The recent state visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Japan was very fruitful, as attested to by the US$6-billion worth of business deals and investments the president was able to obtain from the Land of the Rising Sun.
President Duterte was warmly received by top Japanese officials led by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mrs. Akie Abe. Returning the hospitality he received, Duterte publicly acknowledged Japan as a good friend of the Philippines.
The Duterte state visit may be over, but expect Japan to be on the spotlight once more, since North Korea is certain to continue to threaten the stability in East Asia, and by unavoidable proximity, South East Asia and the North Pacific region. More specifically, the communist government in Pyongyang is threatening to unleash its nuclear arsenal against its sworn enemies, namely, South Korea, the United States, and Japan. North Korea sees South Korea and Japan as stooges of the United States.
Lately, that nuclear threat has caused serious anxiety even to Pyongyangs traditional allies Russia and Communist China.
South Korea is most vulnerable to North Korean nuclear aggression, but Seoul is confident in the military support the United States has committed to South Korea since the end of the Korean War in July 1953.
For those who are not in the know, the Korean peninsula had been a colony of Japan in the early decades of the twentieth century. After the end of World War II in the Pacific in 1945, the peninsula was divided into the communist north supported by Russia, and the capitalist-democratic south backed by the United States. When mainland China fell to communist forces in 1949, Peking (the name of Beijing then), became an staunch ally of the north.
In June 1950, troops from the north invaded the south and eventually captured Seoul, leaving only Pusan in the hands of the southerners. The United Nations entered the picture and sent a multi-national military contingent led by the famous American general Douglas MacArthur to fight off the northerners. That international contingent included troops from the Philippines.
The UN forces eventually pushed back the communists so far north, that even Pyongyang fell to the allies. Just when the war was almost won, soldiers from Communist China joined the fighting on the North Korean side. This resulted in a see-saw situation for everyone. When neither side seemed certain of victory, a ceasefire was negotiated in July 1953. Since no peace treaty was signed, North Korea and South Korea, technically speaking, are still in a state of war with each other.
Seoul is confident that if the United States went to war to defend South Korea in 1950, it will do so again in another war in the peninsula. From the way Washington, D.C. has been comporting itself in the military stage, it looks like America will not abandon its ally. Besides, there are already numerous American troops in South Korea who are always on alert. All that is enough reason why rock concerts, musical competitions, and tele-novelas seem endless in South Korea despite the ominous nuclear threat from its belligerent neighbor in the north.
While the Communist China of the 1950s was an unconditional ally of North Korea, and continued to be so even up to the dawn of the twenty-first century, the current leadership in Beijing has so far reluctantly acknowledged that North Koreas nuclear threat must be addressed at the negotiating table. While Beijing seems exasperated with the trouble Pyongyang has been causing in the international scene, Beijing is not prepared to abandon Pyongyangnot yet, at least.
About two months ago, Beijing annouced the unexpected: it will not fight on the North Korean side if the United States attacks North Korea without any provocation from the latter. In other words, Beijing will stay neutral if North Korea draws first blood. So far, that assurance seems good enough for the Americans.
The Russian position is hardly any different. In the more than four decades after World War II, Moscow had been a staunch ally of the Korean communists. The collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) in 1989, however, changed the economic landscape of North Korea. Since the post-Soviet era Russia no longer had the money to bankroll North Koreas extravagant expenses, Communist China became the main source of economic and military support for Pyongyang.
Today, Beijing and Moscow are uncomfortable with Pyongyangs continuing destabilization overtures to the world despite an economic embargo imposed upon Pyongyang by the UN. At a time when Beijing and Moscow are deep into international trade, they consider those overtures bad for business.
So why arent Beijing and Moscow warming up to Americas inclination to eliminate North Korea and end, once and for all, Pyongyangs nuclear menace to the world?
For the Russians, it is easy for America to express its displeasure towards North Korea quite unconditionally and, in the process, provoke a shooting war in East Asia. Thats because America is an ocean away from the nuclear battle zone, assuming a nuclear war does break out in the Korean peninsula. Russia does not have that geographical advantage because it is North Koreas next-door neighbor, and as the saying goes, be nice to your next door neighbor because anything can happen between neighborsat a moments notice.
In other words, if North Korean decides to engage Russia in a shooting war, North Korean troops can easily cross its border and enter Russian territory. Unlike Russia, the United States has South Korea, Japan, and the whole North Pacific Ocean between it and North Korea.
Besides, more than four decades of the cold war between the old Soviet Union and the United States (1945-1989) have convinced Moscow to consider the communists in Pyongyang as less objectionable allies than the capitalists in America.