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Stop US military provocations and economic blockade against North Korea


The Western media is pumping out one simple message about the crisis on the Korean peninsular. Kim Jong-un, a hysterical dictator, is bent on defying the “international community” (a.k.a the United Nations Security Council) and is threatening his neighbours and the USA – apparently for no rational reason.


This is a pack of lies – like the propaganda which preceded the Iraq War. Though North Korea is a repulsive totalitarian state, which brutally represses its own people, its desire for nuclear weapons is not at all irrational. It is a completely understandable reaction to the siege it has been under for the last 60 years from an infinitely stronger and more bellicose regime: the United States of America. Since the USA is responsible for the division of the country, has historically committed massive crimes against its people, and has repeatedly threatened it with nuclear annihilation, the North Korean response is no surprise.


The US’ actions over the last few months have ratcheted up the pressure and tightened the blockade on an economy which can already scarcely feed its own people. The early March UN sanctions include restrictions on North Korean banking, trade and travel, searches of “suspect” North Korean cargo and new tougher enforcement measures.



The US claims these sanctions are a response to the North Korean nuclear test on 12 February. This too is a lie. The test was a response to the US threat of imposing more suffocating sanctions in January following the successful launch of a long-range missile, which put a civilian satellite into orbit in December.


Previously US attempts to blackmail other members of the UN Security Council into imposing harsher sanctions were blocked by the Chinese threatening to use their veto. China is North Korea’s main ally and trading partner. But Beijing does not want to see its client develop an independent nuclear capability, let alone embroil it in a confrontation with the USA.


Following North Korea’s first successful testing of a nuclear device in October 2006, China agreed to “targeted” UN sanctions: an embargo on military and technological materials and luxury goods and some financial transactions. North Korea was obliged to return to the Six-Party Talks (involving China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the US and North Korea.


Washington was already stepping up arms supplies to the South Korean forces as part of its “pivot to Asia” designed to “contain” China and maintain US domination of the East Asian Pacific Rim. It is plainly delighted that China has come on board for a sanctions regime “with teeth.”



North Korea has good reasons to fear the intentions of the US administration, even if it seems unlikely the US would attack it directly in the near future. There are 28,000 US troops regularly stationed in the South and, if fighting breaks out the US immediately takes command of South Korea’s 500,000 troops. Though Washington withdrew its nuclear weapons in the early 1990s, nuclear munitions are ready for use on ships, submarines and warplanes off the coast.


North Korea’s standing army, though much larger at about 1.1 million, would in any offensive action be vulnerable to vast US air power, even if the US did not resort to nuclear weapons.


Like the case of Iran, the US denies the right of any state (except its close allies) to possess weapons which might enable it to resist its economic and military blackmail. For over half a century it has had to accept this situation with regard to Russia and China, and the states they protect, but it has done all it can to preserve its power to coerce the rest of the world.


The United States is far more of a rogue state than Korea or Iran. It has attacked dozens of countries since 1945 and is still the only power that has actually used nuclear weapons, killing over 100,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Only recall the decades long Iraqi sanctions, which led to the death of hundreds of thousands, and then the 2001 and 2003, “shock and awe” bombings of Afghanistan and Iraq, then their invasion and occupation. Remember the occupation the devastation of cities like Falujah – with 60 per cent of its buildings destroyed and huge numbers of civilians killed. All this was done in the name of finding non-existent “weapons of mass destruction”. Likewise the claims that Iraq harboured an al-Qaeda terror network: it did not; though one was fomented precisely by the US invasion and occupation.


Who in their right mind would believe that the US, a state that covers up Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons in defiance of all the non-proliferation treaties, is qualified to decide who is fitted have such a deterrent or not?



The crimes of the US and its Western allies in Korea go back to the beginning of the Cold War. After the Second World War Korea was occupied by Russian and American forces – dividing the country roughly along the 38th parallel. The US installed a puppet dictatorship under the fierce anti-communist Syngman Rhee, which waged a three year war against southern left-wing insurgents in which leftists were butchered and between 60,000 and 100,000 people lost their lives.


Meanwhile Stalin’s USSR installed a puppet regime under Kim Il Sung in the more impoverished North. Despite Stalin the Korean Communists did organise peoples committees and unleashed a peasant seizure of land from the big landlords. Key industries were nationalised. The Korean War of 1950-1953 began with an invasion by the North, though this was in response to a declaration by Rhee that he was going to invade the North. The rapid collapse of the South’s forces proved the rottenness of Rhee’s regime and its lack of any popular support.


But this drew in a massive US intervention, under the flag of the United Nations. In this war the US subjected the northern population to a 37-month non-stop saturation bombing with incendiaries and napalm far exceeding anything inflicted by the North. Every city and major town in the North, every industrial installation, was destroyed. There are estimates that one-third of the entire civilian population in the North – some three million people – fell victim to USAF bombers.


And US President Truman came close to authorising general Douglas MacArthur’s requests for nuclear strikes as well. After the 1953 armistice, South Korea remained a military dictatorship, with its governments changed by successive coups rather than elections, until in 1987 mass demonstrations by workers and students brought this to an end. However movements by students and trade unionists are usually subjected to severe repression even under “democratic governments.”


After 9/11, President George W Bush put North Korea on his “axis of evil” list, claiming it was a “terrorist state” and a target for his “war on terror”. Bush told Chinese President Jiang Zemin that if North Korea did not abandon its nuclear programme, he would “have to consider a military strike”. He ordered part of the US Pacific fleet into the region, including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. F-117 Stealth bombers were sent to South Korea, and fighters and bombers to Guam – the forward base from which to hit the North.


The Bush administration’s Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, issued in 2005, stated:


“To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use.”


The willingness of the North to enter negotiations, plus Chinese protection, prevented any US attack. But North Korea continued with its nuclear programme and in 2006 conducted its first test.



Democrat President Barack Obama has repeated Bush’s offensive actions this year. The latest round of sanctions at the UN, supported by China, is in fact a blockade. They make all remaining international economic contacts by North Korea next to impossible, including a complete blackout of financial transactions, unilateral inspections of North Korea’s shipping and air transport, with cargoes to be impounded if they do not comply with any point in the sanctions list. Such blockades are generally considered a casus belli (justification for war).


In early March the US-South Korea joint command launched their annual military manoeuvres (codenamed Foal Eagle) lasting to the end of April. These involve 200,000 South Korean troops and 10,000 US troops. The deployment of the deployment of nuclear capable American bombers, including a steal bomber, further increased the pressure.


Remember this to understand the overblown rhetorical threats of the North, the self-harming closure of the Kaesong joint- industrial zone, which generates a vital $2 billion a year in trade for North Korea, including approximately $80 million in wages to 53,000 North Korean worker, and the threats of a nuclear first strike on the South, on Guam, or even on the USA mainland. In fact the North does not have the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead to Guam, let alone America.  And an attack on the South would be criminal folly for its own population as well as the workers of South Korea.


Nevertheless socialists should defend the right of North Korea to develop and possess nuclear weapons. The deterrence argument that the West use to justify their huge nuclear arsenal apply far more credibly to North Korea, and to Iran too. The USA has already done all it can to cripple the North Korean economy with blockades, it keeps troops on the Korean peninsula and sites nuclear weapons off its coast on ships, submarines and long-range missiles in Guam.


In the event of an attack by the USA or South Korean on the North, socialists should support the defence of North Korea. If this happens the international movement should do all in its power to help North Korea bring about the defeat of the US invaders.


However socialists should give no political support to the Kim Jong-un regime. We should advocate a workers’ political revolution to overthrow the repressive state apparatus of North Korea’s  privileged Stalinist bureaucracy. If North Korea’s workers took over control of their factories and farms, diverting economic resources into providing food and other necessities of life for the people, appealing for support from the workers of the South, then the nightmare of war could be lifted and the perspective of a revolutionary reunification of Korea would open.


Today, a major conventional war, let alone the use of nuclear weapons, would be a disaster for the Korean people, North and South.


Therefore the antiwar and working class movement in the USA, Europe and Japan should mobilise now to demand a halt to the US provocations, the complete lifting of the economic sanctions and trade blockade and the immediate and unconditional removal of the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea. The US fleet, including its nuclear submarines and USAF bases too, should be withdrawn from the entire region.


Beyond Korea, the US’s whole “Pivot to Asia” policy is aimed against China and contains the seeds of a new global conflict for the redivision of the world. As such it is a threat to the workers and peasants of the entire planet. A powerful international mobilisation against the US threats to North Korea would therefore be a vital step in building action against imperialist designs in the Asia-Pacific region and the threat of a new worlkd war in the years ahead.


League for the Fifth International, 7 April 2013



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One Response to Stop US military provocations and economic blockade against North Korea

  1. David Taylor

    April 18, 2013 at 8:46 am

    You wrote that in the event of an attack by the USA or South Korea on the North, socialists should support the defence of North Korea. (end of quote).
    What do you have in mind for such an eventuality? Some sort of international brigade? If not, would anything else amount to being only reSolutionaries? Or do you imagine that workers would blockade military arrangements ? In view of your criticism of the present regime in N Korea, which is to some extent largely shared by most people outside it (except for Stalinists in the UK) it seems to me to be unlikely that many would be keen to ‘defend’ N Korea at all, even though most people don’t want wars.

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