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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story


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NOT ALL U.S. SECURITY analysts are convinced that Pyongyang harbors sinister motives, however. Kenneth Quinones, formerly North Korea desk officer with the U.S. State Department and now the Asia Foundation's representative in South Korea, claims to have flown over the Kumchang site at low altitude in a Northern army helicopter and saw nothing out of the ordinary. The issue, says Quinones, is being played up by those in Washington who are opposed to using a moderate strategy to deal with Pyongyang.

Even so, the nuclear agreement of 1994 is starting to fray at the edges. The U.S. Congress has declined to appropriate money to buy the oil promised to North Korea. And Japan briefly suspended its payments for the nuclear reactors in respopnse to Pyongyang's missile test. South Korea says it will contribute its 70% share of the funds to build them, but whether the recession-hit country has the cash is another matter.

Meanwhile, China joined the diplomatic minuet in Northeast Asia when President Jiang Zemin arrived in Tokyo on Nov. 25, after a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Jiang's trip was the first official visit to Japan by a Chinese head of state. Beijing's security interests, however, are focused more on Taiwan than Korea. Just last month, Vice Premier (and foreign-policy veteran) Qian Qichen said revealingly that Pyongyang's nuclear-plant project was of interest mainly to Washington and "not of much use."

On Jiang's agenda are the new U.S.-Japanese defense guidelines, which China views as being aimed at itself, since they cover waters adjoining Japan, including the Taiwan Strait. He will press his hosts to pledge that they won't support Taipei in any confrontation. In fact, Jiang would like Obuchi to follow in Clinton's footsteps. In Shanghai five months ago, the U.S. leader promised his government would not back Taiwan independence, or efforts by the island to join the United Nations or any other international organization for sovereign nations. Jiang may also raise the issue of theater missile defenses, a system being developed by the U.S. Tokyo's interest in the program was lukewarm until North Korea's recent test. Beijing believes such a system is destabilizing because it would alter the current balance of power, especially if protection were extended over Taiwan.

But the keynote of Jiang's visit will be a formal apology for Japan's invasion and occupation of China during World War II. The two sides were negotiating the manner and wording right up to the moment the Chinese president landed in Tokyo. He is there to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the restoration of formal ties between the neighbors. Back in 1972, then prime minister Tanaka Kakuei gave an apology of sorts, but it was dismissed by premier Zhou Enlai as something one might offer after knocking over a bottle of table salt. Since then, Japanese leaders have on several occasions expressed "regret" or "remorse," but have yet to satisfy the Chinese.

The Liberal Democrats, long Japan's ruling party, have always been restrained by their nationalist wing and its supporters. Some deny that atrocities occurred and insist that Japan's motives in a noble crusade against Western imperialism were pure. China's growing power also worries these Japanese. Their country could become "an easy slave to the neighboring superpower," says popular commentator and author Sakurai Yoshiko.

In an attempted compromise, Tokyo declined to provide an unequivocal written apology. Instead, Obuchi will deliver one orally. Japan may admit "aggression," using that word for the first time, and express "deep remorse" for the damage and suffering that its Imperial Army inflicted on the Chinese people. One thing is sure, though. To a large extent, smooth Sino-Japanese relations in the next century will depend on a mutually satisfactory resolution of the war's still-painful legacy.

- With additional reporting by Murakami Mutsuko/Tokyo

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This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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