hostility to such pressure – have eroded trust and strengthened hyper-nationalists in both countries.
China’s economic rise and Japan’s relative decline have only reinforced this trend. In both capitals, the domestic tail now wags the diplomatic dog as often as the other way around. What once seemed impossible and then merely unlikely is no longer unimaginable: that China and Japan could, within the coming decades, go to war.
The territorial disputes, the enduring strains of the cold war, and China’s demand for respect and fear of containment all help to explain the region’s diplomatic tensions. So, too, does geopolitics, which is the furnace for Sino-Japanese rivalry. But at the core of their rivalry are the two countries’ wildly varying and persistently manipulated memories of the Sino-Japanese wars in Asia.
Even the most basic of disagreements over history still percolate through day-to-day media coverage in Asia, in baffling and insidious ways. Open a Japanese newspaper in 2017 and you might read of a heated debate about whether Japan invaded China – something that is only an issue because conservative Japanese still insist that their country was fighting a war of self-defence in the 1930s and 1940s. Read the state-controlled press in China, and you will see the Communist party drawing legitimacy from its heroic defeat of Japan; in truth, Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists carried the burden of fighting the invaders, while the Communists mostly preserved their strength in hinterland hideouts. Scant recognition is given to the US, which fought the Japanese for years before ending the conflict with two atomic bombs.
The history of Sino-Japanese relations since the late 19th century, when the two countries first fought a war, has long had a dominant storyline. Japan encroached on Chinese territory, demanding and then taking bits of land here and there, before eventually launching a full-scale invasion and occupation in the 1930s. Tens of millions of Chinese soldiers and civilians died in the conflict. After its defeat and surrender in 1945, so the narrative goes, Tokyo prevaricated endlessly about apologising to China and making good for the damage wrought by its armies.
The first part of the storyline is true. From the late 19th century onward, Japan did set out to dismember China. Although the precise numbers of casualties are still debated, the Nanjing massacre is not an invention, as some prominent Japanese politicians and historians gratingly insist. Japan committed atrocities, used forced labour from its colonies to support the war effort, and oversaw the recruitment of the so-called “comfort women” for brothels for their soldiers.
The history of the history wars, however, is more complex, with many twists and turns that are lost in today’s shrill headlines. When there was much soul-searching in Japan about the war during the 1950s and 1960s, for example, Beijing had no interest in seeking an apology and reparations. Instead, Mao Zedong and his premier, Zhou Enlai, cultivated relations with Japan in an effort to break the US embargo on their country.
In 1961, in a meeting with a Japanese Socialist Party leader, Mao perversely thanked Japan for invading China, because the turmoil created by the Imperial Army had enabled the CCP to come to power. “We would still be in the mountains and not be able to watch Peking Opera in Beijing,” he said. “It was exactly because the Imperial Japanese Army took up more than half of China that there was no way out for the Chinese people. So we woke up and started armed struggle, established many anti-Japanese bases, and created conditions for the War of Liberation. The Japanese monopolistic capitalists and warlords did a ‘good thing’ to us. If a ‘thank you’ is needed, I would actually like to thank the Japanese warlords.”
Mao often adopted a freewheeling, sardonic style in conversation, which seemed deliberately aimed at putting his interlocutors either at ease or off balance. But his statements brushing off an apology and expressing gratitude to the Japanese for their invasion are embarrassingly discordant in today’s China, and so jarring that they are invariably airbrushed by the CCP these days. The official explanation contends that Mao used sarcasm to underline how Japan’s invasion had “awakened” the Chinese people. Chinese scholars of Japan who have tried to tread a more independent path say the truth is simpler: Mao had no interest in an apology because he genuinely believed that the CCP owed its victory in the civil war to Japan.
Official policy was tailored in conformity with Mao’s views for much of the next three or four decades, even as it grated with many Chinese who retained visceral memories of Japanese atrocities. As one scholar at a government thinktank in Beijing told me last year: “This came from Mao’s mouth. There was no need for any discussion, or for him to consider outside elements such as public opinion or conflicts between past and present policies. His power was absolute.”
By the mid-1980s, when Beijing decided that Japanese remorse should become a permanent fixture of bilateral relations, Tokyo had come to view such demands as little more than self-serving politics. Some Japanese leaders were willing to apologise, just to deprive China of a ready-made issue to beat them over the head with. “We can apologise as much as China wants. It’s free, and very soon China will become tired of asking for apologies,” the former prime minister Noboru Takeshita confided to foreign ministry officials in the early 1990s.
As it turned out, the Chinese never did tire of receiving apologies. They thought they were the country’s due. But Japan did tire of giving them. In the process, history disputes have become a huge obstacle to a genuine postwar settlement.
The rage expressed in Chinatoward Japan these days over history is the tip of a much larger iceberg. Beijing’s core problem is not with the details of the war itself, but with the diplomatic deals that were agreed to settle it. In Washington’s and Tokyo’s eyes, the San Francisco Treaty of 1951 forms the foundation of the east Asian postwar order. The treaty ended the US occupation, reestablished Japan as a sovereign nation, fixed it as a security partner for the US, and gave the country space to rebuild itself into a modern, prosperous nation. The treaty also laid the basis for Japan’s gradual rapprochement with other former wartime foes in south-east Asia and Australia.
Chinese scholars, in lock-step with the country’s political leaders, use a different template for the region, something that is largely overlooked in Washington. Their reference points are the conferences in Cairo in 1943 and in Potsdam in July 1945, at which the so-called Three Great Allies – the US, the UK and the Republic of China – set the terms for Japan’s unconditional surrender. In the process, as Chinese politicians, historians and activists have begun to argue more forcibly in recent years, Japan was consigned to a permanently subordinate role in the region.
Beijing favours Potsdam, because it disarmed Japan, restored the territories Tokyo had seized in the previous century, and confirmed China’s great-power status. It doesn’t recognise San Francisco, because it enshrines the US-Japan security alliance and the American military presence in east Asia. China was represented at Cairo in the form of the then-Nationalist government, but not at San Francisco in any form.
The notion that Japan should sit inert in east Asia, enduring a kind of life sentence as a result of having lost the war, absurd as it is, is given much credence in China, by its top leaders as well as in the popular political culture. As president Xi Jinping told the visiting Pentagon chief Leon Panetta in late 2012, “The international community must not allow Japan to attempt to negate the results of the World Anti-Fascist War, or challenge the postwar international order.” In another sign of this mindset, a pro-nationalist book that became a bestseller in the mid-90s, The China That Can Say No, had a chapter titled In Some Respects, To Do Nothing Is Japan’s Contribution To The World!
Sheltering under America’s nuclear umbrellain the postwar period, Japan has in fact been a constrained power since its defeat in 1945. The Americans, after all, wrote a new “pacifist” constitution for Japan, which said it should only maintain military forces for its own self-defence. At times, Japan, at least in security terms, has seemed to be “inert” and willing to free-ride on the Americans.
But thanks to China and North Korea, those days are over. Shinzo Abe has fashioned a strong national security policy and strengthened the country’s military. While attention was focused on Pyongyang’s nuclear antics in early August, Japan quietly announced that it was studying equipping its military with offensive weapons, such as cruise missiles, to allow it to strike overseas enemies for the first time since the war.
Japan presents a particular challenge to China. Militarily, it is not a pushover like other south-east Asian nations Beijing has clashed with recently, such as the Philippines. In 2012, the central government in Tokyo nationalised the Senkaku Islands in order to prevent a far right-wing nationalist politician, Shintaro Ishihara, from buying the islands from their private owners. At that point, Beijing considered trying to take the islands by force. A retired regional leader with good connections in both China and Japan told me that Beijing had studied its options carefully: “They did a number of basic tabletop exercises to work out, if there was a conflict over the islands, whether China could prevail; I had many conversations with Chinese military planners at the time.” In the end, he said, Beijing concluded that the “co-relation of forces was not with them”. Unlike Japan, which has fought naval wars, China has fought only one, in 1894-5, which it lost. The Chinese had made huge strides as a military power, but not so far that they were confident about taking on their old foe.
Perhaps the most salient factor in China’s calculations over the Senkaku Islands was what might happen if it should lose to Japan. In Tokyo, a military loss would be disastrous, of course, and the government would certainly fall. But that would be nothing compared with the hammer blow to China’s national psyche should Japan prevail. “That would be terminal for the CCP,” the former regional leader observed. “Regime change.”
Over time, though, China’s capabilities, and its confidence, are likely to outpace those of its neighbour. Japan knows that China is not going away, whereas one day, the US might. China is keen to emphasise to every nation in Asia a single truth: China’s presence is a geopolitical reality in Asia. The US presence, by contrast, is a geopolitical choice, one that China intends to make more and more costly.
If Tokyo continues to feel threatened, and loses faith in the US, the next step is going nuclear. That will be the definitive sign that Pax Americana in Asia is over, and it could come sooner than anyone thinks.
Main illustration by Lee Martin/Guardian Design
Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, the US and the Struggle for Global Power by Richard McGregor will be published by Allen Lane on 5 September.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES) / (HOW DOES ONE SAY CHINA’S GOVERNMENT IS FULL OF S-IT IN MANDARIN?)(IS THE REASON DONALD TRUMP AND XI JINPING GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER IS BECAUSE THEY ARE BOTH HABITUAL LIARS?) (TRS)
Chinese agency has another video on Doklam, minus the overt racism
Chinese news agency tries a different tack with a video explainer claiming “sober, cooperative solution is in need to tackle China-India border standoff”.
A screenshot of video posted by China Xinhua News on Twitter.
After last week’s bizarre, racist anti-India video, Beijing mouthpiece Xinhua is trying a “sober” approach.
It’s still pretty silly, but at least we’re spared the Chinese actors trying to pass off for Sikhs… and the unintentionally hilarious beards.
This time, Chinese news agency tries a different tack with a video explainer on the Doklam standoff that features a newsman in a suit arguing, not that China is right, but that India is wrong: why, is never explained.
There is even a vaguely conciliatory reference to the two countries’ great histories, during which the video shows a montage of the famous Xian warriors, followed (inexplicably) by a snippet featuring a camel caravan that is presumably meant to represent India!
Bhutan, the country caught in the middle of it all, gets no mention.
Still, there’s no overt racism in the new video, which must count as an improvement. This might even pass for a sign of grudging respect.
What explains the change of tone? Perhaps it’s an acknowledgment that last week’s video went too far into crazytown. Or perhaps, a recognition that the Dokram affair will not be resolved by blatant propaganda directed at Indians, especially when their own response has been to laugh out loud.
Far be it for us to suggest that the video Hindustan Times commissioned, featuring comedienne Vasu Primlani had anything to do with it…
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SMITHSONIAN.COM WEBSITE)
While the Pacific theater was a major and well-known battleground of World War II, it may come as a surprise that Asian nations played a role in World War I. Both Japan and China actually declared war on Germany in hopes of gaining regional dominance. While China never sent troops into battle, its involvement in World War I was influential—and had impacts that stretched far beyond the war, going on to shape the country’s future indelibly.
Under the rule of the Qing Dynasty, China was the most powerful nation in the East for nearly three centuries. But losing the First Sino-Japanese War to Japan in 1895 put an end to that. And the downhill slide didn’t end with losing the war; a subsequent series of treaties divvied up chunks of China between Russia and Japan, a continuation of the creation of European concessions like Hong Kong or the French settlement in Shanghai.
Germany also used military force to insert itself into east Asian affairs. Capitalizing on the murder of two German missionaries, the country attacked and invaded the city of Qingdao in 1897, establishing what amounted to a German colony in Shandong province. The prospect of expelling Germany from the region and taking control themselves was enough to entice Japan to join the fight against Germany, making the Great War a global one in 1914.
Meanwhile in China, a wobbly republican state led by military general Yuan Shikai replaced the imperial system of governance in 1912. But local warlords and clashes with the nationalist party, Kuomintang (led by Sun Yat-sen), continued to threaten his position. “The Chinese people suffered political chaos, economic weakness, and social misery,” writes historian Xu Guoqi in Strangers On the Western Front. “But this was also a period of excitement, hope, high expectations, optimism and new dreams”—because China believed it could use the war as a way to reshape the geopolitical balance of power and attain equality with European nations.
There was only one problem: At first, none of the Allies wanted China to join the fight. Although China declared itself neutral at the start of the war in August 1914, President Shikai had secretly offered British minister John Jordan 50,000 troops to retake Qingdao. Jordan refused the offer, but Japan would soon use its own armed forces to oust the Germans from the city, and remained there throughout the war. By February 1916, with men dying in huge numbers in Europe, Jordan came around to the idea of Chinese aid and told British officials that China could “join with the Entente provided that Japan and the other Allies accepted her as a partner.”
Japan, however, refused to allow Chinese soldiers to fight, hoping to remain the powerhouse in the East.
If China couldn’t fight directly, Shikai’s advisors decided, the next-best option was a secret show of support toward the Allies: they would send voluntary non-combatant workers, largely from Shandong, to embattled Allied countries.
Starting in late 1916, China began shipping out thousands of men to Britain, France and Russia. Those laborers would repair tanks, assemble shells, transport supplies and munitions, and help to literally reshape the war’s battle sites. Since China was officially neutral, commercial businesses were formed to provide the labor, writes Keith Jeffery in 1916: A Global History.
“A lot of those trenches weren’t dug by the [Allied] soldiers, they were dug by Chinese laborers,” says Bruce Elleman, professor of maritime history at the U.S. Naval War College and author of Wilson and China: A Revised History of the Shandong Question. Sending workers—mostly illiterate peasants—was one way for China to prove it deserved a seat at the table whenever the war ended and terms were agreed upon. But even after a year of supplying labor, their contribution remained largely unrecognized diplomatically.
It was more than just prestige that spurred China to enter the conflict: The volatile nation dreamed of regaining complete control of the Shandong province. Located on the eastern shore of China along the Yellow Sea, the region has a rich history as the birthplace of Confucius; diplomat Wellington Koo to call it the “cradle of Chinese civilization.”
In 1915, the year after Japan took Qingdao from Germany, Japan imposed a new treaty on China: The Twenty-One Demands. The highly unpopular treaty required China to cede control of even more territory, including in Shandong and Manchuria. If China participated in World War I, its leaders reasoned, maybe the country could win back this mainland territory.
The United States’ entrance to WWI shifted the political dynamic of the Allies, with U.S. officials supporting China’s cause with an eye toward the war’s end. As Elleman says, “[The U.S. was] hoping at the post-war conference to be able to resolve these diplomatic issues [between China and Japan and Germany],” since President Wilson wanted to take a leadership role in the negotiations and form the League of Nations.
China’s position became more fraught when Germany announced its strategy of unrestricted submarine warfare. More than 500 Chinese laborers aboard the French ship Athos were killed in February 1917 when a U-boat struck the ship. Finally, encouraged by the U.S. and believing it was the only sure way to be considered in the eventual peace agreements, China declared war on Germany on August 14, 1917—though little changed in the support they provided, since they had already been sending laborers.
By the end of the war, Chinese workers would rank as the largest and longest-serving non-European contingent in World War I. France recruited 37,000 Chinese workers, while the United Kingdom took in 94,500. The men sent abroad would earn an estimated total of $2.2 billion, reports the South China Morning Post. Along the way, so many of these workers died or sustained injuries that China established a Bureau of Overseas Chinese Workers and convinced the U.K. to provide compensation for the wounded men.
“China had prepared to attend the post-war peace conference as early as 1915,” says Xu. When the war at last ended in November 1918, China planned its delegation for the Paris Peace Conference, hoping to finally achieve full control of its mainland territory.
But China was given only two seats at the Paris Peace Conference to Japan’s five, since the latter had contributed combat troops. Matters only devolved from there. Some of the European delegates were unfamiliar with the Twenty-One Demands, writes Julian Theseira in Global Histories, and the Western powers ultimately awarded Shandong to Japan; the Western diplomats believed they should honor the treaty Japan pressured China to sign after taking Shandong. China saw the move as a rejection of its demand to be recognized as an equal player in global politics, and as an affront to its sovereignty.
“China was deeply angry at the Versailles Treaty and was the only country at the postwar peace conference to refuse to put a signature on it,” Xu said. A student-led protest in Beijing called the May Fourth Movement was organized in response to outrage over the peace talks. It called for political and social changes and, as Xu writes, was a sign of China’s turn towards socialism in 1921 with the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party.
Elleman goes even further in stating the importance of the Shandong issue. “They talk about these forks in the road, and this is one. If this whole Shandong controversy had not happened, China might never have become Communist,” Elleman says. He argues that leaving the Shandong question unresolved, at least in China’s eyes, meant they mistrusted European governments going forward and felt more attracted to socialism. “It’s one of the most important pieces in modern Chinese history.”
We all know that there are a lot of tensions and banter going on right now between North Korea’s insane Dictator Kim Jong Un and the massively ignorant American President Donald ‘Fake News’ Trump. They flap their lips like a couple of sixth graders from two different schools acting as if nothing can happen to them because of their crowing. I believe that President Trump is simply a person that wants to win everything he touches, so that he can brag about it, regardless of the cost to other people. Here in the U.S. we at least have some checks and balances built into our political and military system, North Korea does not have any such thing. In North Korea there are no organizations to check the balance of military or political power that Kim Jong Un has garnered unto himself. This idiot, just like his father and grandfather before him think that they are living Gods. This is pure stupidity seeing that dear old Dad and Grandpa are dead and Kim Jong Un and the North Korean people know this.
Are you familiar with the term ‘cutting off the head of the snake’? There is one thing that President Trump and our top Diplomats need to make absolutely factual to Kim Jong Un and this is that if he attacks any American lands or the lands of any of our Allies like South Korea, Japan or the people of Guam that he personally will be dead before that day is over. The North Korean military Generals need to be given that same message, if they attack anyone that they personally are dead men walking. We the people of the world are seeing two men (I am using that term very loosely) with massive ego’s who do not know how to shut up, no matter how many millions of people who may die because of their ignorance. People like Kim Jong Un only care about themselves, this is why it is imperative that he understands that if he attacks, he personally will die that same day. I believe that if we cannot get this reality through the thick skull of this lunatic very soon (the one in North Korea) millions of innocent people may end up being murdered.
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