An exasperated China took a newly tough approach to communist ally North Korea on Friday, siding with the United States in saying North Korea must back away from nuclear confrontation, and moving to cut Pyongyang's vital supply of hard currency.
The move came as North Korea offered mixed messages on its intentions. It signaled it could be backing away from its nuclear showdown with the world, even as it staged a show of domestic support in Pyongyang, where tens of thousands of people gathered to laud the country's first atomic test.
Coming under united international pressure, North Korea leader Kim Jong Il reportedly apologized for the Oct. 9 nuclear detonation and said he wouldn't test any more bombs.
The administration has insisted that any negotiations with North Korea include the regional powers: China, South Korea, Japan and Australia. In the end, they're the countries most immediately affected by Kim Jong-Il's nuclear threats. But Kim, having obviously studied the old 1959 movie, The Mouse That Roared, insisted on unilateral talks with the U.S.
And fascinatingly, but not surprisingly, the likes of John Kerry who has made a career of late criticising Bush for his allegedly unilateral Iraq policy, agreed. This time Kerry wailed that Bush should accommodate the North Koreans and quit trying to form alliances with other countries. In the end all we could have done was provide Kim with billions of dollars in aid and just hope that he'd stop his weapons development.
No. Much better in this case the Chinese stick than the American carrot. It certainly doesn't indicate that China is now a trusted American ally, but it does show that they're not willing to see a build-up of American naval power in the area; and they're not terribly excited over a newly-confident Japan who could probably build a nuclear bomb by next week without skipping a single Toyota sale in the process.
I'd also like to point out how worthless the United Nations has been in this dispute. Ultimately, the interested parties will solve the situation and the disinterested UN diplomats will posture, preach and, well, get a few more New York parking tickets. In the meantime, important stuff is going on and they just don't matter.
Japan is a true anomaly. All the other Great Powers went nuclear decades ago - even the once-and-no-longer great, like France; the wannabe great, like India; and the never-will-be great, like North Korea. There are nukes in the hands of Pakistan, which overnight could turn into an al-Qaida state. Yet we are plagued by doubts about Japan joining this club.
Japan is not just a model international citizen - dynamic economy, stable democracy, self-effacing foreign policy - it is also the most important and reliable U.S. ally after only Britain. One of the quieter success stories of recent American foreign policy has been the intensification of the U.S.-Japanese alliance.
The immediate effect of Japan considering going nuclear would be to concentrate China's mind on de-nuclearizing North Korea. China currently calculates that North Korea is a convenient buffer between it and a dynamic, capitalist South Korea bolstered by American troops. China is quite content with a client regime that is a thorn in our side, keeping us tied down while it pursues its ambitions in the rest of Asia.
Japan threatening to go nuclear would alter that calculation. It might even convince China to squeeze Kim Jong Il as a way to prevent Japan from going nuclear. The Japan card remains the only one that carries even the remote possibility of reversing North Korea's nuclear program.
It's evident that China is already pressuring North Korea, to wit the Great Leader's expressed regret today over the nuclear test. All he wants, says Kim Jong-Il, is for the US to stop its efforts at economic isolation. All China wants is that Japan remain a demilitarized zone, itself.
Calls for Bush to negotiate with North Korea are foolish and doomed to failure. We'll only end up giving them billions in aid in the hopes they'll keep their word. No, this is a fight between China and Japan and the Japanese appear willing to wage it -- we should let them.
SHINZO Abe is planning a revolution in Japan which will see the return of a full-strength imperial army for the first time since the Second World War.
After securing the Liberal Democratic Party's presidency last week, he is now certain to succeed Junichiro Koizumi as prime minister, and he clearly has an eye on re-examining the post-war era.
In a race that was his to lose, Abe - who will be Japan's first prime minister born after the Second World War - avoided specific comments about how he would pursue economic changes or how he would repair Japan's strained relations with China and South Korea.
Instead, he spoke of revising the United States-imposed Constitution, which forbids Japan from having a full-fledged military, passing legislation to allow Japanese troops to be deployed overseas and making it possible for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defence with the US.
Japan will be a very important ally to not only the U.S., but to Australia, India and Taiwan. China's enough of a threat but with North Korea constantly rattling its sabers, Japan return as a military power is very welcome.