Commentary on world events that relate to Bible prophecy and on Rapture Ready issues world events.

Jan 21, 2013

The Asian Power Struggle

For the past several months, China and Japan have been locked in a standoff over a set of tiny islands located in the East China Sea. Both nations claim ownership of the uninhabited islands, and they have sent war ships and jets to provoke each other.

The reason for this childish game has nothing to do with the islands themselves. "What is really driving things is raw nationalism and fragmented political systems, both on the Japanese and even more so the Chinese sides, that is preventing smart people from making rational decisions," said Thomas Berger, an associate professor of international relations at Boston University. "No Chinese or Japanese leader wants or can afford to be accused of selling out their country."

The tussle is being driven by a growing disparity between China and Japan's military strength. Though Japan is far richer than China on a per-person basis, its economy has been stagnant for two decades. China has had double-digit growth for many years now, and it is close to the point where its superior size will allow it to overcome the sophistication of Japanese weaponry and training.

Most experts believe that the Chinese military wants to avoid armed conflict over the islands, but when military jets are sent to face each other every few days, a mistake will eventually occur. Because U.S. forces have to stand ready to defend Japan, a major war is unlikely to take place.

The longer-term goal of the Chinese is to pressure Japan to give up its administration of the islands. Because this chain of islands is close to China's mainland, they remain a security risk to China's growing ballistic submarine fleet. Since Beijing is working to build 18 overseas naval bases, it doesn't make strategic sense to have enemy-occupied islands on their door step.

The bad blood between China and Japan goes back through many centuries of conflict. During the 30s and 40s, the Japanese military invaded China and committed acts that would horrify the Nazis. The Rape of Nanking stands as one of history's worst mass murder events. Some Japanese officers had contests between each other to see who could kill the most Chinese.

American's occupation of Japan and the Cold War covered up the scars from the Japanese Imperial days. Now that China is becoming a military superpower, the stage is set for a contest that will show who is now the leading nation in the Asian pecking order.

Time is certainly on China's side. Japan has a massive national debt, while China has the largest cash reserves of any nation on earth. Another disadvantage for Japan is its aging population. Just recently, it was announced that more adult diapers than baby diapers are sold in that nation. China, on the other hand, has a much younger population that is 10 tens larger than Japan.

For China to emerge as the leading power in Eastern Asia, all it needs to do is wait for Japan to collapse. China can speed up the process by forcing the Japanese into an arms race--which is taking place right now. After a decade of cuts in its defense spending, the island standoff has forced Tokyo to increase its military budget. Last year, Japan's defense spending increased at just over 6 percent.

I look for Japan to someday become subservient to China. The reason I don't foresee war between these two nations is the prophecy passage in Revelation that calls for an army of 200 million soldiers that will invade the Middle East. Right now, China is the only nation that can pull off this huge task. The Bible's use of "Kings of the East" seems to imply that a group of Asian nations will work together to build this army. This current conflict may be the catalyst that sets this prophetic event into motion.

"And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them" (Revelation 9:13-16).

"And the sixth angel poured his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared" (Revelation 16:12).


Israel’s Prophetic Positioning

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is, amazingly, being viewed as a moderate in the politically right-oriented Likud party these days. This fact shouldn’t go without considerable notice by those who look at Bible prophecy from the futurist viewpoint. Eschatologically speaking, this otherwise strange development as of late makes sense. Here’s what I mean.

Israel must somehow–for now--be kept in the world diplomatic loop. The Jewish state cannot afford to be totally marginalized to the point the nation has no one with whom to negotiate, or at least to talk with on the negotiating front. At the same time, elements within the present make-up of the Knesset and the government as a whole have reached the point they, in order to show resolve, have to adhere to a hard-line approach to Israel’s enemies, who pressure them to give in at every point of the international community’s demands. This resolve translates into intransigence in the thinking of most Israel-hating diplomats of the U.N.--i.e, Israel’s resolve is propagandized by diplomats and the world’s mainstream journalists as deliberately disruptive stubbornness in doing harm to the peace process.

Netanyahu currently wears his moderate, right-winger, actor’s mask effectively. This is to keep the channels open in dealing with the world’s anti-Semite predators, most of whom want Israel gone from the land of which they are occupiers in the majority opinion of today’s U.N. constituency. The Israeli prime minister, as I have written on many occasions, has, I believe, learned to play the game made famous by Yasser Arafat during the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorist-in-chief’s brutal reign.

The PLO tyrant became a master of playing to the microphones and cameras of the world news outlets, always offering to sit down and negotiate with Israeli leadership. But, when it came down to actually doing so, he always found a way to push away from the negotiating table. The journalists somehow always saw and reported it as the Israeli negotiators being at fault for the burnoose-wearing Arafat’s last minute withdrawals from talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu has recently said all the right things about wanting to negotiate. He talked–and still does—about the possibility of stopping the building of the new developments in Judea and Samaria. But, he never seems to get around to the actual negotiating table. Thus, he has managed to take on the appearance of a moderate among an increasingly hard-line Knesset. He keeps the lines of communication open for all the world to see in this way, assuring all the while that there is less and less chance his government will ever agree to giving in to dividing Jerusalem in the way Israel’s would-be destroyers desire. The idea is to play for time–never getting to the final “no” to the nations of the world’s demand that Israel give up part of its capital city to those enemies blood-vowed to wipe all Jews off the map.

One Israeli pundit wrote about the hard-right shift that has taken place just recently. The ideological reason for the shift is quite interesting.

This is a different Israeli right, almost certainly helming and setting the tone for our different Israel. This is an Israeli right whose soaring political force is Naftali Bennett, an ex-IDF commando, former head of the Council of Settlements and previous top aide to Netanyahu, who brushes aside the notion of a Palestinian state anywhere in the biblical Land of Israel. It’s just not going to happen, he declares, with a confidence born of his party’s [The Jewish Home (Habayit)] Hayehudi dizzying rise, from three seats in the last parliament to what the polls indicate will be well over a dozen this time. (David Horowitz, "A Different Israel after January 22," Times of Israel, 1/15/2013)

The ideological shift is theological, actually. The new Israel sports the face represented in the kippa-wearing Bennett, who champions religious Zionism. The right of the nation of Israel to Jerusalem is God-given, and nothing will change in his and his like-minded compatriots’ passion for the Jewish state. U.S. President Barack Obama said repeatedly recently that Israel does not know what its own best interests are, according to The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in Bloomberg View. Goldberg wrote that when he was told about the Israeli decision to approve construction plans in Jerusalem’s E1 area, "Obama, who has a famously contentious relationship with the prime minister, didn’t even bother getting angry… He told several people that this sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.”

Goldberg wrote further, “With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation." There is increasing concern among Israel watchers that the Obama administration privately more and more veers from its public position of support for Israel’s right to decide whether to continue construction in this, the most potentially volatile city on the planet. How long Netanyahu can keep up the pretense that he yet holds open the possibility of negotiations regarding the status of the settlements of Jerusalem is the question of greatest interest.

The Israeli prime minister is known to be holding private prayer sessions and Scripture readings these days. Something has definitely changed, and the change almost certainly portends increasing isolation for the tiny Jewish nation. Israel is rapidly positioning itself to become the burdensome stone and cup of trembling Zechariah the prophet foretold Israel and Jerusalem will become at the very end of the age. This generation is indeed nearing the midnight hour on God’s prophetic timeline.

The Rapture of the church has never seemed more imminent!  

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