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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

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What Goto’s Murder Means for Japan and East Asia

in Asia/Diplomacy/Middle East/Security by

On January 31st, various news outlets reported that a video showing the murder of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto had been released by the Islamic State (IS). A similar video had been released a week earlier purportedly showing the murder of Goto’s friend, Haruna Yukawa. These events followed negotiations between the Japanese and Jordanian Government’s with the IS over the release of prisoners. Negotiations between Japanese officials and the IS are currently being reported to have broken down following demands for a US $200 million ransom. In the video released, a member of IS addresses the Japanese government, saying: “Because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.” Within Japan, government officials have begun to debate the nature and role of Japan’s international activities. The result of these debates among interests holding contrasting views of Japan’s role internationally come at a time when Japan’s identity as a nation is itself in flux. Abe and other nationalist politicians have struggled to convince the Japanese public of the need for changes to Article 9 of the constitution, where the country has renounced war and…

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US Amb. Lippert’s Statements and the State of US-ROK-JPN Relations

in Asia/Diplomacy by

Earlier today, January 27th, the Korea Times reported that the US Ambassador Mark Lippert reaffirmed the US’ support for the Murayama statement. The Murayama statement, released in 1995 by former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizing for Japanese actions towards its Asian neighbors, is often pointed to as the official apology for Japan’s wartime aggression. Lippert’s remarks follow recent statements by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe seemed to indicate in a recent interview that on the upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of WWII his statements may differ from the wording used by past Japanese prime ministers. At a time when the relations between Japan and Korea are as poor as they ever have been since establishing official ties, Abe’s remarks immediately drew the attention of the US. A close ally to both, the US relies on both countries for its presence in Asia and has so far preferred to avoid applying any direct pressure to the two countries in regards to their territorial and historical disputes. Lippert’s statement appears to be an indication of a heightened sensitivity to provocations that would threaten the uneasy relationship between the two democracies. Lippert seemed to try to preempt others from drawing this conclusion…

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The New State Nobody Saw Coming

in Diplomacy/Middle East/Security by

The Islamic State (IS) has achieved many of its territorial and organizational goals during the past year. Operating both on the Syrian and on the Iraqi fronts, it has expended territorially, acquired new financial resources and grown in number its recruits. The rapid and vicious expansion of this well-organized Sunni jihadist group has taken by surprise the Iraqi government and it has de facto split the country between the IS, the Iraqi central government and the Kurds. The already precarious stability and unity of Iraq has been broken by the IS and to date, the country is trapped in a malicious spiral of sectorial and religious violence. The recent evolution of the conflict may have taken some observers by surprise, but it was itself no surprise. Iraq’s current division comes as an exacerbation of pre-existing cleavages between Shia and Sunni, Iraqi and Kurds. Likewise, the Islamic State is not a newcomer, but is a terrorist group rooted in the ten-year history of jihad in Iraq. Arguably, the current state of affairs in the region comes as an output of the US adventurism in Iraq, which brought the conflict to a temporary termination, but not to a conflict resolution. Although the…

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