Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Politics of World War Two, Rising Nationalism and Resource Struggles in East Asia.

Japan's latest forthcoming apology in its war anniversary statement has less to do with the Second World War than with the contemporary mood of burgeoning East Asia nationalisms and and the developing arms race that are growing in response to potential conflicts in the East and South China seas over oil resources.

The reason the US has urged Tokyo to apologise for the actions of Japan seventy years ago is that it wants to effect a restoration of good ties between South Korea and Japan as the dispute over the Dokdo/ Takashima Islands has soured relations and led to South Korea shifting closer to China.

The reams of nonsense commentary and fuss over war guilt and which exact words to use over Japanese apologies obscures the real news which is Japan's military build up under Shinzo Abe, one backed by Washington which wants to contain China's rise to global economic superpower.

While historical memories of Japan's colonisation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 linger on, as with all nationalism in East Asia it is being ramped up over questions of honour, territory and status because of the quest for energy security and the need for secure supplies of oil to feed their energy hungry economies.

President Obama's Pivot To Asia is a global strategy aimed at aligning more closely and developing bilateral military partnerships with those Asian states which want to call on US military power to rebalance the power equation in Asia away from China as well as building up its navies to control strategic sea lanes.

The reason for this, largely unreported in the Western media, is that the US is aiming at achieving what it routinely accuses Putin's Russia of doing: using control over global oil and gas supplies as a tool of coercive diplomacy. By controlling oil tanker routes from the Greater Middle East, the US can threaten to cut off China's oil.

This strategy to contain China, in turn, has caused a more insecure Beijing to ratchet up the nationalist rhetoric and belligerent claims in both the South and East China seas over other disputed island that also just happen to contain huge offshore reserves of oil and gas that would secure its energy security.

The US has attempted to move away from military entanglements in the Greater Middle East as American shale oil has reduced its dependence upon Saudi Arabia and what has become an increasingly unstable region as a consequence of George Bush II's disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

As it has done so, China's relative dependence has increased. A new global great game from Africa through Eastern Europe to the Middle East and Asia has started up and all of it is connected to geopolitical advantage, arms sales and development as well as control over energy supplies and access to minerals such as rare earths.

Both the US and its allies in East Asia are in rivalry with China while at the same time both have an interest in preventing conflict or instability in the Asia-Pacific Region as it becomes the globe's richest region and an engine of global economic growth. But energy insecurity could well undermine it and cause conflict.

The fate of a rapidly deteriorating North Korean regime under pressure from drought and elite discontent, one kept in check by an upsurge under Kim Jong Un of brutal purges and executions, could have dangerous security implications should it collapse at a time when both China and Russia are vying for influence.

Neither Power with long standing ties to Pyongyang would want the regime to collapse if that would mean the replacement of a nuclear arming North Korea with the expansion of a US backed state with military bases and nuclear missiles running right up to the Chinese and Russian borders.

To that extent, South Korea has started to show signs of moving closer to Beijing and away from unconditional alliance with other Asian states ranged against China's claims in the South China Sea and island building. Seoul has refused to take a stand on it and is interested in a potential future Russian-Korean oil and gas pipeline.

Far from the Asian nations being at primarily at odds over the history of the Second World War or even of Cold War anti-communism, the fissure lines developing have more in common with those that developed in Europe and Asia in the run up to the war of 1914 with the added danger of heightened energy insecurity.

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