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Issue #1785      July 12, 2017

Editorial

War at our door

The sound and fury sabre-rattling over the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea last week reached a crescendo that involved a flaccid attempted bullying of China, accompanied by a flexing of military might in the region. Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce committed Australia to the backing of US-imposed sanctions against China, apparently for China’s continued economic and trade engagement with North Korea.

The Talisman Sabre war preparation games involve air, land and sea personnel from Australia and the US during the month of July at sites across the Northern Territory and Queensland. (Northern Australia is host to a growing foreign military base in violation of Australia’s sovereignty.) As US Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris put it, with an eye to China: “The US-Australia (war fighting) alliance matters more today than ever before.”

The object of the military exercises is to “improve training and interoperability between the Australian and US Armed Forces at the operational and tactical level”, that is, to increase the combined capacity of the two nations to project military power beyond their shores. With this objective, and in the context of the US/Australian military alliance and the aggressive defence policies of both nations, Talisman Sabre affords no benefit to Australia’s national security: The exercises are a display of military power meant to provoke and intimidate other nations.

Such displays increase the likelihood of war and undermine urgently needed international cooperation to curtail escalating war and threats of widening conflict.

Last March Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed a deal to end the long-running standoff between the US and North Korea. Mr Wang proposed a compromise whereby Pyongyang would end its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes in return for an end to huge annual US-South Korean military exercises.

The minister told reporters frictions between North Korea, Washington and Seoul were like “two accelerating trains” heading for each other, with neither side willing to give way. “The question is: are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?” he said.

“Our priority now is to flash the red light and apply the brakes on both trains.”

His comments came two days after a ballistic missile test by North Korea, timed to coincide with military exercises between South Korea and the US.

The following day the first components of the US Thaad anti-ballistic missile system arrived in South Korea, which China and Russia rightly see as directed at undermining their own nuclear deterrents.

Background

At the conclusion of the war in the Pacific in 1945 and the withdrawal of Japanese forces from China, the Korean Peninsular and Manchuria, the Peninsular was divided into North and South at the 38th parallel. Soviet troops occupied North Korea and US forces occupied the South. The Soviet forces were soon withdrawn from the North, but the US forces did not withdraw from the South.

In 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was formed in the northern zone just three years after the defeat of Japan. One year later, in 1949, the Chinese revolution was also victorious and the People’s Republic of China was founded. These revolutionary developments were never accepted by the US and other imperialist powers.

In 1950, the United States, with the participation of the South Korean puppet Syngman Rhee, launched the Korean War. The US aim was to destroy the people’s government of the North and to roll on to attack and overthrow the Chinese revolution as well.

General Douglas (“I will return”) MacArthur, the commander of the US forces at the time, called for the nuclear bombing of China but was over-ruled by US President Truman. The US and the South Korean armies were finally defeated by the heroic struggle of the Korean people with the assistance of Chinese forces. An Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953 which, however, left Korea still divided at the 38th parallel into North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and South Korea (Republic of Korea).

US forces have remained in South Korea ever since. Today, more than 30,000 US forces patrol the demarcation zone at the 38th parallel and occupy bases within South Korea, all threatening North Korea.

Successive US governments have not given up their objective of overthrowing the government of North Korea. In the same way that the US whipped up its phony campaign about “weapons of mass destruction” and “regime change” against Iraq, there is an equally phoney campaign underway against the DPRK on the question of an alleged “nuclear threat”. US leaders are also demanding “regime change”, meaning that the socialist-oriented system should be destroyed and US economic, military and political domination imposed.

Reunification

The government of the DPRK has made repeated proposals for reunification on the basis of “one nation, two systems”, meaning that a united nation should retain the socialist system in the north and the capitalist system in the south.

Support for reunification has been steadily gaining ground among the people of South Korea and this was reflected in the conclusion of a North-South Accord in 2000. A number of steps have been taken towards the implementation of this Accord, including the exchange of separated family members between the two states, the commencement of trade and a rail project linking the North and South.

The further the North-South reunification process progressed and the stronger the demand among South Koreans for the withdrawal of US troops became, the more threats have come from US administrations.

Successive US governments have fiercely opposed reunification. A reunited and independent Korea would destroy any argument that the US has for its continued military occupation of the South. It is on this background that the “nuclear crisis” has been whipped up and every effort made to create fear among Korea’s neighbours.

The DPRK is accused of withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and breaching an agreement made with the US in 1994 not to proceed with the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

However, no mention is made of the fact that the 1994 agreement provided that the US would supply light-water nuclear reactors to replace the DPRK’s graphite gas nuclear reactors and would furnish the DPRK with oil fuel while the light-water reactors were built.

These reactors, promised by the US, were not built, which led to the restarting of the existing nuclear power generators to provide electric power to North Korean industries. Now, the US leaders are talking about a “pre-emptive strike”, the imposition of sanctions and “regime change” and have wheeled the issue into the UN Security Council in an effort to force other countries to put pressure on the DPRK to comply with US demands.

In former negotiations which involved the DPRK, China and the US, the DPRK once again made proposals to the effect that the DPRK would not continue with any nuclear weapons program provided the US officially accepted the sovereign right of the DPRK to maintain its social system and that the US enter into a non-aggression treaty with the DPRK.

These simple proposals would remove the threat of war from the Korean Peninsular but, so far, the US is continuing to voice its threats of pre-emptive strike and regime change.

In 1994 an agreement was reached with the Clinton administration by which the US and Japan were to supply heavy oil for use in power generation in exchange for an agreement that the DPRK would suspend development of its nuclear power generation industry. The US and Japan were to build light water reactors to replace the type of power generators that were built in the DPRK.

The people of the DPRK are defending the sovereignty and independence of their country and their right to establish their own social and economic system. The current Talisman Sabre war preparation games should be seen in this context: Training grounds for United States invasions such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria, where scenarios for future aggression are worked out and practised.

Next article – Child care workers gain

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