12/18/2010, 00.00
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Winds of War in the Far East. U.S. envoy calls for calm

Bill Richardson in unofficial visit to Pyongyang, stresses the importance of lowering tones and keep an eye open for any possibility on the part of the North Korean regime to prevent the outbreak of conflict. Meanwhile, Japan, concerned about China and North Korea, launches a new National Defense Program, which outlines the military policies for the next decade: anti-missile batteries and strengthening the submarine fleet.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - Threats of imminent war, military exercises and an arms race keep tensions high in the Far East, where the delicate balance obtained over recent years is likely to be upset. Today, Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico returning from an unofficial visit to North Korea, described the situation in the peninsula like a "tinderbox" ready to explode.

The New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson went on a visit to Pyongyang in a private capacity, but in the past he has acted as a liaison with North Korea, a country with which the United States does not have official diplomatic relations. " What we need to do right now is not just tamp things down - he said -, but look at steps that can be taken by the North Koreans, especially such as perhaps allowing the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to come in and look at the nuclear arsenal".

Last Friday, Russia - which shares a border with North Korea - summoned the envoys of the United States and South Korea to urge them to cancel the exercises, saying that Moscow is "deeply concerned" about the increased tensions in the region.

In response to the strategic imbalance of power in Asia, Japan has instead decided to rethink its defense system. About two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Rising Sun is emerging from the Cold War era. The guidelines for the national defense program, which outlines the military policies of the next decade, indicates China and North Korea as the greatest threat: no longer, therefore, Russia.

Relations between Japan and China have worsened significantly after a territorial dispute over the Senkaky islands - which Beijing calls Diaoyu – contended by the two countries with neither having any intention to yield. The dispute was triggered in September, when the Japan Coast Guard stopped a Chinese ship. Toshiyuki Shikata, a retired Japanese officer, explains: "We have no problem with the Chinese ground forces. The problem is with the Navy".

Tokyo has long regarded Beijing's military buildup with concern. According to the new report "these movements, coupled with the total lack of transparency regarding the program of military and internal security, have become a problem for the region and the international community." As a first step, Japan has moved its troops from north of the country- where they were deployed in the event of a Russian attack - to the south.

However, the major change introduced by the report is the abandonment of "heavy" resources in favor of more flexible units. Instead of tanks and artillery pieces, Tokyo intends to focus on the fleet of submarines. This is explained by the other major threat, North Korea: after the attack on the South Korean island last month, in fact, Tokyo has also begun to rethink its program of deterrence against the regime.

To curb Korean military cravings, the Rising Sun has increased the number of Patriot missile batteries around the area and has equipped its military fleet with an anti-missile defense system, the Aegis, which has risen from 4 to 6 units .

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