Tag: japan (page 1 of 2)

More on Moral Hazard in US Alliances: Explaining Japan-Korea Tension (and Greece-Turkey?)

domh

So this post is a bleg to those of you who know more about alliances than me. I am considering writing this up for an article, so I thought I would ‘crowd-source’ early comments on the basic argument. I also wonder if someone elsewhere has already suggested this idea in the vast alliance literature. So please let me know. The motivation is inductive – the deepening tension between Japan and Korea has suggested the addendum to alliance theory I am proposing here. But I wonder if others have said this before.

Put briefly, I don’t think entrapment or abandonment captures the US position between allies in dispute, like Japan and Korea, or Greece and Turkey (perhaps – I know that latter case less well). Instead, each seems to use the US alliance patron to: a) compete with each other, because b) the US alliance relieves external pressures (China and North Korea, and the USSR and chaos in the Balkans and Middle East, respectively) that would otherwise incentivize a rapprochement. These four states are not trying to ‘entrap’ the US so much as leverage it for an intra-alliance squabble, with the shared patron as referee. I’ve not read this theorized elsewhere, so here is an effort to do so.

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Harry Potter and the Questionable Metaphors: Sino-Chinese Addition

People may have wondered why spend so much time thinking about what pop culture says about international relations.  They have have pondered whether dedicating entire class sessions to Harry Potter and the International Relations of Ethnic Conflict might be misguided.

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Why Does South Korea View Japan as a National Security Threat Worse than China? My Hypothesis: Competition with North Korea

This has been on my mind a lot because the Korea-Japan meltdown has been so bad recently. And I think it’s a good research question if you are into Asian IR. I have written about this before and just did again this month and yet again. I’ve argued repeatedly that the reason America’s allies in Asia cooperate so poorly is moral hazard. But this is different question. It is meant to explore why Koreans exaggerate Japan so much. Why do Koreans – the media specifically – routinely say things like Japan is run by right-wing fanatics who want to invade the Liancourt Rocks with samurai? These statements are not only obviously false, they are ridiculous.

I have said before (here, here) that Koreans have legitimate grievances regarding Japan, particularly on Yasukuni and the comfort women. But Koreans don’t stop there; they go over-the-top with things like the Sea of Japan re-naming campaign, claims that Japan wants to invade Korea again, that Japanese behavior in Korea equates with the Holocaust, or that Liancourt is worth going to war over – even though a Korean use of force against Japan would almost certainly eventuate a US departure from SK and therefore dramatically reduce Korean security. Other victims of earlier Japanese imperialism don’t talk like this, and I think a lot of well-meaning Japanese, who do recognize what Japan did in Korea, are genuinely baffled by all the hyperbole.

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4 Quick Hypotheses on Why China Suddenly Declared this New Air Defense Zone

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If you haven’t yet seen the zone’s geography, here it is to the left, complete with its overlap with the Korean and Japanese zones. The most important conflict of course is over Senkaku, but Korea watchers will also note that the Ieodo submerged reef, which Korea claims, is also in the zone. Gotta wonder what the Chinese were thinking by giving Korea and Japan common cause over anything. Foolish.

Dan Drezner asked the question I think pretty much everyone is wondering now: did the PRC really expect the US, Japan, and SK to just accept this out of the blue? Obviously they’re not, and it’s hard to find anyone besides the Fox News of Asia Global Times who thinks they should. The following are some quick ideas for where this suddenly came from. Each is more-or-less tied to a level of analysis, but the prose is laymen-style because it was originally written for media

1. Belligerence (anarchy, straight-up realism): the Chinese really are picking a fight with Japan. This is the worst possible reason. They may figure that the Hagel visit to Japan a couple months ago has made Japan into an open challenger to China now. And that is kinda true. America is hedging China, ducking and weaving, trying hard to avoid an open confrontation with it. But Japan is increasingly unabashed that is it balancing China directly as a threat. Abe is increasingly willing to call out China openly. So Asia is becoming a serious bipolar contest, and maybe the Chinese are thinking: ‘to hell with it; Abe’s playing tough; we have too also.’ Certainly my Japanese colleagues in this area increasingly talk about China this way.

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My Japanese Hate-Mail Tells I am a ‘S— Kimchi Propagandist’ (Hah!) …Where’s Thunderdome When You Need it?

Hollywood’s solution to intractable interstate conflicts

This is what happens when you write in the area of Japanese-Korean relations. Pretty much everybody hates you, because you don’t tell them what they want to hear, and then maximalists come out of the woodwork to, as Robert Farley aptly put it, “explore Japanese-Korean animosity one angry e-mail at a time.” As I’ve argued before, there’s little domestic cost to the either party for the most outrageous rhetoric, so this just goes on and on. Given that intractability,  the Obama administration’s big idea to untangle this – sending embarrassingly unqualified socialite donor Caroline Kennedy  to be ambassador to Japan – is cringe-worthy. So why not call Tina Turner? She’s a celebrity too. And Aunty Entity is the kind of no-nonsense external ref this conflict needs. (Bad 80s references can fix everything!) Anyway…

The other day I posted how the Korean government leaned on me to alter the nomenclature in my writing – from the ‘Sea of Japan’ to the ‘East Sea.’ I don’t exactly stand on this point. I can’t actually say for sure if I use the expression ‘Sea of Japan’ much. But now, I wouldn’t change just to oppose the highly inappropriate arm-twisting of academics by the state. And then a few days ago, I got one my most creative hate-mails (from a Japanese) in awhile. Both letters follow the jump.

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The Endlessly Fatiguing Japanese-Korean Squabbling is the Worst it’s been in Decades

rocksI am so burned out on this issue, I’m ready to say we should just nuke the Liancourt Rocks (left) to end this whole thing. But it’s everywhere now in the regional media. Park pointedly won’t meet Abe, which the Japanese media is reading as a huge snub. She even said she’d talk to Pyongyang before Tokyo (yikes!). The Japanese are getting more open in expressing loathing for Korea. The Americans are livid. And the Chinese and Norks are loving it all, I have no doubt. So here’s yet another essay on this topic. This is the English version of a long-form essay I wrote for Newsweek Korea last week.

The short, IR-ish version is that: a) S  Korea is a middle power that risks ‘overplaying its hand’ against Japan, as a think-tanker friend put it, because of the ‘moral hazard’ facilitated by the American alliance (as Katzenstein noted long ago, Japan is the US anchor state in Asia, and Koreans can’t change that no matter how much they resent that special relationship); b) the Americans believe in the democratic peace and simply don’t accept that Japan is some kind of proto-fascist state (this is a real breakpoint with the Americans); and c) Korean geography basically traps it in a ‘balance of threat’ quandary: even though it is small, its proximity means it will get pulled into the Sino-US/Japan stand-off whether it likes it or not. The only possible way out I can think of for Korea is unilateral nuclearization (more yikes). Also, my continuing skepticism of the pivot pops up. I still don’t think Americans actually care enough about Asia to really get pulled into a major competition with China. Here’s that essay…

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Abenomics is Not more Dangerous than the North Korean Missile Program

ok

I continue to be amazed at how the Korean government won’t admit that Japan’s revival is really good for democracy in Asia and the prevention of Chinese regional primacy. No less than the SK finance minister (pic) actually said Abenomics is more dangerous to SK than the NK missile program. Wait, what?? The worst totalitarianism in history gets a pass when the Bank of Japan prints a lot of cheap money? Come on. That’s unbelievably irresponsible. Are Korean officials so deeply bought by the chaebol that they actually have to say stuff like that? Honestly if Minister Hyun really believes that (I doubt that though, see below), he should probably resign. This is just an embarrassment.

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Do US Alliances Re-Assure in Asia, or Create Moral Hazard?

Newsweek Korea cover

The conventional wisdom on the US presence in Asia is that we re-assure all players. Specifically, US allies don’t need to arms race local opponents, because the US has extended deterrence to cover them. Hence Japan and South Korea don’t need to go nuclear, for example. Among academics, this logic pops in the work of Christensen, Ikenberrry, and Nye; among policy analysts, here is the US military saying this, and here is the DC think-tank set.

But there’s flip-side to this logic that really needs to be investigated – whether the US presence also freezes conflicts in place, by reassuring Asian elites against their own reckless nationalist rhetoric, racially toxic historiographies, and Fox News-style inflammatory media (just read the Global Times op-ed page occasionally). I think the Liancourt Rocks fight is a particularly good example of this ‘moral hazard’ mechanic, as is the recent comment by no less than the South Korean foreign minister (!) that Abenomics’ threat to Korean export competitiveness is a greater danger to SK than North Korea’s nuclear program. That kind of preposterous, reckless myopia can only be explained by taking the US security umbrella for granted.

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Abenomics is a Not an Excuse for Comfort-Women Denialism

protesting-comfort-women-by-bloggerswithoutbordersOne of the traditional responsibilities of sane conservative parties is to write-out of respectability and legitimacy the scary, nut-job right-wing fringe. There can’t be a ‘no-enemies-on-the-right’ strategy, or you wind up with anti-Semites, racists, and black-helicopter guys grabbing all the media attention and delegitimizing wider conservative goals. In the US, Bill Buckley explicitly intended the National Review to screen out the John Birch Society and the American Mercury. In Germany, the CDU/CSU keeps the nationalist/neo-Nazi fringe at bay. (I worked for both GOP and CSU legislators in the past, so I’ve actually seen this in action. The late-night/AM newsradio listeners come out of the woodwork to tell you all about Jewish banker conspiracies and stuff like that.) In Japan, that means the LDP has to tamp down the endless Pacific War revisionism that keeps popping up. And for as much as I think Abenomics is an important Keynesian antidote to the right-wing monetarist-austerity hysteria of the last five years, it’s also increasingly clear that Abe’s victory allowed the Japanese version of the Birchers to get all sorts of air time they shouldn’t.

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The Post-1979 ‘Asian Peace’ & Economic Miracle are Probably Connected

Newsweek 3rd coverNewsweek Japan asked me to write an introductory essay for a special issue on tension in Northeast Asia. Basically I plea not to throw out all the remarkable growth of the last 35 years in an orgy of nationalism. It’s almost certain that the post-79 Asian peace was a necessary condition for simultaneous economic growth. So fighting over some empty rocks (Liancourt Rocks, Pinnacle Islands) is a terrible idea. And for IR, I think the current Sino-Japanese tension is a good test of the old liberal hypothesis that economic interdependence encourages peace. It’s fascinating to watch China especially try to figure out just how much economic gain to forego to push Japan over the Pinnacle Islands. Here we go:

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What will the North Korean Military do if Japan Shoots Down the Missile Launch?

Jpn Patriots

A few days ago, I predicted there would be no war, probably because I’m lazy and predicting the future will be the same as the present is an easy way to protect my credibility. But I got some criticism that I was a dippy academic who doesn’t see how dangerous the situation really is. And if I am wrong, I won’t be around to see it anyway; I’ll be swimming for Japan. So here is the most likely escalation pathway I can see, despite my firm conviction the North Koreans do not want a war, because they will lose badly and quickly, and then face the hangman in Southern prisons.

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Cold War: Old or New?

In the aftermath of a long war, a new degree of suspicion ensues between two powerful countries that were nominally on the same side…one rattles its sabre, threatening small countries on its borders…the other shores up relations with the very same countries… a tit-for-tat arms race begins, waged with the advantages of recent technological advances…espionage takes the form of a new battleground as the stakes move progressively higher…for the most part the top leaders of each continue to say nice things about each other in public, but a new undertone of tension has become apparent…privately each frets about the other’s intentions, how far will they go?

If this frame fitted the spring of 1947, should we be getting concerned that increasingly we have a current goodness of fit? Mutual suspicions between the U.S. and China have risen to new heights based on the razor’s edge tension between Japan and China and the latter’s major espionage effort, probing among other things the American energy and infrastructure grid that is largely—and worryingly—in the hands of private companies whose defenses against Chinese hacking are too low. The newly installed President Xi has taken a mildly more strident tone compared to his predecessors, but this is less concerning compared to the rhetoric of the newly installed generals atop the Chinese armed forces. The rhetoric and world view of this younger and more bellicose cadre has the hair of analysts in the U.S. intelligence community beginning to stand up on the back of their necks. And although the U.S. has actually re-pivoted to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) due to Mali/Syria/Iran/Arab Spring, the pivot that has captivated elites around the world is the supposed U.S. pivot toward Asia (i.e. China). As such, the nascent Chinese leadership has become convinced the U.S. has an active policy of containment towards it.

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The Era of Austerity or the Era of Intervention?

Tuareg_rebel_in_northern_MaliA variety of commentators listened to President Obama’s Inauguration speech and, having heard few words devoted to foreign policy, declared that the second term of this Administration will be marked by less activism on the global stage.  The draw downs from Iraq and Afghanistan readily reinforce this view, as do a variety of academics peddling recommendations for a new grand strategy of restraint.  I am more circumspect, for inauguration speeches are by nature more domestic in focus.  More importantly, America’s national security interests have not changed fundamentally.

The Obama Doctrine of robust burden sharing—being multilateral when we can, unilateral when we must—will continue to cope with a world that may be in rapid flux but has little propensity to generate the stability and security that would justify a restraint-based grand strategy.  Al-Qaeda was quiescent in one form, but in its new decentralized affiliate-based form it is anything but.  With the global campaign against terrorism continuing amid a constellation of constrained economic resources, robust burden sharing is an appropriate grand strategy; moreover, it is here to stay (at least for the duration of this Administration and likely well beyond).

Opponents of the President have had a heyday with the unintentional phrase “leading from behind.”  Ever since an unnamed Administration official spoke these tongue-in-cheek words to The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, critics have twisted them and/or ascribed their own meaning more along the lines of “retreat to the back.”  Some grew so agitated, they practically fell over themselves in their clarion call for robust American leadership practically at all costs—case-in-point a certain presidential candidate’s “No Apology” book that aptly captured this sentiment, and a certain senator’s delight in singing “Bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.”

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USC-CSIS Conference on Korean Unification (3): DPRK ‘Sovereignty’ is a Sino-Russian Fig-Leaf to Slow Unification and Check US power

CSIS Korea Project

Here are part one and part two of this post. I spoke last Tuesday at a USC-CSIS conference on Korean unification. I learned a lot, and it was very good. If you’re interested in unification, start here with the primary report on which the conference was based. The principal investigators said a final wrap-up report will come at some point, and I’ll put up that link when it arrives.

My comments below are on the papers presented on Tuesday about neighboring states’ reactions to Korean unification. These papers aren’t publicly posted yet, so all the comments might not make sense. But in the interest of completism, I’m putting this up to round out my thinking on this excellent unification project. (For my earlier thoughts on dealing with NK, try this; for my travelogue of my trip to the DPRK, try this.)

My big beef with these sorts of conferences on NK – I go to a lot – is that inevitably outsiders, especially Chinese scholars, start laying down all sorts of guidelines, restrictions, parameters, etc. for unification, as if it’s our right to muck around in this thing. I can understand the national interest in doing so. But we shouldn’t have the temerity to try to legitimate our muddying of the waters in what is really an internal family affair. It would also help a lot if the Chinese would stop talking (not so much at this conference, but definitely at others I’ve gone to) about how Korea needs to respect its wishes, because China is big and important now, post-2008 Olympics. I heard one guy once even say that China is now the ‘veto-player’ on unification. That’s true of course in realist sense, but that sorta cockiness infuriates Koreans who’ve really soured on China in the last decade. I see the same kind of emergent Chinese bullying on unification that Southeast Asian littoral states see on the South China Sea. So I try to call that out whenever it seems necessary.

Anyway, here on my thoughts on Japan, Russia, and China’s role in this thing.

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When the Asian Growth Model Starts to Stumble, or how Korea could go like Japan if it’s not careful

Newsweek

Newsweek Japan asked me for an long-form essay on Korea’s economy for its December 5 issue (cover story to the left). Here is the link in Japanese, but I thought it would be useful to publish the original, untranslated version as well. (If you actually want the Japanese language version, email me for it please.)

The essay broadly argues that Korea needs to move beyond ‘developmentalism’ toward economic liberalism, as a lot of Asia does in my opinion. Regular readers will see themes I have emphasized before. This was intended for the print edition, so there are no hyperlinks included in the text. Here we go:

“As Korea’s presidential election moves into the home stretch (December 19), the local economic discussion is sharpening. Inequality, demographic collapse, massive concentration of economic weight in a few mega-conglomerates, weak consumer purchasing power, growing trade friction over intellectual property rights, and a chronically under-powered small- and medium-enterprise sector (SME) are among the major problems this outwardly very successful economy must confront. Unfortunately, none of the major candidates are pushing the deep reform needed to fix these underlying issues. As with China’s leadership transition, things seem so good at the moment that elites are wary of rocking the boat; as with the recent American election, tough choices will likely once again be kicked down the road. In Korea’s case, that means moving away from its ‘developmentalist’ growth model before encountering troubles similar to Japan’s.

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Concert of Asia in Crisis

The often maligned aspiration for a “Concert of Asia” appears to be even more unlikely this year as Japan and China trade barbs at the UN and spray water cannons at each other over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.  Meanwhile in Southeast Asia, China has succeeded in fracturing the unity of ASEAN ministers over disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea. Even though these conflicts are unlikely to lead to war, the disputes matter because they influence whether the region will become increasingly bi-polar or whether an international institution/society will be permitted to develop in order to manage, or ideally “tame and sublimate,” competition between states.

In the broader historical perspective, the current conflicts are relatively minor compared to the confrontations witnessed during the Cold War in Northeast and Southeast Asia.  Moreover, in the current situation some states are working to defuse tensions — although no party is blameless.  For example, Japan — as a state — continues to act with a measure of restraint, even if some Japanese conservatives see an opportunity for publicity and self-promotion.  It is worth noting that Japan immediately expelled, as opposed to detaining and convicting, the Chinese activists from Hong Kong who landed on the disputed islands in mid-August. Japan’s decision to purchase three of the disputed islands from private owners was also an attempt to diffuse bi-lateral tensions by foiling a campaign by the conservative Tokyo Governor, Shintaro Ishihara, to purchase the islands for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government through public donations.  That Japan may have exacerbated tensions by purchasing the islands directly instead of simply restraining Ishihara could be understood as either a miscalculation or an attempt to finish unpleasant business before China’s leadership transition is consolidated with the hopes of repairing relations once the new administration takes power. Of course, it is understandable why the Chinese would view the entire purchase drama as a “farce” since this was likely the end result desired by Ishihara in the first place. Notably though, ever since the fallout of the nationalization of the islands, Japan has not escalated tensions by bringing in SDF ships.

Ultimately, even if neighboring powers are exploiting the Chinese regime’s weakness during its leadership transition, China is harming its own strategic interests if its bickering or muscle flexing means that regional powers will increasingly ask the US to add more substance to its “pivot” toward Asia.  Of course, the situation is still in play and states are not mechanical actors; ASEAN may still be able to manage and regulate the conflict in its neighborhood, China and America are tied together economically, and not all Asian powers will line up behind the US despite their concerns about China.  But China is increasingly hemming itself in.  As Cheong Suk Wai writes regarding China’s claim to the lion’s share of the South China Sea:

“… China is now in a Catch-22 situation: on the one hand, if it does not fend off claimants, its increasingly nationalistic population will see its leaders as shrinking Chinese territory; on the other, China is party to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and its insistence that it owns most of the South China Sea would go against Unclos and anger its neighbours. Either way, China cannot win.” (The Nation [Thailand], 29 September 2012)

China does not have an interest in exacerbating tensions from a strategic or economic vantage point, but its need to distract its domestic population from corruption scandals by fueling nationalist rage may wag the dog.  Stated another way, it may be China’s domestic weakness as well as its growing military and economic strength which terminates the prospects for a Concert of Asia and promotes greater regional polarization.

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The Sino-Japanese Laser Cat War of 2012

Who will win in a world of …. LASER CATS and
hegemonic stability theory?

In an interesting thought experiment at Foreign Policy, James R. Holmes (an associate professor at the Naval War College) asks whether China could take Japan on the high seas.

In July, China’s East Sea Fleet conducted an exercise simulating an amphibious assault on the islands. China’s leaders are clearly thinking about the unthinkable. And with protesters taking to the streets to smash Japanese cars and attack sushi restaurants, their people may be behind them. So who would win the unlikely prospect of a clash of titans in the Pacific: China or Japan? 

His answer is a modified “China, maybe:” China has more hardware, but each of its ships are lower quality, while Japan has both a high-quality navy and a better training program. In part, he compares his analysis to Theodore Roosevelt’s book on the naval war of 1812, which is doubly fitting because (a) bicentennials are fun! and (b) T.R.’s involvement with U.S. naval policy explains part of why we are so engaged in East Asia even today.

It’s an interesting article, the sort of thing that I enjoy reading in Proceedings every couple of years, and it does make you remember (if you needed reminding) just how potentially kick-ass the Self-Defense Force is–and how much more powerful it could be if Japan spent, say, 2 percent of GDP per year on its non-military.

But it has all the relevance to real-world policy of the Saturday  Night Live sketch “Laser Cats.”

Why? Because somehow, in a piece ostensibly concerned with compellence, force, and the regional balance of power, Holmes forgets to mention nuclear weapons.

Based on his institutional affiliation, I’m going to guess that Holmes has as much patience for Nina Tannenwald’s nuclear taboo thesis as I do. But that makes it all the more urgent for Holmes to explain why China wouldn’t win this by merely threatening to add a third nuclear memorial to Japan’s existing sites. Frankly, if I were a Japanese version of myself, this sort of scenario would make me tear my hair out about the fact that Tokyo is still committed to not building a nuclear arsenal—a puzzle that should keep realists up at night every night—but it wouldn’t change my conclusion that there won’t be a shooting war between Japan and China over these islands. No Japanese leader is going to take the chance of seeing a single Japanese civilian die for some islands that only extreme right-wingers care about.

Holmes’s article reminds us of why it’s a good idea for IR scholars to remain engaged with policy. In his analysis, he neglects to account for how a war could break out–to take the classic Fearon model, is it that Beijing and Tokyo can’t work out a time-share over Senkaku?–or to account for how the actions of other regional players (the Koreas, Taiwan, or the United States) would affect each side’s calculation of the costs and benefits of engaging in the dumbest great-power war since Fashoda didn’t happen. Most important, although he’s probably limited by his initial pitch to the editors of FP, the question is not so much what the conflict over Senkaku means today, but what it implies for China’s rise. Will it be peaceful? Or will internal frictions drive China’s leaders to set aside their longstanding policy of settling border disputes by negotiation and instead do something rash? (As a thought experiment: Would it matter if Bo Xilai, and not Hu Jintao, were China’s president?)

The conflict over Asia’s barren rocks may be as consequential to the prospects for peace as the ongoing dispute over a handful of settlements in the deserts of Palestine. Given that Japan’s other territorial dispute, over Dokdo/Takeshima with South Korea, has helped to nearly scuttle attempts at a Korean-Japanese rapprochement, there’s something important to be said about them. But using them as a springboard to write a 2012 version of Red Storm Rising isn’t the most productive use of analytical energy.
 

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Lands of the Rising Sun

Hawai’i isn’t the only colonial possession
to get the inset treatment.

 Although the authors of the Duck of Minerva do not condone, endorse, or even take seriously this proposal, we do want to bring to our readers’ attention a petition urging President Obama to return Taiwan to the Emperor of Japan.

This is not entirely crazy, just 99.98 percent insane. Taiwan, of course, was a part of the Japanese Empire after the cession of Formosa in the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. Less well known in the  West is the depth of pro-Japanese sentiment in Taiwan; former president Lee Teng-hui, for instance, was graduated from Kyoto University in 1946. More immediately important for D.C.-area sports fans was the fact that the Japanese introduced Taiwan to baseball, thereby indirectly leading to the Nationals’ pitching staff including Chien-Ming Wang (see also).

The petition’s unique one-state solution to the Formosa problem deserves consideration at least as in-depth as this blog post.

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Missed That! Korea-Japan Treaty Debacle Edition

Japan-Korea treaty killed by Seoul at last minute about a week ago.

Jennifer Lind provides a quick explanation:

East Asia, where states don’t even need to practice wedge politics to bring about division…..

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The World Does its Duty & Conforms to Social Science: More on Korea & Japan

If academia’s taught me anything taught me, it’s that the real world is flawed, not theory, and that facts should change for me, not the other way around. As Marxists would say, ‘future is certain; it’s the past that keeps changing,’ and Orwell famously quipped that academics would love to get their hands on the lash to force the world fit theory. (I guess Heinlein agreed; check the vid.) So I am pleased to say that the world meet its obligations to abstraction this week a little: Japan and Korea edged a little closer toward a defense agreement (here and here). A little more of this, and I can safely ignore – whoops, I mean  ‘bracket’ – any real case knowledge…

Last week I argued that Korea and Japan seem like they’d be allies according to IR theory, but weren’t. I wrote, “Koreans stubbornly refuse to do what social science tells them;” obviously they don’t realize that abstraction overrules their sovereignty. I thought this was fairly puzzling, but I got an earful from the Korea/Asia studies crowd about how I was living in the clouds of theory. I also learned that area studies folks don’t really like it when you throw stuff like ‘exogenous’ and ‘epiphenomenal’ at them. Once they figure what ‘nomothetic’ actually means, they think you’re conning them. D’oh!

So for those of you argued I didn’t know anything about Korea or Japan (a fair point) but was just blathering on about theory that had no necessary time-space application to this case, I thought I’d put up this bit from Starship Troopers. It’s hysterical – when PhDs rule the world, apparently the military has to step in to prevent us from running it over a cliff. Didn’t Buckley once say he’d rather the first 2000 names of the Boston phone book run the US government than the faculty of Harvard?

Cross-posted at Asian Security Blog.

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