Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Block That Needs A Cop

While the world’s gaze seems perpetually trained on the Middle East for fear that events there may lead to a wider war, the real tinderbox is likely in Asia. In addition to North Korea nukes, the territorial disputes that China has with several countries, there are also less noted animosities that threaten the stability of the region and the global economy. Anti-Korean Voices Grow in Japan :

As Japanese nationalism is fueled by friction with neighbors over territories and World War II legacy issues, hostile demonstrations against the country's Korean residents are gathering steam, raising concerns among political leaders and setting off soul-searching among Japan's largely homogeneous population.

While attendance at the rallies is small and such extreme actions are far from entering the mainstream of Japanese politics, the demonstrations of nationalist activists using hate speech and intimidation have grown in size and frequency in recent months. One target has been the central Tokyo neighborhood of Shin-Okubo, known for Korean restaurants and shops selling South Korean pop-culture goods. Starting in February, groups of 200 or so demonstrators have descended on its busy weekend streets, waving Japanese flags and carrying signs that read "Roaches" and "Go Back to Korea." They shouted in unison: "Let's Kill Koreans," language that passersby told local television they found shocking.

If there ever was a time and place where America’s leadership was needed it’s right now in Asia. To seek to defuse the North Korean threat, to reassure those nations threatened by an increasingly aggressive China, and to bring mutual American allies like South Korea and Japan together-despite their differences-are all vital roles that America is uniquely suited to play. Unfortunately, despite the Obama Administration’s much heralded “pivot” toward the region that was announced in 2009, the reality is that once again President Obama seems content to “lead from behind” and let events unfold or unravel as they may with no real attempt to direct their course. Such a hands-off approach only increases the likelihood that countries in the region will seek their own solutions to satisfy their own self-interest. Given the history of the area and the tensions that continue to increase today, it’s also one that could to lead to a conflict that’s in no one’s interest including the United States.