The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 33. 2014    

August 18, 2014    
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In This Issue
We heard you! Many thanks to the 250 readers who participated in our survey... expect to find changes in the Journal & Newsletter in the coming weeks.

In this issue Noam Chomsky reviews the seven decades of the nuclear era and the continued high risk of Armageddon. Mel Gurtov examines the possibilities and importance of reopening negotiations with North Korea toward a settlement not only of nuclear issues but an end to the long war in Korea. The current crisis in Okinawa, reaching fever pitch as Japan moves aggressively to build a new base at Henoko in the face of overwhelming Okinawan opposition, is chronicled by McCormack and Urashima Etsuko. Rick Baldoz chronicles the FBI's long campaign to suppress Philippine radicals in the US through the case of writer Carlos Bulosan.

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Noam Chomsky

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE, the nuclear weapons era. The latter era opened on August 6 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover effective means to destroy itself, but not the moral and intellectual capacity to control their worst instincts.  


This article reflects on the "auspicious opening days" of the NWE, a period when the U.S. was overwhelmingly powerful and enjoyed remarkable security. The author provides an incisive historical retrospective that takes us through the missile threats of the Cold War, as well as the Clinton and Bush Doctrines of the post-Cold War period, to explain why the prospect of nuclear disarmament grows fainter. As we now enter the  70th year of the NWE, we should be contemplating with wonder that we have survived. The longer we tempt fate, the less likely it is that we can hope for divine intervention to perpetuate the miracle.

Mel Gurtov
Time for the U.S. to Engage North Korea 

In recent weeks, North Korea has sent the usual mix of signals about its strategic intentions on the Korean peninsula. In July it carried out a ballistic missile test in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), in violation of UN resolutions.But it's not all aggression. Perhaps in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Seoul in early July, in defiance of presumed protocol that would have called for him to visit Pyongyang first, North Korea called on the South to join it in renewed efforts at national reunification. 


The so-called "North Korea nuclear issue," which in fact involves the interests of several countries, is security and strategic stability on the Korean peninsula. This article outlines multiple powerful reasons for the United States to embrace engagement with North Korea, and explains why chances for this bilateral engagement would be greatest if the talks were embedded in a multilateral framework that builds on the Six-Party Talks of the past including China, Russia and South Korea.

Gavan McCormack and Urashima Etsuko        
Okinawa's "Darkest Year"

As Japan burned in the mid-summer heat of 2014, the long-running "Okinawa problem" entered a critical, perhaps decisive, phase. On the question of whether to build or not to build a major new military base for the US Marines in the waters off Northern Okinawa, Tokyo (backed by Washington) confronts Okinawa. The stakes and the level of commitment are high and there is no sign to be seen of any readiness to compromise or submit.


It is impossible to contemplate events in Okinawa without deep foreboding. It is, however, also difficult not to feel inspired by the sense of justice, truth, and determination conveyed by the Okinawan civil society forces that confront the mobilized resources of the Japanese national state and the United States. Here we present Gavan McCormack's analysis of the forces and issues at stake, accompanied by a translation of the most recent short essay by the chronicler of the resistance, local writer, activist and poet, Urashima Etsuko.     

Rick Baldoz        

"Comrade Carlos Bulosan": U.S. State Surveillance

And the Cold War Suppression of Filipino Radicals

Throughout the Cold War period, American authorities believed that a worldwide communist conspiracy was at the root of political unrest in the Philippines, a former U.S. colony, and that Filipino labor activists in the United States communicated with insurgents in the Philippines through an elaborate spy ring that linked left-wing cadres across the globe. According to the FBI, radicals like Carlos Bulosan transmitted secret dispatches to Ho Chi Minh in Saigon, who then passed them on to Madame Curie in Paris, which ultimately enabled professors at the University of Philippines to serve as the intellectual ringleaders of the local communist movement. 

While it is hard to know if this sophisticated communication network really existed, it is clear that American officials were deeply concerned about the threat of popular insurgency in the Philippines and the role played by U.S.-based Filipinos in fomenting revolutionary struggle across the globe. This article discusses
the far-reaching campaign to root out Filipino radicals during the Cold War, and compares this phenomenon to the present-day U.S. political regime. The author historicizes contemporary debates about state surveillance and social control by tracing the use of "national security," a term that has provided a pretext for the casting of indiscriminate dragnets that amass personal information about citizens and legal residents with almost no independent oversight. Consequently, government officials have been granted wide latitude to assail critics whose political beliefs are capriciously labeled as a threat to U.S.