Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Two recent developments in East Asia --- one in Northeast Asia and the other in Southeast Asia--- have brought to the fore some of the latent tensions in the region.

It was the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, by a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine in late March this year that escalated tensions in North East Asia. The dastardly North Korean attack, verified by a multi-national investigation in May, killed 46 sailors. The recently concluded US-South Korean military exercise that included a massive nuclear powered US supercarrier, was a potent show of force, in retaliation for the destruction of the Cheonan and the massacre of its crew.

The Cheonan episode has made it more difficult for the two Koreas and their neighbours and allies to hold negotiations on the question of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and other related matters. Nonetheless, once the political temperature decreases, it is important to resume talks in the larger interest of peace in the Korean Peninsula and in Asia and the world.

The second incident which occurred in Hanoi in the course of an ASEAN meeting in July 2010, revolves around the remarks made by US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, about China and the Spratly and Paracel Islands. Her oblique criticism of China’s approach to territorial disputes over the chain of Islands has irked the Chinese government which sees her comment as an attempt to internationalise the issue. For the Chinese, the disputes, essentially competing sovereignty claims that pit their country against Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, should be resolved through bilateral negotiations. Because Hillary Clinton has now stated that the US has a “ national interest” in resolving the disputes, Beijing is suspicious that Washington is setting the stage for a more intrusive role in the South China Sea. To stop this from happening--- it will not be in the interest of the region—China should be more committed to resolving the disputes as soon as possible.

Underlying the Cheonan episode and the Hanoi incident, it is obvious, is a power play of immense significance between the US and China. The US, in pursuit of global hegemony, seeks to contain China. This is why it is determined to curb China’s growing economic and political clout. Taming North Korea is a way of sending a clear signal to its protector, namely, China. Similarly, by projecting itself into the territorial disputes of the South China Sea, the US is challenging China in its neighbourhood.

How this power play unfolds in the coming years is of vital concern to ASEAN.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST).


3rd August 2010.


LetsTry Reason said...

To the “outside” world intellectuals who don’t read Korean,

This is a remarkable story of people – the governed(although they are in theory supposed to be the actual governor in democracy), not their government - making difference in the world (history).

1. Compare and contrast.
“More enlightened” American people, Congress and media; Bush; WMD; War (and huge suffering),
( )
“Supposedly less so enlightened” Korean people; Korean President Lee; Cheonan; prevention of War (so far).
(I am including among ‘the Korean people’ the Korean-Americans.)

2. Also remarkable is that the “inside” Korean people braved the government prosecution.
Caveat: Under the current South Korean regime, South Korean citizens can be sued for defamation by their own government officials, and defamation in South Korea is a crime (as well as a civil offense) prosecuted by the government’s own centrally controlled national prosecutors who selectively choose or choose not whom to prosecute.
Recently, Shin Sang-cheol, “an expert placed on the JIG [Joint Investigation Group] by” the National Assembly, got (criminally) sued for defamation by a government official for expressing disagreement over the current South Korean regime’s version of the Cheonan Incident. ( )

(South Korean people’s firsthand knowledge about the pro-government polls is that they are ridiculously overinflated.
A proof: war-fear-mongering South Korean President Lee Myung-bak got unexpectedly humiliated on the June 2 election by the “Supposedly less so enlightened” Korean people,
when “survey conducted by the major daily [pro-government]Dong-A Ilbo and the Korea Research Center from May 24 to 26[7-days-before] forecast[ed] that Oh would beat Han by 20.8 percent.”
Actual election result: 0.6 percent(=”47.4 percent”-”46.8 percent.”)
Source: )

3. A list of early English publications on Questions on the Cheonan Incident and the Power of South Korean Netizens can be found at (by LetsTry Reason) and newer writings at .

Also, look at: “the U.S, South Korea, the U.K, Canada and Australia, but not Sweden [NOT Sweden], contributed to the second-statement findings [claiming that North Korea might be guilty]” – “Five reasons why the the JIG’s 5-page statement cannot be considered scientific and objective, nor … ‘international’” ;
“Russian Probe Sees No North Korea Hand In Cheonan Sinking! Russia Says Sea Mine Sunk Cheonan” ; ; ;,0,4196801,full.story

LetsTry Reason said...

4. Compare and contrast.
9/11; Al-Qaeda; brags We did it(, was not wrong, not sorry about it and we will do it again).
Cheonan; North Korea; brags We didn’t do it (therefore, presumably, was wrong, sorry about it and we will not do it). (Why the difference?)
Crime and punishment. If we are taking consequentialist moral philosophy, and if the utilitarian utility of punishment is to prevent future crime, then punishment serves little or no purpose (maybe to others but not)to North Korea who says ‘We didn’t do it,’ because either (a) the North didn’t do it, therefore the punishment will be outrageous injustice,
or (b) the North did do it, but ‘We didn’t do it’ basically implies ‘We will not do it.’
(This particular ‘it’ hardly gives the North any payoff.)
*If you don’t get scared of us, how can We become the terrorist, and if you don’t know We did it, how can you get scared of us?

5. Representative democracy is not pure democracy. (Pure)Direct democracy of a nation-size is now (or becoming) possible, through recent developments in computer science and technology, making secure private Internet-voting, democratic online discussions, cheap instantaneous micro referendum and freedom of choice to vote directly on an issue or use an agent possible.
The science (computer science) should finally make the people, the governed, the actual de facto governor in democracy.

6. I take this honor of hereby formally asking the folks in Norway to consider awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to the “Supposedly less so enlightened” Korean people including myself,
who in early days, among various activities, proposed the “outside” world contact initiative for the Cheonan peace, providing email addresses of all the foreign embassies in Korea, U.N., Hillary, Obama, and the foreign media.