Tensions remained high on the Korean peninsula throughout April, due to the massive US-led military exercises, carried out together with their south Korean puppets, aimed at rehearsing a possible invasion and occupation of the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north of the peninsula, as well as a possible nuclear conflict with both the DPRK and China.
The US deployed F-22 stealth war planes to south Korea on 31 March, following two weeks of massive demonstrations of US military firepower, which had included dummy bombing raids by nuclear capable B-52 bombers and B-2 stealth bombers, all this clearly indicating US preparedness to resort to the use of nuclear weapons in the event of any conflict in the region.
B-2 bombers carry 16 B83 nuclear bombs, each with a yield of 1.2 megatons – 75 times the power of the atomic bombs the United States dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. If two B-2 bombers dropped their payloads on north Korea, they would destroy all its large and medium-sized cities.
Furthermore, US B-1 bomber pilots at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas reportedly shifted their training programmes to training for trans-Pacific flights towards targets in East Asia, instead of flights to Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Washington also upgraded a shipment of 60 F-15 fighter planes to south Korea and also sent a large number of Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) trucks. The newspaper USA Today indicated that these trucks, used to guard against roadside bombs in US-occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, would ” offer similar protection in north Korea, should US forces need to travel on its roads” – in other words, if US forces sought to invade and occupy the DPRK.
Missile defence targets China
At the same time, the US sent three guided missile destroyers to Korean waters and announced a 50 percent increase in its anti-ballistic missile interceptor systems in Guam and Alaska. Although ostensibly defensive in nature, such missile interceptor systems could, by removing the country’s ability to meaningfully retaliate, potentially leave China at the mercy of a US nuclear first strike.
A recent article entitled ‘War with China’, published in Survival, the magazine of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a think tank patronised by and serving the UK’s military and security establishment, sets out some of the calculations in leading US circles regarding the possibility of war with the DPRK or of ‘regime change’.
Written by James Dobbins, a former US assistant secretary of state who currently holds top positions at the RAND think tank, it cites “collapse” in the DPRK as the most likely cause of a war between China and the United States, followed by conflict over Taiwan, cyber war, conflict over control of the South China Sea, and conflicts with India.
Dobbins makes clear that aggressive military operations by the United States, sending forces into the DPRK, is at the heart of any response envisaged by Washington and that it would lead to the distinct possibility of a clash with Chinese forces stationed along the China-DPRK border.
He writes: “The immediate operational concerns for United States Forces-[south] Korea/Combined Forces Command would be to secure ballistic-missile-launch and WMD [“weapons of mass destruction”] sites. If any coherent north Korean army remained, it could be necessary to neutralise its long-range artillery; it could be necessary to neutralise its long-range artillery threatening Seoul as well… While south Korea would provide sizeable forces and capabilities for these missions, they would be inadequate to deal with the scope and complexity of a complete north Korean collapse. Substantial and extended commitments of US ground forces would be required to rapidly seize and secure numerous locations, some with vast perimeters .”
Dobbins adds: “The likelihood of confrontations, accidental or otherwise, between US and Chinese forces is high in this scenario.”
US imperialism goes by the playbook
Whilst all these aggressive moves by the US to ratchet up tensions in and around Korea are claimed to be in response to actions by the DPRK, including and following from its third nuclear test in February, on 4 April, mainstream US media, including CNN and the Wall Street Journal, revealed that the Pentagon has all along been following a step-by-step plan, dubbed “the playbook“, drawn up months in advance and approved by the Obama administration earlier in the year.
The flights to South Korea by nuclear capable B-52 bombers on 8 March and 26 March, by B-2 bombers on 28 March, and by advanced F-22 Raptor fighters on 31 March were all part of this pre-arranged script, designed to demonstrate, to the DPRK in the first instance, the ability of the US military to conduct nuclear strikes at will anywhere in North East Asia.
Contrary to lying imperialist propaganda, there is absolutely nothing defensive about any such moves by the US. According to CNN, the “playbook” was drawn up by former defence secretary Leon Panetta and “supported strongly” by his replacement, Chuck Hagel. The plan was based on US intelligence assessments that “there was a low probability of a north Korean military response” – in other words, that the DPRK posed no actual threat, the very opposite of what imperialist governments and mass media have been preaching daily and incessantly for the last several months.
US officials even cynically claimed that Washington would now, following this unprecedented display of US nuclear blackmail step back, due to supposed concerns that American actions and statements “could lead to miscalculations” by the DPRK.
Yet at the same time, Defence Secretary Hagel emphasised the supposed military threat posed by the DPRK, declaring that it presented ” a real and clear danger“. The choice of words was deliberate and menacing, being an echo of the phrase “a clear and present danger” habitually used to justify past US wars of aggression.
British imperialism hitched to the war chariot
British imperialism has also given its full political backing to US imperialism’s war drive in East Asia. Prime Minister David Cameron used a 4 April visit to Scotland to claim it to be a “fact” that the DPRK has the technology to attack both the United States and the United Kingdom with a nuclear missile.
Speaking to workers in the defence industry, Cameron said: “How concerned am I about north Korea? Very concerned, it has extremely dangerous technologies in terms of nuclear and its weapons [sic]… The fact is, as I wrote in a [Daily Telegraph] newspaper article this morning, north Korea does now have missile technology that is able to reach, as they put it, the whole of the United States and if they’re able to reach the whole of the United States they can reach Europe too. They can reach us too, so that is a real concern .”
Even ruling class pundits were quick to nail Cameron’s hyperbole as outrageous lies.
James Hardy, Asia Pacific Editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly, a prestigious establishment publication, commented: ” From what we know of its existing inventory, north Korea has short and medium range missiles that could complicate a situation on the Korean Peninsula (and perhaps reach Japan), but we have not seen any evidence that it has long-range missiles that could strike the continental US, Guam or Hawaii .”
If this seasoned military analyst is correct, then the entire basis on which US imperialism, along with its allies and lackeys, is presently targeting the DPRK is completely spurious.
Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the IISS, and a former official in the George W Bush administration, bluntly told ITN News: “North Korea does not have any missile capabilities that could hit Britain, and it is difficult to envision circumstances when north Korea ever would want to attack the UK, even if they could .”
Clearly, besides a craven desire to crawl before Washington, Cameron’s major motivation for his Goebbelsian ‘big lie’ is his wish to preserve the ability of British imperialism to do precisely what he accused the DPRK of contemplating, namely delivering a nuclear strike against its enemies.
Cameron used the mythical threat from the DPRK to argue for maintaining and then replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines. Here he was playing politics as the Conservatives are in favour of a Trident replacement system but are presently in conflict with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners as to whether to maintain a continuous at-sea nuclear “deterrent“, given the huge costs associated with commissioning a new generation of submarines.
Cameron told his audience during a visit to one of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class submarines: “I strongly believe we should replace [Trident] on a like-for-like basis. … There are nuclear states and one cannot be sure how they will develop.”
Expanding on his theme, he made clear that his broader political aim is to legitimise the ongoing US aggression against the DPRK, up to and including British support and participation in a possible war. A token British military contingent has in fact been participating in the current military exercises in Korea. Around 1,000 British military servicemen lost their lives in the Korean War of 1950-53.
The Prime Minister said: ” I think the question we need to ask ourselves in the context of this debate about a nuclear deterrent, is what will a country like north Korea be like in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years .” He added: ” To me, having that nuclear deterrent is quite simply the best insurance policy you can have that you will never be subject to nuclear blackmail.”
That, of course, is precisely the conclusion that the DPRK has itself rightly drawn from more than 60 years of constant US imperialist threats of nuclear attack, fully backed by British imperialism. But coming from the mouth of a UK prime minister it reverses black and white. The issue is not what the DPRK, or any other anti-imperialist state, might, completely hypothetically do, three decades from now, but rather the very real nuclear blackmail and warmongering practised by US and British imperialism in the here and now.
Once again, the British ruling class is happily helping to serve up the lies necessary to justify military aggression by US imperialism. The parallels with the claims made by the Labour government of Tony Blair in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 are all too obvious – you only need to substitute Cameron for Blair, Kim Jong Un for Saddam Hussein and you have another ready-made ‘dodgy dossier’ designed to make the case for war.
The only difference is that any war on the Korean peninsula would be even more devastating and destructive than the genocidal war waged against Iraq, as it could very easily turn into a nuclear conflict involving not just the DPRK, but also China and quite possibly Russia, too.
It is by playing on such very real fears that US imperialism is exerting enormous pressure on China with a view to weakening or severing its historic alliance with the DPRK.
The two major parties of US imperialism are predictably singing from the same hymn sheet in this regard.
On CBS, Republican Senator, and former presidential contender, John McCain of Arizona said: “China can cut off their [the DPRK’s] economy if they want to. Chinese behaviour has been very disappointing, whether it be on cyber security, whether it be on confrontation in the South China Sea, or whether it be their failure to rein in what could be a catastrophic situation .”
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York added: “The Chinese hold a lot of cards here. They’re by nature cautious, but they’re carrying it to an extreme. It’s about time they stepped up to the plate and put a little pressure on the north Korean regime.”
Making it crystal clear how the US build up of missile defence systems is intended to blackmail Beijing, US Deputy Defence Secretary Ashton Carter declared: “If north Korea is causing the US and others to take actions which they [the Chinese] find to be the sort of thing that they do not like to see, there is an easy way to address that.”
In fact, a major US upgrade of missile defence systems in California and Alaska, targeting China, was decided by the Obama administration months ago, long before the recent upsurge in tensions with the DPRK.
Nevertheless, this same message has now been carried to Beijing by a succession of high level US visitors, in the space of two weeks, starting with Secretary of State John Kerry. Speaking in the south Korean capital Seoul before arriving in Beijing, Kerry made clear that the US would continue to deploy anti-ballistic and other strategic weapons whose main target can only be China, unless Beijing “put some teeth” into forcing the DPRK to give up its tiny arsenal of nuclear weapons.
After meeting with Chinese leaders, Kerry said the discussion had included “why we have taken the steps that we have taken” in missile defence. ” Now obviously if the threat disappears – i.e. North Korea denuclearises – the same imperative does not exist at that point of time for us to have that kind of robust forward leaning posture of defence ,” he claimed.
The US is aware that China presently accounts for an absolute majority of the DPRK’s foreign trade and supplies nearly all the country’s oil and much of its food. So long as this state of affairs continues, US-led sanctions cannot have a decisive effect on the country.
It is therefore ardently to be hoped that, in their mutual interest, and that of the working and oppressed people of the whole world, both these socialist countries would resist imperialist blackmail and attempts at ‘divide-and-rule’, and would value and safeguard their historic alliance, which was created and nurtured by such outstanding revolutionaries as Comrades Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and which has served both countries so well, and that neither of them would say or do anything that might undermine their traditional revolutionary friendship.
In Britain, the revolutionary working class movement must give its full support to the DPRK in its courageous struggle against nuclear blackmail and threats of US-led aggression and demand:
Hands off Korea!