An ‘August crisis’ on the Korean peninsula culminated in massive US-led war games, cynically dubbed Ulchi Freedom Guardian, held from 21-31 August. These exercises, which rely heavily on computer simulation and rehearse an attack on the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north of the country, this year involved some 17,500 US military personnel. They were joined by at least 50,000 south Korean troops, along with smaller contingents from around seven other countries, totalling around 3,000 in all, including Britain, Australia, Denmark and Colombia. Besides this, the enforced participation of south Korean public employees, police, paramilitary units and others brought the number of participants in this war rehearsal to nearly half a million. British participation in Ulchi Freedom Guardian represents a further step towards deeper involvement in imperialist provocations and war preparations against the DPRK, just as Britain was a full participant in the last Korean war, 1950-1953. Last year, Britain for the first time sent four RAF Typhoon aircraft to take part in exercises in the area alongside the US and south Korean military.
A statement from the Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People’s Army was released by the Korean Central News Agency on 22 August, the day after the exercises started, stated:
“What should not be overlooked is the fact that though the enemies are noisily vociferating about ‘annual’ and ‘defensive manoeuvres’, the rehearsal is concentrated on the drill of ‘beheading operation’ and ‘secret operation’ to ‘remove’ the supreme headquarters of the DPRK and one for countering the DPRK’s ballistic rockets under ‘Oplan 5015’, an aggressive war scenario to carry out a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK.
“No one can vouch that these huge forces concentrated in south Korea will not go over to an actual war action now that the military tensions have reached an extreme pitch on the Korean peninsula.”
Coming in the month when Donald J Trump, president of the United States, had made his genocidal threat to unleash “fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before” on the Korean people, a threat made on the 72nd anniversary of the US atomic incineration of the Japanese city of Nagasaki which claimed the lives of up to 80,000 civilians; a threat he then followed up by declaring US weapons systems to be “locked and loaded” and ready for use against the DPRK, it was not only the Korean socialist state that raised concerns that US imperialism might be actively preparing to plunge humanity into the holocaust of nuclear war, in complete disregard of its supposed allies in South Korea and Japan in particular.
In a 20 August article entitled ‘Talk of “preventive war” rises in White House over north Korea’, David E Sanger of the New York Times wrote:
“Not since 2002, as the United States built a case for war in Iraq, has there been so much debate inside the White House about the merits – and the enormous risks – of preemptive military action against an adversary nation.
“Like its predecessors, the Trump administration is trying to pressure north Korea through sanctions to dismantle its nuclear programme. But both President Trump and his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R McMaster, have talked openly about a last-resort option if diplomacy fails and the nuclear threat mounts: what General McMaster describes as ‘preventive war’.
“Though the Pentagon has prepared options to preemptively strike north Korea’s nuclear and missile sites for more than a decade and the past four presidents declared that ‘all options are on the table’, the rote phrase barely seemed credible, given the potential for a north Korean counterstrike against Seoul, south Korea, that could result in tremendous casualties in a metropolitan area of 25 million people.
“But as the Trump administration moves ahead on Monday with a new round of long-planned military exercises that involve tens of thousands of American and south Korean troops, computer simulations of escalating conflict and perhaps overflights of nuclear-capable aircraft, the White House is determined to leave the impression the military option is real.
“‘Are we preparing plans for a preventive war?’ General McMaster asked recently in a television interview, defining the term as ‘a war that would prevent north Korea from threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon’.
“He answered his own question: ‘The president’s been very clear about it. He said he’s not going to tolerate north Korea being able to threaten the United States.’”
It is, of course, the typical height of imperialist hypocrisy and duplicity to speak of the DPRK threatening the USA, when even the simple facts presented above make it abundantly clear that it is the USA that is threatening the DPRK. Such reversal of black and white is precisely the method used by Hitlerites to justify German imperialist aggression against such states as Czechoslovakia and Poland, who were apparently threatening the Third Reich.
US imperialism has never ceased to long to obliterate the DPRK but has always been forced to hold its fire because of the blistering consequences that a military attack on the DPRK would have for itself. Trump’s blustering threats, besides frightening US allies in the far east whose countries would face the gravest consequences were US imperialism to launch a military attack on the DPRK, has simply served to draw attention to US imperialism’s helplessness in the face of this very small country’s determination and courage, thereby causing distinct embarrassment to the US imperialist ruling class.
In fact, Trump’s dangerous bellicosity has caused growing concern not only in the far east but throughout the world. When asked at a press conference in Berlin whether Germany would “stand by the US in case of war”, Chancellor Angela Merkel replied: “I consider an escalation of rhetoric the wrong answer. I do not see a military solution to this conflict.” Her Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel even compared the current standoff to the lead-up to World War I. Speaking during a visit to Uganda he said he feared that “like in World War I, we will sleepwalk into war. Only this time it might be a nuclear war.”
Even within the US ruling circles, there are deep divisions, as, for instance, reflected in a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times by Susan E Rice, National Security advisor in the Obama administration – the same administration that pursued the policy of a pivot to Asia, with the object of encircling the People’s Republic of China, besides poisoning US-Russian relations to a degree not seen for decades, the logic of which could only mean a drive to war against Russia and China.
Ms Rice warned in this article that any ‘preventive war’ against the DPRK would be “lunacy”, adding: “History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea — the same way we tolerated the far greater threat of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War” (‘It’s not too late on North Korea, 10 August 2017).
The recently elected president of south Korea has also stood up to express his disquiet. Whilst running for office, Mun Jae In said that he would “say no to the Americans” when necessary and pledged to work for reconciliation with the DPRK, but since taking office in May, and under heavy pressure from Washington, he has steadily retreated from his campaign pledges, causing increasing disquiet among his base. However, on 15 August, the New York Times reported:
“With his public alarmed by President Trump’s recent threats to north Korea, President Mun Jae In of south Korea issued an unusually blunt rebuke to the United States on Tuesday, warning that any unilateral military action against the north over its nuclear weapons programme would be intolerable.
“’No one should be allowed to decide on a military action on the Korean peninsula without south Korean agreement,’ Mr Mun said in a nationally televised speech” (Choe Sang-Hun, ‘South Korea’s leader bluntly warns US against striking north’).
However, with wartime control of south Korean armed forces still vested in a US commander, the degree of authority with which Mun can speak on this matter is at least open to question.
Ultimately of course Trump had to back down over his threats to use military force against the DPRK, for exactly the same reason as his predecessors have had to back down – the price is too high. Fully understanding that it is easier for an enemy to surrender if he is allowed to save face, the DPRK did not go ahead on its threat to aim missiles in the direction of Guam to demonstrate that it was in a position to hit American forces if it were attacked. No doubt greatly relieved, Trump was able to withdraw his threats on the basis that Kim Jong Un had shown sense (see Richard Lloyd Parry, ‘Trump voices hopes of dialogue as North Korea “starts to respect America”’, The Times, 23 August 2017).
There are many even on the ‘left’ who are currently trying to ascribe US imperialism’s travails as it strives desperately to maintain its dominant position, while its economy is foundering as a result of imperialist parasitism and decay, to the person of Trump, who, quite frankly, is increasingly having to submit to the demands of the US imperialist bourgeoisie with whom during his presidential campaign he expressed major differences. This gentry try to claim that that US imperialism’s lust for war is down to Trump’s fascist tendencies rather than a reflection of the desperate striving of US imperialism to maintain and expand US imperialist world domination which has driven not only Trump (albeit under severe pressure ranging from the monopoly capitalist ruling circles, through the intelligence agencies, the US Congress and the top leadership of the Republican and Democratic Parties, especially the latter) but all previous US presidents since at least World War 2 to the most egregious warmongering. Trump’s unwitting service to progressive humanity is, contrary to his own wishes, to expose to the public gaze the bankruptcy of US imperialism, the behind-the-scenes machinations of the US imperialist bourgeoisie that are now open to public view, the sheer servility to imperialism of the supposedly ‘objective’ bourgeois media, and the fraud of bourgeois democracy, to say nothing of the blustering hollowness of US threats against the DPRK.
The DPRK has understood that the only language its imperialist enemies understand is force. In the famous words of Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, Iraq was invaded because it had no WMD, North Korea is not because it does have them. It is absolutely right, and LALKAR supports it fully in its courageous and unremitting defence of its sovereignty against imperialism of all hues. We denounce unreservedly the US imperialist threats, provocations and nuclear blackmail against the DPRK.