Tuesday, January 7, 2014

World War Three

The polar vortex that hit the last two days has closed the college and left me with more time to read and write.  A few days ago, Max Hastings posted an article about why he thought the deteriorating relationships between the US and China could lead to the next world war.

As was the case in World War I, neither the Chinese nor the US are looking to start a war.  However, China will not be denied its future role as a global economic and military superpower.  The US is no longer interested or able to go head to head with China (at least not publicly).  What might provide then the catalyst for war?

Interestingly the answer is Japan.  The Japanese Instrument of Surrender, the formal ending of the Japanese Empire and hostilities of WWII, also ended the Japanese military as anything other than a self-defense force.  Very similar in fact to what happened in Germany.

The United States has maintained a large military presence in Japan more out of its commitment to protect Japan against aggression from China than as an occupying power.  The US military, since at least the Reagan administration, has thought to re-evaluate this relationships but the Japanese government has historically tended to prefer to focus its GDP towards its economy rather than defense.

Recently this relationship has begun to change.  Washington is beginning to once again look to Japan to assume more responsibility for its own defense and Tokyo is now more receptive.  Herein lies the real root of the problem.

Japan has never admitted to the atrocities it committed against China and Korea during the war.  In comparison, Germany has openly acknowledged the Holocaust and criminalized Nazism.  The lack of admitting Japan's atrocities is what lies in China's fear that that US is looking to pull out of its role in Japan.

This lead to a whether alarming statement by the Chinese ambassador to London that "Japan risks ‘a serious threat to global peace’ by ‘rekindling’ the bellicose attitude that hastened the expansion of World War II into a global conflict."--The Nation

With this as a backdrop, is it no wonder that the Chinese have felt compelled to expand their air defense zone?  Similarly the United States has spent over $6 billion at Andersen AFB as part of a reinforcement program.

Let's not forget the continued struggle between Japan and Russia over the disputed Northern Territories (specifically the Kuril Islands, which has prevented a peace treaty being signed between Russia and Japan since WWII).

The Kuril Islands were annexed by the Soviet Union during World War II and remain under the control of Russia which is why in Feb 2011, then Russian President Medvedev ordered a significant increase in reinforcements of the islands when it look like Japan may lay claim.

The issues though actually date back to Czarist Russia when the quest for a warm water port lead Czar Nicholas II to attack Japan in 1904.  Partially out of bad advice from his own people but also partially the noting that the Japanese were somehow a backwards people. the Czar believed this was sure fire way to increase his political standing with little risk.  Unfortunately the Japanese were now a modern, early 20th Century military and defeated the Russian Navy (and also ended the era of the Czars, leading to the Russian Revolution and the start of the Soviet Union).

The victory by Japan emboldened their desires of the Empire to expand.  The loss by Russia was sought to be revenged in part by the Soviet take over of the Kuril Islands.  Is it any wonder that according to a 2012 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, 72% of Japanese people view Russia unfavorably, compared with 22% who viewed it favorably, making Japan the most anti-Russian nation in the world?

The Chinese remember the Japanese invasion of 1937 resulting the Massacre of Nanking where, according to estimates by International Military Tribunal of the Far East, over 200,000 Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants were murdered by the Japanese Imperial Army.

So do the Souther Koreans.  Just last month, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said she rejects flatly any idea of meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe until Japan apologises for wrongdoings during its 35-year occupation of Korea.

South Korea wants a deeper apology and greater compensation for an estimated 200,000 South Korean “comfort women” who were forced to work as prostitutes in Japanese military brothels during the occupation. Everything to do with the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of Korea, brutal and authoritarian even compared with most other imperial occupations, still festers--The Independent

It has looked to me for some time that major hostilities could be started over Syria and Iran (and nothing today makes my think that still can't happen), I think we must also now consider how old hostilities in the Pacific may be creating an even more volatile situation than the Middle East.

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