On 12 December 2012 the DPRK successfully, and entirely on the basis of technology developed and built by its people themselves, launched a satellite into orbit – thus bringing the country right up to date with the facilities enjoyed in most other countries. It is well-established that the images relayed by satellites can be vital for improving agriculture, averting the effects of threatening natural disasters, spreading information throughout the population, including education and medical services, plus the internet, to say nothing of the advantages of satellite navigation.
In Europe, America, Japan, China, etc., life without satellite technology could not now be contemplated. The DPRK’s satellite enables all these advantages to be brought to the DPRK, and yet all the anti-communists of the imperialist world howled that the DPRK had no right to launch a satellite, that it was a ‘provocation’ and a breach of UN resolutions, and so on. Their ‘justification’ for their hysterical outbursts was the rocket used to launch the satellite, which, they said, could equally be used to launch a long-range ballistic missile capable of striking such a defenceless and peace-loving country as the US. Therefore, according to imperialist logic, the DPRK could never launch its own satellite, however peaceful its purpose, without this amounting to an aggressive manoeuvre aimed mainly at the US, but also south Korea and Japan just for good measure.
It cannot be denied, of course, that both the rocket and the satellite could be used for military purposes. Given that the DPRK has more than once been threatened with a nuclear strike from the US, designated a country that is part of the so-called ‘Axis of Evil’ against which the US claims the right to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike at any time of its own choosing, is threatened by a massive arsenal of nuclear warheads stationed by US imperialism in south Korea, and has been entirely unjustly subjected to a regime of economic sanctions designed to cause it severe harm, it does seem improbable that the possibility of using rockets and satellites for deterrence purposes has never crossed the minds of those who are developing these technologies in the DPRK. It is our view that the DPRK’s ability to strike back against any aggression launched against it is the only possible guarantee of peace on the Korean peninsula. Indeed, “ Muammer Gaddafi’s downfall in 2011 brought sardonic commentary in Pyongyang’s official media, linking his violent fate with the earlier decision to abandon Libya’s WMD programme ”, said Geoffrey Dyer in the Financial Times of 12 February (‘Pyongyang raises stakes with third test’). As well it might! But what right does anybody have to deny a country which is subjected to unending military threats from the US, accompanied by the vilest derogatory propaganda issuing from every news medium and every ‘academic’ institution, even the right to defend itself, let alone the right to improve its agriculture, disaster management, communications and navigation systems for the benefit of the ordinary people?
Although US imperialism is up to its neck in aggressive wars for domination – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and increasingly in north Africa, its propaganda machine still manages to project it as a democratic peace-loving country, and it is able to exert enormous pressure on the members of the UN Security Council – even to some extent China and Russia who are themselves likely future targets of US aggression – to pass resolutions against the DPRK that are an affront to its sovereign rights and completely contrary to the spirit of the UN Charter. And indeed on 22 January 2013, the UNSC did, under the influence of US imperialism, pass such a ridiculous and venomous resolution. As we wrote in the last issue of Lalkar, “ UNSC Resolution 2087 was unanimously adopted on 22 January, more than a month after the DPRK succeeded in launching a satellite into orbit. The council claimed that the launch violated a ban on the DPRK using ballistic missile technology that it has sought to impose on the country after it conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Immediately following the launch, the US and south Korea were joined by Japan, Britain and other imperialist powers in vociferously demanding the imposition of harsh new sanctions ”. Although the sanctions as such were not supported by Russia and China, this resolution was nonetheless a monumental insult, an attempt to violate the DPRK’s sovereignty and well outside the remit of the United Nations. And some particularly insulting new sanctions did ensue:
“The Security Council’s condemnation of North Korea’s December satellite launch also froze any foreign assets of the country’s space-program leaders and barred two of its leaders and two banking officials from international travel. Such steps will likely anger North Korea, which is still celebrating its first successful satellite launch … ‘These people who were named, they’re like their great national heroes’ …” (Austin Ramzy, ‘After Successful Missile Launch, North Korea Threatens New Nuclear Test’, Time Magazine, 24 January 2013).
The DPRK could not afford to take this aggressive resolution lying down, as to do so would only encourage the imperialists in their aggression. Quite rightly the DPRK defence commission responded by boldly saying, according to KCNA: “We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets, which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.”
The DPRK foreign ministry declared that the DPRK would continue with its satellite and space programme, adding that the country had drawn “ a final conclusion that denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is impossible unless the denuclearisation of the world is realised, as it has become clear now that the US policy hostile to the DPRK remains unchanged …
“ There can be talks for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the region in the future, but no talks for the denuclearisation of the peninsula. ”
True to its word, on 12 February the DPRK did conduct a third nuclear test – and what a test that was! Not only was the power of the explosion estimated to have been between 6kT and 7kT (much larger than previous tests in 2006 and 2009 which yielded a mere 1kT and 4.6kT respectively) but in addition:
“ This week’s test suggests that Pyongyang’s scientists are getting better at making smaller and more powerful weapons. North Korea’s state media hinted it may have used highly enriched uranium as the bomb’s fissile material, which would be an alternative to the plutonium it deployed in previous tests. In December, Pyongyang finally managed to put a satellite into orbit, beating Seoul to the punch. All the evidence suggests that Pyongyang is edging closer to its goal of producing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as the US .” (David Pilling, ‘Grand deal with N Korea beats hollow talk’, Financial Times, 14 February 2013).
In conducting its aggressive policies against the DPRK, in working in a cruel and bare-faced manner to bring about regime-change and to substitute capitalism and economic dependence for socialism and national sovereignty, the US is beginning to reap as it has sown, and there is not a whole lot that for all its wealth, power and viciousness it can actually do to vent its frustrated rage on this tiny David that has consistently dared to stand up to it.
It could try to impose further sanctions still in order to try to starve the Korean people to their knees:
“ If the west so chose, there are probably ways in which it could turn the screws still tighter. One would be to revive the financial sanctions so effectively imposed by the US Treasury in 2007, although Pyongyang may be less vulnerable to such tactics than it was then. Another would be to mount some sort of naval blockade to intercept ships travelling to and from North Korea. Washington has shied away from both, partly because such measures would not really bite unless China also took part .” (David Pilling, op.cit.)
In other words, further sanctions would certainly be ineffective without Chinese cooperation, to a far greater extent than it giving support for some UNSC resolution or the other, however much of a propaganda coup such support might be. And, as David Pilling points out that for that support to be forthcoming “ is most unlikely. China supplies North Korea with oil. Last year it had roughly $6bn of bilateral trade with the country, accounting for some two-thirds of North Korea’s trade, no mean sum for an economy with a total output of just $40bn. If anything, China has increased its economic engagement with Pyongyang in recent years, granting visas for thousands of North Koreans to work in China (and remit wages) and investing heavily in infrastructure that will allow it access to an estimated $6tn of North Korean mineral reserves… [and above all]
“… when push comes to shove, China will not jeopardise the existence of a regime that stands between it and a reunified Korean peninsula hosting US troops .”
Reluctantly no doubt David Pilling has to conclude that “ The world’s policy towards North Korea is now very much like Robin Williams’ joke about how Britain’s unarmed policemen try to apprehend criminals: ‘Stop! Or I’ll shout stop again.’”
It is our view that the obdurate heroism shown by the Korean people in the outrageously asymmetric Korean War, their capacity to keep going year after year in the face of untold hardship and deprivation, their unbounded pride in their independence and the incredible technological achievements that they have been able to make despite all the sanctions and other forms of bullying that the imperialist powers have been hurling at them, indicate that whatever happens the DPRK would soldier on and still come out on top.
However, we should not sit idly by while the imperialist powers attempt to bully and humiliate the Korean people. Just because they are noble and brave, this is no reason for us to tolerate what our ruling classes are trying to do to them.
The imperialist powers are in Korea, as in all the places where they are participating in wars, and/or financing wars for domination, committing human rights abuses and crimes against humanity on a scale never before seen. If we are tolerant of such egregious abuses, ultimately we are a party to them.
Cost us what it may, it is our proletarian duty to stand up against these abuses. The Korean people have never wavered in their duty in this regard – let us emulate their courage and dignity and do likewise.