Imperialism in Southeast Asia: A Fleeting Passing Phase (Routledge Studies in Asias Transformations,)

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The agreement also included a Japanese commitment to take steps to normalize relations and of the directly related parties to "negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula" and to do so "in the spirit of "mutual respect and equality. The most reluctant party, in and indeed throughout the talks, was the US, described by former Department of State's top North Korea expert Jack Pritchard as "a minority of one … isolated from its four other allies and friends," and facing an ultimatum from the Chinese chair of the conference to sign or else bear responsibility for their breakdown.

After affixing its reluctant signature on 19 September, however, on 20 September the US launched financial sanctions designed to bring the Pyongyang regime down, plainly in breach of the agreement it had just signed. When the US in proclaimed its commitment to the principles, therefore, North Korea must have been inclined to accept the assurance with a grain of salt.

Blame for the breakdown in the multilateral Beijing negotiations and the stalling of the and later, Beijing agreements to which now presumably the agreement will also have to be added attaches to other parties at least as much as to North Korea. In , when on 5 April North Korea launched an earlier version, Kwangmyongsong No 2, of the rocket now being assembled, there was also a huge fuss. So North Korea appears to have done what it said it would do, even though it failed to achieve its purpose. Only Japan, having used the ambiguous term "flying object" hishotai until the launch, shortly after it swung — government and media alike — into adoption of the word "missile.

For a country supposedly irrationally aggressive, one that is "no a normal state but more a nation-scale exercise in organized crime" as the Sydney Morning Herald put it , 7 North Korea has been remarkably consistent in its pursuit of the moral goals of equality and respect. Its recent history shows that its interest in negotiations diminishes as other parties attempt to narrow the focus to its nuclear and missile programs and grows as the agenda incorporates comprehensive normalization, a treaty to end the Korean War, multilateral economic cooperation, and Japanese reparations for colonialism.

Such tactics are better seen not as recalcitrance, blackmail, or belligerence, but as a calculated response to American and Japanese intimidation.

A Crazy State

Obsessed with security and the search for an absolute guarantee of immunity from attack by its enemies, it has become a kind of "porcupine state," resisting foreign bodies by stiffening its quills, rather than an expanding or rampaging one. While the world's attention focussed on whatever might be about to happen on the North Korean launch-pad, huge US and South Korean war games, rehearsals for war, were taking place just off North Korean shores. As at time of writing 30 March there are several possibilities. Pyongyang might, although it seems unlikely, choose to buckle under the pressure and cancel the launch.

Such display of weakness and repudiation of the legacy of the late leader would have unpredictable domestic consequences, and the act of submission would likely encourage the member states of the Beijing group to demand more. If, however, Pyongyang resists all pressures and proceeds with the launch, either the launch succeeds or it does not. If an "advanced geostationary meteorological satellite" duly takes its place in the skies, the world will face a fait accompli. Despite sanctions and irrespective of its poverty and isolation, North Korea's claim to a place in the ranks of advanced scientific and industrial powers would be reinforced and, sooner or later, the hostile powers would have to return to the agenda of September a comprehensive peninsular peace and normalization agenda.

Embattled, it might resume nuclear testing as it did when the Security Council denounced the failed launch in , the regime's hold would likely weaken and the "North Korea problem" might become just so much more difficult to resolve. The merciless stare which almost the entire world fixes upon North Korea is not to be understood solely in rational terms.

The stare is less fierce, it is true, in the case of Russia and China, but both on this occasion seem at least to be joining the coalition of the hostile in urging North Korea to cancel the launch and avoid "provocation. The United States and Japan expect others to condemn North Korea, and it is easy to find cause to condemn and much less likely to cause offence in the global quarters that count than any serious attempt to identify and pursue global powers that are responsible for aggression and abuse on the grand scale. Thus for the Government of Australia, having shown no previous interest in peninsular matters and no understanding of the historic context or of the core of legitimacy that encapsulates North Korea's cry to the world, to declare itself threatened by the imminent launch and to demand it be cancelled is simply a cheap and empty gesture.

In so far as the "North Korean problem" is defined as the problem of quelling North Korea's nuclear or missile ambitions and its innate violence and lack of reason, the focus is on the symptom rather than the cause. As I have written elsewhere, The very term "the North Korea nuclear problem" … begs a major question.

It assumes that it is North Korea that is irrational, aggressive, nuclear obsessed and dangerous, and the US that is rational, globally responsible, and reacting to North Korean excesses. To thus shrink the frame of the problem is to ignore the matrix of a century's history — colonialism, division, half a century of Korean War, Cold War as well as nuclear proliferation and intimidation.


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It is to assume that what it describes as "the North Korean nuclear weapons program" can be dealt with while ignoring the unfinished issues of the Korean War and the Cold War, and even of Japanese imperialism. What this formulation of the "North Korea problem" ignores is something that I have referred to as the "US problem," the US's aggressive, militarist hegemonism and contempt for international law.

Its missile and nuclear weapons tests were both provocative and unwise, but neither breached any law, and both were carried out under extreme provocation.

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The North Korean state plainly runs roughshod over the rights of its citizens, but the extremely abnormal circumstances under which it has existed since the founding of the state in , facing the concentrated efforts of the global superpower to isolate, impoverish, and overthrow it, have not been of its choosing. Frozen out of major global institutions and subject to financial and economic sanctions, denounced in fundamentalist terms as "evil" and beyond redemption , North Korea could scarcely be anything but suspicious and fearful. Suspicion and fear, on the part of a state as well as of an individual, is likely to be expressed in belligerence.

In particular, North Korea has faced the threat of nuclear annihilation for more than half a century. If anything is calculated to drive a people mad, and to generate in it an obsession with unity and survival, and with nuclear weapons as the sine qua non of national security, it must be such an experience. Its demand for relief from nuclear intimidation was unquestionably just and yet was ignored by the global community, till, eventually, as we know, it took the matter into its own hand. The common association in the public mind outside North Korea is of that country as nuclear and or missile threat, whereas from inside the country the overwhelming consciousness is that of a small country constantly bullied and threatened by larger and more powerful ones, and in particular of facing nuclear intimidation far longer than any country on earth.

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That it has survived so long is in no small measure due to its focus on developing its "deterrent. The real issue is the far too long continued state of "temporary" ceasefire on the peninsula. The task is to normalize relations between north and south and between North Korea and its former colonial master Japan and its bitter enemy of 62 years, the United States, and bring this country in from the "cold" of international isolation. The more the "international community ie, the US and its allies concentrate on strangling North Korea to force it to submit, the more entrenched becomes the regime, able to point convincingly to the powerful coalition threatening it.

System Error Occurred.

If relations were once normalized on the peninsula and between North Korea and Japan and the United States, it would have to legitimize itself by serving its people and meeting their needs. The country that can manage space and nuclear programs despite a half-century of sanctions and acute international isolation plainly has plenty of talent and potential. The answer to concerns over its nuclear weapon program is to negotiate a true international guarantee of its security and remove the US nuclear threat, and the answer to concerns over its space program is to deepen international cooperation and provide an internationally approved regional launch centre.


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  8. He is author of many books and articles on modern and contemporary East Asia, and many of his articles are accessible on this site. In and he contributed a monthly column to the Seoul daily Kyunghyang shinmoon. The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, did more than just devastate Japan and unleash a local nuclear disaster.

    They exposed a host of design flaws in current nuclear technology whose solutions are linked to dramatically unsettling security issues. The nuclear power industry spent decades distancing itself in the public mind from the dangers of radiation released by nuclear weapons. Having largely overcome that psychological obstacle in many countries, it first had to overcome the immense challenges to sustaining public trust posed first by the Three Mile Island reactor meltdown in March and then the catastrophic failure of the Chernobyl reactor complex in April In the last decade, with a self-proclaimed mandate to produce "low-carbon electricity" in the face of global warming, the industry looked set for a renaissance, especially in Asia - the only growth market for nuclear power plants in the last two decades.

    Imperialism in Southeast Asia by Nicholas Tarling

    Then came On March 11, , at 14 minutes before 3 o'clock in the afternoon the massive Tohoku earthquake unleashed a tsunami that killed some 20, people and swept over the Fukushima reactor complex, inundating buildings with water that rose up to 15 meters above sea level. In seconds, decades of public relations work was demolished. The global future for nuclear power is now dim although not yet pitch black. Fukushima once again demonstrated the inherent risks associated with existing reactor technology. In the process it fused the issues of nuclear safety and nuclear security, which the industry and pro-nuclear governments had striven for decades to separate.

    As Indian physicist M. Ramana wrote after , "Catastrophic nuclear accidents are inevitable, because designers and risk modelers cannot envision all possible ways in which complex systems can fail"-and in the case of nuclear power plants, like some other potentially very high impact technological failures-the consequences of nuclear power plant failure can be truly catastrophic.

    They include:. The tragedy is that did not have to happen. Scientists, military agencies and civil society organizations all anticipated and warned of the events that occurred at Fukushima. Ultimately, the people who lived in the vicinity of Fukushima paid dearly for the errors of the nuclear industry and its political allies. Satellite imagee of th Fukushima Daiichi plant after March 11, The common-mode failures that occurred at Fukushima due to the earthquake and tsunami included the loss of offsite electrical power to the reactor complex, the loss of oil tanks and replacement fuel for diesel generators, the flooding of the electrical switchyard and perhaps damage to the inlets that brought in cooling water from the ocean.

    As a result, even though there were multiple ways of removing heat from the core, all of them failed. The course of events at Fukushima is not yet documented fully; and the event itself is not over - the reactors are not yet completely shut-down although the molten fuel is now at a manageable temperature - so long as cooling is maintained. Within weeks of , nuclear engineers and power industry experts drew a number of specific lessons from the errors at Fukushima. These are widely applicable to existing reactors as well as future designs. These errors include:.

    However, the problems have much deeper institutional and cultural roots that cannot be overcome by mere technological fixes. Not only were TEPCO's early "accidents" largely ignored in terms of its corporate safety culture and that of the regulators in Japan, but the utility industry presumed-apparently correctly in the case of Fukushima-that the costs of failure would be largely socialized in the case of a disaster.

    In effect, also announced that the "light water reactor" era is over, buried by the tsunami and its aftermath. As Richard Lester, chairman of MIT's Nuclear Engineering Department stated, a new generation of reactor designs, created by a new generation of nuclear engineers, is required. According to Lester, the changes needed are not incremental, but fundamental, and involve innovations such as integrated reactor-direct disposal systems, entirely new materials, and the use of massive computational capacity, so that "nuclear power plants of the year will have about as much resemblance to today's workhorse light-water reactors as a modern automobile has to a Model T.

    In Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, the fallout was immediate, with political authorities quickly announcing the phasing out of nuclear power, by in the German case. In China, after a review of safety issues associated with 26 reactors under construction or planned, the government announced that it planned to proceed as planned.

    In India, a full-blown social movement led by farmers opposing existing and future reactors has emerged as a new national political force leading the national government to respond in a heavy-handed manner.

    He conveniently failed to mention that Korea's reactors are in a war zone and are likely targeted by North Korea. Other countries also reviewed their plans. In , Vietnam, for example, had already discovered that the coast on which its first reactor is to be sited, like Fukushima, has already experienced a meter tsunami, originating in the Manila trench. The Indonesian reactor project has gone into hiding, waiting for local community opposition to subside to plans to build a reactor on the Muria Peninsula in Central Java. The Philippines' lone plant, at Bataan on the slopes of the potentially active Mt.

    Instead of rehabilitation it is to become a tourist attraction.

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    Routledge Studies in Asia's Transformations

    Meanwhile, in Japan itself, the nuclear industry is circling the wagons in an effort to protect its role in the electric utility oligopoly that favors nuclear power. Industry insiders observe that the industry is prepared to accept many fewer light water reactors provided it can protect a reprocessing plant and breeder reactor that is based on plutonium fuel bred from otherwise inert uranium - always the long run vision of the nuclear industry.

    However, Japan appears to have cancelled plans to restart the Monju breeder reactor. If this dismal end comes to pass, then the future of Japan's enormous stockpile of separated plutonium - now about 80 metric tons - will have to be addressed. If this plutonium is not used in breeder reactors - as seems highly probable - or in mixed oxide fuel for light water reactors - which seems only slightly less improbable - then plutonium's only residual value in Japan would be for nuclear weapons or for export, presumably to a nuclear weapons state.

    Both options would be hugely divisive in Japan and the region. Thus, the Fukushima meltdown will continue to echo back and forth between the safety and security realms for decades. One of the most important discoveries at Fukushima is how brittle the spent fuel ponds were when they were deprived of coolant, especially as a result of co-location with reactors.