Almost seventy years after the guns fell silent, the Second World War remains very much present in the media, with frequent reminders of the human cost of the conflict. In the case of Japan this includes the fate of the soldiers and civilians captured in the closing days of the war, when the Soviet Union declared war and quickly overran Manchuria.
June 14 marked the anniversary of the end of the 1982 Falklands conflict. At that time Japan was serving a two-year period as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and was thus involved to a limited degree on the diplomatic side of the conflict. This was still the time of the Cold War, rapid Japanese economic growth, and an era where some of the territorial disputes currently making headlines in Asia were still dormant.
Almost seventy years after the guns fell silent, the Pacific War still haunts Japan in many ways. While the country’s reconstruction took place successfully, and Tokyo found a place in the Pax Americana underpinning economic growth in the Pacific for decades, historical disputes often make headlines and act as an obstacle to deeper relationships with countries such as South Korea.
Faced with a complex and increasingly dangerous regional scenario, under growing demands for naval hardware and diplomatic support from countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, in the midst of complex domestic negotiations concerning the evolving interpretation of constitutional provisions on security and defense, and faced with the need for Japan to redefine its international image, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have decided to emphasize the “rule of law” as a central tenet of Japanese foreign policy.
I received the news in a telephone call from Japan, which is two hours ahead of Thailand: “There’s been a coup!” my wife exclaimed after answering the phone. “Where”? I asked stupidly. “Here in Thailand.” We turned on the television to get more news, but every channel was just showing file footage of the King.
The first impression one encounters in Ho Chi Minh City is the swarms of motorbikes. I’d seen pictures of this, but nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle of thousands of the little scooters flowing along the streets and even sidewalks like an endless river. By some estimates there are five million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh, a city of about eight million, which works out to one for practically every able-bodied adult in the city.
Bangkok in 2014 is looking more and more like Madrid in 1936 every day. That was the year that the bloody Spanish Civil War began, which lasted until 1939 and killed hundreds of thousands. Could such a bloody event engulf the Land of Smiles?
Much has been written about the application of ‘stealth technology’ in modern warfare, the rendering of a military vehicle virtually invisible to detection by radar systems. The advanced materials have been built into virtually everything, from revolutionary fighter aircraft, pilot-less drones, and warships. If we look back in time, we find that the origins of this unique form of ‘radar camouflage’ has its humble beginnings in Japan in the early 1940s.