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Japan-China Relations: The Power of Gyoza March 20, 2008

Posted by genchan in Asian, China, Food, Health, Japan, Politics.
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Who would have thought that gyozas can become an issue affecting high level bilateral ties between two nations. Then again, nothing seems too surprising when it comes to Sino-Japanese relationship. For those who are fully aware of the icy thin political relations between the two Asian giants, one can’t help but ponder what next.

The gyoza saga is receiving high level attention simply because proper mechanisms are not in place to handle such incidents at the lower level. Certainly, more of such issues would crop up in the not-so-distant future considering the fact that bilateral trade is on the rise and the demand for cheaper food products is there in Japan.

However, cheaper foods can also mean improper food preparation to cut cost. This is where the gap lies – the stringent requirements of food preparation by the Japanese and the lack of legislation to ensure food safety by the Chinese. Unless the gap can be substantially reduced through mechanisms of understanding and enforcement, incidents such as the gyoza issue will continue to prevent healthy recovery of bilateral ties.

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Tainted ‘gyoza’ poisoning bilateral ties

By Frank Ching (The Japan Times, Monday, March 17, 2008)

HONG KONG — The tainted “gyoza” dumpling scare in Japan has caused the delay of President Hu Jintao’s visit to Tokyo and, if not properly handled, could result in the unraveling of the dramatic improvement in bilateral relations achieved since October 2006, when Shinzo Abe broke the ice by visiting Beijing shortly after he became prime minister, followed by Premier Wen Jiabao’s “ice melting” trip to Japan last spring.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda added to the momentum when he visited Beijing and other cities in China last December and invited President Hu Jintao to visit Japan in the spring, “when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.”

Much hinges on this pending visit, which will be the first Chinese presidential visit to Japan in a decade and will fall on the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Sino-Japanese peace and friendship treaty in 1978.

In the dumpling incident, 10 people were taken ill after eating imported Chinese dumplings tainted with an organo-phosphate insecticide called methamidophos. The subsequent media frenzy resulted in thousands of others reporting that they, too, felt sick after eating imported Chinese dumplings.

Consumption of Chinese food plummeted from 57.9 percent before the incident to 21.6 percent afterward. Kyodo News conducted a telephone survey and found that 75.9 percent of respondents said that they “will not use Chinese food from now on.”

China is Japan’s second-largest source of food imports after the United States and accounts for over half its imported frozen products, so the economic impact can be huge. But even more important is the potential damage to the political relationship between the two countries, which has only started to mend recently.

Although both countries agreed to cooperate in investigations into the dumpling incident, their respective investigative agencies ended up arguing over the origin of the toxins found in the dumplings.

Chinese officials have cleared Tianyang Food, in Shijiazhuang, in Hebei province, which made the dumplings, saying its strict quality-control measures make it almost impossible to introduce toxic substances. Chinese police have said there was little chance the dumplings were contaminated in China, directly contradicting the position taken by Japanese police.

Japanese investigators have noted that methamidophos is banned in Japan and so it is unlikely that the contamination took place in Japan.

China is saying that this is not a case of food safety, but rather of sabotage by someone who wants to harm Japan-China relations.

Well, if that is the case, the saboteur has been incredibly successful, as China and Japan are trading accusations. And now, the Hu visit, originally planned for late March or April, has been pushed back to the middle of May.

Moreover, the two sides have still not reached agreement on the dispute over gas exploration in the East China Sea, where there are overlapping territorial claims. They have agreed on the principle of joint development but, so far, there has been no agreement on the exact location where drilling will take place.

However, China has reportedly agreed to recognize a Japanese-drawn median line in the East China Sea. Even if this median line is acknowledged simply for the purposes of joint exploration and not territorial sovereignty, it is still a major step forward.

China’s ambassador to Japan, Cui Tiankai, has said the issue will be sorted out before President Hu’s trip. This issue, too, could cause a delay of the presidential visit.

What with the Abe-Wen-Fukuda visits, the two countries have been on a roll, and momentum for the improvement of relations has been building up over the last 17 months. However, if the dumpling issue and the East China Sea dispute continue to drag on, this momentum could be lost.

Actually, if need be, the two countries can set aside the dumpling issue and focus on the bigger issue of food safety. On that, it is clear, their interests are identical. China needs to export and Japan needs to import food, and this can only work if steps are taken to ensure that the food is safe from production through its appearance on supermarket shelves.

The disclosure that the Chinese parliament, the National People’s Congress, is considering food safety legislation is an encouraging sign and, one hopes, the saga of tainted Chinese food products may be coming to an end.

A breakthrough on the East China Sea is also vital. The presidential trip cannot be delayed indefinitely. The cherry blossoms, after all, start to bloom in late March and it is a stretch to say that they are still blooming in mid-May. But there can be no further delay.

New Malaysian Politics – NEP still matters? March 14, 2008

Posted by genchan in General, Government, Malaysia, Politics.
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Been thinking about what the recent 2008 general election in Malaysia meant for the NEP – an affirmative action program put in place by the ruling government in the early 1970s to assist the poor Malays.

If the article below is of any indication, the NEP that has often been used to rally support from the Malays comes election in the past no longer seemed effective. The idea that the Malays need to depend on the ruling government for their economic well being through the NEP seems less realistic today than 10 or 20 years ago.

The ability of the Opposition to wrestle and legitimately set up their governments in five states could indicate that the Malays are comfortable of their socio-economic standing and are eager to compete on a level playing field. This notion is supported by the fact that the Opposition will be dismantling the NEP based on race and replacing it with one based on need.

Obviously, old politics no longer hold. This could well signal the emergence of a matured civil society capable of making decisions without emotional attachments. Such an emergence, if holds true, could bode well for the country’s shift towards a more participatory and open democracy.

Postscript (17 March): To be certain, the NEP no longer exists since 1990 when it was replaced by the New Development Policy (NDP). However, critics observed that it was more of a name change than real substance primarily because many of the tangible economic benefits offered under the NEP policies continue to exist. Thus, the discussion here focuses more on that than the literal sense.

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Nazri: We may see end of NEP

KUALA LUMPUR: The election results signal the beginning of the possible demise of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and special rights for the Malays, said Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

The Umno supreme council member said it appeared that the Malays, especially in the town areas, had become more confident now and felt they could compete with the other races on a level playing field.

“We (Umno) have to really sit down and think. It looks like the educated Malays do not care about Malay rights anymore,” he said when contacted.

“The Malay doctors, lawyers, engineers feel they have made it on their own merit.

“It looks like the NEP is not something that can be used to persuade the Malays to support the Barisan Nasional.

“The Malays are saying ‘you can’t scare us by talking about us losing our rights, because we are here on our own merit’.”

Nazri said it looked like some Malays felt that the NEP was unfair, and questioned

why special rights should be given to the Malays.

He described the new confidence among the Malays as good for the Malay psyche.

In the just concluded election, the Barisan only managed a simple majority in Parliament, and lost five states (Kedah, Selangor, Kelantan, Penang and Perak) to the Opposition.

The Opposition had largely said they would dismantle the NEP and put in a place a new affirmative action policy based on need rather than race.

Nazri, who retained his Padang Rengas

parliamentary seat by a majority of

1,749 votes, said he barely survived the political tsunami.

He said the youngsters – Chinese, Indians and Malays – who returned from Kuala Lumpur to vote in Perak had tried to persuade their parents, who are Barisan supporters, to either not go out to vote or vote for the Opposition.

“I only survived because of my personal touch with the voters,” he said.

He believed the political landscape in the country had changed irreversibly and that all parties would now have to work harder.

“Every wakil rakyat will have to work to win the hearts of the people. This is good for Malaysia because, at the end of the day, it is the rakyat who benefits,” he said.

Malaysian Election 2008: Towards New Politics March 10, 2008

Posted by genchan in General, Government, Malaysia, Politics.
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The 12th Malaysian general election was held on the 8th of March 2008 (Saturday). 13 days of election campaign saw a fiesta of banners, posters, party flags, talks, dinners and seminars as candidates of both ruling and opposition parties went all out to woo the people with their manifestos and pledges. stateseats1.jpg

As the polls closed at 5 pm, news about the results began to spread that started from around 7 pm and went on throughout the night. Thanks to the advancement of IT, handphones and SMS became the main channel in spreading the unofficial results of both state and parlimentary seats.

Unlike the 2004 general election, this round saw some monumental changes in Malaysian politics whereby states that were strongholds of the ruling party fell to the opposition camp. If 2004 saw one state under the opposition, 2008 saw a record five. Apart from Kelantan (PAS), Penang (DAP-PKR), Kedah (PAS), Perak and Selangor (PKR) will see new leaderships. It is a record indeed simply for the fact that never in the history of Malaysia have so many states been lost to the opposition since Malaysia gained independence 50 years ago.

Overall, Barisan Nasional (the ruling party) continues to run the country, not with a 2/3 majority (like in 2004) but a simple majority. The implications are such that the new BN government would be facing a tougher time in making laws and passing bills due to a louder opposition voice now taking office in parliament. Government actions would also be more closely scrutinized and carefully watched.

As for the states under opposition rule, there will be some exciting times ahead as the new local governments bring in their own brand of politics. The mandate for the new brand has been given by the people. The hope of the people is that this new brand would taste sweeter, better and more oomph than the old brand. However, whether it will come true or not remains to be seen.

As test cases, what transpires in those five states in the next five years could have serious implications for the future of Malaysian politics and as such should not be taken lightly. One can equally expect the ruling government to soul-search and work to win back the hearts of the people that it has unwittingly lost.

Malaysians are in for an exciting and important journey as politics in the country takes a new turn.

One thing seems to be clear from this election is that what once used to be blue does not continue to stay blue forever…  

For some more info on the election, see
http://thestar.com.my/election/

http://thestar.com.my/election/results/results.html

Malaysia’s Malaise November 29, 2007

Posted by genchan in Government, Malaysia, Politics.
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International Herald Tribune (Opinion)

By Philip Bowring (November 12, 2007)

Malaysia is in a political cul-de-sac, resulting in an erosion of national institutions and the entrenchment of corruption. Recent events show that awareness of these problems is growing, but Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is politically too feeble to implement his good intentions, increasing the difficulty of reconciling the interests of the Malay/Muslim majority with the non-Muslim Chinese, Indian and indigenous groups that make up 45 percent of the population.

Public disquiet and Abdullah’s own weakness were on display in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday when some 40,000 people, headed by the leaders of the three opposition parties and including former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and representatives of a wide range of NGOs, defied a government ban to march to the palace of the king, the titular head of state, to petition for clean and fair elections.

This peaceful multiethnic event followed an equally unprecedented speech two weeks earlier by Sultan Azlan Shah, a respected former chief law officer who is also one of the nation’s nine hereditary rulers.

Azlan referred to a loss of confidence in the judiciary as a result of questionable appointments and judgments perceived to be driven by politics and money. He noted that its once high reputation had sunk dramatically, quoting a recent World Bank survey. Azlan is believed to be behind a revolt by the sultans against approving – normally a rubber stamp process – the appointment as chief justice of a legal adviser to the governing party with little experience on the bench.

Among current cases that have raised questions about the legal system is the conduct of the trial of Razak Baginda, a close associate of Defense Minister Najib Abdul Razak, and two of Najib’s bodyguards for the murder of Baginda’s former mistress. Baginda was closely involved in arms deals with France.

The publicity given to the Azlan speech and the Baginda trial point to the greater openness of Malaysia under Abdullah compared with his authoritarian predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad. But though Mahathir was much-criticized for politicizing the judiciary and institutionalizing money politics, he was able to get things done. Abdullah, on the other hand, is seen to have largely – though not entirely – failed to deliver on his promises of cleaner government.

The fault lies less with his personality than with the structure of politics. Abdullah argues that the ballot box and Parliament are the places for political action, not street demonstrations. However, neither is likely to deliver change while race-based politics ensures continuation of the 50-year rule by the United Malays National Organization, which feeds off the economic privileges that the Malays accord themselves.

To keep the loyalty of Malay voters UMNO has both to outflank the Parti Islam and to divert attention from the enrichment of a small Malay elite at the expense of the Malays. Parti Islam is prone to stomach-churning speeches about Malay dominance and hypocritical displays of Islamic fervor that offend Malaysia’s plural reality and its secular Constitution.

Nothing can change as long as most non-Malays continue to grudgingly support UMNO rule for fear that the Parti Islam alternative would be worse, or while the non-Malay capitalist class remains wealthy enough to pay tribute to a Malay elite. In its own behavior this elite is liberal and internationalist, but for political purposes encourages the lower-income Malays to think in communal ways.

Judging by their attendance at the rally on Saturday, lower-income Malays may be becoming disillusioned with policies that mostly benefit the elite. But UMNO’s grip is strong.

Abdullah might in principle want to reform UMNO, bring in more of the Malay professional middle classes who rely on their own abilities rather than the patronage system, and give more senior government jobs to non-Malays. But he is proving to be a prisoner of the party, its money politics, its dynastic tendencies and its desire to occupy the higher reaches of the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the many quasi-government businesses.

Meanwhile, for all their ability to join together in a demonstration against the government, the two largest opposition parties – Parti Islam and the mainly Chinese Democratic Action Party – are at either end of the race/religion spectrum. The multiracial middle ground now occupied by Anwar’s party has thus far had limited appeal.

None of this may seems to matter too much when the economy is expanding, thanks to record prices for oil, palm oil and other exports. But income inequality is bad and getting worse. Malaysia’s political stability may be threatened the next time there is a recession, and there is reason to worry about Malaysia’s ability to become a developed country when its institutions are corrupted by a stagnant, race-based political system that may have outlived its time.

Japan’s legislative structure – main points January 27, 2007

Posted by genchan in General, Government, Japan, Politics.
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diet.jpg

Some of us may have difficulties following Japanese politics due to a lack of understanding of its complicated legislative structure and changing political system.

In line with the start of its ordinary session (see PM Abe’s opening address here and report here) as the year’s budget draft is being discussed in the Diet till the end of March, The Japan Times (Jan. 23, 2007) has provided some reference points or quick notes on the meaning of DIET, its constitution, types of sessions and the various parties in the two Houses as below:

The Diet is the center of Japanese politics. It’s where ruling and opposition lawmakers play power games and employ tactics in both open and backroom negotiations. With this year’s ordinary legislative session set to start Thursday, following are some basic facts about the parliamentary system:

Why is the legislature called the Diet?

The prewar parliament under the Meiji Constitution was modeled on that of imperial Germany, which is called the Diet in English. The term dates to the assembly of the Holy Roman Empire, which ruled most of Central Europe from 962 to 1806. Imperial Germany was chosen as the state model because Japanese leaders wanted a powerful system centered on the Emperor.

What constitutes the Diet?

The Diet consists of the 480-seat House of Representatives, also called the Lower House, and the 242-seat House of Councilors, or the Upper House.

What are the functional differences between the two chambers?

The House of Representatives is more powerful. As a general rule, a legislative bill must clear both chambers before enactment, but the decision of the Lower House prevails on three key issues: selection of the prime minister, adoption of the budget and approval of a treaty.

Even if the Upper House votes down a bill, the Lower House can override the decision with support of two-thirds or more of its members.

What kinds of sessions are held by the Diet?

The Diet holds ordinary, extraordinary and special sessions.

An ordinary session is convened once a year, usually in late January. It runs for 150 days until mid-June.

The main focus for the first three months of an ordinary session is the year’s budget draft, because the fiscal year ends on March 31.

After the ordinary session, the Cabinet usually convenes an extraordinary session in the fall to deliberate pending bills.

A special session is convened to choose a new prime minister within 30 days of a general election.

How does the length of a Diet session affect politics?

All bills submitted to the Diet are automatically scrapped at the end of a session unless action is taken to carry them over to the next session. Thus, opposition parties often try to kill a bill backed by the government and ruling camp by dragging out the deliberations in protest.

The prime minister often delivers a televised speech at the beginning of a Diet session. Why?

The prime minister delivers the General Policy Speech at the outset of ordinary sessions to outline policy plans for the year, followed by similar speeches by the finance minister, foreign minister, and economic and fiscal policy minister.

The prime minister also must deliver a policy speech at the outset of extraordinary and special sessions. Other ministers deliver speeches for those sessions when considered necessary.

What is the current strength of each party in the two chambers?

The ruling coalition — the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito — hold a majority in both chambers. A breakdown for Lower House seats (female Diet members are in parentheses) shows the LDP holds 306 (27), the Democratic Party of Japan and Club of Independents 113 (10), New Komeito 31 (four), the Japanese Communist Party nine (two), the Social Democratic Party seven (two), People’s New Party and Group of Independents five (none), and independents nine (none).

In the Upper House, the LDP has 111 (12), the DPJ and Shin-Ryokufukai 82 (11), New Komeito 24 (five), the JCP nine (three), the SDP six (one), PNP four (one), independents four (one), and two seats vacant.

Aso & Tanigaki – next PMs? January 18, 2007

Posted by genchan in General, Government, Japan, Politics.
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Pundits have noted in the last September’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election that Taro Aso and Sadakazu Tanigaki knew they had no chance in defeating Shinzo Abe for the post but still went ahead because they wanted to position themselves and build up their bases for the next LDP race.

In short what they were targeting was not the present but the future.

Somehow, there appears to be some sense in this line of thinking. As reported in The Japan Times (Jan. 17, 2007), Aso admitted to making a proposal to Tanigaki that they “should form a political alliance in a bid to take turns holding the LDP’s top post and hence the prime ministership” on condition that Aso become PM first. This issue became public when Tanigaki broke what Aso alleged to be a ‘confidential conversation’ by mentioning about it in a recent lecture in Kyoto.

One wonders what is the reason behind Tanigaki’s open remarks if its not to undermine Aso for the top job. 

Obviously, the ultimate aim is not the LDP presidential post but the PM position which is effectively assured considering that the party holds a majority in the Lower house and is now gearing up for the upcoming Upper house election (at present LDP holds 111 seats out of 242 with the remaining coming from Komeito’s 24).

The fact that Aso is already looking towards a post-Abe era could mean that Abe’s position in office may be short-lived as the current PM battles resistance from vested groups who are against structural reforms and Constitution amendments and shore up his sliding popularity. 

Myanmar – a thorn in the ASEAN rose January 17, 2007

Posted by genchan in ASEAN, Government, Politics, Southeast Asia.
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ASEAN, which stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has been coming up with new initiatives and moves not only to adapt itself to a globalizing world but to create a better future for the region is once again bogged down by the inefficiency of its most troubled member, Myanmar.

Ever since the military junta came to power in 1962 and denied its citizens basic democratic values enjoyed by its Southern neighbors, such as the continuous detention of Aung San Suu Kyi for the past 2 decades and rampant human rights violations, it has been under the international spotlight of NGOs and Western governments who have slapped it with all kinds of economic and political sanctions.

Unfortunately, the sanctions have done little to destabilize the junta or cause it to shift course even though it did come up with a so-called “road map” for democracy – a plan denounced by the UN and Western nations as a sham. Paranoia and fearful of an attack by the West are what some believes to have led the regime to move its capital administration from coastal Yangon to inland Pyinmana that began from the end of 2005.

A new member of ASEAN, Myanmar only joined in 1997 and as such is less familiar with the values and aspirations of the group. Despite apprehension from certain quarters, Malaysia’s former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was thought to have played an instrumental role in Myanmar’s accession. Reasons for bringing Myanmar in ranges from using the grouping to resolve some of the conflicts between Myanmar and neighboring countries like Thailand, and socializing the reclusive state through constructive engagement, to preventing it from falling into the Chinese sphere of influence.

 10 years down the road, ASEAN has not been able to make any successful headway as the country has remained a stubborn thorn stuck deep in ASEAN’s heart. This has prompted Dr Mahathir to recently express his dissatisfaction and regret for incorporating Myanmar. A little too late for that. The question then becomes what to do with Myanmar to avoid it from dragging the feet of other members who are eager to move forward and plunging the organization into international disgrace.

One way is to expel it from the group but how to go about doing this is less clear since there are no clear rules on punishing a member for non-compliance. This could change eventually should the ASEAN Charter be adopted and rules of engagement become binding.

In the meantime, ASEAN would have no choice but to take responsibility in resolving the Myanmar problem now that China and Russia have vetoed a Washington-backed UNSC resolution “calling on the regime to stop persecuting minority and opposition groups” (The Japan Times, January 15, 2007) 

Part of the reasoning for China and Russia to veto is that human rights problem in Myanmar has not been a threat to regional/international security and thus do not justify Security Council action. Another part of the reason, some believes to be more apparent, is the closeness between China and Myanmar and the importance of Myanmar’s untapped natural resources to China’s booming economy.

While Myanmar celebrates in victory, the other ASEAN members weren’t pleased with the result as most of them saw the resolution as the best way to put pressure on Myanmar in ways that the grouping has not been able to do. Resigned to that fact, the agreement to take responsibility for Myanmar was only then added into the statement of the group’s annual summit in Cebu, Philippines.

Japanese government’s Internet TV December 30, 2006

Posted by genchan in General, Government, Japan, Politics, Video.
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Few people are aware that the government of Japan actually has an online Internet TV – here. I found it interesting and thought I blog about it.

 The site, managed by the Cabinet Office, is in Japanese, so a Japanese software allowing you to access Japanese sites would be needed. However, there is one channel in English called “COOL JAPAN” (61ch). This is the only English channel that allow viewers to view reports and stories in English. A wide spectrum of issues are covered here ranging from reports on the recently concluded 14th APEC meeting in Hanoi to North Korean abduction issue to the use of rescue robots. Not only related to government activities, the channel also carry stories on Japanese society and culture by government supported magazines such as JAPAN+ and The Japan Journal.

The remaining 12 channels are all in Japanese. 3 channels are on the activities of the current prime minister, 2 channels on the Chief Cabinet Secretary and Ministers, 4 channels on ministerial related policies/issues, 1 channel on the progress/development of regions in Japan, 1 channel showcases images of Japan and 1 channel on weather related news. However, if you search under “Genre” (ジャンル), you will find a section on CM (commercial message) that publicize advertisements on various issues such as bullying which has become a national problem due to suicide cases of school children.

Far from being a propagandist site, it provides a load of information on Japan’s political, economic and social situations from a government perspective. Updated from time to time, its worth a visit if you have not done so yet.

Sticks and carrots, what’s next? October 25, 2006

Posted by genchan in East Asia, Government, Politics.
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North Korea’s attempt to go nuclear has recently been confirmed with a first test underground. US’s sniffer plane detected particles from the blast and later confirmed it was plutonium based. Still the blast impact was very low recorded as 4.2 magnitude compared to Pakistan’s at 4.8 and India’s at 5.4.

While the low yield may suggest an imperfect test, it more than confirms North Korea’s position as the 9th country in the world to possess nuclear capabilities. The other 8 being the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, Pakistan, India and Israel. Iran might just make into the top ten soon. Presumably, more will follow.

While Iran continues to deny, North Korea (NK) has owned up to its nuclear ambition. Because  NK is part of the ‘axis of evil’ as the US President calls it, NK’s action is simply unacceptable and severely condemned.

This is understandable as nuclear weapons in the hands of a rogue state would destabilize the entire region. But to begin with, how did NK even manage to come so far? Iraq was taken down right away because of suspected WMD that didn’t even include nuclear while NK was spared. Obviously, geo-politics were in play.

In the case of NK, first there were carrots. Clinton brokered a deal to supply NK with two light-water reactors in replace of Yongbyon’s plutonium-producing reactor in 1995. Later in 1998, South Korea came out with its ‘sunshine policy’ and fed the North with more carrots – a total of more than a billion dollars’ worth of aid. 

Then came sticks. Unlike his predecessor, President Bush took a hard-line stance and by early 2002 the 3 countries Iran, Iraq and NK became known as the infamous axis of evil. Around the same time, CIA learned that NK has illegally acquired centrifuges for processing uranium of which NK admitted. The reactor plants and oil supplies to NK were halted. NK reciprocated by withdrawing from the NPT in Jan 2003. In replace of the NPT, the 6-party talks was set up.

Be reminded that 2003 was also the year that the US declared war on Iraq. So, several questions remain. Why Iraq and not NK? Was the Iraq situation more severe than the NK? Was the Iraq war meant to be a detterence to  Iran and NK? What would have happened to the situation in NK if Iraq was not invaded?

Iraq was thought to be an easier target, which obviously have been proven otherwise. It was also meant to deter Iran and NK from pursuing WMD, which has anything but led to the opposite result. Unlike Iraq lacking a strong ally, war with NK would at that time (and probably now) bring China, a regional power, into conflict and cause destruction to South Korea’s economy. Clearly, the stakes are higher.

The 6-party talks have gone nowhere and more sticks were added with an account freeze on NK’s Macau-based bank. Under the recent UN resolution passed by all the Security Council members (a vote of 15-0), more sanctions are in place with China and Japan freezing N.Korean accounts. Japan has also banned port calls by N.Korean ships.

So, what’s next? Will it cause NK to go into further isolation? How much impact will all these additional sticks have on the government in relative to its people? Will other countries like Japan change course and go nuclear? More importantly, what is stopping NK from selling what they know to terrorists? And what impact is NK’s test have on Iran’s nuclear ambition? A lot I would think – it has given Iran a strong impetus to push forward with its nuclear program against all odds.

Yesterday, it was reported that NK intends to end its nuclear quest and return to the talks. Japan’s FM Taro Aso has expressed pessimism and caution that more test could come.

One thing for sure is that the simultaneous actions of US’s sticks and South Korea’s carrots does not work. There has to be a more coordinated effort on how the five countries intend to deal with NK. There should be one clear message (not necessarily an ultimatum) and not several overlapping messages.