TPR’s Seijigiri #38

30 Dec

Garrett DeOrio and ken Worsley both eulogize 2007 and make predictions for 2008 in . I hope 2008 offers TPR a larger audience for what is a very stimulating medium on a topic few westerners understand, or get an opportunity to tackle given language and cultural obstacles.

What really caugh my attention, though, were three discussions in this panoramic hour-long chat: DPRK and the abduction issue; Sino-Japanese disagreements about gas exploration; and, comfort women.

On the DPRK issue, both DeOrio and Worsley knock the ham-fisted Abe administration for marginalizing Japan diplomatically within the Six-Party format by pushing the abduction issue too far, and nearly causing a breech with the US. I think Pyongyang has managed to divide all parties in the talks very effectively, so Japan’s situation is not unique, just the circumstances are special. The key is Seoul’s decision, under the new Lee administration, on which partner to choose. If not Pyongyang, ROK could follow with Beijing or the US, at which point Japan should fall in line. The key to a solution lies with numbers, not principle.

On the gas exploration issue, it’s interesting that the two divided about China, and it’s sort of an indication of how no one knows how to deal with Beijing. One one hand, it’s argued that Japan should improve its diplomatic game by playing the middle with Australia between the US and China, to create a regional, multilateral framework for dealing with a panoply of issues. On the other hand, Beijing prefers to take its diplomacy bilaterally. I think an international settlement on the driling would be a pleasant surprise, but that not being likely, I think Japan might have to back down, unless there’s a Chinese economic downturn.

Finally, on comfort women, the Abe administration made itself look silly by denying the claims of comfort women. I think historical arguments are both unfair to japanese voters born after WW2 (and the US and Canadian resolutions transparently laughable), and proxies for the sort of Sino-Japanese issues like gas exploration. It’s like code that reveals where the power is flowing between Japan and whomever is using WW2 history to criticize it. With that said, how the Abe administration framed the comfort women issue about as incompetently as possible. It’s the leading reason Japan doesn’t deserve diplomatic rewards, like a UNSC seat, because it simply is not competent enough.

A lot more stuff in the discussion, so listen and comment…

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