PN's Voice 40

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PN's Voice 40, 30-04-2015
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PN's Voice No. 40, 30.04.2015 
Small steps, Road to peace 

Abe’s U.S. Visit 1: Abe Expresses Remorse but Stops Short of Full Apology

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the US has featured prominently in the international news this week. Abe’s visit has been of particular interest to those in countries such as South Korea and China, who waited to see if Abe would apologize for Japan’s war time wrong doings. During his address to the US congress, Prime Minister Abe acknowledged that Japan’s wartime actions brought suffering to Asian people and he upheld the views of his predecessors on history. However, the nationalist Abe, long accused of attempting to whitewash Japan's wartime past, stopped short of offering a clear apology for such atrocities as the sexual enslavement of Korean and other Asian women for its troops during World War II. The absence of an apology extinguished hopes over the prospect of improved Seoul-Tokyo relations. South Korea has demanded Japan clearly apologize for the sexual slavery issue before they can put history behind and move forward, but Tokyo has refused to do so.

"Post war, we started out on our path bearing in mind feelings of deep remorse over the war. Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries. We must not avert our eyes from that. I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard," Abe said. Abe’s vague statement in regard to Japan’s Asian neighbors contrasted sharply with the apologetic tone about U.S. suffering during the war:

"History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. With deep repentance in my heart, I stood there in silent prayers for some time," Abe said of his visit to the World War II Memorial in Washington. "My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II."

In a possible reference to the sexual slavery issue, Abe said that "armed conflicts have always made women suffer the most" and he stressed the importance of building a world where "finally women are free from human rights abuses." The remark was seen as an attempt to make sexual slavery look like just one of many human rights violations happening during war. On Tuesday, Abe made a similar remark in response to a question about the wartime sexual slavery, saying women's human rights "have often been infringed upon during wars."

Lee Yong-Soo, a surviving South Korean victim of sexual slavery, was in the audience for Abe’s speech. The 87-year-old expressed outrage, saying Abe would be destroying himself if he keeps denying history. U.S. Representative Mike Honda, who has championed sexual slavery victims, as well as Representative Eliot Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also criticized the lack of an apology. North Korea was also quick to rebuke the Japanese Prime Minister for not apologizing for Tokyo's wartime sex slavery and urged him to stop insulting victims of such "hideous" crimes.

Abe’s speech marked the first time that a Japanese prime minister has addressed a joint meeting of the House and the Senate. One of his predecessors, Junichiro Koizumi, had pushed for the honor but did not get it due to objections over Japan's wartime history. Abe's address, which was granted despite strong objections over his record on history issues, was seen as a U.S. reward for a leader who has done everything possible to help address American economic and security needs in a region marked by China's rise.
Source : Yonhap News, Yonhap News

Abe’s U.S. Visit 2: “Historic Transition” to U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines

Abe’s visit to the US is ushering in major changes to the backbone of Washington’s Asia policy. The administration of President Barack Obama is now openly signaling its plans to beef up its containment of China with a stronger military alliance and economic cooperation with Tokyo.

Speaking on Apr. 27, US Secretary of State John Kerry described the revision of the two countries’ defense cooperation guidelines, which removed regional limits on the areas where the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) could provide rear support for the US military, as a “historic transition.” He also indirectly singled out Beijing in a press conference after a meeting of the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers that day, declaring that the US “reject[s] any suggestion that freedom of navigation, overflight and other unlawful uses of the sea and airspace are privileges granted by big states to small ones.”

Washington’s hope is that the new guidelines will lead the JSDF to take on support duties for the US military even in the South China Sea, where territorial disputes are ongoing between China and several Southeast Asian nations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a Wall Street Journal interview on April 27, gave an example of what Japan’s expanded military role, and tighter military coordination with the US, would mean.“If there was an attack against the U.S. [Aegis] destroyer [near Japan], Japan would not be able to prevent that from happening under the current law,” Abe said in the interview. “In the future, the Japanese Aegis destroyer will be able to protect the U.S. Aegis destroyer.”
Source : The Hankyoreh, The Hankyoreh

Inter-Korean Trade Hits Record High

The effectiveness of South Korean imposed sanctions on North Korea have been under particular scrutiny of late, as they are seen as being both ineffective and acting as an obstacle to improving inter-Korean relations. The ineffectiveness of sanctions was highlighted by today’s announcement that that the volume of inter-Korean trade hit a record high in 2014 on growth in exchanges at a joint industrial complex in the North. The value of inter-Korean trade reached US$2.343 billion last year, up 106.2 percent from a year earlier, according to a 2015 white paper on unification issued by the Ministry of Unification.

The ministry said that an increase in inter-Korean trade mainly resulted from a rise in exchanges at the Kaesong Industrial Complex even as Seoul has imposed punitive sanctions which have banned economic exchanges with North Korea since the North's 2010 deadly sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship.
The Kaesong joint factory park, which opened in 2004, is the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation. It has served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped North, while South Korea has utilized cheap but skilled North Korean laborers. A total of 124 South Korean small- and medium-sized enterprises have hired about 53,000 North Korean workers at the industrial complex in the border city of the same name.
Source : Yonhap News

North Korean Nuclear Reactor Operating Again?

Satellite images taken between January and April show a North Korean nuclear reactor, that can yield material for atomic bombs, may be operating again at low power or intermittently, US experts said on Wednesday.

A report from David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini at Washington’s Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said the imagery also suggested that a centrifuge plant at the Yongbyon nuclear complex had been operated and that North Korea may be preparing to conduct renovations to the plant. The ISIS think tank said last year that satellite imagery from late August and late September indicated the Yongbyon reactor may have been partially or completely shut down.

The latest ISIS analysis comes at a time of rising concern about North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities. The experts based their latest assessment on observation of melting snow patterns on the reactor and turbine buildings at Yongbyon, indicating that the insides of the buildings may have been hot. They also pointed to signs of warm water being discharged from the reactor. North Korea has a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon and the reactor has previously been used for plutonium production. Both materials can be used to make atomic bombs.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal newspaper reported that Chinese nuclear experts had warned that North Korea may already have 20 nuclear warheads and the capability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to double its arsenal by next year.

Early this month, US Admiral William Gortney, commander of the US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said the US military believes North Korea has the ability to miniaturize a warhead and mount it on a ballistic missile, although there had been no tests.
Source : The Guardian

Our readers may also be interested in the following articles:

Bloomberg has a video of Abe’s full speech: Bloomberg

Several news outlets are running a story that North Korea has executed 15 top officials so far this year. Below is a link to The New York Times article on the subject: The New York Times

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