For those seeking to understand the perilous politics of the region today, there is no better place to start than the First Sino-Japanese War, which pitted China’s fading Qing Dynasty against an ascendant Meiji Japan in a contest for regional supremacy.
Korea’s real challenge is one of reinvention: to find a new economic model to replace its previous dependence on exports. For years, Koreans buzzed about catching up to the developed world. Now that they largely have, the question is what comes next. If Korea is having the economic equivalent of a midlife crisis, my conversations in Seoul this week suggest it is moving too slowly to address it.
When China published her defense white paper “the Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces” in April 2013, the western critics lauded the efforts but pointed out that China didn’t put much meat on the bone and that the paper is again short on details that people would like to see.
There are many shortcomings in the preemption argument. First, it reflects a failure to recognize the realities and continuities in DPRK diplomacy, where threats, insults, and relatively minor shows of force are simply the first step in the negotiation process. The motives that underlay this strategic approach are still debated, but the fact is that over the last half-century, North Korea has beaten the drums of war not as a prelude to conflict but as a way to capture the world’s attention and, hopefully, create a pretext for meeting at the negotiating table.
North Korea celebrated the 101st anniversary of its founder’s birth with flowers on Monday, although there was no sign of tension easing as South Korea warned that the North’s survival could be in question without change and development. Saying it with The North has threatened for weeks to attack the United States, South Korea and Japan after new U.N. sanctions were imposed in response to its latest nuclear arms test in February.