Before the war on Iraq, the U.S. government had marked Stalinist North Korea as part of the “Axis of Evil,” and since the war, attention has turned toward North Korea as a possible second front for U.S. military aggression. Although both North and South Korea have been trying to negotiate Korean unification, the current U.S. administration has purposefully provoked and maligned North Korea with the intent of thwarting reunification so the U.S. won’t have to face an East Asian arms race between a nuclearized Korea, China and potentially, Japan. North Korea, in return, wishes to “normalize relations” with the U.S. and thus participate fully in global capitalist exploitation.
This article covers some background information on the recent history and current situation with U.S./North Korea relations.
As U.S. military confrontation in Iraq de-escalates, the war-mongering Bush Administration now has the time and resources to attack other regions. North Korea, along with Iran and prewar Iraq, was named by Bush as part of an “axis of evil” and may be next on the list. Bush has said that he “loathes Kim Jong Il”, the North Korean President. Bush asserts that North Korea does not do enough to fight terrorism and continues to sell ballistic missile technology to countries designated by the U.S. as states sponsoring terrorism. North Korea, reacting to these verbal attacks along with Bush’s doctrine of preemptive strikes, has been threatened with a possible war with the U.S.. North Korea has restarted its nuclear weapons manufacturing projects and is using them as a bargaining tool while trying to negotiate a peace treaty.
On April 23, the U.S., China, and North Korea met in Beijing to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons, U.S. economic sanctions on North Korea, and possible resolutions to the stressed North Korean/U.S. relations. North Korea is requesting normalized economic exchanges and diplomatic relations with Washington as well as a promise they will not be attacked. The U.S. refuses to negotiate until North Korea dismantles its nuclear facilities and allows verification of their weapons manufacturing.
Pyongyang (the North Korean capital) is understandably wary of this demand considering the U.S. hostile policy towards North Korea and believes verification–the hunt for weapons of mass destruction–in Iraq was a pretext to start the war. Indeed, U.N. reports on their findings of weapons manufacturing in Iraq went straight back to Washington where they were used to map targets during the war. The North Korean state news agency said, “The inspection and disarmament forced by the U.S. upon an independent state in violation of its sovereignty and its right to existence without any proper reason and ground are only aimed to justify and legalize aggression and war.”
The U.S. currently has 37,000 troops based along the border between North and South Korea. The Pentagon has drafted and recently modified plans for strikes to take out North Koreas key nuclear production sites which are located in the Yongbyon region. An attack on Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities could spread lethal radiation over China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia. In December, the U.S. began circulating proposals for a policy of “tailed containment” under which U.S. naval ships would block North Korean exports. North Korea asserts it will halt all nuclear programs if Washington recognizes their sovereignty and provides credible assurances of non-aggression. They are not asking for money, however they have offered to entirely scrap its ballistic missiles program in exchange for oil, energy, and economic exchange and normal relations . Bush says, “they’re back to the old blackmail game”.
It serves U.S. interests to have a hostile North Korean regime, to justify military spending and military activities in the region. The U.S. Department of Defense stated in 1993 that the U.S. needed an army capable of fighting two regional conflicts against mid-sized third world countries with large modern armies. The greatest danger cited was simultaneous military actions by Iraq and North Korea. North Korea is a highly militarized country that makes a large portion of its small economy on weapons sales. Bush has been quoted as saying, “Its not what they’ve got, but where it goes.” U.S. Admiral Charles R. Larson, former commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, argued that a strong military presence in Asia was necessary to ensure security and guarantee America a dominant role in trade.
The history of stressed U.S.-Korean relations began after the Second World War when the U.S. arrived on the peninsula to accept the surrender of Japanese troops. The commander of U.S. forces informed his officers that Korea was “an enemy of the United States” and should be treated as such because they opposed U.S. dominance. The U.S. is primarily responsible for the division of Korea, has oppressed popular movements for a unified democratic Korea, encouraged Japanese hegemony, instituted unpopular military leaders friendly to U.S. interests…the U.S. itself introduced the nuclear threat to the peninsula when it threatened to use nuclear weapons during the Korean War. Every time the U.S. and North Korea meet, the talks quickly degenerate into discussions of North Korea’s nuclear program. North Korea had a working nuclear research reactor in 1987, but had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985. By 1993 all nuclear weapons facilities, including a weapons-grade plutonium reprocessing plant, were shut down in North Korea. For years Pyongyang has used the status of its nuclear program to draw the U.S. into negotiations over normalization of relations. North Korea has been consistently seeking to negotiate a peace treaty to end the standoff that began with the Korean War. It is the U.S. which refuses to end the hostile relations.
THE SOUTH KOREAN PERSPECTIVE
The U.S. is standing in the way of reunification movements in Korea. Former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung instituted a “sunshine policy” towards North Korea to encourage cooperation between the countries. Present South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun, a former human rights lawyer, is continuing this policy, which Washington is unhappy about. Anti-U.S. sentiment in South Korea is strong after U.S. support for military dictators and presence in the region. In June 2002, two U.S. soldiers accidentally killed two South Korean schoolgirls when they ran them over with their vehicle. Tens of thousands showed up in Seoul to protest against the acquittal of the soldiers in U.S. military court and demand an end to U.S. military presence on the p