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Monday, March 2, 2015

The USA And Shinzo Abe: From Ostrich Policy To Complicity?

Undersecretary of State Windy Sherman caused an uproar in Korea because of the way she presented East Asia tensions in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last Friday (see full transcript*). 

I'd like to add my two cents on the issue but first, know that in spite of her name, Sherman is not much of a panzer on foreign issues, and that typically, she was blamed by hawks for advocating diplomacy towards Kim Jong-il at the turn of the millennium. She also seems to be very much aware of the mine-fieldness of East Asian issues, that 'there are disagreements about the content of history books and even the names given to various bodies of water'. She even started with remarks on how, 'in addition to humility, it’s also necessary to approach Asia with an appreciation of the past', a past that 'affects the temperatures of relations between countries and helps determine how every gesture is interpreted'. This should mean that every word she read had been carefully weighed before.

The part of Windy Sherman's speech that most infuriated Koreans was: "Of course, nationalist feelings can still be exploited, and it’s not hard for a political leader anywhere to earn cheap applause by vilifying a former enemy. But such provocations produce paralysis, not progress."
I fully agree with the core message against nationalism, but as far as 'provocations' in East Asia are concerned, the first 'political leaders' that come to mind are Kim Jong-un, Shinzo Abe and his Nippon Kaigi friends, and here, China and South Korea appear as the main culprits (even if it could theoretically be any of the nations listed right before - "There can be no question that the world would be safer, richer, and more stable if the United States, Japan, China, and South Korea were consistently pulling in the same direction, and that’s definitely what the majority of the people in the region want").

Korean medias didn't distinguish Chinese/Korean nationalists from Chinese/Koreans and missed the core message. But they got something right: Sherman seems to have sided with Japan.

For instance, the sentence "The Koreans and Chinese have quarreled with Tokyo over so-called comfort women from World War II" not only poses victims as aggressors, but suggests that the issue, which only became a public one in the early 1990s, has long been settled.

By saying "Japan as a nation is working to reconcile modern demands with hard-won lessons from the past", she not only supports collective self defense, but gives an A+ in History to Revisionist In Chief Shinzo Abe. Again, I understand that the US is willing to share military costs in Asia with Japan, but as I wrote in the Asia Pacific Bulletin, "the United States must reassure Asia that it will not condone Japanese historical revisionism, nor will it support an expanded Japanese military without providing wider safeguards to the region".

The Undersecretary of State also completely bought into Abe's imposture around the tragic murders of Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto by Daesh. Apparently oblivious of the fact that the PM had been accused of shamelessly promoting his militarist agenda by instrumentalizing the crisis and undermining efforts to save the hostages, she concluded that "the horror of the executions was deeply felt, and the threat to Japanese citizens worldwide has fed an internal discussion that has been ongoing about the appropriate role of the country’s self-defense force".

In no instance does Wendy Sherman counterbalance any of Abe's controversial positions. Which explains why the US' usual 'ostrich policy' regarding this outspoken neofascist revisionist seemed to have drifted all the way to 'pure complicity'.

At one stage, I had the short-lived hope that she could redeem herself when she said "we don’t have to look far for a cautionary tale of a country that has allowed itself to be trapped by its own history"..., but she was referring to North Korea.


So I'll repeat the 3 parts of my latest focus "Comfort Women': No Resolution Without Resoluteness. From Everyone, Please."
1) more than ever, justice must win, not nationalism 2) undeterred by an evasive US, Shinzo Abe's pushing his revisionist agenda harder than ever 3) South Korea at long last forced to give up its own inaction

And I'll repeat my tiple call:
- to the US government: stop dodging the 'Comfort Women' issue, don't let Abe get his collective self defense without a clear rejection of Imperial Japan crimes (and please prevent an outrageous Abe Statement on August 15, 2015)
- to the South Korean government: stop feeding Abe and Nippon Kaigi by fueling nationalist feelings, show the world the right example by facing your own past.
- to both: this is not about standing against Japan but about standing for post-war, pacifist Japan against Imperial Japan

Seoul Village 2015
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* Wendy R. Sherman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC - February 27, 2015 (see full transcript, which of course also covers China, North Korea, the TPP,...)

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