The Asia-Pacific Perspective
Apr 28, 2014
Welcome back to The Asia-Pacific Perspective, that monthly show where James Corbett of corbettreport.com and Broc West of apperspective.net break down all the latest news and headlines from the Asia-Pacific region. In this month’s conversation:
Australia set to order 58 F-35 Lockheed Martin fighter jets
Australian PM: $12.4b jets ‘for the unexpected’
Lockheed Martin wins out over taxpayers in the F-35 procurement nightmare
The F-35: A Weapon That Costs More Than Australia
Other Asia-Pacific Updates:
Asia bucks military spending decline
Japan to arm remote western island, risking more China tension
TPP protests intensify ahead of Obama’s Japan visit
Justin Bieber apologises for visiting Yasukuni Shrine
Satellites show North Korea nuclear test unlikely
Marshall Islands launch lawsuits against nations with nuclear arms
Latest Headlines from FukushimaUpdate.com
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Published time: April 20, 2014 00:04
Edited time: April 20, 2014 02:48
Divers have recovered 13 more bodies from the South Korean ferry that capsized on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 49. A total of 253 people, most of them high school students, are still unaccounted for.
Rescue divers were finally able to get inside the ferry after numerous failed attempts, media quoted officials as saying. Strong currents and poor visibility made it difficult for the search and rescue operation to take place.
“At 11:48 p.m. (14:48 GMT) the joint rescue team broke a glass window and succeeded in getting inside the vessel,” the South Korean government said in a statement.
Search efforts recovered 16 more bodies overnight and authorities said that cranes would be used to lift the ship in order to locate the other bodies.
The South Korean government is facing a backlash from angry relatives of ferry victims. Up to 100 people clashed with police as they tried to march from the southwestern island of Jindo, the center of the rescue operations, to the mainland via a bridge towards the capital of Seoul.
Police blocked their way by forming two lines as protesters began to push and shove, Reuters reported.
Earlier, relatives were gathered at a gymnasium in Jindo, where they have spent the past four days awaiting news.
The ferry capsized while on its way from Incheon, in the northwest, to the southern resort island of Jeju. It was carrying over 400 people. Rescuers have so far managed to save 179 passengers.
The disaster is now being referred to as South Korea’s deadliest vessel accident in 21 years.
The captain of the ferry, Lee Joon-seok, was arrested on Saturday and is facing a total of five charges, the most serious being negligence of duty and violation of maritime law.
The captain explained that his delayed order to evacuate was due to the fact that there were no rescue ships nearby at the time and people could have been swept away by strong currents.
“At the time, the current was very strong, temperature of the ocean water was cold and I thought that if people left the ferry without proper judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties,” he said.
Also, Lee Joon-seok appeared on South Korean television on Thursday to deliver a message to the families devastated by the disaster. “I am really sorry and deeply ashamed. I don’t know what to say,” he said.
Earlier, investigators revealed that the captain of the vessel was not at the helm at the time of the incident, and had left his third officer in command. Local authorities issued arrest warrants for Lee, the officer left in charge, and one other crew member, for not providing proper assistance to the passengers during the accident.
Two crew members were also detained, including the third officer who was in command of the ferry at the time of the incident.
The vice principal of Danwon High School – who was responsible for the care of hundreds of high school students on the ferry trip – committed suicide, police confirmed on Friday. Kang Min-gyu was found hanging from a tree on the island of Jindo, where the parents of students who are still missing are staying. Kang was rescued from the ferry before it sank and is believed to have taken his own life out of guilt.
Divers are continuing their search, with 256 people still unaccounted for. The cause of the accident still remains unknown, although investigators suspect that the vessel could have struck a rock or made a sharp turn, causing it to overturn.
The South Korean government has been criticized for its handling of the incident. A spokesperson for the aggrieved families spoke out against the authorities in a television broadcast on Friday morning, accusing the government of lying to them.
“The government lied yesterday,” he said. “Is this the reality of South Korea? We plead once more, please save our children.”
The spokesperson alleged that the South Korean government has lied about the size of the rescue effort, claiming that it is actually much smaller.
Amateur footage of the moment when the ship began to capsize has been posted online. It shows how the passengers were told to stay put on the ship, even when it started to tilt. Some critics have argued that if an order to evacuate had been issued earlier, more people could have been saved.
September 6, 2013
South Korea has started boycotting all seafood products from Japan’s Fukushima region, following reports of radiation contamination from the crippled nuclear plant.
South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Friday that Seoul has now banned all fishery products from Fukushima and seven other nearby prefectures.
South Korean Prime Minister Office Spokesman Shin Joong-don said, “The government has decided to take a special measure, which is banning imports of all seafood from eight Japanese prefectures around Fukushima, after having a ministerial-level meeting presided by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on September 5, and a government-ruling party consultation on 6th.”
The ministry said Tokyo had failed to release sufficient information regarding the damaged nuclear plant and its continuous stream of contaminated water leaking into the Pacific.
Japanese officials say the level of radioactive water leaking from the site has reached its highest point ever.
Scientists also tested high rates of radioactive cesium in fish near the plant.
“The measures are due to the sharp increase in concern from the public about the flow of hundreds of tons of contaminated water into the ocean at the site of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. Our government made the decision as it is unclear how the Japanese crisis will progress and it will be difficult to precisely predict the future risk with the Japanese government data only,” Shin Joong-don stated.
One of the only two active reactors at the Oi plant, in the Fukui Prefecture in western Japan, went offline on September 3, with the other one being halted later this month.
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was damaged in a mega-earthquake followed by a tsunami on March 11, 2011.
July 6, 2013
A passenger jet from Seoul, South Korea crash landed at San Francisco International Airport reportedly leaving two dead and 12 injured, according to local media. Firefighters flocked to the scene as clouds of black smoke billowed from the plane – READ MORE http://on.rt.com/sk3kjz
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April 10, 2013
They sure seem crazy when you omit half the story of the US and South Korea doing War Games annually just south of the border.
April 1, 2013
The United States has sent F-22 stealth fighter jets, to participate in ongoing military drills with South Korea. Pyongyang earlier said it was in a ‘state of war’ with the South following the latest round of sanctions over its nuclear test two months ago. In turn Seoul warned that its ready to carry out a pre-emptive strike on its neighbour, in case of imminent attack. James Corbett, host of the Corbett Report – believes that the U.S. is playing a dangerous game by trying to benefit financially from the tension which could spill over at any moment.
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by Nile Bowie
March 30, 2013
Recent warnings of instability on the Korean peninsula by Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov come at a most appropriate time – and indeed, there is a frightening possibility that the situation could spin out of control. Since the North was heavily penalized by UN sanctions following its recent satellite launch and nuclear test, Pyongyang has embarked on a near-daily onslaught of belligerent threats, some of which include its invalidation of the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War, threats to nuke the United States, and threats to occupy South Korea and subsequently take all Americans in the country hostage. Military analysts claim that North Korea is at least several years from building a nuclear warhead or a missile capable of reaching the US mainland – but there is no doubt that if the Kim regime oversteps their approach, it could certainly have severe repercussions for civilians in South Korea and Japan, both in range of North Korea’s rockets.
Despite regular threats of destruction and Pyongyang’s recent proclamation that the two Korean states are officially in a state of war, day-to-day life has retained its normality according to sources on the ground. Needless to say, there is no doubt that civilians on both sides are feeling tense in the current scenario, especially those on disputed South Korean islands in the West sea, just a stones throw away from the North Korean maritime border. The four thousands residents of the South’s Baengnyeong Island, which Kim Jong-un personally threatened to “wipe out” in early March, have been severely hindered from carrying out their day-to-day activities such as fishing due to the joint US-ROK military exercises in the area. Despite inter-Korean relations reaching their lowest point in recent times with the entire South on high alert, most South Koreans are adept at brushing off the North’s rhetoric, but they’re still proceeding with caution.Nile Bowie:
In addition to joint US-ROK’s endless barrage of war games on North Korea’s doorstep, the brandishing of B-2 bombers, which carry bombs that can blast through 70 meters of reinforced concrete, is an unnecessary stunt that is both bold and needlessly provocative. In fact, the B-2 flyover helps Kim Jong-un in consolidating his political power at home by rallying domestic support behind the US threat and distracting North Koreans from economic problems. These moves beg the question, is the United States prepared to launch a full-scale war against North Korea? Despite the high public disapproval of overt warfare campaigns launched by the Bush administration, the unholy status North Korea enjoys in American mainstream media – coupled with its threats to nuke the United States and the simple fact that is it a communist state – is likely enough to coax the average American into supporting a war of aggression against Pyongyang.
March 13, 2013
There is little doubt that civilians on both sides of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) are weighed down with anxiety as both countries carry out provocative large-scale military drills amid threats of nuclear war. North Korea has recently announced that it will no longer abide by the UN-brokered armistice that ended the Korean War with a ceasefire in 1953 and authorities have severed its communications hotline with the South, the only diplomatic channel of contact between the two countries. Pyongyang has imposed no-fly and no-sail zones off both its coasts as part of comprehensive military drills that may see the test firing of short-to-medium range missiles. The US-South Korea joint command forces have launched their Foal Eagle field training exercises that will be ongoing until end of April. 200,000 South Korean troops and 10,000 US troops will take part in the exercise, which will include land, air, sea, and special operation drills. North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, has reported that the North’s army, navy, air force, and anti-aircraft units were “just waiting for the final order to attack.”
Following Pyongyang’s recent threats that it would engage preemptive nuclear strikes against any aggressor, Seoul shot back with its strongest rhetoric yet, stating, “If North Korea attacks South Korea with a nuclear weapon, then by the will of the Republic of Korea and humanity, the Kim Jong-un regime will perish from the Earth.” South Korea’s newly inaugurated President Park Geun-hye has been in office for less than one month and in the current scenario, it has become politically impossible for her to stick to her campaign pledges of taking a softer line on North Korea. Most of the time, the substance of North Korea’s threats do not materialize, much like last month’s pledge to take an immediate “physical response” to a barrage of UN sanctions. While talk of taking “second and third countermeasures” are thrown around pretty liberally in North Korean state media, the North Korean foreign ministry has not announced any specific actions – such as a nuclear weapons test or rocket launch – in response to harsh UN resolutions or the ongoing US-ROK drill offensive.
North Korea invokes a brutal historical narrative of war with the United States to legitimize its conduct in the present day – and indeed, North Korea is a victim of war crimes. Washington and its allies rained napalm over North Korea, destroying nearly all its cities and thousands of villages. A staggering four million Koreans and one million Chinese soldiers were killed – US military sources confirm that 20 percent of North Korea’s population was killed off, even that being a highly conservative figure. In the fallout of North Korea’s third nuclear test, state media has invoked several English-language editorials that reflect on the overlooked historical back-story of the US stockpiling nuclear weapons in South Korea. The statement released by the Rodong Sinmun reads:
“In the 1980s the U.S. spurred the modernization of the nuclear hardware of its forces in south Korea. Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Ronald, speaking at a parliament, confessed that the U.S. shipped more than 1,000 nuclear weapons to south Korea and deployed 54 airplanes for carrying nuclear bombs. South Korea turned into the world’s biggest nuclear outpost with the stockpile of nuclear weapons such as bombs, shells, warheads, land mines and carrier means as well as nuclear bases and arsenals. The U.S. nuclear threats were vividly manifested in its open declaration to use nuclear weapons in Korea.”
For all intents and purposes, this is an accurate account. If we fast-forward toward the present-day, the Bush administration’s Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations issued in 2005 established the circumstances under which the US could preemptively invoke the use of nuclear weapons. The document states:
“The lessons of military history remain clear: unpredictable, irrational conflicts occur. Military forces must prepare to counter weapons and capabilities that exist in the near term even if no immediate likely scenarios for war are at hand. To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use.”
The North Korean Foreign Ministry’s recent statement, “Second Korean War Is Unavoidable”, argues that the DPRK reserves the right to a preemptive nuclear attack and the Foal Eagle joint military exercises are akin to Washington lighting a fuse for a nuclear war. The document also acknowledges the Obama administration’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, and that the US “seeks a way out of a serious economic crisis at home in unleashing the second Korean War.” Many analysts throughout the alternative media have acknowledged North Korea’s history as a victim and have defended their acquisition of a nuclear deterrent. While the historical context of abuse warrants one to be empathetic toward Pyongyang in this respect, many of these commentators fail to necessitate the primacy that inter-Korean dialogue should hold in their writings. It should also be noted that when official figures, such as Jon Yong-nam of the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League, utter phrases like, “We vow to plant the flag of the central military command and the North Korean flag on Halla Mountain on Jeju Island [South Korea]”, it makes the deterrent argument far less convincing.
In recent times, the North has provided slight openings for foreign media to enter the country and speak to its citizens, and undercover testimony has been smuggled out. Recent reports published by Radio Free Asia (RFA) detail the intellectual insecurity of North Korean civilians, who in consuming copious amounts of state media in the absence of any other source, deeply fear the threat of strikes or an invasion from foreign powers. RFA quotes a resident of North Korea’s Yanggang Province who has allegedly said, “The authorities said if we have nuclear weapons, we can scare off anyone we meet, but on the contrary even though we have nuclear weapons and we’re shouting that we might launch a preemptive strike, I’m worried it seems we might receive a preemptive strike.” Another resident in resident in Hamgyong Pronvince said, “If we shoot off a nuclear weapon, are the Americans going to stay motionless? In any case, if nuclear weapon is launched everyone dies, so I feel there’s no use for training or anything.”
Although these anonymous testimonies, appearing on the US State Department-run RFA, likely serve as some form of propaganda, it highly plausible that a percentage of the North Korean population feels quite uneasy about the current state of affairs. One could offer their rhetorical support for North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons as a deterrent, but what will become of some 10.5 million innocent civilians in Seoul if the North attempts to proliferate its nuclear arsenal? Likewise, 3.2 million souls in Pyongyang would be extinguished if the US employed its preemptive nuclear doctrine. The potential death toll should not be limited to those in capital cities, the reemergence of conflict on the Korean Peninsula immediately endangers the 70 million people living there. For all the firery rhetoric exchanged between the two Koreas, the fact that the hardline Lee Myung-bak regime, incumbent President Park’s predecessor, did not retaliate when the North shelled Yeonpyeong island in 2010 demonstrates the extent to which restraint has been exercised for the sake of stability.
The only thing keeping the situation from deteriorating is the fact that North would probably not come out victorious if it went to war with South Korea and the United States. While the North boasts larger manpower, more submarines, and more fighter jets, the South possesses highly sophisticated weaponry and modern defense technology by comparison – for this reason, Pyongyang has put more focus on the development of ICBMs and nuclear warheads. Military experts say North Korea is years away from developing a long-range missile and a nuclear warhead to attack the US mainland; however the damage it could do to South Korea and Japan has the potential to amass high civilian causalities and shouldn’t be under-estimated. One could argue that the case has never been stronger for the withdrawal of the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea. Such a move that would satisfy civilians in both Koreas and yield higher chances of provoking a positive response from Pyongyang during this tense period; however, that simply isn’t going to happen. As the Pentagon pivots to the Asia-Pacific, North Korea is a godsend in its ability to provide Washington with a legitimate pretext to bolster its forces in China’s backyard.
As tensions increase on the Korean Peninsula, the only power that has any influence to broker an agreement that could de-escalate hostilities is China. Following North Korea’s third nuclear test, many Chinese citizens took part in a historically unprecedented outbreak of anti-North Korea protests, and both China’s state-run media and various policy experts are becoming more vocal in their criticism of Beijing’s North Korean policy. China partnered with the United States to co-author recent UN resolutions against Pyongyang, exhibiting new heights of Beijing’s disapproval with the Kim dynasty. An editorial in China’s Global Times newspaper reads, “If North Korea engages in further nuclear tests, China will not hesitate to reduce its assistance to North Korea.” The editorial went on to say that if the US, Japan and South Korea “promote extreme U.N. sanctions on North Korea, China will resolutely stop them and force them to amend these draft resolutions.”
Kim Jong-un has demonstrated his willingness to go against the wishes of his main allies in Beijing, which has visibly frustrated those on the Chinese side, who have for years attempted to nudge Pyongyang into implementing meaningful economic reform. China should do more to denounce unnecessary and provocative military drills that have the potential to lead to fire exchange and inter-Korean turbulence. More likely than not, these threats will not materialize and tensions will deescalate in time. China hosted tri-lateral talks in Beijing with Pyongyang and Washington in attendance a decade ago in April 2003 – at the time North Korea withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan, violated South Korean airspace with a fighter jet, and threatened to abandon the 1953 Armistice Agreement. The present day scenario is highly unpredictable and it’s clear that Beijing must take the initiative to deescalate this situation and bring all parties together to the negotiating table to work out a new agreement – one that establishes meaningful inter-Korean security assurances that lead to both sides scaling back military drills and provocative muscle flexing – such is a prerequisite for any kind of normalization of relations.
This article appeared on Counterpunch.
Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has travelled extensively to North and South Korea and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 24, 2013
James Corbett of corbettreport.com and Broc West of apperspective.net are pleased to bring you the latest edition of their monthly video series, “The Asia-Pacific Perspective.” In this episode, we cover:
The Great Cyber-Warfare Scam
Anonymous Thrown Into China-US Cyberwar Scandal
Despite Lack Of Proof, US To Attack Chinese Hackers In Retaliation
North Korean Test Shows U.S. Policy Failings
Russia Opposes New North Korea Economic Sanctions
U.S. & South Korea Plan Joint Military Exercises
What Will Follow Pyongyang’s Atomic Gambit?
Fukushima Health-Survey Chief To Quit Post
Two More Fukushima Youths Diagnosed With Thyroid Cancer
Fukushima Victims Required To Pay Back TEPCO Compensation
December 11, 2012
Right before Japanese and South Korean elections how timely.
December 10, 2012
The South Korean artist Psy has taken YouTube by storm receiving millions of hits for his song “Gangnam Style,” but there is one controversial tune you might not have heard much about. In 2004, the Asian artist criticized the US for its role in torturing Iraqi captives and called for the death of the “Yankees” and their families. Only a few years later, though, Psy was invited to perform for President Obama. Retired Colonel Morris David joins us with the more on the questionable invitation.
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