Watching news coverage of N. Korea’s latest nuclear chest thumping—an underground nuclear test followed by a succession of short range missiles—I asked myself how I would feel if I lived in Japan. I didn’t have to think long; I’d be infuriated.
Reactions in Japan’s oldest English language newspaper reflected concern, finger-pointing at US presidents and righteous anger. An analysis by Bill Sakovitch at Ampotan was more realistic than the daily newspaper. Cutting to the chase, Sakovitch asked, “Are you surprised that the new [Obama] administration still hasn’t put two and two together yet?”
Sakovitch has lived in Japan since 1984; he’s worked as a Japanese-to-English translator and interpreter since 1990. The frustration in his column sounds a lot like the frustration many in the US feel.
Writing for The Japan Times, former ambassador to Thailand Hisahiko Okazaki pointed to what some of us in the US perceive as disastrous attempts by President Bill Clinton with the Framework Agreement—basically N. Korea thumbed its nose and is believed to have enriched uranium even while promising to abide by the agreement. Okazaki pointed out the bonus: “N. Korea would receive supplies of heavy fuel oil and construction of a light-water nuclear reactor for power generation.”
President George W. Bush shook a stick during his administration and then handed out carrots towards the end of his second term. News coverage from that era reads like a spy thriller, complete with accusations of N. Korea counterfeiting US dollars, the freezing of N. Korean funds in Macau's Banco Delta Asia SARL and China refusing to accept a transfer of those funds once the accounts were unfrozen.
Okazaki goes harder on Bush than on Clinton, but the former Japanese ambassador may not have realized the depth of the media war conducted against Bush, largely because of the Iraq War. There’s another editorial in the paper positing Bush and former UK prime minister Tony Blair could be prosecuted for war crimes even though the US entry into Iraq was agreed to by the US Congress and there could be grounds for Clinton to be prosecuted too in my opinion. There is still disagreement over whether Iraq was a good move for defense purposes or a bad move, but it’s a no-brainer the US ended up doing the work the UN shirked. Editorials like this illustrate one reason the US is reluctant to intervene. We're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't.
The UN of course is completely ineffective when it comes to N. Korea or any other serious conflict; the only thing the UN is effective at is bleeding US taxpayers and other nations' people as well.
Sakovitch puts forth a question that will resonate with many in the US: “Are you surprised that the Japanese and the South Koreans would not be ‘relatively relaxed’ and do have a sense of crisis? They’re taking their complaint to the United Nations, however, which is analogous to phoning the local university’s debating society to tell them about gunshots in the neighborhood.”
Sakovitch also pointed out US Special Envoy Stephen Bosworth had recently said the Obama administration is “relatively relaxed” and there was no “sense of crisis.”
As Iran polishes its nuclear efforts and N. Korea views UN resolutions like pieces of scrap paper on the sidewalk, Sakovitch points out the obvious—others may see these countries’ actions as justifications to go nuclear. Who could blame them?
The newspaper focused most criticism on the Bush administration, going easy on the Democratic administrations of Clinton and President Barack Obama. Apparently, Japanese big media has something in common with big media in the US—a preference for Democrats even if their efforts have been completely ineffective.
What's also missing: questions about the environmental impact of all these tests. You'd think with the congregation of Al Gore meeting in Copenhagen, there'd at least be whispers about what such tests do to the planet. Don't you reckon nukes in the hands of N. Korea (or whoever they decide to sell to) could effect a whole lot of unanticipated climate change?
In 2003 PBS interviewed Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright. After she visited Kim Jong Il in 2000, photos emerged that made Albright and the dictator look like good buddies. Her interview reflects an addled policy and surprises that were in store during her visit. Her administration literally gave the farm away.
If you read the whole article at PBS, it will become evident Japan has every right to point fingers and express anger over N. Korea’s latest advertisement for weapons, that in the wrong hands, could wreak havoc on a troubled world.