Now, I am not trying to front her out and put her on the spot but, the more I think about it, Ms Miami (a frequent commenter here at PYY) left a comment that I feel deserves more attention:
we are a culture heavily focused on the present and the future and we're pretty unique in the world.the rhetoric surround the balkan wars in the 90s had a lot to do with centuries-old grudges.
the northern irish tend not to forget the battle of the boyne.asian cultures, layered in centuries of ancestor worship, are not as eager to just 'let bygones be bygones'...
(i'm not arguing that this is the most helpful mentality, just that it's not likely to disappear)
She is 100% right, there are some deep wounds here. But I can see none that cannot heal, not if healing is actively promoted.
Here is my reply to her comment:
I understand what you are saying. It's just that I see western Europe (and believe me the history of grudges on that part of the continent is quite deep and extensive) getting along very well despite all of the wars, conflicts, and territories that have changed hands over the centuries; and I think that if they can put aside their differences for the sake of peace, so can Asians, so can the Northern Irish, and so can those in the Balkans.
South Korea and Japan both have vibrant societies they produce well, and they have a good standard of living. Korea still has a little further to go to be as prosperous as Japan, but they are doing better, as time goes on. Neither countries need each other in an economic sense, but both have more to gain than they have to lose.
Standing firm against a common threat is the only sure way to solve this NK situation peacefully. By standing together it puts pressure on China to do the right thing. China does not want to blow their road to economic dominance in Asia, and a falling out with both countries would likely force China's hand to get with the program here.
Now, what does all of this mean?
China has the greatest influence over North Korea, that's pretty much agreed upon by all. As a result, there can be no peaceful solution to this crisis, without their support. I know, they supported some watered-down sanctions and voted for them, but that doesn't guarantee that they will honor the resolution, no matter how weak it may be. But if South Korea and Japan were to make a concerted effort to put aside their differences and build a new relationship, China would be under more pressure to abide by the terms of the resolution.
Let's look at why I say this.
At Political Calculations, Ironman has some 2004 stats on GDP that will tell the story of the two Koreas and Japan. You can compare them with China and see that the People's Republic is just beginning to flourish. And from the numbers we can see, they outproduce both SK and Japan, by quite a lot. But when you look at the GDP per capita, we can see that belongs to Japan and SK, by a long shot. Japan is well developed and SK is getting there. Together they could have even more economic leverage.
But not if they cannot look past events of over 60 years ago.
Letting the wounds of the past heal and forging a new era of cooperation between the two nations is the only way China will have competition for economic supremacy and as a result, political supremacy. China desperately wants to be the kings of the east, but SK and Japan must not allow them to grow without competition.
After all this time between WWII and now, China is still afraid of Japan. But imagine the anxiety that South Korean and Japanese alliance would bring, if they stood together in pressuring China to get NK under some resemblance of control. As a result of a new alliance, China would probably modify many of its positions and therefore could greatly improve its image, over the course of time.
Of course, I did fail to mention one detail in this.
Japan and South Korea must be allowed to pursue nuclear weapons. South Koreans may object to it at first, but as Kim becomes more defiant and his behavior becomes more erratic and unpredictable, they may re-think that stance. Japan, on the other hand, would probably be more receptive to this idea. In fact, Japan needs to be allowed to re-build its conventional forces, if nothing else. As time moves on, SK is becoming more and more industrial, Japan has been for years. They have all of these means of production, many factories can be converted to manufacture tanks and other defense equipment that can be used for the defense of their islands.
Now let's make one thing clear here, it doesn't particularly elate me to think that nukes could and would proliferate further. But if they are going to proliferate to countries like NK and Iran, it only stands to reason that nations like SK and Japan should be allowed to pursue them for strategic defensive purposes.
China has them. Russia has them too. And now it appears that NK has an under-developed form of nuclear weaponry. The U.S. cannot and should not be expected to provide all nuclear support, should Japan or SK suffer a nuclear attack of some kind from any of these countries. Therefore, it only makes sense for them to have the option of defending themselves.
Both countries have been staunch allies of the U.S., despite some occasional differences. So, trust should not be a huge concern, here. Both are model democracies. They are not without flaws, but they enjoy more freedom than anywhere else in Asia, with the exception of maybe India.
Let's be straight here. It's time for the Bush administration to develop a policy on Asia. It's time to facilitate a healing process between SK and Japan, as part of that policy. They need to be strongly encouraged to sit down and talk about their differences. To wait any longer (or ignore it altogether) would be quite foolish and would not be in the United States' best interests. In fact, to continue to dodge this issue, would have serious repercussions for the entire world, if not addressed soon.
Not only are legacies at stake here, peace is at stake too. So, now would be a good time for Condi to shine. Now would be a good time for some much needed attention to be given to this part of the world.