There is only one reason why the US is obsessed with North Korea. It allows the US to maintain a massive military presence in East Asia. If not for tensions on the Korean peninsula, the US would lose its rationale for its network of military bases in the region, which are primarily meant to threaten and contain China.
In its latest move early June 2017, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by the United States to expand the scope of sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) over its latest missile tests.
Prior to this the UNSC had slapped North Korea with six rounds of sanctions, but Washington and its allies have been pushing for more powerful and crippling sanctions in an attempt to halt the increasing wave of missile tests by Pyongyang.
“The patience of the United States in this region has run out …………The world has witnessed the strength and resolve of the US in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan.”
Pence was alluding to the 59 cruise missiles the US launched at a Syrian military airfield, and the 22,000-pound “mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat by the United States, dropped in Afghanistan.
US war games
Right after striking Syria, President Trump dispatched a giant armada led by an aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, to the Korean peninsula as a show of force. The US also dispatched a nuclear-powered guided missile submarine, the USS Michigan, to the region, capable of launching up to 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range of about 1,000 miles. The 6,900-tonne USS Cheyenne arrived in the South Korean port of Busan.
The US also has nearly 80,000 military personnel in South Korea and Japan, as well as military aircraft and other hardware on a high state of alert in South Korea. The USS Ronald Reagan and its carrier strike group are based at the Japanese port of Yokosuka, while the US 7th Fleet, armed with tactical nuclear weapons, patrols the region.
US nukes are also based in South Korea and Guam, while heavy B-1 and B-52 bombers can fly from North America to Korea. In the event of a war with North Korea, the US military takes over the South Korean military with some 625,000 personnel as well as naval, air and anti-missile systems.
To top it all, U.S. performs, twice annually, the largest war games in the world with South Korea, in which it practises an assassination of North Korea’s top leadership, the invasion and occupation of North Korea, and a nuclear first strike against North Korea with imitation armaments.
The Foal Eagle war games include 300,000 South Korean soldiers and 15,000 US troops. This year, the exercises also feature Navy SEAL Team Six, which is best known for assassinating Osama bin Laden on Obama’s orders.
Moreover, an American plan was made public last September proclaiming that “the North’s capital city will be reduced to ashes and removed from the map if it shows any signs of using a nuclear weapon”.
THAAD provokes anger
The US also installed an advanced missile system in South Korea, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). This provoked strong opposition from China and Russia who consider it a provocative move and a threat to their national security. Chinese Foreign Ministry said:
“The THAAD deployment by the US severely disrupts regional strategic balance, undermines the strategic security interests of regional countries, including China, and does no good to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,”
THAAD system has also enraged the people of South Korea. The government there deployed 8,000 riot police to forcibly remove the residents and Buddhist monks protesting near the THAAD site. Over 900 shaved their heads in protest. They expressed concerns about the electromagnetic waves emitted by the radar and the long-term impact on their health and agriculture
Police evicted the protestors to clear a path for 38 US military vehicles carrying THAAD parts and equipment. A total of 12 protesters sustained injuries and were taken to the hospital.
Under such conditions, any military action, however limited, would trigger a conflict that could draw in neighbouring countries. American administrations have been contemplating the idea of pre-emptive strike against North Korea, but were quickly restrained, knowing that it would prompt a counter-reaction. They couldn’t justify military action that would endanger lives of millions of Koreans, with 28,500 U.S. soldiers and 230,000 Americans living there.
US shreds peace pact
In 1994 President Clinton entered a framework agreement under which North Korea that would end its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, while the U.S. would cut down its hostile acts.
It worked, as up to 2000 North Korea abandoned its nuclear weapons programs. Enter George W. Bush and he immediately launches an assault on North Korea, with his "axis of evil" mantra and explicit aim of regime change. North Korea in turn reverts to its erstwhile nuclear programme.
Once again, the two countries entered an agreement in 2005 and once again Bush shredded it and reverted to sanctions. North Korea backed off, and resumed its nuclear program. As Noam Chomsky said:
“If you like it, one can say it’s the worst regime in history, whatever you like, but they have been following a pretty rational tit-for-tat policy”.
DPRK not suicidal
Ex-US president Jimmy Carter once spoke about American militarism, saying since World War II, the country has been at war. He added that he “could not think of any place on earth today where the United States is working to promote peace”.
In the early 1990s, Carter met North Korean leader Kim II Sung who expressed the desire for a peace treaty with the United States. The result was a successful treaty that ended the Korean nuclear weapons program and economic embargo, allowing Americans to search for the remains of Korean War veterans.
While Bush dismantled that agreement, Obama intensified war games with South Korea, including a simulated nuclear attack on North Korea, and tightened the economic stranglehold.
In his address Carter said: "I've been there two or three times since the 1994 agreement, and I can tell you what the North Koreans want is a peace treaty with the United States and they want the 60-year economic embargo lifted against their people, so they can have an equal chance to trade… They make a lot of mistakes, but if the United States would just talk to the North Koreans…I believe…we could have peace, and the United States would be a lot better off in the long run."
In fact North Korea has threatened to retaliate only in response to a U.S. pre-emptive military strike. In the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, its leader Kim Jong Un affirmed that his country “would not use nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty was violated.”
Former US Secretary of Defense William Perry, who helped negotiate a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear program during the Clinton administration, agrees: “I believe that the danger of a North Korean ICBM program is not that they would launch an unprovoked attack on the United States. They are not suicidal.”
Lesson from Gaddafi
Perhaps it would be suicidal for them to give up their nuclear arsenal, after what happened to Gaddafi of Libya.
Undoubtedly, Kim Jong Un knows only too well how Gaddafi ended his days, the way he was overthrown and then lynched under US/NATO command. By surrendering his military weaponry, he signed his death warrant. He submitted his weapons and deposited some $200 billion of Libyan national wealth in Western banks. Yet in the end the West took its skin.
In the West it is rarely brought to light that the US has repeatedly turned down North Korea’s offers to end nuclear weapon development. Offers have been put forward by North Korea back to the Clinton administration in the 1990s but were then rejected by the US.
The most recent proposal was made in 2015 when North Korea offered to “halt nuclear testing if the United States would cancel an annual spring military exercise with South Korea”, but Washington rejected the proposal.
It is hardly surprising that North Koreans want peace, for they remember the war in the fifties when the US Air Force carpet-bombed their country with incendiaries and explosives, dropping 635,000 tons of explosive bombs and up to 40,000 tons of napalm.
They remember the worst atrocities carried out by South Korean police, who took part in prostitution rings, racketeering, blackmail and the execution of thousands of political prisoners, and routine execution of prisoners of war, including old men, women and children. Western reporters who revealed these atrocities had US censorship imposed on them.
North Korea was carpet-bombed for three years by US, destroying every town and village. In the words of Air Force General Curtis LeMay: “We burned down every town in North Korea …. Over a period of three years or so we killed – what – 20 percent of the population”.
To quote Senator John Glenn, a Korea war veteran who ended up as an astronaut, “We did a lot of napalm work …. You could strafe them, bomb them, napalm them, flying in low. Quite a variety of weapons.”
And in the final stages of the war, mass bombing (1,514 sorties) of hydro-electric and irrigation dams was done, flooding and destroying huge areas of farmland and crops. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.
Quoting Professor Charles Armstrong, Director of the Centre for Korean Research (Columbia University):
“The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating UN (read US) forces”.
Chief Justice William O. Douglas visited Korea in the summer of 1952 and declared, "I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe; but I had not seen devastation until I had seen Korea."
One can thus barely blame North Korea if today it is highly militarised, displaying deep antipathy towards the state that rained death and destruction on its people, towns and villages. That mass killing and destruction of civilians was war crimes never brought to any court of justice.
Instead, the US carries on with its threats of regime change and gun-boat diplomacy. Dennis Etler of Cabrillo College in California says the US refuses to deescalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula in order to maintain its network of military bases in East Asia and contain China.
“There is only one reason why US seeks to quarantine the DPRK. It allows the US to maintain a military presence in East Asia. If not for tensions on the Korean peninsula, the US would lose its rationale for its network of military bases in the region, which are primarily meant to threaten and contain China” he adds.
James R. Lilley puts it succinctly when he says: “At the end of the Cold War, if North Korea didn’t exist we would have to create it as an excuse to keep the Seventh Fleet in the region.”
He is talking of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with 70 to 80 ships and submarines, 300 aircraft and approximately 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel
Lilley speaks as an insider, having been member, together with his close friend, George H.W. Bush, of the infamous Yale University Skull & Bones secret society. He served some three decades at the CIA along with Bush. Both Lilley and Bush were US Ambassadors to China.
* NIZAR VISRAM is a freelance writer from Tanzania. He can be reached at [email protected]
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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