Category Archives: japan

Short Review of “United Red Army,” directed by Koji Wakamatsu

I thought about it over the night — it was hard to get to sleep last night — and I can say that United Red Army is the most disturbing film I have ever seen.

United Red Army is the story of birth, life, and death of the URA, formed by an alliance between the Japanese Red Army Faction (RAF) and the Japanese Revolutionary Leftist Faction (RLF).

I started watching United Red Army knowing only about the events which concern the middle part of the film, and those only in outline. I recommend going into the film with as little knowledge as possible. The craziness of the United Red Army is underscored by not knowing what happens next.

Think of a cult or revolutionary terrorist organization. The URA is more dysfunctional. The horror of United Red Army does not come from the civilians or police they kill (Though there are a few). The horror of the United Red Army is how they treat their own members.

It is amazing that except for one moment of comic relief (“There is no such thing as a counterrevolutionary cookie!”) there is no sense of the absurd in the film. The insanity storyline is much closer to a comedy or satire than something that could have actually happened. Imagine The Office with Trotskyite-Maoist rhetoric.

Except United Red Army is not a comedy. The United Red Army actually was.

Buy from Amazon. Rent from Greencine. Stream from Netflix.

Liberal Democrats and Liberal Democracy

First, major props to Trans Pacific Radio, whose coverage of the 2009 Japanese Lower House Election was fantastic. It was insightful, in-depth, timely, and far better than anything else available in the English language. Great job!

The loss of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to the Social Democrats is all over the internet. Catholicgauze, Curzon, Younghusband, and The Economist all have interesting thoughts.

It will be interesting ot see if the Social Democrats can govern, or if they will collapse back into a marginal opposition party. Taiwan and Japan appear to be examples of how one-party rule and democracy can occur at the same time.

China, of course, is watching.

Obama’s Distracting Fear-based Unilateralism

Protectionism may be Obama’s Iraq War, a huge, costly, error-prone, distracting, program that generates enemies and just might work.

The enemies are all over, including the generally pro-Obama CNBC

Just as Bush’s foreign policy was consumed by the Iraq War, there are signs that Obama’s economic plans may consume his foreign policy.

On Obama’s visit to our largest trade partner:

US President Barack Obama said he had assured Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday that a “Buy American” clause in his new economic stimulus law would not harm trade between the two allies.
Obama was asked about the language in the package, which he signed into law on Tuesday, during a press appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper here

On Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Japan:

TOKYO, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Japan has sent a letter to the United States expressing concern about protectionism stemming from a “Buy American” plan in Washington’s mammoth stimulus package, the top government spokesman said on Thursday.

The letter, sent on Wednesday to top aides of U.S. President Barack Obama and the Senate’s majority and minority leaders, echoes concerns by other U.S. trading partners, including Canada and the European Union. [ID:nN03517537]

“The common responsibility shared by the two countries, which are the world’s No.1 and No.2 economies, is to resist protectionism together,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a news conference.

On Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to China:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Beijing, where Chinese leaders’ are concerned about the “Buy American” clause in the stimulus package. Steve Chiotakis talks to Marketplace’s Scott Tong about why China and the U.S. are both worried.

“Old Europe” piles on:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission will monitor closely a “Buy American” requirement in a $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus package, the EU executive said in its first response since the bill came into force on Tuesday.

“Following the concerns expressed both in the U.S. and internationally, President (Barack) Obama’s administration has assured its partners that it will adhere to its international commitments,” the Commission said in a statement to Reuters.

Obama has signed two “Buy American” laws: one to keep out foreign workers, and another to keep out foreign goods. Obama’s first moves have President have been to cave in to fear, turn his back on allies, and go-it-alone on the most important foreign policy issue we have.

Japanese Military in China

It won’t make the splash that Sichuan Earthquake Relief would have (until both governments scuttled the idea), but the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces Destroyer Sazanami is visiting Guangdong Province this week. As the New York Times article notes, the last time the naval flag of the Rising Sun was flown in China was under more hostile circumstances.

One of my first blog posts was noting a US warship that visited Vietnam. The Japanese Navy’s visit to China is equally strange for many, but equally good news for the future.

Japan helps reduce the cost of Information Connectivity

Props to Japan for being the first country in asia to adopt the OpenDocumentFormat. Part of globalization is work on building global public goods, that everyone can benefit from. The OpenDocument format is an example of such a good, because more people will be able to access government information and services without paying rents to Microsoft.

Good show!

A Good Nuclear Day

Two recent events, within twenty-four hours of each other, give hope to us all. First, India and the United States signed a nuclear accord which will allow that Republic to develop technology to deter deter an unseemly neighbor (Pakistan) and a neighbor that should be deterred from war as much as possible (China). Meanwhile, North Korea continues to show obstinance in her nuclear talks, which encourage Japan’s nuclearization. This encourages Tokyo to develop technology to deter an unseemly neighbor (North Korea) and a neighbor that should be deterd from war as much as possible (China).

Sometimes, proliferation is grand.

Map of Japan and the Chinese Empire

While browsing today in the wake up my odd honor, I came across this map from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection‘s Cambridge Modern History Atlas, 1912

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This map struck me because it reverses the standard view of China and Japan. Instead of a whole China and an expansionary Japanese Empire, it shows the Rising Sun’s lands as just “Japan,” while being careful to separate China from Chinese dependencies. Observe the rump China:

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And the majestic Japan

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A good reminder of what a Gap was a century ago, and that Japan had built a Core with Creating.

The Commonwealth of Korea and Japan (Shintaro Ishihara Right on Cooperative Colonization of Corea)

Shame on Tokyo Gov. Ishihara,” by Park Moo-jong, The Korea Times, 4 November 2003, http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/opinion/200311/kt2003110417310311330.htm.

The Economic History of Korea,” by Myung Cha, EH.Net Encyclopedia, 21 June 2004, http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/cha.korea.

The Korean Economy Under Japanese Rule,” by Abiola Lapite, Foreign Dispatches, 23 November 2005,
http://foreigndispatches.typepad.com/dispatches/2005/11/the_korean_econ.html (from SimonWorld).

Mitsuhiko Kimura, ‘The Economics of Japanese Imperialism in Korea, 1910-1939’,” by mike, Historï¿¥, 10 May 2005, http://akira.arts.kuleuven.ac.be/meijifin/?q=node/view/146.

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One Japanese Korea?

I’m a big fan of Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara. From standing up to North Korean state-terrorism, supporting Taiwan and stopping crushing, or even just bad-mouthing French, to advocate of a strong “Leviathan” anti-Dictatorship Navy, “the Ish” rarely strikes a bad note. But a Korea Times editorial attacks Ishihara for a questionable claim on Korea?

As reported, an unrepentant Ishihara triggered international criticism as well as anger by spitting out thoughtless gaffes last week that Japan’s invasion and brutal [sic] 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula was a union the Koreans chose.

Well, it’s not like Korea objected to foreign “SysAdmin” troops on her soil:

In 1894 peasants protested against a local administrator’s attempts to generate private income by collecting fees for using waterways, which had been built by peasants. The uprising quickly developed into a nationwide peasant rebellion, which the crumbling government could suppress only by calling in military forces from China and Japan. An unforeseen consequence of the rebellion was the Sino-Japanese war fought on the Korean soil, where Japan defeated China, tipping the balance of power in Korea critically in her favor.

But surely the farmers themselves objected to development by a regional stake-holder?

Though sharply opposing unrestricted imports of colonial rice, however, farmers never expressed opposition to the actual occupation of Korea. On the contrary, this ‘rural crisis’ rapidly bred nationalist-fascist attitudes among farmers after the First World War; the militarists and the rightists led farmers to believe that a key solution to their economic problems was further imperial expansion abroad, not abandonment of the colony. As a result, farmers wholeheartedly supported Japanese imperialist policy.

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A Core Worth Remembering?

Japan’s attack on the United States on December 7, 1941 justly destroyed her empire. Imperial Japan, like Imperial Germany before her, rightfully was brought under the Allies for crimes against them. However, this straightforward understanding of history should not take away from Japan’s significant contributions to Korea and Taiwan, or used to support neo-Juche isolationism by demagogues in South Korea and elsewhere.

They Did This To An American…. And A Japanese

“U.S. Army Deserter Describes 40 Years in North Korea Hell,” Drudge Report, 20 October 2005.

The North Korean monsters.

In his first U.S. television interview, the former U.S. Army sergeant who deserted to North Korea speaks for the first time about the abuse and control inflicted on him by the communist dictatorship over his nearly 40 years there. Charles Robert Jenkins tells Scott Pelley he had a “U.S. Army” tattoo sliced off without anesthetic and was even told how often to have sex by his communist “leaders” in a 60 MINUTES interview to be broadcast Sunday, Oct. 23 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

In 1965, Jenkins was posted along the hostile border between North and South Korea. He says he was being asked to lead increasingly aggressive patrols and was wary that he might be sent to Vietnam. And so, on a sub-zero night, he says he drank 10 beers, abandoned his squad, and walked through a mine-field to surrender to the North. He says he thought he would be sent to Russia and exchanged in some Cold War swap. But he was wrong. “It was the worst mistake anyone ever made,” he tells Pelley. “In words I cannot express the feelings I have towards North Korea, the harassment I got. The hard life.”

That life included forced studying of the writings of the communist dictator Kim Il Sung. He says he and three other American deserters were forced to study eight hours a day for seven years. The studying was imposed by communist government handlers called “leaders.” They also assigned him a Korean woman, with whom he was supposed to have sex twice a month. “The leaders almost tell her when to do it, and I got in a big fight one time over it,” recalls Jenkins. “I told [the leader], ‘It’s none of his business if I want sleep with her. She wants to sleep — we sleep.’ ‘No — two times a month'” He says he was severely punished for talking back. “That’s the worst beating I ever got — over that,” he tells Pelley, showing a scar where he says his teeth came through his lower lip.

Worse still, says Jenkins, was the pain he endured when someone saw his U.S. Army tattoo. He says the North Koreans held him down and cut the words, “U.S. Army,” off with a scalpel and scissors — without giving him any painkiller. “They told me the anesthetic was for the battlefield,” says Jenkins, “It was hell.”

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Charles Jenkins

During his first 15 years in North Korea, Jenkins says he led a lonely and desperate life. Then his North Korean “leaders” brought a young Japanese woman to his door. She had been kidnapped from her homeland by North Korean agents. The only thing they had in common at first was that they hated North Korea, Jenkins says, but the relationship blossomed. They raised two children. Kim Jong Il’s decision in 2002 to allow Jenkins’ wife and other surviving abductees to return to Japan paved the way for Jenkins’ release last year.

Each night before going to bed in North Korea, Jenkins said good night to his wife in Japanese, rather than Korean. He did it, he tells Pelley, to “remind her that she’s still Japanese, that she’s not Korean. She’s not obligated to Korea. She is Japanese… and she spoke to me in English — every night. Regardless of how hard things got, we always stuck as one.”

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Charles Jenkins and Hitomi Soga

When Jenkins finally stepped outside the North Korean culture after 40 years, he was most surprised to see women in the Army, limits on where you could smoke and black policemen. He had never heard of 60 MINUTES and thought Life magazine would be the place where he would tell his story. He knew something about the 1969 moon landing, however. “I was told that by the Koreans, one of the officers. They wouldn’t say what country, but they said, ‘Una handa la’… some country landed on the moon.”

For more about North Korea, please read One Free Korea and NKZone.

American Warship Enters Chinese Waters

US Warship Arrives In China For Visit,” SpaceWar, 13 September 2005, http://www.spacewar.com/news/superpowers-05j.html (from Life from the FNDF).

A nice complement to an older story about an American warship docking at Saigon:

A top grade US guided missile destroyer arrived at one of China’s main ports Tuesday as part of efforts by the two countries to increase military-to-military exchanges.

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The Guest of the People’s Republic

The USS Curtis Wilbur, an Arleigh Burke class Aegis guided missile destroyer will spend several days at Qingdao, a key port of China’s North Fleet, officials said.

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The Host Port

“This is an opportunity for the US personnel to meet their counterparts in the People’s Liberation Army navy,” US navy officials said.

“The port call will provide the crew of more than 300 sailors aboard USS Curtis Wilbur a chance for sightseeing and cultural exchanges [and comparisons of rations — tdaxp].”

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American Sailors, Capitalist Flags

The USS Curtis Wilbur is deployed to the Western Pacific and operates out of Yokosuka, Japan.

It is part of the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier group.

The destroyer is equipped with the Aegis Combat System which integrates the ship’s sensors and weapons systems to engage anti-ship missile threats.

This is one reason why America is a better partner for China than Europe. We can sail to China. Hundreds of years after Columbus, the European navies can’t.