Ongoing clashes

A dispute between Japan and South Korea – as covered by Duncan Bartlett’s article in the August edition of Asian Affairs – threatens to disrupt global supply chains and the US-led security apparatus in Asia.

Nationalist rhetoric has since intensified on both sides since the Korean Supreme Court ruled in favour of allowing individuals to sue Japanese companies for wartime damages. Japan retaliated with export controls on specialised semiconductor materials. Korea then said it could no longer be part of a joint intelligence sharing pact with Japan.

Neither the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nor the Korean President Moon Jae-In have much to gain politically by backing down. However, faltering economic conditions should provide the incentive to resolve their differences.

President Moon’s support base, the Korean left, is solidly in favour of a tough response. Yet the country is on track for its slowest economic growth rate since the 2008 financial crisis, so Mr Moon simply cannot afford to ramp up trade tension.

Prime Minister Abe will be loath to damage fragile economic momentum in Japan. GDP grew at a only 0.44% year on year in the second quarter of 2019. Yet taking a leaf from the Trumpian stop-start trade war playbook, Prime Minister Abe is likely to allow tensions to abate before selectively dialling up the rhetoric to suit his domestic political agenda.

The next opportunity for Mr Abe and Mr Moon to talk face to face is December and this may smooth over the current trade dispute. However, the relative decline in America’s presence in Asia, as well as the ascendancy of revisionist political parties in both Japan and Korea, point to a prolonged period of rolling clashes between the East Asian neighbours.

Rory Green

Lombard Street Research,


David v Goliath

I am writing to express my appreciation to Asian Affairs for publishing an in-depth interview with Tibet’s political leader Lobsang Sangay (August edition).

Such reports ensure that the discourse on Tibet is not a dead. It speaks to the moral conscience of the world leaders in free countries that the Tibet issue remains unresolved, 60 years after the Dalai Lama fled to escape the illegal Chinese invasion of our country.

In 2011, the Dalai Lama devolved his entire political responsibility to the democratically-elected political leader of the Tibetan people, Lobsang Sangay, who has worked tirelessly as our advocate.

China dangles the carrot of trade deals with those nations that remain silent on the Tibet issue, and shuts off all diplomatic ties with the leaders of those nations which welcome and meet with the Dalai Lama. This makes it ever more challenging for Lobsang Sangay to fulfil his political role on the global stage.

However, his message and advocacy effort is amplified when his interviews are published in leading newspapers and magazines. Every little helps in the David vs Goliath scenario, through which the Tibetan exile administration faces up to the might and power of the People’s Republic of China.

Dalha Tsering (Mr)

Tibetan resident in London


A touching tribute

Touched by your magazine’s fine and fitting obituary for Tom Deegan, whom I was fortunate enough to meet at a charity event a couple of years ago, and again more recently at a conference in Slough. He had all the charm of his Irish roots and wore his knowledge lightly. I was sad to hear of his passing but glad to read such a warm and, from my limited experience, accurate tribute.

Charles Paxton


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