We go into Christmas with the promise of fewer nukes, but threats of nuclear war being tossed around... and merry Christmas from Pundit

On the eve of another Christmas, are you feeling safer? No, I'm not talking about New Zealand's crime rate and the propaganda of fear around it or even our continued mistreatment of children. I'm thinking about the wider world, because as the year ends some serious changes are beginning.

One of the under-played stories of the year was President Obama's nuclear security summit and America's new stance on nuclear deterrence under this president. The evolving picture suggests that Obama has profound ambitions on this front, highlighted this week by the immense efforts that went into ensuring START – a treaty with Russia that cuts both countries' nuclear stockpiles by about a third – was passed by the senate.

The Russian Duma may endorse the treaty as early as today, meaning a global Christmas present of massive proportions. Joy to the world, and just a bit more peace on earth. What's encouraging is that military leaders and senior diplomats are all behind this (even if some Republicans aren't).

Sure, both countries can go a lot futher, but it's a great START. Heh.

On the other hand, we have the two Koreas ramping up the brinkmanship on their peninsula. Today, we wake to news that North Korea is talking about a "sacred war"  that could include nuclear weapons and South Korea about a "merciless counterattack". Ho frickin' ho.

China and the US have serious roles here, in talking down their allies and finding some peace amongst all this war talk. But it comes back to the Korean leaders on both side of the border.

South Korea, in hosting the G20 this year, wanted to send the signal that it is now a serious world power. Well, if it wants to be treated like that it needs to show the grown-up restraint worthy of a new power.

So we head into Christmas and all the songs of goodwill with contrasting trends. I guess that's the nature human history really – we take one step forward in place, but slide back somewhere else.

Here's hoping our better angels work their magic this holiday season. I, for one, choose to focus on the nuclear treaty and rejoice in the fact that those in power have stepped away from destruction this week, rather than ambling closer to it.

And I appreciate again the importance of our national stance against the evils of nuclear weaponry.

So on behalf of all the Pundit crew, have a very merry Christmas and a bloody marvellous new year.We'll still be posting over the break, but perhaps a little less.

Thanks for your attention and comments this year... your wisdom... your wit... your anger... and above all your insight. We appreciate that you stick to our 'play the ball, not the man' rule and bring so much to the conversation.

There are more of you to send good wishes to this year. Our audience is growing. Around 7,000 of you visited this month alone, and we're averaging close to 1,000 visits a day, during the week.

So have a great break, we hope you have love and light in your life this Christmas.


Comments (9)

by Graeme Edgeler on December 25, 2010
Graeme Edgeler

Is China an ally of North Korea? I'd have assumed not...

by stuart munro on December 26, 2010
stuart munro

It's complicated (senior North Korean military are believed to form a pro-China bloc). But North Korea is on polite terms with China, which is more than they are with almost anyone else.

by Mr Magoo on December 27, 2010
Mr Magoo

China is the only reason NK sdtill exists. They may not be an "ally" in th true sense o f the word (whatever that means!) but they defintely prop them up and help defend them from the UN at times.

Of course being bat shit crazy, they quite often find themselves having to step in and "clam down" the psychotic despot more often than not...

by peasantpete on December 27, 2010

China sees South Korea as an uncomfortably close outpost of the US, Japan is also a neighbouring, and  an uncomfotably close outpost of US influence.  Taiwan is also in this near neighbourhood.

A united Korea with friendly mutually dependent links with the US is not in China's interests.  To them it would be like replacing Korea with Texas.

The lunatic regime of North Korea must be causing severe migraine in Beijing.

Resumption of hostilities in Korea is not in China's interests.  Unfortunately, neither is a unified Korea.

by stuart munro on December 28, 2010
stuart munro

Generally right pete - but North Korea isn't anti-Japan because of US bases, but in its own right. In fact, minor as the North's nuclear threat is, it is not to the US,and would not be even if their bombs and missiles were fully developed.

America needs to take North Korea as a serious threat after Japan has been nuked- because the US does not top North Korea's shitlist. It comes second.

by DeepRed on December 29, 2010

If anything, North Korea's Japanophobia dates back to at least the assassination of Queen Min in 1895, and the subsequent annexation of Korea in 1910, which South Koreans also remember well.

As for South Korea itself, it's had a lengthy love-hate relationship with Japan.

by Tim Watkin on December 29, 2010
Tim Watkin

Stuart will know better than me, but from my short time visiting South Korea during the financial crisis, I understood that the Japanese and Korean dislike/distrust went back centuries.

In essence, the Korean culture is older, and they view Japan's success much like you'd view an over-achieving younger brother.

And I think everyone else has explained the China-North Korea relationship well. Still, it's interesting that wikileaks has shown that China is willing to "abandon" North Korea, as per this story. And that it views NK as a "spoiled child". At least, that's what the US reckons. The cables themselves are here.

by Tim Watkin on December 29, 2010
Tim Watkin

And sadly I see in the world brief today that Lee is still using the language of brinksmanship, talking about the "survival of the nation" being at stake.

He's obviously convinced that the only way to prevent war is to wave a big stick and make threats. Which still worries me.

by stuart munro on December 29, 2010
stuart munro

The Koreas' relationship with Japan is complex. It is true that Japanese military adventures have made the Japanese somewhat unwelcome in Korea, especially among the older generation, who suffered or saw others suffer under the occupation. But tourism between the countries is presently very popular, and both countries are avid consumers of each other's pop culture - things like the comic Hana Yori Dango that became the Korean GGot bo da Namja (boys over flowers).

Culturally Korea and Japan are closer to each other than to any other cultures, so that they find business partnerships much easier with each other than with other nations. The influence of the Chongryon organisation among Zainichi Koreans was a major driver of aid and economic support for North Korea for a long period also.

The North traditionally drew a significant tranche of aid from Japan as some form of reparations for wartime occupation, but since Japanese politicians raised the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals (apparently for language purposes), and North Korea made faked returns of the remains, the public outcry obliged Japan to reduce its support for North Korea.

But in terms of recent animosity, nothing really compares with the Russian slaughter of an entire Japanese fishing crew after it strayed into Russian waters. This is not it seems a major international incident, presumably because the US is not presently rattling sabres against Russia, though the quality of the Putin regime revealed in the wikileaks cables suggests that perhaps they should be.

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