The North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong is quoted by the ABC (Australia) as saying “as we take steps toward de-nuclearisation, the most important issue is security”. It seems the North Korean (NK) position has not changed for 25 years and it is purely defensive position. Pyongyang says: if the US removes its militarily aggressive posture against NK only then will we dismantle our nuclear arsenal.
This is a simple, completely justified and completely defensive position. The NK nuclear arsenal is the only effective defense Pyongyang believes it possesses against US aggression. In the context of US invasion and aggression in Iraq, Libya and Syria, this is a very understandable and practical position to take.
Ending the posture of US aggression against North Korea would mean withdrawal (or at least radical reduction) of US troops, missiles, planes and the rest of its extensive military presence from South Korea. It would also mean the eventual signing of a permanent peace treaty between the North and South. A permanent peace treaty if it could be achieved would be a huge step forward for world peace and a massive blow to US imperialist power.
Trump perhaps thought that offering to remove the cruel and inhumane US imposed economic sanctions against NK would be a substantial enough offer to get Kim to agree to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal – or to begin to do that. Yet the real situation for the regime and the people of North Korea is that they have not one US gun aimed at their head but two. The second is the cruel and aggressive sanctions but the first is the ever present US military threat. If Kim were to dismantle the NK nuclear deterrent what would stop the US ramping up military aggression a soon as dismantling was complete. If not invasion – like in Iraq – the US could carry out bombing campaigns or other damage and carnage (with a suitable “humanitarian” justification of course).
Moreover, if Kim exchanged dismantling the nuclear deterrent for lifting of sanctions, what would stop the democrats or a future republican government from reversing course and simply re-imposing sanctions again later? It would take Pyongyang many years to re-build its nuclear arsenal. But Pelosi or her ilk could restart crippling sanctions almost overnight.
Pelosi, the Democrats, many republicans and the overwhelming majority of the mass media has consistently condemned Trump for being too soft on Kim. They hypocritically present this as Trump’s alleged affection for dictators. But as we know the Democrats like dictators too – such as in Saudi Arabia. The real, underlying reason for their criticism is of course nothing to do with “human rights” (an increasingly discredited and abused term) but their determination to defend US military presence in Asia.
The problem for US imperialism is if the NK so called “threat” ceases to be a justification to maintain US bases on the Korean peninsula. This would be a particular danger in the context of a powerful peace and re-unification movement across North and South Korea – something that any steps forward may well promote. Such a movement would also threaten to provoke another dangerous popular reaction – i.e. a similar movement against the hated US military bases and presence in Japan.
Such a scenario would be a danger not only to “hawks” or the military hierarchy but to US imperialism more broadly. This can be understood more easily when we realise the target of US military bases in South Korea (and Japan, Guam and elsewhere in the region) is not only North Korea. Their bases also project US power against their imperialist “allies” (competitors) in South Korea and Japan. Same goes for China, the largest and most powerful Third World (poor) country. The US missiles today pointed at Pyongyang could overnight be re-directed towards China, Japan, South Korea, Russia or elsewhere.
The reason the democrats are so implacably against peace on the Korean Peninsula – and the reason there has been no ceasefire on the peninsular for 70 years – is because peace in Korea – something that should be supported by all truly democratic, humanitarian and peace loving people – would threaten to undermine the military dominance in Asia the US gained in World war Two.
While it may be difficult for liberals to swallow, actually Kim and the North Koreans are right. What will bring peace is full denuclearisation and demilitarisation – that means BOTH SIDES NOT ONE need to carry it out. The demand of the North Koreans for US military withdrawal should be supported fully and wholeheartedly. Demilitarisation of BOTH sides and US withdrawal is the path to Korean national self-determination and peace.
Yet it seem the chances of achieving that purely via negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington are extremely slim at best, or perhaps now non-existent. What may be more effective is the advance of the popular movement for reunification in Korea itself. Reunification of the Korean nation has deep support among ordinary Koreans for obvious reasons. Korean cultural and social development has been inevitably distorted and undermined by the division of the world’s Korean speaking population into two isolated and arbitrarily separated camps. This has caused immense suffering. The division of families, the waste of land, resources and human labour in favour of the military build-up are all crimes that have no end under US tutelage. All crimes carried out only for the purpose of US imperialist power.
The simple watchwords for lovers of peace and all democratic minded people everywhere are simply, “US hands off Korea”, “US military off the Korean Peninsula”, “close the US bases and bring the troops home”.