The United States has no legitimate business threatening northern Korea.
The Pyongyang government may represent a threat to Washington's plans, but
for Bush and his crew to provoke war is irresponsible and wrong. Since the
fall of the Stalinist bureaucracies in the former Soviet Union and eastern
Europe over a decade ago, northern Korea has been left holding the bag.
During the cold war, Korea's southern half sold itself to the highest
bidder (not without plenty of internal opposition) as the north solidified
its ideological and economic ties to its allies in the ongoing struggle
against Japan and the U.S. Since those allies disappeared from the globe,
the Pyongyang government has found itself the target of stepped up
Although the United States maintains one of its largest foreign
contingents in Korea's southern half and stockpiles thousands of weapons
(some nuclear) there, it claims northern Korea's nuclear development and
export of weapons to various countries is a threat. This claim is made by
a government who has looked the other way countless times when its allies
(Israel, for one) are proven to be building nuclear weapons. It is made by
a government which makes and sells more weapons of mass destruction than
all the rest of the countries in the world. Admittedly, further weapons
proliferation is not favorable to world peace, but for Washington to cry
foul and demand a halt to Pyongyang's research rings quite hollow. After
all, it was Washington's political and military manipulations after the
Second World War that created two Koreas in the first place. Much to the
anger and dismay of the majority of the Korean people.
How did the division occur, anyhow? Near the end of the Second World
War, right before the U.S. dropped the bomb on Japan, the Soviet Union
moved into northern Korea to fight the occupying Japanese troops. Within
weeks of Japan's surrender, democratic groups of Korean peasants,
merchants, and workers formed local governing organizations and begin to
organize a national assembly. The U.S. and U.S.S.R., meanwhile, chose to
maintain a "temporary" occupation of the country with the 38th parallel as
the dividing line. This occupation was to end after the Koreans
established their own government, and Korea was to reunite. However, after
the United States realized that the makeup of any Korean?organized
government would be anti?colonial, it reneged on its promise. Within weeks
of the election of a popular national assembly, the Soviet Union began to
withdraw its forces. The U.S., however, increased its military strength
and coordinated security with the remnants of the hated Japanese army. At
the same time, Synghman Rhee, an ultra?right Korean politician who was
living in America, was flown back to Korea (with the assistance of the US
intelligence community). He immediately began to liquidate the popular
movement in southern Korea and, with the complete support of the U.S.
military, refused to acknowledge the existence of the newly elected
national assembly. In the weeks following his installment as ruler of
southern Korea, over 100,000 Korean citizens were murdered and
disappeared. The United States military provided the names of many of the
After realizing that the United States had no plans to withdraw its
troops, the Soviet Union put its withdrawal on hold and asked for
assistance from the People's Republic of China. In the days and weeks that
passed, military units from the south persistently forayed into the
northern half of Korea, testing its defenses. Eventually, although the
exact details remain unclear, northern Korean and Chinese troops attacked.
On June 25, 1950, the U.S. responded, using the authority of the U.N.
Security Council, and the Korean war began. Three years and one month
later an armistice was signed between the warring sides. The toll in lives
was: 52, 246 US soldiers, an estimated 4 million Koreans on both sides of
the parallel (mostly civilians), 1 million Chinese soldiers, and another
4000 soldiers from armies that allied themselves with the United States.
The Situation Today
In October 2000, the United States and northern Korea signed a
bilateral agreement that read, in part: "Recognizing the changed
circumstances on the Korean Peninsula created by the historic June 15,
2000 inter-Korean summit, the United States and the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea have decided to take steps to fundamentally improve
their bilateral relations in the interests of enhancing peace and security
in the Asia-Pacific region.
The two sides agreed there are a variety of available means,
including Four Party talks, to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula and
formally end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with
permanent peace arrangements."
Unfortunately, the United States has not kept its end of the bargain.
Most of this is due to the regime change in Washington. Despite the
fundamentally imperialist nature of Bill Clinton's foreign policy, his
administration had made genuine steps towards resolving the decades-old
dispute on the Korean peninsula and there was a real hope among the Korean
people on both sides of the 38th parallel that a lasting peace would come
to their land. Indeed, the most optimistic among them began to make plans
for the eventual reunification of the country. Then GW Bush moved into the
White House and brought with him a number of men and women who had no
interest in continuing the Clinton policy of containment or, god forbid,
negotiating a lasting peace.
The return to an antagonistic relationship was met by dismay in both
Korean capitols. After southern Korea's president Kim Dae Jung's visit to
Washington in March 2001 where he met with GW and a number of his
henchmen, it was clear that the Clinton policy of rapprochement was dead.
According to news reports, the meeting began on a sour note when Bush
noted his dismay over Kim's signature on a letter opposing the "Star Wars"
missile defense system promoted by Bush and his defense industry cabinet
and advisory staff. One of the targets of this so-called missile shield
would be northern Korea. After this beginning, Kim knew there was little
point to bring up his agenda, which included:
Signing a joint peace declaration with the North.
Formally ending hostilities a half-century after the end of their civil
Possibly supplying electricity to the energy-poor North.
Promoting a return visit to Seoul this spring by the North's leader, Kim
Since that meeting, things have only worsened, with GW's recent
comments including northern Korea in a new "axis of evil" the most recent
foray in the war of words between DC and Pyongyang. The hardliners in
Washington refuse to even talk about peace, preferring to take a page out
of cold war architect John Foster Dulles' script from the 1950s (written
primarily by the defense industry) and revive a decades-old war that most
Americans and Koreans would rather forget. Northern Korea, seeing no
prospect of achieving its desire for a lasting peace and eventual
reunification through conversations with Seoul (conversations which need
U.S. support, which is not forthcoming), seems to be returning to its
previous hardline position. Unfortunately for its population, this means
more starvation and poverty, since what little money the government has
will go towards maintaining and enhancing its military capabilities. As
for the people of southern Korea and the rest of the region, it means a
life where the fear of all-out war underlies every transaction, thanks to
GW and his gang of international outlaws.
What are the alternatives? First and foremost, the United States
should re-open the three-way conversation between the United States and
both Koreas that was begun by the Clinton administration. Washington
should recognize the northern Korean government as a responsible member of
the international community and lift the economic sanctions against them.
Lifting the sanctions would do more towards alleviating the suffering of
the northern Korean people more than any other possible action. The people
of this country, besides seeing much of their economic production being
used to service the military, have also seen their countryside devastated
by drought. It is this drought, more than any other factor, which has
caused the scenes of suffering that the US news bureaus love to show us as
examples of how Stalinist-type bureaucracies fail their populations. Of
course, no government can prevent drought, not even capitalist ones,
although the average US television viewer would never know that from these
news reports. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the United States
needs to let the people of the Korean peninsula decide their own fate-a
fate which most certainly involves the eventual reunification of their
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