On February 7, the first page of the Sankei Shimbun newspaper’s Morning Edition ran an article entitled, “Another U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting on February 27 and 28: Trump Names Vietnam as Location.” It described American President Donald J. Trump’s State of the Union address to Congress as follows:
In his address, Trump stated, “we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. […] If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.” He also showed a certain level of confidence about North Korean denuclearization, saying, “my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one.”
Da Nang in central Vietnam is seen as a highly likely location for the summit meeting, but Trump gave no details.
Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, is an influential, close associate of Kim Jong Un. On January 18, he met with Trump in Washington, D.C. and agreed to a summit meeting at the end of February. Stephen Biegun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea, traveled from South Korea to North Korea on February 6 for working-level talks with North Korean authorities in Pyongyang on topics such as what will be discussed at the summit meeting. This was Biegun’s first trip to North Korea since his visit with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October 2018. It is thought he is speaking with people including Kim Hyok Chol, the former North Korean ambassador to Spain who is the new official in charge of working-level discussions.
In his address, Trump extolled the need for measures against illegal immigration and once again declared his will to build a wall on the Mexican border. He asked for cooperation from the Democrats, members of the opposition party that has a majority in the House.
Trump boasted about his accomplishments over the two years since his inauguration, including rising wages, a falling unemployment rate, and tax reductions. Regarding commerce issues, he indicated his intent to correct unfair trade practices in trade negotiations with China, and emphasized the necessity of ratifying the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In the field of security, he referred to reducing the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and also said the U.S. has mostly gained control over the area dominated by the Islamic State (IS; a Sunni Islam extremist organization), and again declared his intention to withdraw American troops.
The article continues under the subtitle, “Foreign Policy Putting America First: Concern About Top Decisions:”
Trump spoke of the North Korea issue, emphasizing once again that, “Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months.” He boasted that the policy of dialogue rather than confrontation with North Korea, resulting in the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit meeting last June, is favorable.
However, Trump also said, “Much work remains to be done.” As this clearly demonstrates, his past accomplishments do not guarantee denuclearization will take place.
Moreover, American intelligence agencies are extremely concerned about whether North Korea actually intends to denuclearize.
Trump has previously indicated a position of not making easy concessions to North Korea, refusing to relax sanctions before denuclearization and to reduce or remove the U.S. Forces Korea. However, there is absolutely no guarantee that the Kim Jong Un government – which regards nuclear force as the foundation of its survival – will abandon nuclear weapons in exchange for economic support.
In the next meeting (presupposed on complete denuclearization), Trump must strongly demand that Kim Jong Un give a full report of his nuclear forces and facilities, and must ascertain whether Kim Jong Un actually intends to denuclearize his country.
However, Trump – who has absolute confidence in his own foreign policy abilities – was not able to make Kim Jong Un give any firm promises about specific denuclearization measures at the meeting in Singapore last June. If Trump makes the same mistake at the upcoming summit meeting, North Korean denuclearization might become even more difficult.
Trump’s foreign policy decisions have also cast shadows on the situations in Syria and Afghanistan.
In his address, Trump said, “Great nations do not fight endless wars.” He declared once again his intent to withdraw the U.S. Forces from Syria and Afghanistan. However, on that day the Republican-led Senate passed a Middle East policy bill pointing out that abrupt withdrawal might lead to the revival of IS.
On the same day, Commander of U.S. Central Command Joseph Votel gave a statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he said Trump did not consult with him in advance before announcing on Twitter in December 2018 that the U.S. Forces will be withdrawn from Syria. This established that Trump made the decision by himself.
Trump concluded his address by saying America “must be the hope and the promise, and the light and the glory, among all the nations of the world.” It seems likely that this statement – expressing the traditional foreign stance of the Republican Party in which the U.S. is leader of the world, rather than turning to isolationism – will be a major source of salvation.
Trump’s second meeting with Kim Jong Un is part of his re-election strategy. The previous meeting has brought no results – Trump was made to treat North Korea as an equal, despite its meager economic strength, and he was put in the shameful position of having to praise Kim Jong Un. This is the power conferred by nuclear weapons, and it is why we cannot wish for the complete denuclearization of North Korea at the upcoming summit, nor can we expect Kim Jong Un to present a list of his nuclear weapons. At most, I think North Korea will cease nuclear tests and abandon its missiles that can reach the American mainland. This second meeting clearly shows the U.S. is flustered. Perhaps Kim Jong Un sees through Trump and will extract a promise of aid from Trump without guaranteeing denuclearization. Japan is severely threatened by the presence of North Korea as a latent nuclear state, which has even worse impacts on the behavior of South Korea. South Korea is lately taking anti-Japanese actions, such as the judicial decision on conscripted workers and locking a fire-control radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol plane. These are backed by its expectation that North Korea will be permitted to have nuclear weapons, and that the two Koreas might be integrated into a “Korean Federation” that is a nuclear state in a superior position to Japan. This federation would likely make many unreasonable demands, such as requesting huge amounts of reparations for Japan’s colonial rule. If Japan’s neighbors are nuclear states, and if the Korean Federation joins hands with China to menace Japan, I think Japan will eventually end up as a Chinese autonomous region.
Right now, Japan needs to maintain a nuclear balance in East Asia. I doubt that Trump, who believes in “America First,” would take any military action unconnected to American interests. He would likely say, “The people will not permit it.” This is why Japan must abolish the Three Non-Nuclear Principles (a National Diet resolution), conclude a nuclear sharing agreement with the U.S., and gain its own nuclear deterrence. If not, it is highly probable that Japan will be the victim of a third nuclear attack. We must also revise the constitution to make the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) constitutional. Moreover, in the second round of amendments, the second clause of Article 9 should be removed to recognize the right of belligerency and augment Japan’s defense capabilities.
The media opposes constitutional change despite these tense circumstances, and is taking the tactic of staying silent on the issue to reduce interest in it. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making efforts to add to the constitution a clause clearly specifying the JSDF; he is not trying to remove the second clause of Article 9. Diet members in favor of constitutional reform will occupy two thirds of the seats in both houses until the House of Councillors election this July, yet no progress has been made at all. A public opinion poll did show that more citizens are opposed to constitutional change, but it seems even Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Diet members are using this as a reason to put off the issue, saying, “The public is not yet ready.” The LDP won a decisive victory in the House of Councillors election six years ago, but it will not find another victory so easy unless it works quite hard until the election this July. I think Diet members who believe in constitutional reform will not take two thirds of the seats in the House of Councillors if things continue this way. We must somehow submit a constitutional reform motion by then.
I think Trump, who is determined to accomplish his goals, will win re-election. If so, Abe should aim for a fourth victory, rather than stepping down after three. No past prime ministers have been as enthusiastic about constitutional reform as Abe, and even Trump approves. Japan will never be able to amend its constitution unless the first revision is somehow accomplished while these two men are in office. Abe should work for constitutional change at an early stage, even if he has to demand that LDP and Komeito Diet members support this. If there are many opponents, the House of Representatives should be dissolved, and Diet members who oppose constitutional change should be denied official recognition and cut down.
Many international conflicts stem from religious issues. On February 7, The Nikkei published a column entitled “Sino-American Friction Sparked by Oppression” on its 27th page. Written by Nagoya City University Professor Saho Matsumoto, it was part of the newspaper’s “Economics Classroom” section. The major points of this column are that the global economy fell into chaos because of the issue of an American preacher arrested in Turkey, that the U.S. now sees China as a bigger religious threat than Islam, and that China is wary of the power of religion that caused the Soviet Union to collapse. It read:
That August, Trump put economic sanctions on Turkey due to the arrest of Brunson. Turkey’s currency took a sharp plunge, which impacted the currencies of emerging nations like Russia, Brazil, and Argentina, and even affected stock prices in developed countries such as Japan. Afterwards, Turkey’s currency recovered as soon as its authorities released Brunson, and the previous economic conditions have been mostly restored.
Brunson is an evangelical clergyman in the Presbyterian church. He was released in November directly before the American midterms, and it is thought this firmed up support for Trump among right-wing, conservative Christians, who are his important base of support. The moving of the American embassy to Jerusalem in May was also out of consideration for the religious vote, which is still a major factor impacting American domestic and foreign policy.
Muslims are the majority in Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa. In particular, Christian minorities (including the Syriac Orthodox, Coptic, and Maronite Churches) are oppressed in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. They have also been massacred by IS and other Islamic extremists, which is part of the background to this incident.
Since Trump took office in 2017, he has limited immigration from countries of this sort. A state government brought a case against his travel ban, saying it violated the constitutional right to freedom of religion. However, the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s ban, partially because the majority of judges are conservative Christians.
The reason for the judgement was that this is a domestic safety matter, and that it is not unconstitutional because the president is obligated to ensure the citizens’ safety. In short, this means the Supreme Court acknowledged that Muslims are potential terrorists, and it was thought that Christian-Muslim conflict would once again grow on religious issues.
However, on October 4, roughly one week before the announcement of Brunson’s release, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at the Hudson Institute, a conservative thinktank, that turned the religious issue in an unexpected direction.
In his speech, Pence condemned China for its huge trade surplus with the U.S. and violations of intellectual property rights. He also vehemently denounced the Chinese authorities for their oppression of Christians, Muslims, and even Buddhists. Pence said the Communist Party of China is suppressing Christians, and that Muslim Uyghur people are being imprisoned in camps and brainwashed to accept Chinese culture. This oppression has occurred since before Trump took office, but over the past few months it has been covered in major American, British, and Japanese media outlets, due partly to the impacts of the Sino-American trade war.
Trump’s base of support consists of the conservative Christian, right-wing lobby and organizations. When I conducted interviews in February 2018, they emphasized that they are taking on issues of Christian persecution in the Middle East and Africa. However, as if in tune with the Sino-American trade war, today they are mainly reporting on the detainment and incarceration of believers and destruction of Christian churches by Chinese government authorities. Information about the oppression of Uyghur Muslims is also being given more emphasis, and now they are more intensely denouncing Chinese communism, which does not allow freedom of religion.
As this column describes, large-scale religious oppression is occurring in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, an area home to many Muslims. Facial recognition systems and security cameras are installed outdoors, and residents are suddenly imprisoned in camps by the authorities if they take any actions without permission. If a family member inquires, they are not told what happened to their relative. If they press for answers, the fact that their family member is detained is hinted at, but they are still given no reason, time period, or location. It is said there are as many as two million of these prisoners, and satellite photographs show an increasing number of detainment camps.
This is difficult to understand for Japanese people, who believe in the concept of “eight million gods,” but most people across the world are monotheists, and religious conflicts and tragedies have occurred repeatedly since ancient times. Japan is extremely lucky that it was never drawn into such conflict. Japan also avoided global warfare and tragedy during the 74 years since the end of World War II thanks to the Cold War. This fight was extremely advantageous to Japan, which achieved economic growth and profited while others fought, becoming a showroom to the west based on its geopolitical location by the Soviet Union and China. However, China is now upholding a policy of expansion in this era of new imperialism, and it is advancing into the South and East China Seas to gain maritime hegemony. The Sino-Japanese Journalist Exchange Agreement specifies that Japanese reporters in China who share information that is disadvantageous to China will be expelled from the country, which is why few newspapers, TV programs, and other Japanese media outlets report on these things. Meanwhile, China continues attacking Japan on issues such as the fictitious Nanjing Massacre. South Korea is also blaming Japan for other false issues, such as the comfort women, conscripted labor, and threatening actions by a JSDF patrol plane.
China, South Korea, and North Korea see Japan as a wonderful country – it is safe with a long history, beautiful nature, punctual public transportation, safe and delicious food, and fully established social principles. It makes perfect sense that they want to gain control of a nation like Japan. But now that the U.S. is focusing on America First, there is no guarantee it will fight for Japan, regardless of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Wars occur when the overall military balance crumbles, including nuclear weapons. Japan must reform its constitution to gain military capabilities that can maintain a balance of power. We should also revise the one-sided Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into a bilateral treaty of mutual protection. Many Japanese people do not sufficiently realize we are in an increasingly tense situation regarding security. Opposition parties are making a fuss in the National Diet about trivial issues, so no discussions are taking place on our genuine national interests. The media is using a strategy of staying silent on the idea of adding to the constitution. If things continue this way, it is possible Japan will be suddenly swallowed up by the swelling China and end up as an oppressed autonomous region, just like Xinjiang Uyghur. We must build a structure to protect ourselves as soon as possible, and I am starting to feel a sense of impatience about the stymied constitutional reform and other issues.
February 12 (Tuesday), 10:00 a.m.