North Korea’s Nukes: The only reason it hasn’t become the Iraq or Afghanistan of East Asia

Editorial, BASICS Community News Service

Over the past year, the provocations of one rogue nation has pushed the world closer to nuclear war.

On August 8, Trump shocked everyone when he threatened North Korea with the “fire and fury” of nuclear strikes which, if carried out, would be unprecedented in both carnage and criminality. Once again, his administration threatened death and destruction following North Korea’s latest missile test on November 29.

But this belligerence is not limited to one particularly hot-headed president. For decades, the United States has undermined and sabotaged any and all meaningful attempts at a diplomatic resolution to what is technically a 70-year-long war with North Korea.

 

Why does America hate the DPRK?  

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), otherwise known as North Korea, presumably menaces the world with its advancing a nuclear weapons program.

But there are 14 other countries that possess or house nuclear weapons. A number of these countries are notorious warmongers: Israel, France, the U.K., and foremost among them, the United States itself. The US currently maintains 4,480 active nuclear warheads — enough to destroy the entire world multiple times over.

So it’s not just DPRK’s possession of nuclear weapons that makes it so threatening. It’s the fact that the DPRK is the one of the only countries in history to defeat the Americans in a full scale war.

The ‘fire and fury’ last time

The US first invaded Korea at the end of World War II at a time when socialism and the independence movements of Third World countries were a clear and present threat to colonial powers.

In 1945, with the help of Japan’s fascist police, the Americans disbanded the local popular government in the south of the Korean peninsula, suppressed peasant revolts, murdered about 100,000 Koreans over the next few years, and set up a puppet government. But Korea’s resistance movement fought on and consolidated itself in the north.

On June 25, 1950, 135,000 members of the Korean People’s Army entered the south in an attempt to re-unify the country. In response, 21 foreign powers invaded the Korean peninsula, including Canada, to save the foreign-backed anti-worker and anti-peasant regime with the endorsement of the newly-minted United Nations.The magnitude of the US-led war against the DPRK surpassed any of the fighting conducted in East Asia throughout the World War II.

In the first two years of the war, the US-led bombing campaign annihilated virtually every major infrastructure in the North. Some 78 cities, 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals and 600,000 homes crumbled. The civilian population was deliberately targeted, claiming the lives of nearly 3 million Koreans, or about 30% of North Korea’s population.

With a third of their population dead and industrial activity coming to a grinding halt, the US then targeted the food supply of the millions of Koreans that remained. They focused their aerial bombardments on irrigation systems in order to flood thousands of acres of farmland. Only major assistance from China, the Soviet Union, and other socialist countries prevented widespread famine.

In spite of the millions dead and a country levelled to the ground, the North Korean people managed to beat back the imperialist invaders. The Armistice Agreement of 1953 ceased hostilities and all parties to the war committed to signing a peace treaty within 90 days. But the Americans allowed the 90-day period to expire and have since then refused to sign any peace treaty. Technically, the Korean War never ended.

Pyongyang, before and after the Korean War in 1953.

‘Diplomacy,’ or war by other means

When painting the DPRK as ‘a rogue state’, the U.S. covers-up its own history of undermining diplomatic attempts to end the war on the Korean peninsula.

After intentionally allowing the deadline of the Armistice to expire, the US introduced more weapons into the peninsula and dismantled a United Nations third party inspection team for daring to report on these violations. By 1968, there were 950 nukes in South Korea.

That same year, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was launched as an international initiative to bring to a halt the spread of nuclear weapons. The NPT called on the five nuclear countries at the time to disarm, and on other non-nuclear signatories to agree not to develop nuclear weapons. Both North Korea and the US signed this treaty, but the United States never disarmed. Instead it enforced a  “vicious, hostile policy” against the DPRK, forcing it to withdraw from the treaty in 2003.

North Korea, meanwhile, has historically committed in good faith to treaties it has signed for de-escalation purposes. In the early 1990s, the DPRK agreed to “freeze and eventually dismantle its old, graphite-moderated nuclear reactors” in exchange for “normalization of diplomatic relations, removal of sanctions, fuel oil, and a light breeder reactor, whose byproducts would be more difficult to build a nuclear weapon with.” North Korea complied with the requirements of the 1994 Agreed Framework for four years, only to have the treaty fail within two weeks of arriving in Washington, where lawmakers refused to agree to any conditions imposed on the United States.

From 2003 to 2009, China pulled the two states to a negotiating table in what is known as the ‘Six-Party Talks’ along with Russia, Japan, and South Korea.  But these talks never achieved substantial denuclearization of the DPRK, especially as the US undermined these attempts by hitting the DPRK with financial sanctions in August 2005.

 

History shows us that it might be suicidal for the DPRK to not have nukes

Although North Korea is depicted as a major threat to global stability, according to international law, there is nothing illegal about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In fact, it’s a necessary protective measure against a bloodthirsty superpower.

In the last 15 years, the US has shown the world what happens to countries that cannot defend themselves. Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan all got reduced to rubble. Hundreds of thousands died and millions were displaced. So when the leader of the world’s strongest military force, one with a long track record of obliterating its rivals, publicly states that they will commit nuclear holocaust against your nation, you’re left with few options. The DPRK’s nuclear weapons program is a perfectly reasonable form of defense. In fact, it would be suicidal to not arm themselves. The Koreans know this from first hand experience.

 

Nuclear hypocrisy

While the US paints the DPRK as a nuclear proliferator, it continues to expand its worldwide nuclear arsenal and has developed the most devastating nuclear bomb ever produced.

The United States has the largest military budget in the world, greater than the next eight countries combined. Its nuclear arsenal is spread across the entire globe, including within South Korea and within international waters just off the coast of the DPRK.

Since the introduction of the United State’s new THAAD anti-ballistic missile system inside South Korea,  American bases now outnumber North Korea’s military bases on the Korean peninsula. The US can also take over South Korea’s 13 bases, which would increase its number of bases to 22 bases in comparison to North Korea’s eight. North Korea is standing up to the US’s estimated 4,800 to 6,800 nuclear weapons with an estimated 30 to 60 of its own.

What really threatens the U.S.?

What is threatening about North Korea is that it has successfully defied the US for decades. Here is a country that rose from the rubble of a holocaust, rebuilt itself, and has managed to feed, house, and provide what appears to be a relatively dignified life for its people without ever surrendering to the US’s threats. And to add insult to injury, it now has the technological capacity to hit back if attacked.

The US’s regional power is also at stake. American control over the Koreas may be a central feature of the dying superpower’s desperate attempts to counter China’s growing economic and political power on a global scale. Up until very recently, China strongly protested the installation of the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea, which gives the Americans the capability to spy deep into Chinese territory.

But whichever reason is principal in driving America’s extremely military maneuvers in the region, one thing is certain: an armed and battle-ready DPRK is the only thing holding back the US from obliterating the country, like it has done to so many others.

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