Last Sunday marked 60 years since the signing of the Korean War Armistice Agreement. The truce ended hostilities, but the underlining conflict along the 38th parallel remains unresolved today. As Pyongyang celebrated with a massive military parade, international observers reflected on the occasion. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from Korea, China, Japan, and India on the war and its meaning for the Korean Peninsula today.
Editorials in South Korea overwhelmingly noted that while the armistice should be celebrated, current relations with North Korea remain tenuous at best:
- An editorial in the Joongang Daily remarked, “Commemorating the end of the war and pledging to not repeat such a tragedy is necessary and meaningful. At the same time, though, we should not forget the standoff still goes on…we haven’t finished the job yet.”
- Ra Jong-yil, national security advisor to former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, wrote anop-ed for China Daily where he laments that no one has taken responsibility for the Korean War, which “is still going on behind the scene in clandestine operations and in exchange of words.”
- Lee Chang-sup, executive managing director of The Korea Times, argued that the two Koreas are still “battling with the past. They have yet to agree on whether they are friends, foes, or strangers…Bringing up the past is justifiable when our intention is to learn from or discover previous wrongdoings. However, too much preoccupation with the past distracts us from realizing our future.”
- Song Ho-keun, professor of sociology at Seoul National University, wrote in the Joongang Dailythat even 60 years after the Armistice, “Korea’s fate hasn’t changed a bit.” He pointed to Japan’s 3/11 disaster and the subsequent rise of earthquake and disaster prevention research institutes in response to calls for improvement and preparedness. Questioning whether South Korea might be prepared for war with the DPRK, Song contrasted the Japan example with Korea, noting that the ROK “doesn’t have renowned war or peace research institutes.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was joined at the parade by Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao, the only notable outside representative to participate. Kim paid tribute to Chinese soldiers that died in defense of the North and commentary in China noted Beijing’s role as an intermediary in peace and denuclearization talks:
- Deng Yushan wrote in Xinhua that the “presence of a 60-year-old truce makes painfullyconspicuous the absence of real peace” where the “two Koreas” are still “haunted by the shadow of war” rather than “celebrating the birth of peace.” He counseled that China’s role as an “active mediator of dialogue” demonstrates Beijing is “committed to maintaining stability in and restoring peace to the region.
- Xinhua’s Yang Qingchuan asserted that while China and North Korea remain close, U.S.-China relations and South Korea-China ties have dramatically improved over the past 60 years since they were warring parties. The author also declared “China has been playing an active role in facilitating dialogue and promoting peace on the peninsula.”
- The Global Times editorialized that it is not worth second-guessing China’s decision to defend its long-time ally. The outcome of the war, which shaped “the strategic power structure of East Asia” and influenced China’s development today, is too engrained to change and leaders should focus on improving conditions on the peninsula.
Another media outlet pondered the status of Chinese veterans of the Korean War:
- The South China Morning Post, which produced a helpful infographic on the Korean War, contended that “some veterans feel they were duped” into joining the conflict and are “seeking answers about China’s involvement in the costly conflict.” An additional article focused on these veterans’ efforts for better retirement benefits.
Japanese editorials unanimously pointed out that “peace” has yet to be achieved on the Korean peninsula, and noted that impetus for change on the peninsula lies with Pyongyang:
- “The armistice is not a peace agreement; it is only a cessation of hostilities,” the Japan Timeswrote. “There is little Japan can do to influence the situation on the Korean Peninsula. But what it can do is refrain from acting in a manner that increases tensions and inflames sentiments…Japan should instead strive to oppose North Korea’s irresponsibility and demand that Pyongyang respect international rules and norms. Most importantly, Japan should stand with its partner South Korea…and back the Seoul government as it tries to forge a relationship with Pyongyang that will be the cornerstone of any enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula. Such a peace will be the best way to truly remember the Korean War.”
- Another Japan Times editorial added, “Pyongyang should keep in mind that unless there is denuclearization of North Korea, there will be no peace treaty…North Korea has the key to change the situation for the better.”
- An editorial in the Asahi Shimbun questioned the DPRK’s recent attempts to engage in dialogue, pointing to Pyongyang’s erratic behavior in the past. The editorial encouraged the opportunity for talks nonetheless, emphasizing “the two Koreas and all other countries concerned should not overlook the fact that an unstable situation of truce-not peace has continued for as long as 60 years.”
A commentator in India provided observations on the Korean War where the Indian army provided medical assistance to the United Nations Command:
- B. Muralidhar Reddy in The Hindu contrasted how parties were marking the anniversary: North Korea with a “celebration of ‘victory'” and South Korea with “a show of gratitude to the 16 countries [including India] which fought the war.”
If high-level visits were a positive indicator of the state of bilateral ties, India-US relations would be in fine shape.
American Vice-President Joe Biden arrives in India on Monday and it comes barely a month after Secretary of State John Kerry came for the India-US Strategic Dialogue. Last week Finance Minister P Chidambaram was in Washington, and in September Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will travel there.
Moreover, both sides have set an ambitious agenda for themselves, including untangling the nuclear commercial issues by the time the prime minister goes to Washington.
Walking & Chewing Gum
In preparation for his trip, Biden gave a speech a few days back on US foreign policy priorities that was focused on Asia and he devoted considerable attention to India and China. He reiterated President Barack Obama’s characterisation of the India-US relations as the “defining partnership” of the century and dismissed any talk of conflict between the US and China, calling it instead “competition” that was “good for both”.
New Delhi should be happy with the level of attention that Biden gave to India in that speech. But if they have to keep up the positive momentum of these visits, both sides will need to resist the pressure of other priorities in the coming months. In New Delhi, the coming general election is likely to prevent significant initiatives on all fronts, and foreign policy is no exception.
Considering that most analysts expect a split verdict at the polls, it is unclear how important foreign policy will be for the next government in New Delhi, irrespective of who heads it. This is all the more reason to put some momentum in the relationship now. Washington has its own problems.
Earlier this month, a jury in Florida acquitted George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year old African-American Trayvon Martin. The contentious trial and long-awaited verdict roused a range of opinions by the international press with much of the commentary focused on the role of race in the shooting and ensuing response. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, and Russia on race relations in the United States.
- The South China Morning Post editorialized that while “eliminating racism may never be possible,” the United States should focus on practical changes in its gun laws to ensure that “gun-toting citizens who appoint themselves law enforcers have no place.”
China’s own unique demographics – over 50 ethnic minority groups, though Han Chinese comprise around 91 percent of the population – provide an interesting perspective on race relations:
- In an April 2012 Global Times op-ed, Rong Xiaoqing noted that racial tensions in the heterogeneous United States are often more complex than they appear at first glance. Unlike “Hollywood movies where good guys and bad guys are so clearly labeled,” he wrote that a multitude of factors mean the real world “isn’t a question of black and white, but of shades of grey.”
- Covering racial tensions in Los Angeles today, Xinhua acknowledged progress in easing conflict but declared “there are still problems that need to be addressed at a communal level 20 years after the Los Angeles riots.”
- Xinhua reported on a recent Gallup opinion poll that showed over half of African-Americans felt“dissatisfied with the societal treatment of their race” in the United States. Xinhua indicated, however, this view has significantly improved since Barack Obama was elected president.
Media outlets in India commented on legal structures in the United States and the raw emotional impact of the verdict on African-American families:
- The Hindu led off its editorial on the Zimmerman verdict by declaring “race has once again torn a deep gash through the conscience of the United States.” Citing statistics on the experience of African-Americans interacting with law enforcement and the courts, The Hindu concluded “there is literally not a square inch of ground for [black Americans] to stand on.”
- In an op-ed for International Business Times, Palash Ghosh empathized with the sadness and deep emotions he saw at protests in the United States after the verdict. He wrote that for “black people, particularly for black parents with sons, the tragedy of Trayvon Martin strikes at the very heart of their worst insecurities, fear and anxieties.”
Russian commentary on the Zimmerman verdict was largely silent due to preoccupation with U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden, but some outlets contrasted protests in the United States with recent demonstrations in Moscow:
- Natalia Antonova, editor-in-chief of The Moscow News, remarked that protests in the United States following the verdict were “an amazing show of self-restraint – as opposed to the nationalism-fueled protest that took place on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow when football fan Yegor Sviridov was shot dead by a man from Russia’s North Caucasus region following an argument on the sidewalk.”
- The death of Kimani Gray in March 2013 – an African-American teenager shot by two NYPD officers – elicited strong criticism in a Russia Times op-ed, pointing to Gray’s death as evidence of the imperfect model the United States sets as a global leader. “Kimani Gray’s murder has become a symbol of America in the ‘Age of Obama’ – a country that presents itself as the protector of justice and righteousness while perpetrating injustice and genocide at home and abroad. Whether killed by a New York cop or a Predator drone, a neighborhood watch coordinator or a U.S. Marine, countless innocents are being killed by the United States and its machinery of death and oppression.”
Christopher Clary, Rising Powers Initiative scholar and Stanton Nuclear Security Pre-doctoral Fellow at the RAND Corporation, recently wrote an article for the Center for the Advanced Study of India’s India in Transition on safety and security issues within India’s nuclear arsenal:
We are just weeks beyond the fifteenth anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests, and less than a year from the fortieth anniversary of India’s 1974 “peaceful nuclear experiment.” India is justly proud of what its nuclear scientists have accomplished. In the face of an international regime to slow their progress, Indian scientists, engineers, and even bureaucrats and politicians collaborated to find a way to build an increasingly diverse nuclear energy infrastructure and the ability to produce nuclear weapons. To overcome these obstacles, India built a closed, close-knit nuclear enclave. Now that it has done so, will that establishment open up?
Fifteen years after Pokhran-II, it is possible the world knows less about India’s nuclear weapons program than any other nuclear state except North Korea. This is not proud company for the world’s largest democracy to share. The Indian public has settled mostly for quiescence about the program, punctuated by a handful of commentators eager to cheerlead the program’s accomplishments. This lack of inquiry could be unfortunate. Closed organizations develop pathologies that are often harmful to the broader public interest. They sometimes accept decrements in safety to achieve other organizational goals. Whether India’s nuclear stewards have avoided dangerous practices is unclear based on the scant public record. (more…)Continue Reading →
The Egyptian military’s deposition of former President Mohamed Morsi has observers around the globe reflecting on how events have changed since the Arab Spring in 2011. This Post compares domestic viewpoints expressed then – from China, India, Russia, and Japan – to opinions in these countries now on the unfolding story in Egypt.
Read our 2011 Policy Alert for additional comparative views.
While China’s Foreign Ministry said it would ultimately respect the decision of the Egyptian people, media commentary echoed doubts expressed in 2011 that these kinds of “revolutions” could ever lead to democratic change in Egypt:
- “Color revolutions will not bring about real democracy,” ran the headline of an editorial in theGlobal Times. “Whether the [democratic] system is applicable in other countries is in question, as more and more unsuccessful examples arise,” said the Communist Party-sponsored English daily.
- The Global Times remained cynical about the “prospects of revolutions” bringing about real democracy, especially when it leads to the copying of “a Western-style democratic system.”The editorial predicted the Egyptian people will “soon get sick of the army” and how events play out will be a test of “whether a country can escape from post-revolution chaos.”
Additional sources shared these pessimistic concerns:
- A China Daily editorial felt the coup d’état “ignited deep worries that the most populous Arab country may plunge deeper into political crisis and social unrest.” The paper worried “divides and even hatred between different forces and factions will still exist after Morsi’s ousting” and will make reconciliation “difficult in the short term.”
- The South China Morning Post wondered why the Egyptian public was so quick to praise the army for deposing Morsi after decrying the military as “thugs” when it aided the collapse of former President Mubarak’s regime. Unless “all sides keep their bargain and are tolerant and understanding,” the paper declared “Egypt’s future will be bleak.”
- Xinhua reported that overthrowing Morsi may further complicate Turkey’s efforts to improve relations with Egypt and coordinate economic and foreign policy, especially on the crisis in Syria.
Editorials in leading newspapers did not express the same optimistic outlook they espoused after the end of Mubarak 30-year rule:
- The Hindu said “the Egyptian state has lost all legitimacy” and that “we are almost certainly witnessing a transformative moment in the modern history of West Asia.”
- The Hindu called the recent coup an “ominous development” after the Arab Spring seemed to “herald a genuinely democratic future for Egypt.” The editorial hoped that the military – despite its “long record of corruption and other abuses of power” – will “quit politics” or “else gains of the Tahrir Square revolution will be tragically lost.” This concern was shared in a Business Standardop-ed by Una Galani.
- The Indian Express characterized the Egyptian uprising as “a re-emergence of the Arab tradition of liberalism.”
- The Indian Express was surprised “how feeble in the end appeared to be the fidelity among protesters to the yearning for democracy that electrified Tahrir two years ago, and the so-called Arab Spring.” This view was shared by The Hindustan Times¸ which argued that recent events “dashed any hopes that what was sowed by the Arab Spring would lead to a speedy democratic harvest.”
Other media sources were more optimistic that the military coup was just a bump along Egypt’s path toward democracy:Continue Reading →
Mike Mochizuki, Rising Powers Initiative scholar and associate professor of political science and international relations at George Washington University, was recently interviewed by The Japan Times on Tokyo’s upcoming elections. Here are some highlights from that news report.
On what U.S. policymakers would like to see in the elections:
The United States hopes Japan’s Upper House election will bring political stability to its key regional ally that will in turn yield progress on long-pending bilateral issues, an expert on Tokyo-Washington relations said.
“What the American officials want is . . . political stability” in Japan, said Mike Mochizuki. (more…)Continue Reading →
Japan confronts an ever-changing security environment abroad and economic turmoil at home as it looks to maintain a role as a global power. Japanese and U.S. experts discussed how Tokyo should respond to these challenges at a recent conference that presented a wide array of domestic views in each country on the future of the U.S.-Japan security alliance, Japanese history and society, and domestic policy priorities.
Timothy Westmyer, research and program assistant at the Rising Powers Initiative, and Samuel Porter,
research assistant to Professor Mike Mochizuki, wrote a Policy Brief to illustrate how the contending views from Japan were expressed during this event.