At the beginning of April, US President Trump made the startling announcement that: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” arrogantly adding: “China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone” (Lucy Fisher, ‘PM warns Trump over “solving North Korea”’, The Times, 3 April 2017). What this is understood to mean is that US imperialism is seriously proposing to intervene militarily in the DPRK with the apparent aim of destroying its nuclear capacity, though its real immediate intention would be to bring about regime change and dismantle the DPRK’s socialist economic system that has enabled it to withstand imperialist sanctions and bullying for over 60 years and to develop an economy that is able independently to build the advanced weaponry which is its only defence against overthrow by imperialism.
Furthermore, “The Trump administration has continued to make hawkish remarks about the North: NBC News reported …, citing multiple senior intelligence officials, that Washington was prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike on Pyongyang if it seemed certain that the Kim regime was about to conduct a sixth nuclear test.
“The report added that the U.S. had deployed two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles near the region, one of them just 300 miles from the North’s nuclear test site.
“Trump also told reporters that North Korea was a problem and ‘the problem will be taken care of’" (Jun Ji-hie, ‘North Korea threatens counter attack’, Korea Times, 15 April 2017).
For its part the DPRK has made it absolutely clear that it is not intimidated and that it will conduct whatever weapons testing it sees fit, and, moreover, if aggressive moves are made against it, it will have no hesitation in “hitting back whatever the cost to itself:
“The North’s military also pledged a ‘merciless response’ to any US ‘provocation,’ saying its pre-emptive strike will burn the US military bases in Osan, Gunsan and Pyeongtaek in the South, and Cheong Wa Dae to the ground in several minutes.
"’The provocation will meet our strong countermeasures, which will include pre-emptive strikes with ground, marine, underwater and air forces,’ the General Staff Department of the North’s People’s Army said in a statement.” (Jun Ji-hie, ibid.).
That these are not empty words have been confirmed by senior US army and navy personnel:
Admiral Scott Swift, head of the US Pacific Fleet and naval commander for Asia, has warned that “there would be no easy victory in a war with North Korea, and that the economic damage would be felt across the world.”
Moreover, as The Times points out, “North Korea has made itself the master of what is known as ‘asymmetrical warfare’, a strategy that invests, not in head-to-head confrontation, but in carefully chosen, specialist attacks on the enemy’s weak points using small, highly-trained covert units. If Donald Trump’s promise to ‘solve North Korea’ means launching a military strike, it could unleash the worst war that most of us have seen in our lifetimes.
“It could begin with the deployment, on camouflaged mobile launchers, of all the nuclear warheads to have survived the initial US attack. The North is believed to have 20 of these. They are not yet capable of reaching the American mainland, but even if only a handful survived they could put mushroom clouds over Seoul, Tokyo and even the US garrison island of Guam.
“Meanwhile, if the North’s chain of command held, 3,000 ‘information soldiers’ of the Reconnaissance General Bureau would probably launch cyberattacks in an attempt to knock out power infrastructure and South Korean and US weapons systems. Others would jam GPS signals, sowing confusion in the air and on the sea.
“Small teams of commandos would be landed behind US and South Korean lines, by parachute and submarine, with orders to attack ports, airports and nuclear power stations and spread terror. Seoul estimates that the North has 200,000 troops in its special forces. Sleeper agents in the South, Japan and beyond would be activated to carry out sabotage and possibly suicide attacks.
“North Korea has a fleet of warships, squadrons of ageing Russian fighter jets and a relatively new battle tank, the Pokpung-ho or Storm Tiger, which is similar to the Russian T-72. But apart from its submarines, these would be outmanoeuvred and outgunned. The greatest damage of all would be done by more than 13,000 long-range artillery pieces, dug in along the demilitarised zone that divides the two Koreas, and many of them capable of bombarding Seoul which is 30 miles from the border.
“The North would quickly be defeated on the battlefield, but die-hards would retreat to the hills and use stocks of hidden arms to launch a guerrilla war that could last years. This assumes that China does not enter the war on the North’s side, as it did in 1950. Whether all this chaos and carnage would ‘solve North Korea’ is unclear, to say the least” (Richard Lloyd Parry, ‘Tyrant can unleash the most devastating war in generations’, The Times, 4 April 2017).
Before the DPRK even had a single nuclear weapon, “In 1994 General Gary Luck, the US commander in South Korea, talked President Clinton out of pre-emptive strikes on North Korea’s nascent nuclear programme. He warned him that the war that would follow would cause a million casualties, cost the United States $100 billion and inflict damage amounting to a trillion dollars on northeast Asia” (Richard Lloyd Parry, ‘No easy war against Kim, Admiral warns’, The Times, 5 April 2017). If that was the situation 33 years ago, it can be expected that now that the DPRK has developed its nuclear deterrent and is believed to have some 20 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, the damage that would be caused to US imperialism and its unfortunate allies would be far greater.
It is impossible to believe that President Trump is unaware of these details, Yet if he does do the unthinkable in the belief that US armaments are now powerful enough to obliterate the DPRK while at the same time preventing any retaliation, it would be proof enough that he has lost the remnants of connection with reality. But, it is clear, that Mistress Reality has had a sobering effect on the boastful and blustering Mr Trump.
With the DPRK standing firm and determined, warning the US of a devastating retaliatory strike should US imperialism dare to launch a pre-emptive strike, the US has blinked first and begun to somewhat back away from the war that it had threatened to unleash only a few days ago. The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson has been sighted sailing away from Korea in the direction of Australia. Now the US administration, and, following it, the compliant media, are putting out the barely-disguised lie that Carl Vinson had never been ordered by Trump to sail in the direction of Korea; that news reports in the American electronic and print media had just been a misunderstanding consequent upon miscommunication; that the carrier had all along been on its way to Australia to take part in pre-arranged joint exercises with the Australian navy. No one, not even the BBC, believes that to be the case. The truth is that bullying US imperialism has been rebuffed by the steely determination of the political and military leadership of the DPRK to defend their country and safeguard its independence and socialist system.
Confronted with the enormous cost that any aggression against the DPRK would invite, US imperialism has, for the moment anyhow, walked away from the brink. Its attempts to portray the Korean leadership as mad and crazy, for no other reason than the possession by it of nuclear weapons for self defence, are failing. Even bourgeois, but thoughtful, commentators do not buy such a stupid narrative.
One such thoughtful commentator happens to be Richard Lloyd Parry. In an article entitled ‘We shouldn’t worry about North Korea’s nukes’ (The Times, 19 April 2017), this is what, among other things, Mr Parry has to say:
“One of the laziest clichés about Kim is that he is a ‘madman’
“Yet this is the reasoning of the US government and the basis of the global crisis. For the past few weeks Donald Trump, and much of the international media, has been in the throes of a collective fit of the collywobbles about the threat posed to the US mainland by nuclear-armed North Korean ballistic missiles. An ‘armada’ of US naval ships has been dispatched to the peninsula; there is dark muttering of ‘kinetic solutions’ — in other words pre-emptive bombing, which would almost certainly escalate into a second Korean War. And all of this without any basis in logic or fact.
“It is true that North Korea already possesses nuclear warheads, and missiles with the range to hit South Korea and Japan. At a military parade on Saturday it showed off still more powerful weapons — dummies of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), potentially capable of reaching the American west coast. Within Mr Trump’s first term, the expert consensus goes, the prototypes will be tested and deployed. But to assume from this that LA and Seattle are about to be nuked is to ignore everything we know about North Korea and the logic of deterrence.”
He goes on to say that, of the 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, the DPRK’s are the ones “…we have the least to worry about”; among the nuclear powers, the DPRK’s is the “smallest arsenal” of about 20 warheads. Even if the DPRK had the proven capacity accurately to lob an ICBM towards an American city, why would it “do something so blatantly self-defeating?”, asks Mr Parry. If Russia, which commands 7,000 of the world’s nuclear weapons, does not dream of such use, why would the DPRK, possessed as it is of the tiniest proportion of the global nuclear arsenal, use these weapons against the US’s 6,900 such weapons?
Mr Parry goes on to provide this impeccable rationale for the possession of nuclear weapons by the DPRK, albeit spiced up with rude remarks about the latter’s social and governmental system – remarks obligatory for a respectable and well-bred bourgeois journalist:
“North Korea has one reason for developing nuclear weapons, and one alone — not to invite its own fiery destruction with an unprovoked attack, but to raise to an unacceptable level the cost to the US and South Korea of a regime-changing invasion. One of the laziest of the clichés about Kim is that he is a ‘madman’. It implies no approval of his cruel regime to assert the opposite: that North Korea’s leaders have displayed a malign brilliance that has allowed them to survive in control of the last Stalinist dictatorship.”
He adds: “Does anyone believe that, if it could be done easily, Donald Trump would restrain himself from overthrowing the regime?”
The Korean leader, observes Mr Parry correctly “contemplates the fate of the late Muammar Gaddafi, another ‘rogue’ who was persuaded that he could give up his nuclear weapons and that everything would be OK”. Twenty-five years ago, North Korea, says Mr Parry, was a small country apparently “heading inexorably for the historical dustbin. Today it is successfully facing off the most powerful nation in history. There is one reason for this: nuclear weapons.”
Mr Parry concludes his article thus: “This is not to say he will never give them up, but not in answer to military threats that reinforce the logic of acquiring them in the first place. The Korean War petered out in 1953, not with a peace treaty but in a temporary armistice. In law, and in the minds of North Koreans, it has never ended. Peace will come only with an agreement in which nuclear weapons are traded for guarantees of North Korean security. The US has worked towards such a settlement before, and could again. For Kim to abandon his insurance policy for anything less, well, that would be the action of a madman.”
Whether, in view of long US hostility towards the DPRK, the unspeakable cruelties it inflicted on the Korean people during the Korean War with its 4 million dead, the nearly 7-decade long economic blockade of the country, the unrelenting military threats against it – whether in view of all this the DPRK would ever give up its nuclear weapons in return for US guarantees of security must remain in doubt. One thing, however, is certain, namely, that the DPRK will not give in to military threats and that its security preparedness, and now the possession of nuclear weapons, is what guarantees it against US imperialist attempts at regime change.
Instead of condemning the DPRK for the development and possession of nuclear weapons, as even those who pass for the ‘left’ in imperialist countries do, we have every good reason to thank this tiny and heroic people, their leadership and armed forces for standing firm in the teeth of imperialist military threats and demonisation in the imperialist media, and furnishing clear proof that force is the only language imperialism recognises.
The Korean people have done nothing wrong to other people. They have been the victims of imperialist war and economic blockade. More than half of their country is still occupied by US imperialism, with 37,000 troops, with the most sophisticated weaponry, including nuclear weapons – an occupation which continues even though the Korean war ended in 1953. The proletariat in the imperialist countries, and progressive humanity at large, has a duty to demand that:
• The US drop all hostile activity against the DPRK;
• It sign a peace treaty with the DPRK and vacate the Korean peninsula;
• It leave the two parts of Korea to work, without outside interference, for the peaceful reunification of the country;
• The DPRK has every right to defend itself and safeguard its security by strengthening its defence preparedness by every means, including through the possession of nuclear weapons; only when the world has agreed on universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament should the DPRK be required to give up its small nuclear arsenal.
Even though for now the threat of war in the Korean peninsula has abated somewhat, it is no guarantee that it will not surface again. What drives war in our times are the never-ceasing attempts by imperialism to gain domination. The DPRK is by no means the only target in this drive. From the Middle East to Central Asia, from the Pacific to the Baltic, the pack of imperialist jackals led by the US are furiously engaged in the mad race to encircle China and Russia, who, in the ultimate analysis, stand as formidable obstacles to its attempts at domination. As long as imperialism continues to exist there never can be any durable peace. This is the message that must permeate the working class and anti-war movement. The struggle against war and for peace must be inextricably linked with the struggle against imperialism.