This last week has seen a veritable spate of weird stories in the realm of geopolitics. First there was the strange incident when Air Force One arrived in China when Chinese officials confronted American officials about what was, and was not, going to be done for the press following President Obama. You'll recall this quickly devolved into a shouting match, with the Chinese official reminding the American that this was "their country" and American orders and commands had no force there. This followed reports of Mr. Obama exiting Air Force One from a maintenance staircase in the belly of the airplane itself, and not from the use red-carpeted staircase wheeled up to the plane. Later, some of the American press assured us that this was because Mr. Obama had specifically requested it.
Then there was the strange incident of Philippine President Duterte made some rather "caustic" remarks about the American leader. And we also had yet another recent meetingg between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin, where the Kurile Islands were again front and center, but where both leaders committed to more cooperation in the northern Pacific. And finally, there was of course the strange accident in Moscow which killed Mr. Putin's favorite chauffeur, an accident that I'm not entirely sure was an accident, as I outlined in last Thursday's News and Views from the Nefarium.
Now there's this, shared by Mr. C.M.:
Before we get to a consideration of the article itself, ponder that for a moment. The Philippine President says some very caustic things about Mr. Obama, and then gets an invitation to Japan. Tuck that in the back of your mind for a moment, because it will play a role in my high octane speculation of the day. If nothing else, Mr. Duterte's remarks, coming as they do from a long-time "ally" of the USA (more like another satrapy or colony of the "Empire"), are an indicator of just how unpopular the USSA has become under the previous and current administrations.
With that in mind, now consider these paragraphs:
During their 45-minute meeting, Abe talked about Japan’s plan to provide two ships and to lend five surveillance aircraft to the Philippines to strengthen its security capabilities.
“There is a general offer of continuing support to us in the Philippines and in the peace process,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told reporters in Vientiane.
“(The talks) went very well. Their advocacies coincided – the issue of the South China Sea, upholding the arbitral ruling, continuing support,” he added.
Last July, a Hague-based tribunal voided China’s sweeping territorial claim in the South China Sea but the Chinese government refused to recognize the decision.
Abe also deplored the bombing incident in Davao City on Friday night and expressed his sympathies for the victims and their families.
The Prime Minister assured Duterte of his country’s readiness to “develop cooperation in a wide range of areas” as Manila and Tokyo marked the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations.
For his part, Duterte thanked the Japanese government for its efforts to commiserate with the Philippines after the Davao City bomb attack.
He also expressed gratefulness for Japan’s assistance through the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Trade is in favor of the Philippines, Duterte said, adding Japan saw to it that it was always a good economic and pre-eminent partner aside from being an “old friend.”
Duterte's rhetoric is here perhaps a bit "tongue-in-cheek", since Japan can hardly be considered an "old friend", having invaded the country during its blitz in the Western Pacific after the US entry into World War Two, swiftly occupied the country, and routing American forces there in one of the most humiliating defeats in modern US military history, with General MacArthur cutting and running, leaving General Wainright to sign the surrender. Later, some of the fiercest fighting during the Pacific War occurred when Allied forces liberated Manila. But bygones are bygones, as both the Philippines and the Japanese colossus to the north have combined to oppose Chinese claims in the South China Sea. And Mr. Abe has backed up that "team work" with a little military muscle in the form of two Japanese naval vessels and Japanese surveillance aircraft.
So what is going on here? This is where my high octane speculation kicks in. There is an episode in Philippine history that few in the west know, but that will be present memories to the Philippine government and its intelligence services, and that was when former President (and virtual dictator) Ferdinand Marcos attempted to recover, on his own, some of that buried Japanese loot in the archipelago without prior approval from Washington. For those familiar with the story, this meant that Ferdinand Marcos had probably figured out the existence of a secret system of finance that I have been arguing was emplaced after the Second World War by President Truman, making use in part of much of this Japanese loot, which the USA had claimed for itself. And for those who've followed that story, Pacific dictators and presidents who've tried to muscle in on the action tend to be overthrown; it happened in Indonesia to Sukarno, and of course, it happened to Marcos.
And It was Japan that had socked that loot away there.
So what's the relevance of this story (if any) to what may be going on here? I suspect that Duterte's caustic remarks about Obama are not only a deliberate snub, but that in a way, Mr. Abe's are as well. Judging from Mr. Abe's remarks as reported in this article, the Japanese Prime Minister was almost fawning over Mr. Duterte. And Mr. Abe has played the role well: for Japan can present this as "playing its part" and "fulfilling its defense obligations and commitments to its American ally" in the latter's "pivot to the Pacific. But as I've also argued, Mr. Abe's rearmament plans are also, in the long term, in aid of the day that the American empire, already unpopular even in Japan (think Okinawa here), fades, leaving Japan to fend for itself. And during the period of American unpopularity and decline, Japan can present itself as the middleman between the Pacific and Washington. If one doesn't want to deal with Washington directly but to continue to maintain ties, then Tokyo steps in, allowing nations such as the Philippines to avoid having to smell the stench from D.C.
Mr. Abe, in other words, appears to have positioned Japan perfectly.
The long term goal? Here comes the really high octane speculation: I strongly suspect that Japan has already placed intelligence assets in the Philippines, both with, and without, Manila's authorization. The purpose? To find and covertly recover whatever remaining loot may remain from its World War Two plundering operations. And that's a lot of...
See you on the flip side...