As China continues rising and the U.S. attempts to dominate the world, Northeast Asia becomes an increasingly crucial battleground. The United States is trying to encircle China with a network of hundreds of military bases while building a trilateral military alliance with South Korea and Japan. But many in those countries want to be free of U.S. domination.
Today’s MintCast focuses on Japan and Korea and how deeply the United States has crafted and shaped the internal politics of those nations. Our guest today is Tim Shorrock, a writer and commentator who has covered the region since the 1970s. Growing up in Japan, Tim has covered Korea for The Nation magazine since 1983. His writing can also be found on his personal website, TimShorrock.com.
While Japan is often presented as a model democracy and a stable society with low rates of crime and inequality, beneath the surface, a different story can also be told. The U.S. has occupied the island nation since the end of the Second World War, with more than 54,000 troops stationed across 120 military bases. Washington also heavily interfered in Japanese politics, funding and supporting the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has remained in power almost uninterrupted since the 1950s. In turn, the LDP allows the U.S. military to do what it likes in Japan.
As Shorrock noted:
They are the most loyal, subservient, pro-American government in the world, the LDP. They will do anything to satisfy the U.S. need for military bases and hegemony in the area. It is pathetic to see what is going on in Okinawa. The LDP are the ones building the new U.S. marine base, where there have been all these protests.”
“It is difficult to call a country sovereign when another country’s military has control over its airspace,” he added.
Likewise, South Korea is often presented as a modern, efficient, “good” nation instead of an authoritarian “bad” North Korea. But here again, the reality is considerably murkier. For much of its history, the South was ruled by a brutal military dictatorship that massacred its progressive opponents, ushering in a climate of fear across the country.
While the dictatorship has gone, many of its anti-democratic laws remain. One is the National Security Law, which effectively allows the government to prosecute any left-wing political opponents (including human rights activists or unionists) under the premise that they are in league with the Communist North.
And like Japan, South Korea was occupied by the United States, which maintains tens of thousands of troops there to this day. The U.S. presence is a major factor hindering the possibility of Korean unification. As Shorrock told MintCast host Alan MacLeod:
The U.S. has always been against unification. They wanted the southern part of Korea to be part of their empire and linked up with Japan. That is what this trilateral alliance is all about maintaining U.S. forces there, basically forever.”
Unification, for Shorrock, is still a possibility. But Korea would need to be free of foreign troops for it to work. And the only foreign troops there are American ones.
From there, the pair discussed North Korea, China, and the role of the U.S. in destabilizing the region.
Listen to or watch the full interview exclusively at MintPress News.
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Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.