|Wildly inaccurate but great built-in TV system|
However, there is growing concern in political circles that the United States, weakened by two wars designed to distract voter attention away from economic and social problems at home, is finally realizing that trying to relive its glory days of empire is actually accelerating the process of a collapse into obscurity, a scenario known informally in Washington as “the British eventuality”. This has led to fears that the American military presence in Korea will gradually be scaled back, clearing the way for China's planned invasion of the peninsula, using North Korea as its proxy.
Some defense experts have urged the Korean government to start arming itself, but currently – according to World Bank figures - only 2.9% of national GDP was designated towards military expenditure last year, compared to 4.6% in the United States. Officially, this still compares well to 2% for China and 1% for Japan, but according to confidential figures leaked in diplomatic cables recently, once the headline ‘pre-waste’ South Korean expenditure figure is adjusted, actual expenditure is only 0.2% of GDP. The remaining 2.7% is classed by the World Bank as ‘a masked state subsidy’, because rather than buying in high-quality American weapons, Korean chaebols develop the nation’s armaments for domestic use, and most of this defense expenditure is actually used to subsidize LCD prices in order to undercut Japan in the TV market.
Seongsan, which developed the 'Canine Blunder' howitzer that recently devastated large areas of water near the North Korean coast in retaliation for the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, has denied that its domestically developed weapons are inferior to foreign equivalents. “They have the best high-definition tactical screens in the world” a spokesman told us. However, while many government officials in Seoul were said to be privately appalled by the weapon’s lack of accuracy, the favored solution is to pay the cheabols more money to develop a new range of weapons which will counter the Northern threat. Unfortunately however these will not be ready until 2015 at the earliest, three years after the North’s planned invasion date, although it will mean cheaper TV prices in the meantime.
The Japanese government, shocked by Seoul’s defeatist attitude and an impending occupation of South Korea which will place Chinese troops within visual range of the Japanese coast for the first time in hundreds of years, has decided that more radical action is required. Despite being hampered by his nation’s pacifist constitution, this month’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, has devised a cunning plan to assist in the defense of South Korea by using any ‘destabilizing event’ on the peninsula as a pretext to mount a rescue mission for Japanese nationals that were abducted from Japan and taken to North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.
Despite being designated as a search and rescue mission, the Kan Plan calls for 60% of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to be mobilized for ‘operations in North Korea’ alongside South Korean troops. There is still some debate in Tokyo as to whether this breaches the Japanese Constitution, but Kan is also proposing a change in order to allow for it.
Politicians in Seoul were said to be appalled when Kan’s representatives tried to to talk about the idea with them, and they have refused to discuss it further. “I don't know in what context Prime Minister Kan's remarks were made," an official at the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said, adding that “they may not have come after thorough consideration” - a phrase which is widely regarded as diplomatic speak for “he’s talking out of his ass”. The Korean Government is extremely sensitive to the idea of having Japanese troops on its territory, given Japan’s previous occupation of the peninsula and government-backed school textbooks which teach children that Japanese people are evil.
One government official seemed to capture the mood in Seoul political circles when he told us “I’d rather be killed by a (North) Korean, than saved by a Japanese.”
Kan tells families he will compile plan to rescue abductees in N Korea
Japan's era of postwar pacifism may be coming to an end
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