World in View: Japan, North Korea in Asian military spiral

November 16, 2017

From the November-December 2017 issue of News & Letters

Right-wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was easily re-elected in October following the collapse of Japan’s opposition parties. He is expected to push forward with efforts to change Japan’s Constitution to allow for more military development.

This will be a subtext of discussions between Abe and U.S. President Trump as he tours East Asia in November to “maximize pressure on North Korea.” The U.S. has agreed to increase military sales to Japan, including advanced air-to-air missiles already deployed in Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea. This is a dangerous spiral of militarism in the region.

Abe’s reception of The Philippines’ murderous President Rodrigo Duterte was also telling. Japan was an occupying power in World War II, and no previous Philippines ruler has visited. Duterte spoke of entering “a golden age of strategic partnership.” A framework is being laid for the development of military ties, beginning with joint coast guard exercises that will include Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.


North Korea was founded upon the logic of imperialism—the juche ideology was meant to give the Kim dynasty maneuverability among rival imperialists Russia, China, and the U.S. As the Cold War gave way to a more multipolar world after 1989, the Kims were driven to develop both a “military first” (songun) policy and a nuclear weapon. Militarism is now officially the society’s “social metabolism.”

Trump, Abe, and others who embody this imperialist logic only bolster the North Korean regime. Trump can make genocidal threats to “completely destroy” the country, and his rhetoric reinforces the songun policy of its rulers. In a similar way, North Korea’s doctrine of “self-defense” is based on the threat to destroy Seoul, South Korea, and its 10 million people.

The logic of imperialism is genocide. Humanity must overcome this madness once and for all.

—Gerry Emmett

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