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Fidel Castro: The duty to avoid a war in Korea

"Now that [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70% of the population of the planet." -- Fidel Castro

By Fidel Castro

April 4, 2013 -- Granma International -- A few days ago I mentioned the great challenges humanity is currently facing. Intelligent life emerged on our planet approximately 200,000 years ago, although new discoveries demonstrate something else.

This is not to confuse intelligent life with the existence of life which, from its elemental forms in our solar system, emerged millions of years ago.

A virtually infinite number of life forms exist. In the sophisticated work of the world’s most eminent scientists the idea has already been conceived of reproducing the sounds which followed the Big Bang, the great explosion which took place more than 13.7 billion years ago.

This introduction would be too extensive if it was not to explain the gravity of an event as unbelievable and absurd as the situation created in the Korean Peninsula, within a geographic area containing close to 5 billion of the 7 billion persons currently inhabiting the planet.

This is about one of the most serious dangers of nuclear war since the October Crisis around Cuba in 1962, 50 years ago.

In 1950, a war was unleashed [on the Korean Peninsula] which cost millions of lives. It came barely five years after two atomic bombs were exploded over the defenceless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which, in a matter of seconds, killed and irradiated hundreds of thousands of people.

US General Douglas MacArthur wanted to utilise atomic weapons against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Not even US President Harry Truman allowed that.

It has been affirmed that the People’s Republic of China lost 1 million valiant soldiers in order to prevent the installation of an enemy army on that country’s border with its homeland. For its part, the Soviet army provided weapons, air support, technological and economic aid.

I had the honour of meeting Kim Il Sung, a historic figure, notably courageous and revolutionary.

If war breaks out there, the peoples of both parts of the peninsula will be terribly sacrificed, without benefit to all or either of them. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba has always been and will continue to be with her.

Now that the country has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70% of the population of the planet.

If a conflict of that nature should break out there, the government of US President Barack Obama in his second mandate would be buried in a deluge of images which would present him as the most sinister character in the history of the United States. The duty of avoiding war is also his and that of the people of the United States.

Fidel Castro Ruz

April 4, 2013

Comments

Kim Jong-un isn't the only one rattling sabres

Written by Murray Hunter

Monday, 01 April

http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5300&Itemid=179

North Korea is depicted as an irrational provocateur and aggressor in the escalation of threats and military maneuvers over the Korean Peninsula, and of course the regime's rhetoric is being used as proof of the intention to wage war.

However, looking at events from a North Korean perspective, what is going on now can also be seen as proceeding from, among other strategies, the Obama Administration's "Asian Pivot" strategy, which started with the US President's visit to Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia in November last year, where he tried unsuccessfully to establish a greater US military presence around the South China Sea over the issue of disputed territories.

Since North Korea's firing of a three-stage rocket back in December last year, and the underground nuclear test in February, threats, rhetoric and military provocations have been rapidly escalating. Early in March, after a new burst of rocket rattling by the north, the testing of the missile by Pyongyang against the warnings of both China and Japan as well as the US, the UN approved fresh sanctions on Pyongyang, at which time North Korea retaliated by stating that it has the right to stage a pre-emptive strike on the US, as reported by the western press.

However, North Korea isn't the only country delivering harsh rhetoric. The newly elected President of South Korea Park Geun-hye announced that her country would strike hard and directly against the North's top leadership if provoked.

Then only a couple of days after that, US marines commenced military exercises with Japanese Self defense forces in Hokkaido. Pyongyang very quickly deployed long range artillery and multiple rocket launchers from bases just across from Baengnyeonydo Island, where many clashes have previously occurred, and told South Koreans in the area to evacuate. President Park loosened the rules of engagement in the West Sea.

Very soon after, during the next couple of days the annual US-South Korean Foal Eagle joint military exercises, featuring 10,000 South Korean and more than 3,000 US troops, commenced on the Korean peninsula. The Western media portrayed North Korean condemnations of these military exercises as something unexpected, but in fact North Korea has opposed such exercises as being unnecessarily provocative each year. Only a few days later the new US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced an increase in missile deployment in Alaska to counter any missile threat from North Korea.

Over the last 10 days escalation has increased drastically, with naval drills in the seas around the peninsula, with B-52s flying over South Korea practicing bombing runs, and then on 28th March a precision bombing run over the Peninsula of two B-2 bombers, the most advanced nuclear carrying stealth aircraft in the US arsenal. This was reinforced by Secretary Hagel's statement that North Korean provocations should be taken very seriously.

In retaliation, North Korea cut military hotlines with the South, and soon after said it was entering a "state of war" by cancelling the armistice agreement. However one must be careful with what the North actually means in their statements, as real meanings can be "lost in reckless translation."

Both sides are also claiming that they are the victims of cyber attacks, adding to the high tensions that now exist.

From the North Korean perspective, these escalations are coming from a country that carpet bombed the north almost out of existence during the 1950 Korean War. More than 5 million lives were lost during this conflict. It is reasonable to believe that in the North, where the threat of military incursion by the US and South Korea has been a real possibility, current military movements are perceived as a real threat to the security of the country. If one were sitting in Pyongyang, one could very easily mistake the current provocations preparations for an attack. Both history and Korean military scenarios would tend to support this perception from the North's point of view.

The current "game" scenario playing out on the peninsula through these escalating actions is increasing the risk on both sides. What makes this game scenario even more risky is that the players on both sides don't know each other, as no personal relationships exist. There also looks like no immediate forum of moderation acceptable to both sides is available to hold any talks to decrease the tension. Both the Russians and Chinese are urging restraint to both sides. This time round a number of political commentators are taking the US to task for unnecessarily provoking North Korea.

One may also be perplexed over the current US actions, wondering if their intelligence and understanding of the consequences is fully understood. Any further contemplated escalation could miscalculate the response by the other side and lead to open military conflict, be it minor and localized, or wider over the whole boarder region. In the past, during the Clinton Administration, wisdom and restraint were shown when military exercises were actually cancelled to appease Pyongyang's concerns. So far no such similar wisdom is being shown by the current administration in this building crisis.

So the next question is whether the US game plan is based on a misunderstanding of the consequences or whether it is very deliberate?

If one looks at the events going on within the Korean Peninsula within a regional perspective, the real concern for the US might be China. The Korean escalation is a good excuse to build up the US military presence in East Asia at a time when congressional budget cuts are restricting the deployment and operation of military assets in the region, and some Governments like Japan are even questioning the need to have US troops on their soil.

This escalation will encourage the South to further militarize themselves. Hawks are demanding that the South nuclearize its weaponry. And don't be surprised if Japan is asked to play a much greater military role in the region, with growing pressure put on the government to amend the constitution, with the willing acquiescence of the Prime Minister, the hawkish Shinzo Abe. The Korean escalation will enable more US military assets to be placed closer to China, and create a good excuse for the Obama Administration to cancel cutbacks in military spending in order to take on the "new enemy" of the United States.

This can be seen as a replay of the old strategy of building up a caricature of evil, someone the US loves to hate. With Muammar Gaddafi, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein all gone, someone is desperately needed with all the abilities required to "wage war on the United States". With the US moving their homeland policy towards domestic terrorism, a new international threat is needed. And Kim Jong-un fits the profile perfectly. Don't worry that the North doesn't have the capacity to make a first strike on US soil. Just as in Iraq, the details can be glossed over. The 'evil empire' brand was created by Reagan, carried on by Bush is now ready to be utilized by this administration.

One of the ironic things about the Obama Asian Pivot is that it is utilizing the same old tools of past administrations. Obama, who portrayed himself as the peacemaker and communicator during the 2008 election campaign, has turned out to be a chameleon. All promises and restraint and even dialogue with US "enemies" have been long forgotten. Obama had espoused himself as the great liberal, but the actions haven't matched the words, and in foreign policy he has done nothing more than continue on with the Bush-Cheney doctrine of aggressive military action.

If one can see what the administration has to gain through this escalation, it is difficult to find reason for any back-down. This game is important to the broad foreign policy objectives of the administration, particularly when the President failed to secure any greater US presence within the ASEAN region during his visit to the region last November.

This US strategy may actually be counter-productive in bringing any chance of peace to the Korean Peninsula. This military escalation is increasing the prestige of North Korea's new leader and will no doubt increase his military and political powerbase. In addition, the US provocation may strengthen resolve of North Korea's few allies to affirm support, and even win sympathy from others. Given that Kim Jong-un is also very young for a world leader, one of the potential consequences of this escalation is that future US Presidents will have difficulty in engaging in direct discussions with the Korean leader, something absolutely necessary for any lasting peace on the Peninsula to be achieved.

The events of the last few weeks on the Korean Peninsula may be very telling of the style and objectives of this second Obama Administration. The present game in play by the US is indeed full of risk and uncertainty. North Korea is running out of new ways to make retaliatory threats to warn the US of the consequences of playing this risky game. It will be interesting to see how many objectives in the Asia-Pacific region Obama will achieve through this rattling of his own sabres.

Myths about Korean militarism

David Whitehouse explains the backdrop to the ratcheting up of conflict in the Korean peninsula--and the role the U.S. government is playing.

US military stockpiles of Paladin self-propelled Howitzers on the Korean Peninsula (David N. Woods)
US military stockpiles of Paladin self-propelled Howitzers on the Korean Peninsula (David N. Woods)

 

THE FRONTIER between North and South Korea is the most militarized border in the world. There is, of course, another partitioned state in Asia--India-Pakistan, where each side possesses nuclear weapons and commands hundreds of thousands of soldiers. In Korea, though, the stakes are especially high because one of the belligerents is a superpower.

On the opposite side, the world's most likely superpower-in-the-making, China, is North Korea's only close ally. It's not clear that China would intervene militarily in the North's defense, but the possibility of such action raises the stakes of confrontation even higher. The last war on the Korean peninsula, from 1950 to 1953, pitted the same two outside powers against each other. The Korean War produced well over 2 million civilian casualties.

At various times in the past 20 years, the Pentagon has estimated that 1 million Korean civilians, divided evenly between North and South, would die in the first days of an all-out war. More than 25 million people live in metropolitan Seoul, South Korea's capital. The Pentagon refers to the area as the "kill box."

U.S. military power is overwhelming, but North Korea does possess some deterrents. That's why there would be casualties on both sides. Chief among the North's deterrents may be its set of more than 10,000 artillery pieces, dug into the mountains, which could bombard Seoul with explosive, incendiary or chemical weapons. There is no evidence that the North is technically capable of delivering or detonating a nuclear weapon in the South, but the regime has worked in recent years to develop suitable delivery systems and to turn their unwieldy nuclear "devices" into bombs.

In the standard media representation, the rulers of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea's official name) are uniquely bellicose, unpredictable and irrational. Some would say "inscrutable" if that word weren't obviously racist. George W. Bush was an obvious racist, of course, so he was true to form when he called the regime's then-General Secretary Kim Jong-il a "pygmy."

Despite the media's befuddlement over the regime's motivations and intentions, they aren't difficult to figure out. They come through quite clearly at the English-language site of the Korean National News Agency (KCNA) once you figure out how to read through the froth and invective. American reporters and editors are inclined to dismiss KCNA's reports because they're pretty sure that the U.S. is can't be "imperialist" or "arrogant," as KCNA claims, and because they treat State Department and Pentagon sources as generally honest and reliable.

These credulous attitudes may arise from complacency, unthinking patriotism, or the job pressures inside the corporate media. In any case, U.S. news outlets consistently produce egregious distortions when they cover the DPRK's conflicts with the United States. Sometimes the accounts of North Korean actions are accurate enough. Often what makes the picture false is the misrepresentation--or simple omission--of U.S. actions.

As a result, the picture of U.S.-DPRK relations is topsy-turvy. Below, I discuss three points that the media usually get backwards.

1. North Korea nuclearized the peninsula with its bomb test of 2006
.

Wrong. The U.S. threatened the use of nuclear weapons in the Korean War of 1950-1953, and President Eisenhower installed an ongoing nuclear arsenal beginning in 1958. The weapons included missiles, bombs and artillery shells. F-4 fighter planes were on constant alert--armed only with nuclear bombs. [1]

There were also portable "atomic demolition mines" (ADMs) that weighed just 60 pounds each. With an explosive yield equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, the mines were more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Korea specialist Bruce Cumings writes:

The ADMs were moved around in Jeeps and placed by special teams who carried them in backpacks; meanwhile, U.S. helicopters routinely flew nuclear weapons near the DMZ [the Demilitarized Zone, which divides North from South Korea]...Meanwhile, forward deployment of nuclear weapons bred a mentality of "use 'em or lose 'em"; even a small North Korean attack might be cause enough to use them, lest they fall into enemy hands.[2]

President George H.W. Bush withdrew nuclear weapons from the peninsula in 1991 as a cost-free way to place the burden of disarmament on North Korea. The U.S., of course, was not disarming at all. The Gulf War had shown that the latest generation of "conventional" weapons could inflict suitably horrific damage, and besides, nuclear weapons would be ready-to-hand on offshore ships, submarines and planes.

2. North Korea is serial violator of the Armistice of 1953.

The DPRK regime declared on March 11 of this year that it was nullifying the armistice of 1953. Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations replied that the North could not nullify the agreement unilaterally. The UN is involved because the U.S. fought the Korean War against North Korea and mainland China in the name of the UN. At the time, the anticommunist Taiwan government represented China on the Security Council--a fact that led USSR to boycott the council. With mainland China excluded and the USSR boycotting, the war resolution passed without a veto.

The fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, so the "UN coalition" is still technically at war with North Korea. I'm not sure why nobody mentions being at war with China, too.

The South Korean defense ministry declared in 2011 that North Korea had violated the armistice 221 times since 1953. This includes 26 claims of military attacks. Some of these attacks were serious, including a 2010 torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors and an artillery bombardment later in the same year that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. In the first case, North Korea denies making the attack. In the second, the regime claims that South Korea shot first.

In fact, the regime often disputes accusations of violating the armistice, declaring that their actions were responses to violations by the U.S. and South Korea. Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in keeping records about those violations.

The important thing to know about armistice violations is the big one: The U.S. deployment of nuclear weapons violates an explicit ban on the introduction of "qualitatively new" weapons to Korea. The ban applies to the whole Korean "theater," so offshore weapons are included.[3] The U.S. has thus committed a major violation of the Armistice continuously for 55 years.

This nuclear posture was known in the Cold War as a "first-strike" policy, since it licensed the use of nuclear weapons even without a nuclear provocation. The U.S. renounced the first-strike option in the European theater but not in Korea. "The logic," writes Bruce Cumings, "was that we dare not use nuclear weapons in Europe because the other side has them, but we could use them in Korea because it doesn't."[4]

3) North Korea has violated the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The world's great powers came up with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 as a way to maintain their monopoly on nuclear weapons. In the treaty, the nuclear states of that time--the U.S., Britain, France, the USSR and China--made a vague promise to negotiate their own disarmament in the future.

In order to induce non-nuclear states to sign, the treaty stipulated that nuclear-armed states would help the NPT's non-nuclear members to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses such as energy production. As a further inducement, the nuclear-weapons states offered a side agreement (not in the NPT) in which they promised not to threaten non-nuclear signatories of the NPT with nuclear attack--or to carry out such attacks.

North Korea did not sign the NPT until 1985. At the time, the DPRK had a small reactor that produced plutonium waste and very little electricity. The Reagan administration feared that the waste could be stockpiled to make a weapon. The U.S. encouraged Konstantin Chernenko, then premier of the USSR, to offer North Korea light-water reactors (LWRs), which produce no waste that can easily be converted into weapons-grade material. The energy-strapped DPRK accepted the deal and agreed to sign the NPT.[5] This was the kind of quid pro quo that the treaty's authors anticipated when they wrote it.

The USSR was crisis-ridden in the 1980s and dithered over construction of the four promised LWRs, which would have cost about $1 billion apiece. When the Soviet state collapsed in late 1991, the DPRK lost one of its two patrons--the other was China--and entered a decade of natural disaster, economic regression and famine.[6]

With U.S. technical help, and upon U.S. insistence, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began mandatory, intrusive inspections of the DPRK's nuclear sites in 1992. Following the Gulf War of 1991, the U.S. and the chief inspector of the IAEA, Hans Blix, improvised a new regime of mandatory inspections backed by the threat of Security Council sanctions. Iraq, Iran and North Korea were the intended target of these "special inspections." The NPT does not authorize any of this.

IAEA inspectors did surmise in 1992-1993 that North Korea had probably stockpiled a significant amount of plutonium. U.S. intelligence operatives looked over the IAEA data and concluded that the hypothesized amount of stockpiled plutonium would be enough to construct one or two nuclear weapons, although they believed that the DPRK was as yet technically incapable of making the plutonium into bombs. These intelligence estimates gave rise to an oft-quoted "worst-case scenario" according to which North Korea already possessed two nuclear weapons in the 1990s.[7]

Stockpiling plutonium may constitute a violation of the NPT, but if so, then Japan is many times more guilty than North Korea. With U.S. approval, Japan has stored up enough plutonium to construct 5,000 warheads. Nevertheless, Japan's nuclear sites have never been subject to UN "special inspections," although the country's nuclear safety record suggests that it wouldn't be a bad idea.

North Korea declared Blix to be a stooge of the United States--which, of course, he was--and threatened to pull out of the NPT. Eventually, Clinton backed away from the crisis. He offered to provide the LWRs previously promised by the USSR in return for North Korea's acceptance of further IAEA inspections. The deal was formally written up along with some other provisions, dubbed the "Agreed Framework," and signed by both parties.

Like the USSR, the U.S. never delivered the LWRs--never even broke ground on them. If we're looking for violations of the NPT, that's a clear one, since the NPT obligates nuclear-weapons states to help non-weapons states with nonmilitary nuclear projects.

The promise of LWRs may have been the part of the Agreed Framework that the Northern regime cared most about. For the entire time of its membership in the NPT, from 1985 to 2003, North Korea waited for assistance with nuclear electricity-production that never came. In Clinton's second term, those who wanted to ridicule the DPRK began to point to nighttime satellite photos of East Asia that showed every country but North Korea lit up. They didn't mention that the U.S. played a role in turning out the lights.

Meanwhile, although the U.S. had signed every updated version of its 1968 promise not to target non-nuclear-weapons states, Bill Clinton reaffirmed the first-strike policy against North Korea in 1993. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Clinton publicly approved the retargeting of ballistic missiles from Russia to North Korea.[8]

In January 2002, George W. Bush named North Korea, Iraq and Iran as members of an "Axis of Evil." Then in March, a leak of Bush's "nuclear posture review" reconfirmed the U.S. first-strike policy. By the fall, Bush was building up troops in the Middle East to overthrow the Iraqi government. Kim Jong-il had good reason to believe that his government would be next.

In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. The treaty itself authorizes a members' withdrawal when its sovereignty is threatened: "Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country."

There's no doubt that George W. Bush's "global war on terror" qualified as a set of extraordinary events that jeopardized the DPRK's supreme interests.

In 2010, Barack Obama confirmed once again that the U.S. "nuclear posture" was to keep targeting North Korea. For North Korea and Iran, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, "All options are on the table."

It's a phrase that Obama has used many times since, and it suits his understated style: Threaten the maximum, but make it sound moderate.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Notes

1. Bruce Cumings, Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American–East Asian Relations at the End of the Century (Duke University Press Books, 1999), 127-130.
2. Ibid., 130.
3. Ibid., 128.
4. Ibid., 132.
5. Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (Rev. & upd. Basic Books, 2002), 245 and 289.
6. For more detail on North Korea's crisis, and on the imperial interests at play in Korea from 1985 to 2003, see my "What's at stake in North Korea" in the International Socialist Review, March-April 2003. A PDF is available here.
7. Oberdorfer, 276.
8. Cumings, 142.

First published at WorxInTheory.wordpress.com.

THE SITUATION on the Korean peninsula

This article first appeared in Socialist Worker on March 15, 2013

Warplane

By David Whitehouse

THE SITUATION on the Korean peninsula has taken a belligerent new turn–and as usual, the mainstream media have presented a story that could have come straight out of the U.S. State Department news releases. The simple message is: “North Korea has (once again) taken the region to the brink of war.”

The latest installment in this melodrama begins in December of last year with North Korea’s successful launch of a three-stage rocket. That rocket deploys a satellite, but it proves that North Korea has the capacity to fire others that could power a long-range ballistic missile.

Then, goes the story, in February, the perennially unpredictable and warlike regime detonates its third and largest nuclear device. Meanwhile, the new young dictator, Kim Jong-un, makes unprovoked threats–including a nuclear threat–against South Korea and the U.S. Other countries make measured responses to North Korea’s erratic behavior. Even China, North Korea’s only close ally, helps to craft tighter United Nations sanctions against the North.

That’s the story the U.S. government and its media stenographers promote. What’s missing from this account, however, is the Obama administration’s escalation of military threats against North Korea, especially in the year since Kim Jong-un came to power.

Demonizing the North is made easy by the character of the regime in power there. Though it still claims to be socialist, it is the opposite: A tyranny in which most of the population lives in poverty and dictatorial power is passed down through a single family.

But targeting North Korea has its uses for the U.S. government, now as much as at any time in the past. Not since the first term of George W. Bush has the U.S. signaled so blatantly that it aims for the downfall of the North Korean regime. Kim has definitely got the message. Obama, however, is a stealthier aggressor than Bush, so he hasn’t shared the message with most people in the U.S.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

THE U.S. military has long cooperated with South Korean government to prepare for war, conducting frequent joint military exercises and deploying major weapons in the South. There are still some 28,000 U.S. troops in the South, and, in case of war, the U.S. would be in command of the South’s 500,000 troops–a longstanding proviso that is set to expire in 2015. The U.S. withdrew its nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula in the early 1990s, but nuclear and other heavy munitions remain at the ready from ships, submarines and warplanes just off the coast.

All of that is business as usual. But in the past year, there are many signs that something new is going on. The U.S. and South Korea have started taking steps to fight an offensive war that would occupy the North, as Christine Hong and Hyun Lee report on the Foreign Policy in Focus” website [1].

There are several ways to carry out a land war in the North, according to military experts.

One would be to mount a massive paratroop or helicopter operation. Otherwise, U.S. and South Korean troops would either need to make amphibious landings or find a way through the mine-laden Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates Korea’s two halves. In the past year, the U.S. and Southern militaries have taken steps to be ready for the last two tactics.

“In March 2012,” wrote Hong and Lee, “combined U.S.-South Korean forces carried out the largest amphibious landing operation exercise in 20 years, involving 13 naval vessels, 52 amphibious armored vehicles, 40 fighter jets and helicopters, and 9,000 U.S. troops.”

To cross the DMZ, the U.S. has brought in mine-resistant vehicles originally constructed for action in Iraq and Afghanistan. The redeployment shows the real meaning of the U.S. “pivot to Asia”–as Barack Obama winds down past wars in the Middle East to prepare for new ones.

Last year’s war games included a computer-assisted simulation of a Southern invasion of the North. South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported [2] that “Seoul and Washington practiced preparing for sudden change in the North for the first time during last year’s Key Resolve drill, but this was the first time we went on the assumption that South Korean troops would be deployed in the North.”

In April 2012, South Korea disclosed that it had developed a cruise missile capable of a precision attack on any target in the North [3]. In the summer, the Pentagon advertised its possession of “super bunker-busters” that could destroy the North’s nuclear facilities.

Last year, Japan also agreed to host a second U.S.-designed missile defense radar, while South Korea is constructing a naval base on the island of Jeju that can accommodate Aegis destroyers, a key component of missile defense. The benign-sounding project of missile defense would actually enable offensive operations by neutralizing North Korea’s missile deterrent.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

WHETHER OR not Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye actually plan to overthrow the regime of Kim Jong-un, they’re taking concrete steps to get ready for regime change. Kim’s responses show that he’s preparing for the worst.

That would explain why he made the threat of pre-emptive nuclear strikes. North Korea’s nuclear program may have begun decades ago as a bargaining chip to win aid and a security guarantee from the U.S., but it now seems clear that Kim is treating the program as a deterrent force against U.S.-led aggression.

The last time this happened was when George W. Bush declared North Korea to be a part of an “Axis of Evil” in 2002. In the ensuing buildup for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, saw the writing on the wall: Bush felt free to attack Iraq because Saddam Hussein hadn’t developed an effective military deterrent, so the elder Kim resolved to hurry up and get one. North Korea detonated its first nuclear device in 2006.

The U.S. conflict with North Korea went from a hot point in 2002-03 to a slow simmer as the U.S. got bogged down in the Iraq and Afghan wars. But Obama’s pivot to Asia has quietly reiterated the threats that Bush had made so loudly.

The Pentagon’s “Defense Strategic Guidance,” [4] published in January 2012, may sound a warmer tone that the arrogant “Bush Doctrine,” but it does share some of the same premises.

Chief among them is that the U.S. will not tolerate any effective deterrents against its unilateral military action. Obama’s Pentagon is committed to thwarting other countries’ attempts at “anti-access” and “area denial” because “states such as China and Iran will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities.” In other words, the U.S. military must remain strong enough to go wherever the commander-in-chief decides.

South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, is the daughter of the South’s former military dictator, Park Chung-hee. She has credentials as a staunch opponent of the North–she has offered to be open to relations with the North Korean regime only on the condition that it disarms.

Nevertheless, Park is constrained by public opinion, so she has struck some conciliatory notes along with aggressive ones. Most South Koreans wish to avoid a confrontation with the North and hope for a peaceful reunification of the country. Park entered office with the lowest approval ratings of any previous president: 44 percent [5]. She has earned popular distrust by appointing right-wing cronies of her family along with political unknowns.

Two-thirds of the population favors humanitarian aid to North Korea “regardless of the political situation,” and more than half favor direct talks with the North. In other countries, a politician might try to win popularity by ratcheting up war rhetoric, but in the Korean context, such a tactic might have the opposite effect.

Park and Obama may be preparing for war, but their first obstacle would be South Korean resistance, not North Korean arms.

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SOME COMMENTATORS have suggested that China is reconsidering its support for North Korea as a new president, Xi Jinping, takes office. Although Chinese and U.S. officials are at opposite poles over trade and currency policies, cyber-espionage and the ownership of islands off the Asian mainland, they seem to be united in opposing North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

After North Korea conducted its nuclear test on February 12, diplomats from China helped the U.S. draft and pass a new round of United Nations sanctions to punish the North. The new UN measures expand on actions the Security Council took after North Korea’s launch of its three-stage missile last December.

Despite these measures against the North, China’s actions probably don’t herald a major shift in policy. For now, China still has uses for North Korea. It serves as a land buffer against U.S. and South Korean military forces, and China has sought to develop the North as a low-wage “eastern province.” The votes against the North in the UN carry little cost to China, while they burnish China’s image as a “responsible stakeholder.”

China’s opposition to Northern militarism also helps appease South Korea, which is a far more important economic partner to China than the North. What’s more, China knows that the North’s belligerence only gives the U.S. an excuse to bolster its alliances and military presence in Asia. Obama’s “pivot toward Asia” is calculated to undermine China’s influence in the region–just where Beijing is most keen on extending its political and military clout to match its growing economic weight.

Chinese officials may oppose North Korea’s nuclear development, but that doesn’t mean they think Kim is crazy–or that they’re taking sides against him. They recognize that Kim’s regime has built its bombs and missiles in response to U.S. provocations. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, wrote an astute editorial [6] summarizing the situation in February:

The United States should reflect seriously on the latest nuclear test of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which was caused by longstanding antagonism between the two countries…History has proven that a country threatened by force and sanctions would maintain and further develop its own military strength, [Chinese analysts] said…

On the root cause of the nuclear test, [a specialist in Beijing] said the DPRK’s real target was the United States, instead of China or South Korea…”The current situation in Northeast Asia is imbalanced, with South Korea and Japan sheltered under the U.S. nuclear umbrella,” said Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies.

At the same time, he said, the military strength of South Korea and Japan is not weak and the DPRK’s security pressure mainly comes from the United States, the real target of its nuclear deterrence.

As always, the situation in Korea is complex because it involves more than Koreans. For centuries, bigger powers have tried to influence events on the peninsula from the outside. One thing is clear, however: The current crisis is made in the USA.

See also this article by Lee Sustar about attacks by North Korea in 2010 and the US pressures that led up to them.

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Published by the International Socialist Organization.
Material on this Web site is licensed by SocialistWorker.org, under a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd 3.0) [7] license, except for articles that are republished with permission. Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and SocialistWorker.org.

  1. [1] http://www.fpif.org/articles/lurching_towards_war_a_post-mortem_on_strat...
  2. [2] http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/04/06/2012040600891.ht...
  3. [3] https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/20/world/asia/south-korea-confirms-deplo...
  4. [4] http://socialistworker.org/www.defense.gov/news/Defense_Strategic_Guidan...
  5. [5] http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/KOR-01-270213.html
  6. [6] http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-02/17/c_124351192.htm
  7. [7] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0

Fidel Castro doesn't place the blame where it belongs

The simple fact is Kim Jong Un sent a message to Obama, "call me, I don't want war." Obama ignored it and instead sends stealth bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The US divided Korea, killed 4.5 million to stop the struggle to reunify it, has had nuclear weapons there for 60 years, and is conducting pre-emptive war manuevers agaist the DPRK, using nuclear weapons, to practice occupying the north.

Because the DPRK is incensed, they are called crazy.

Who is to blame for this situation is pretty obvious and unambiguous, and not placing the blame where it lies does nothing to help bring peace.

We should demand that the US Get Out of Korea.

US ratchets up tension on Korean peninsular

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 11:23 PM PDT
US ratchets up tension on Korean peninsular

By Jane West

The bellicose response by the US and others to the latest developments in North Korea is in no way a proportional response to any real threat from the small East Asian state, but an excuse for quite other military objectives.

The US used its known language of war – ‘a real and clear danger’ – to announce its decision to extend its advanced missile defence system to the Pacific island of Guam. As no one in their right mind believes that North Korea has the capacity to hit the US – or virtually anywhere very far from its own borders – with a nuclear-armed missile, this step has other purposes. The country in the US’s binoculars is not North Korea but rising China, and the Guam move is a further step in its announced ‘pivot’ to Asia aimed at militarily encircling China.

Similarly, the argument of Cameron that North Korea’s nuclear capacity is evidence of the need for Britain to spend billions on replacing Trident is clearly ridiculous. North Korea does not nearly have the technological or scientific capacity to build a nuclear warhead compact enough to carry on a long-range rocket that could travel across the entire Asian landmass and reach mainland Europe, let alone Britain.

Cameron wants to keep Trident because it is a negotiating chip in Britain’s relations with the US, making it a more useful ally in the US’s imperialist projects world-wide, and therefore better positioned to gather a few crumbs from the US’s great power table. It has absolutely nothing – zero – to do with the military defence of Britain.

The real situation on the Korean peninsula is that North Korea has been the subject of bellicose talk from the US, South Korea and Japan since the 1950s, and especially in the last decade. While its closed, autarchic, ultra-bureaucratic regime has failed to take the people of North Korea forward economically, it has stood up to this imperialist aggression and refused to bow to the US’s demand that it re-unifies with South Korea on the West’s terms. Nor is its anti-Western paranoia without foundation.

The on-going tension on the Korean peninsula has its origins in the 1945 US occupation of the south of the country – to prevent the Soviet Union advancing through the whole of the peninsula as it rolled back the 40-year long Japanese colonial occupation. This led to the de facto partition of the country and the 1950-53 Korean War which ended without a peace treaty.

Since then, every year the US has engaged in extensive military exercises and war games in the region with South Korea and more recently Japan, simulating an invasion of North Korea. The present escalation of rhetoric coincides with a new set of US-South Korean exercises involving B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers. The upsurge of anti-US rhetoric from the North was in direct response to this.

Throughout the ‘Cold War’ these war games were accompanied by a grudging political acceptance of the status quo.

But an end to this was announced in Bush’s January 2002 State of the Union address, when he proclaimed the US’s war against the international ‘axis of evil’ of Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Not surprisingly – especially following the actual invasion of Iraq – North Korea responded by stepping up investment in developing its nuclear capacity, including a nuclear test this February. This programme’s technological high point was the successful launch of a satellite into space on 12 December 2012 – which the US and its allies insisted upon calling a ‘ballistic missile’ test.

The US has stepped up its rhetoric against North Korea since this – even though scientific examination of launch rocket fragments that fell to earth in South Korea has found the material and technology used to be out-of-date, crude and unreliable. Its satellite station is considered to be ‘tumbling’ and out of control in its orbit.

Apart from this its missile tests have comprised short-range missiles fired into the sea between the Korean peninsular and Japan. This has provoked concern in Japan precisely because North Korea does not have the sophisticated satellite guidance technology that can ensure the exact point of impact of the missile, meaning Japan could be hit by mistake. But by the same token, North Korea would have to hit Guam by luck, even if it could fire a nuclear warhead that far.

In this sabre-rattling North Korea is a proxy for the US’s real target in the region – China. This is not to say that it would not like to get rid of North Korea. This would help and strengthen its ally South Korea, seal a loop-hope in its chain of reliable allies ringing China and, most importantly, give it a military sphere of influence up to a land border of China.

There is a danger that uncontrolled activity by North Korea could provoke a situation that made this possible. This is clearly China’s concern, which is intervening to try to calm the situation and soothe its somewhat fractious ally, while continuing to develop stronger economic ties to help improve the internal economic situation.

It is also why Fidel Castro has made what has become an increasingly rare personal intervention in international politics since June 2012, calling for calm and urging North Korea to consider the wider consequences of its actions. He says that now North Korea ‘has demonstrated its technical and scientific advances, we remind them of their duties with those countries that have been their great friend’, while also pointing to the responsibility of the US and Obama to relieve the tension in the region.

The truth is North Korea is a small, poor and undeveloped country that presents no real threat to anyone. Its aggressive talk is in response to the real provocation of the most heavily armed state in the world carrying out regular exercises on its land and sea borders, simulating invasions and moving the most advanced military hardware, including nuclear firepower, into its vicinity. The US could calm the situation immediately by repudiating Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech, ending its bellicose activities in the area, and recognising North Korea’s right to exist.

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