20190708

Japan v. Japan - Artificial Belligerence v. Artificial Intelligence

In a Trumpian move, Shinzo ABE started a trade war with Korea, so far not reciprocated, except by South Korean netizens threatening to boycott Japanese products. Japan is not raising tariffs for Korean imports, but making Japanese exports to Korea more difficult for key tech components, particularly essential to chipmakers and display manufacturers*. 

Pressed by national media to explain such a masochistic move, the PM ended up saying that there was a risk these valuable technologies could end up in North Korea. Of course that's a ludicrous statement, since such trade between both Koreas would not only contravene international sanctions, but also defy logic considering the North's situation and priorities. 

The actual motive was officially to punish Seoul for insisting on reparations for Imperial Japan abuses, particularly regarding sexual slavery and forced labor**, abuses denied by ABE, his government, and the revisionist lobby Nippon Kaigi he was instrumental in founding during the nineties. This lobby that has all but taken control of Japan politics, while keeping the population in the dark regarding its highly controversial agenda (restoring State Shinto, the Imperial rule, denouncing peace treaties and human right laws, denying war crimes, rejecting postwar's peaceful constitution, returning to militarism, rewriting history textbooks...).

Today, MOON hosts LG's KOO Kwang-mo, Hyundai's CHUNG Eui-sun, and SK's CHEY Tae-won, to prepare a response that likely will pass by the WTO. Samsung's LEE Jae-yong and Lotte's SHIN Dong-bin couldn't attend since they are in Japan. A few days earlier, LEE invited his friend Masayoshi SON (Softbank) to meet President MOON Jae-in and major chaebol leaders. Even before ABE's bomb hit the ground, Samsung was expecting to lose half its profits in the second half of the year.

Korea Inc. and Japan Inc. united swiftly for good reasons. Playing a Huawei-style blame card against South Korea could backfire for Japan, and China could actually become the biggest winner. Giant tech companies on both sides of the... East Sea agree on one thing: this is the worst moment to fuel divisions between them. Regardless on how the trade war between China and the US ends, the fact is Korea and Japan are lagging behind in key technologies, particularly A.I., where scale matters.

So why would ABE take such risks? Is he still blinded by his obsession with revisionism, worried he could lose support from his base ahead of elections? Nationalism could be a welcome diversion when Japan pensioners panic about their financial future, but is it the right time to expose Nippon Kaigi's agenda, and what they are desperately trying to hide from the public?


mot-bile 2019

* fluorinated polyimides and resists (Japan produces 90% of the World's total), and hydrogen fluoride etching gas (70%). 
** South Korea's Supreme Court recently ruled that Japanese companies should compensate survivors.



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