North Korean Triumph – US humiliation

The imperialist press is forever complaining that the DPRK and, of course, its most representative spokesman at this time, Comrade Kim Jong Il, is “unpredictable”. This word is chosen not as a term of praise, but in order to suggest irrationality and even insanity. Events of recent weeks, however, show that this “unpredictability” is nothing more or less than the DPRK´s determination to defend the interests of the Korean people – a determination that overcomes all imperialist aggression, be it military or economic, and all the cunning manoeuvres that the most twisted imperialist advisers can devise.

The context of current developments vis-à-vis Korea is the policy of US imperialism to extirpate the socialist system in North Korea. True, this has been its policy ever since the DPRK was founded, but it is one which was put on the back burner after the defeat in 1953 of the various imperialists powers in their war against North Korea. It was revived with a vengeance, however, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Not only did that collapse rob the DPRK of a powerful and reasonably reliable ally but it also caused it major economic difficulties to the extent that its economy was heavily intertwined with that of the Soviet Union. Shortly afterwards, in 1994, the DPRK´s astute and far-sighted leader, Comrade Kim Il Sung, died, leading US imperialism to hope that this would deprive the Korean people of effective leadership. Martin Woollacott explains the world situation at that moment in the Guardian of 20 December 2002 (‘At last Korea is united over one thing – anger at the US’).

“Korean troubles in their most recent form go back to the reunification of Germany, following which the North Korean elite [Martin Woollacott´s choice of language establishes that he is subjectively no friend of the Korean people] began to suffer the experience of hearing other people [i.e., the imperialist elite] talk about them as if they were dead. As the country lost its Chinese and Russian subsidies [i.e., fair trading opportunities], the coming collapse of North Korea and the reunification of the peninsula on the south’s terms were subjects on everybody´s lips. Critics of the ‘agreed framework’ of 1994 between the US and North Korea were told that, long before the US had to deliver, North Korea would have disappeared.” ‘Unpredictably’, however, and ‘irrationally’, North Korea has failed to disappear.

The Agreed Framework Agreement

The 1994 Agreed Framework was intended by US imperialism as a step towards the dismantling of North Korea. On the pretext of preventing nuclear proliferation, it was aimed at depriving the DPRK of its self-sufficiency in the production of energy for peaceful purposes and to weaken it militarily and economically. Many friends of the DPRK, understanding the purpose of the Agreement, were at the time alarmed and confused when the DPRK signed it, fearful that this was indicative of a willingness to surrender to bullying now that Comrade Kim Il Sung was no longer alive to prevent it – for at the time US imperialism was threatening to bomb North Korea if it refused to dismantle its nuclear facilities. As is now more than clear, however, the DPRK needed no lessons even from the best of its well-wishers on the treacherous nature of US imperialism. It signed because at that time, for a variety of economic, political and military reasons, it was not in such a strong position as now to confront US imperialism in a major war, which would have brought great suffering to the Korean people and much destruction.. Besides, the DPRK secured the agreement of the US that it would replace the DPRK’s reactors with light water reactors incapable of producing weapons grade plutonium, which were to be built by 2002, and that in the meantime that it would supply oil to the DPRK to make good its energy losses. It was of course entirely predictable that US imperialism would be less than diligent in honouring its side of the agreement – as indeed it was. Martin Woollacott (op. cit.) admits:

“Often forgotten in accounts of North Koran duplicity is that the American have not kept most of these promises”.

From the point of view of the DPRK, however, the considerable damage to its economy done by these broken promises is still a great deal less than the destruction from a major war that was averted by the signing of the Agreement.

Army first policy

In the meantime the DPRK has not been sitting on its hands. In spite of the fact that the hardship caused by the loss of its independent energy production facilities were then compounded by four years of appalling natural disasters (floods and droughts) which afflicted the country in successive years on a devastating scale, the DPRK held firmly to a policy of strengthening itself militarily so that never again could it be held to ransom by US imperialist threats of military aggression in the way it had been in 1994.

‘Irrationally’ and ‘unpredictably’ the Korean people were prepared to tighten their belts, even for a time to the point of slight malnutrition, in order to safeguard their independence and national sovereignty. As is only possible in what the imperialists like to call an ‘ultra-Stalinist state’, the masses of the people, secure in the knowledge that their government serves only their interests and is not a tool of any alien power or class, continued to support their government even when they had to go hungry. They knew that the Army First policy, which gave priority to expenditure on armaments and military preparedness, was the only way of defending themselves against US military aggression.

Under this policy, rockets were built capable of reaching Japan and, if imperialist sources are to be believed, the DPRK made sure it maintained nuclear capability and has built one or two nuclear weapons. If these do indeed exist, and we certainly support the right of the DPRK and every other country to have nuclear weapons for defensive purposes until such time as there is genuine universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament, they have to be considered in the light of the 1,000 nuclear warheads that US imperialism maintains in South Korea alone. For defensive purposes, however, 1 or 2 nuclear warheads are almost as effective as 1,000, for they make an attack by an enemy too costly to contemplate.

Whether it has nuclear weapons or not, the Army First policy appears to have successfully made an attack by US imperialism on North Korea too costly to contemplate. Fergal Keane explains this very well in an article entitled ‘Why does Washington concentrate its fire on Iraq rather than North Korea?’ in The Independent of 14 December 2002:

“North Korea might be part of George Bush’s ‘axis of evil’, it might well have all the attributes of the Iraqi state but it isn’t going to be an American target any time soon. It’s a great deal more dangerous than Iraq”. Later on in his article he continues:

“The US has 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea within striking distance of even the smallest North Korean artillery. There is a very strong suspicion that the North Koreans possess the missile technology to threaten American territory, not to mention Japan, the key US ally in the region. The consequences of a war on the Korean peninsula represent, in Lord Denning’s immortal phrase ‘a vista too appalling to contemplate’.

“… Also factor in the likelihood of North Korean missiles landing in Seoul and Tokyo and the swift escalation to nuclear war. At that point, you start talking in terms of hundreds of thousands of casualties.”

“The fact is you can’t decapitate North Korea. It would be the kind of conflict that holds hundreds of thousands of Koreans hostage in the South”, says Mr.Kurt Campbell, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence in the Clinton administration, for a military confrontation with the DPRK “… would involve the kind of conventional destruction we haven’t seem since Stalingrad” (Quoted in FT, 11 November 2002).

Besides her strength in conventional warfare, the DPRK has doubtless the capacity to produce more than just a couple of nuclear bombs, of which it is already reliably said to be in possession. In the words of Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, “You don’t look at this regime that has 60 tons of plutonium sitting around that they reprocessed – and they have produced a couple of bombs from that plutonium, [and] assume they’re bluffing. We know they’re not bluffing because we’ve seen what they’re doing” (Quoted in ibid).

It has to be admitted that it is quite an achievement, one that is explicably totally ‘unpredictable’ from an imperialist point of view, not to say ‘irrational’, for a tiny country such as the DPRK, no bigger than Wales and at a time when it has been suffering from not inconsiderable economic difficulties, to have been able in the course of the 8 years since 1994 to have been able to make itself strong enough to hold at bay such a raging monster as US imperialism and convince it of the desirability of seeking a ‘diplomatic solution’, with Colin Powell having to announce that military intervention was not the way forward as far as Korea was concerned.

Intensification of US economic offensive

Of course, US imperialism’s idea of a ‘diplomatic’ solution by no means rules out aggression. It simply means switching from primary reliance on military aggression to primary reliance on economic aggression. Its determination to stamp out communism in North Korea is stronger, wilder and more desperate than ever. But such is the ‘unpredictability’ and ‘irrationality’ of North Korean diplomacy that the harder US imperialism stamps, the more it injures itself.

George Bush, having been thwarted in his conviction that North Korea could be wiped out by military force, turned instead to the idea of wiping it out economically by the US reneging on all its Framework Agreement commitments. Deprived of 10% of its fuel needs, he reasoned, the DPRK could not but expire. The result was just the opposite of that intended by the chief executive of US imperialism. If the US was going to renege on the Framework Agreement, the DPRK for its part was equally free, to regard its obligations under it as null and void. When he effectively tore it up on the pretext of some alleged admission by some unnamed North Korean official that the DPRK had been in breach of some of its terms by continuing nuclear research, he was in fact freeing the DPRK to do likewise and to once again resume the independent production of all their energy needs, and removing the US stranglehold over the country’s development. With elegant finesse, the DPRK greeted his announcement of the suspension of oil deliveries under the Agreement with notice that if that is what he was going to do, it would have no option but to reopen the nuclear reactors that had been closed since 1994. At this point Bush could hardly back down. And so in short term the UN Atomic Energy Agency seals were removed from the reactors (the AEA having been invited to do so themselves but having of course failed to act), and shortly thereafter the AEA inspectors were invited to leave the country with immediate effect, which they did. One assumes it will be a few weeks or months before the reactors are back in full production, but the DPRK has been put into a much better position both economically and militarily as a result of George Bush’s mindless economic aggression.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

Another prong of US imperialism’s economic aggression has been its attempt to undermine the DPRK’s arms trade. Now that the DPRK is going to be able to restore its self sufficiency in energy supplies, this will not be as damaging as it might otherwise have been, always assuming that the US policy is successful, which is very far from certain. The opening shot in this attack on the DPRK’s arms trade was the stage-managing in early December of the capture of a North Korean vessel delivering Scud missiles to Yemen. The fact that this whole incident was nothing but theatrics designed to impress the Simple Simons of this world with the idea that North Korea was a danger to the peaceful and the innocent was well understood by, for instance, the Guardian of 12 December (‘High seizures: Silly stunts are not a serious policy’:

“The sensational saga of the So San [the intercepted Korean ship], like that of the Mary Celeste, is a mysterious sea story awash with murky possibilities. At first, the seizure of the North Korean vessel by a Spanish navy patrol and the discovery of a hidden cargo of Scud missiles, warheads and chemicals appeared straightforward, if highly dramatic. Here was incontrovertible proof, it seemed, of Pyongyang´s involvement in illegal proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Here, bobbing on the high seas in plain view, was evidence of the threat that North Korea poses to global security. And here perhaps, given the ship was intercepted in the Arabian sea, heading for the Horn or the Gulf, was a possible, sinister connection with al-Qaida or even with Iran or Saddam Hussein. What a coup! What a find! What a stunning success for the US-led campaign against the dark forces of the ‘axis of evil’.

“Or, alternatively: what a stunt! On an ebb tide of waning conviction, the questions about this maritime epic have begun to flow quick and treacherous.

“First it was pointed out that North Korea is perfectly within its rights to ship and sell arms, deplorable though this may seem in principle. Other do it, too. Only Iraq, uniquely, is constrained. Then it was noted that boarding a vessel in international waters is generally deemed to be piracy. Spanish officials said the So San was unflagged so it rather than the Spanish navy should be placed in the skull’n’crossbones category [but of course we only have the Spanish navy´s word for that, and it really does seem unlikely that the DPRK would fail to fly its flag on a ship carrying what has all along been a perfectly legitimate cargo]. Spain’s not-so-jolly rogers, and their US counterparts who later took charge of the So San, ran hard aground when Yemen’s government declared it owned the Scuds and wanted them back. They were to be used for defensive purposes only, it said, were not intended for resale, and, anyway, the US had been notified in advance of the shipment. In Washington, celebration of a watershed intelligence feat turned into fear of diplomatic shipwreck. Officials admitted the So San and its cargo would have to be returned. The missile snatch of the century had, it seemed, misfired.

“But this rough sketch of events over the past 24 hours hardly scratches the surface of what may really have happened. Did the US deliberately stage this incident to illustrate its new, self-given right of pre-emptive action against perceived WMD threats [i.e., challenges to US imperialism’s ambitions to have the world monopoly on modern weaponry]? Coincidentally, perhaps, that doctrine was being reiterated in Washington at the very moment of the So San’s seizure. Did the US, while knowing that its Spanish proxies might be acting illegally, order the intercept to dramatise North Korea’s missile activity and thereby emphasise the need for a tough line with Pyongyang and for new western missile defences? Pentagon boss Doñald Rumsfeld certainly lost no time yesterday in pressing home this message.

“Was the US trying to help the conservative, pro-Bush candidate in South Korea’s imminent close-run presidential election, Lee Hoi-chang; and to deflate fierce anti-American, pro-Pyongyang agitation in Seoul? Its propriety apart, Mr Lee’s opponents said they viewed the timing and publicity given the interception (including unusually fine colour photographs) as highly suspicious …”

Despite the fact that the DPRK was doing nothing illegal, and nothing that US imperialism does not do to an infinitely greater degree, the incident is being used by US imperialism to try to damage the DPRK’s arms trade and frighten off its customers. Yemen, for instance, has already promised never to buy from the DPRK again!

Of course, the DPRK’s arms trade is important not only from the point of view of the DPRK’s economy but also from the point of view of undermining US ambitions to disarm all those whose interests contradict those of the US in order to impose US demands upon them. It is, of course, not only North Korea, but also China and Russia who are in a position to prevent the US from gaining its desired monopoly. The US is therefore frantically attempting to set China and Russia against North Korea, with the hope that having eliminated the latter from the contest, it will then be able to deal with China and Russia. It goes without saying that it is in the interests of neither Russia nor China to allow themselves to be led by the nose by US imperialism, and neither country is short of people able to appreciate that point. The chances are, therefore, that after having made a fool of itself over the So San incident US imperialism will still not be able seriously to damage the North Korean arms trade, and will have to tolerate the fact that following the reactivation of its nuclear reactors, the DPRK may produce even more effective weapons for defence against US aggression.

Elections in South Korea

Ever since Korea was divided into two as a result of US invasion of South Korea in 1945 following the defeat of the Japanese in the Second World War, it has been the heartfelt desire of nearly all Koreans that their country should be reunited. The division of the country has been maintained purely in the interests of US imperialism which needed an excuse to keep in South Korea its huge army of 37,000 men, as well as a huge stock of military hardware, the purpose of which is to maintain US control over the whole region, keeping in check the ambitions not only of the Koreans but also those of Russia, China and Japan. Only if the whole of Korea could be guaranteed to be a virtual colony of the US could the US contemplate its reunification.

‘Unpredictably’ and ‘irrationally’, however, the diplomacy of the DPRK which has at all times striven for the reunification of Korea, its willingness to accept that capitalism can continue in the south within a Confederal Republic of Koryo so long as that is what the people want, its proven trustworthiness contrasting ever more forcefully with US imperialist duplicity, has slowly but surely gained mass support in South Korea – thereby threatening the right of the US to maintain its military garrison in the region.

The extent of the DPRK’s success is shown by the results of the election in South Korea in December 2002. The US backed Lee Hoi Chang, a person happy to serve US imperialism rather than his constituency and to perpetuate forever the division of his country. Hence his policy vis-à-vis the North was to favour “the use of the stick, not the carrot. Aid to the north, which was given 500,000 tons of South Korean food last year, should be cut unless it abandons its efforts to produce weapons of mass destruction, he says” (Phil Reeves, ‘”Sunshine policy” at risk in Korean presidential poll’, The Independent, 19 December 2002). Despite the best propaganda efforts of US imperialism, including its piracy in the high seas, Roh Moo Hyun, the candidate the people of South Korea identify with a continuation of the process of reunification and with achieving the removal of US troops from South Korea, was victorious. The message arising from Roh’s victory at the polls was that the people of South Korea, particularly the younger generation, are no longer willing to be stooges of US imperialism. Martin Woollacott (op. cit.) explains:

“Koreans have a well-grounded view that the best interests of their county have weighed little in international decision-making. They see the US and others colluding in the annexation of their country and the war that followed as the result of a combination of initial American inattention and later obsession with the communist threat. Now, once again, many feel Korean interests are at risk because of deals done and dogmas shaped in a distant capital. That is the message from both sides of the 38th parallel.”

Most reliable observers report that while the imperialist press and political spokesmen were busy working themselves into a lather over the DPRK’s reactivation of several mothballed plutonium plants, it was business as usual in South Korea, with hardly any sign of panic. Most South Koreans don’t feel threatened by North Korea, and regard the latter as part of the one and same nation – not an enemy. They regard the nuclear question as a dispute between Pyongyang and Washington instead of an inter-Korean affair. The South Koreans quite correctly view the DPRK’s nuclear weapons as defensive weapons which the North will never use unless attacked by the US. A huge number of South Koreans regard the US military presence in their part of Korea and its hardline policy towards North Korea as the biggest threat to the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. In fact, vast number in the South have nothing but admiration for their compatriots in the North who have dared to stand up to the threats, intimidation and brigandage of US imperialism.

Anti-Americanism is a potent force in the South. Most South Koreans would dearly love to be rid of the 37,000-strong US army of occupation; they would love to see it depart and take with it its conventional and nuclear armoury, which continues to present the only real threat to Korean security. Recently, half a million people gathered in cities across South Korea to protest against the killings of two schoolgirls by a US military vehicle – their main demand being the withdrawal of 37,000 US troops stationed in their part of the country.

Incidental ramifications

There have emerged some extremely important ramifications from the nuclear dispute between the DPRK and the US.

First, it has not only revealed the utter futility of imperialist efforts to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons while they arm themselves ever more aggressively with these deadly armaments.

Secondly, it has exposed the hollowness and hypocrisy inherent in imperialist assertions that they are planning a war against Iraq solely because her non-existent WMD pose a threat to regional and world security. Even dimwits who fell for that assertion are beginning to ask: If engagement towards the DPRK on the nuclear issue is a correct approach, might not it be equally valid in Washington’s dealings with Baghdad? The difference lies, of course, in the fact that the DPRK is not such a soft target as Iraq is perceived to be.

“‘The American reaction shows you the difference between dealing with a country that already may have nuclear weapons and one that doesn’t’, said Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms and a leading expert on nuclear proliferation issues.

“The North Koreans were believed as early as 1993 to have one or two nuclear bombs from their plutonium program, and the latest revelations about their parallel program in developing highly enriched uranium means that they could have more.

“This means, Milhollin said, that North Korea could have the capacity to attack Tokyo, Seoul or even the United States right now, which necessitates a cautious approach in dealing with the secretive government in Pyongyang. Indeed, North Korea’s artillery, rockets and other conventional weapons – which experts say could easily destroy large parts of Seoul – have for decades served as a deterrent against any possibility of an attack initiated by the United States” (International Herald Tribune, 19-20 October 2002).

Thirdly, it has served to cause a real rift between the US, on the one hand, and South Korea and Japan, on the other hand. The US’ stance until the other day was that, while it had “no intention of attacking North Korea, there would be no bilateral discussions until the North Koreans stopped their uranium programme and vowed not to restart its reactor at Yongbyon”, South Korea and Japan, for their part have taken a far more conciliatory line. While the South Korean authorities have continued to pursue their “sunshine” policy in defiance of US efforts to isolate the North, the Japanese prime minister insists to the irritation of the US, that “to achieve our goals, negotiations are needed”. In fact, Mr.Koizumi, who visited Pyongyang in mid-September, where he met Kim Jong Il, is proposing to normalise relations with the DPRK and increasing aid to the latter in lieu of war reparations, thus undermining US attempts to put severe economic pressure on the North. South Korea has pressed ahead with a series of inter-Korean meetings. Both Japan and South Korea have continued their commitment to the Korean Peninsula Development Organisation (Kedo – which included representatives of South Korea, Japan, US and the EU), under which North Korea receives technical assistance for the two nuclear reactors which were supposed to have been built under the 1994 Framework Agreement. In the face of this solid opposition from Japan and South Korea, the US appears to have buckled, for, just as these lines are being written, the news has come in that the US is after all ready to conduct bilateral talks with the DPRK.

Fourthly, in the light of the recent developments on the Korean peninsula, the truly nutty conservatives, in the Bush administration and the US Congress alike, who loathed the 1994 Framework Agreement and helped to tear it apart, in the belief that it helped Pyongyang, can now clearly be seen kicking their heels at the horrific (for them) consequences of their own actions.

Lastly, though not least, the US bellicosity has brought to the surface the ever-present simmering hostility of the South Korean people toward the US forces of occupation, who constitute a long standing insult to Korean national dignity and who supported successive puppet military regimes which ruled South Korea until 1987. South Koreans rightly believe that the US military presence in South Korea merely serves to heighten tensions between North and South Korea; that left alone, the two parts would reach peaceful reconciliation in a very short period. With the election on 9 December 2002 of Roh Moo-Hyun, the decline in the US-South Korean military alliance has decidedly turned terminal – may it soon be put to rest and a cross put on it.


With all the advances that tiny DPRK has been able to make, militarily and diplomatically, in the teeth of US aggression, it is no wonder that George Bush has written in a personal note to Bob Woodward ‘I loathe Kim Jong Il’ (quoted by Martin Woollacott, op. cit.). The DPRK, and its leader Kim Jong Il, have ably outwitted US imperialism at every turn, and have, moreover, set an example to the rest of the oppressed world to prove that US imperialism is indeed only a paper tiger from the moment that the people dare to confront it and do so in an intelligent manner. The latest developments in the relations between the DPRK and US imperialism mark a great triumph for the former and a great humiliation for the latter.

We wish to Korean people even greater victories in the new year 2003 and a speedy advance to the creation of the Confederal Republic of Koryo.

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