Archive | Far East

A Murderous History of Korea

More than four decades ago I went to lunch with a diplomatic historian who, like me, was going through Korea-related documents at the National Archives in Washington. He happened to remark that he sometimes wondered whether the Korean Demilitarised Zone might be ground zero for the end of the world. This April, Kim In-ryong, a North Korean diplomat at the UN, warned of ‘a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment’. A few days later, President Trump told Reuters that

‘we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.’

American atmospheric scientists have shown that even a relatively contained nuclear war would throw up enough soot and debris to threaten the global population:

‘A regional war between India and Pakistan, for instance, has the potential to dramatically damage Europe, the US and other regions through global ozone loss and climate change.’

How is it possible that we have come to this? How does a puffed-up, vainglorious narcissist, whose every other word may well be a lie (that applies to both of them, Trump and Kim Jong-un), come not only to hold the peace of the world in his hands but perhaps the future of the planet? We have arrived at this point because of an inveterate unwillingness on the part of Americans to look history in the face and a laser-like focus on that same history by the leaders of North Korea.

North Korea celebrated the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army on 25 April, amid round-the-clock television coverage of parades in Pyongyang and enormous global tension. No journalist seemed interested in asking why it was the 85th anniversary when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was only founded in 1948. What was really being celebrated was the beginning of the Korean guerrilla struggle against the Japanese in north-east China, officially dated to 25 April 1932.

Image result for korean guerrilla struggle against japan 1932

After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, many Koreans fled across the border, among them the parents of Kim Il-sung, but it wasn’t until Japan established its puppet state of Manchukuo in March 1932 that the independence movement turned to armed resistance. Kim and his comrades launched a campaign that lasted 13 difficult years, until Japan finally relinquished control of Korea as part of the 1945 terms of surrender. This is the source of the North Korean leadership’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people: they are revolutionary nationalists who resisted their country’s coloniser; they resisted again when a massive onslaught by the US air force during the Korean War razed all their cities, driving the population to live, work and study in subterranean shelters; they have continued to resist the US ever since; and they even resisted the collapse of Western communism – as of this September, the DPRK will have been in existence for as long as the Soviet Union. But it is less a communist country than a garrison state, unlike any the world has seen. Drawn from a population of just 25 million, the North Korean army is the fourth largest in the world, with 1.3 million soldiers – just behind the third largest army, with 1.4 million soldiers, which happens to be the American one. Most of the adult Korean population, men and women, have spent many years in this army: its reserves are limited only by the size of the population.

Image result for Kim Il-sung 1932The story of Kim Il-sung’s resistance against the Japanese is surrounded by legend and exaggeration in the North, and general denial in the South. But he was recognisably a hero: he fought for a decade in the harshest winter environment imaginable, with temperatures sometimes falling to 50° below zero. Recent scholarship has shown that Koreans made up the vast majority of guerrillas in Manchukuo, even though many of them were commanded by Chinese officers (Kim was a member of the Chinese Communist Party). Other Korean guerrillas led detachments too – among them Choe Yong-gon, Kim Chaek and Choe Hyon – and when they returned to Pyongyang in 1945 they formed the core of the new regime. Their offspring now constitute a multitudinous elite – the number two man in the government today, Choe Ryong-hae, is Choe Hyon’s son.

Kim’s reputation was inadvertently enhanced by the Japanese, whose newspapers made a splash of the battle between him and the Korean quislings whom the Japanese employed to track down and kill him, all operating under the command of General Nozoe Shotoku, who ran the Imperial Army’s ‘Special Kim Division’. In April 1940 Nozoe’s forces captured Kim Hye-sun, thought to be Kim’s first wife; the Japanese tried in vain to use her to lure Kim out of hiding, and then murdered her. Maeda Takashi headed another Japanese Special Police unit, with many Koreans in it; in March 1940 his forces came under attack from Kim’s guerrillas, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. Maeda pursued Kim for nearly two weeks, before stumbling into a trap. Kim threw 250 guerrillas at 150 soldiers in Maeda’s unit, killing Maeda, 58 Japanese, 17 others attached to the force, and taking 13 prisoners and large quantities of weapons and ammunition.

In September 1939, when Hitler was invading Poland, the Japanese mobilised what the scholar Dae-Sook Suh has described as a ‘massive punitive expedition’ consisting of six battalions of the Japanese Kwantung Army and twenty thousand men of the Manchurian Army and police force in a six-month suppression campaign against the guerrillas led by Kim and Ch’oe Hyon. In September 1940 an even larger force embarked on a counterinsurgency campaign against Chinese and Korean guerrillas:

‘The punitive operation was conducted for one year and eight months until the end of March 1941,’ Suh writes, ‘and the bandits, excluding those led by Kim Il-sung, were completely annihilated. The bandit leaders were shot to death or forced to submit.’

A vital figure in the long Japanese counterinsurgency effort was Kishi Nobusuke, who made a name for himself running munitions factories. Labelled a Class A war criminal during the US occupation, Kishi avoided incarceration and became one of the founding fathers of postwar Japan and its longtime ruling organ, the Liberal Democratic Party; he was prime minister twice between 1957 and 1960. The current Japanese prime minister, Abe Shinzo, is Kishi’s grandson and reveres him above all other Japanese leaders. Trump was having dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Abe on 11 February when a pointed message arrived mid-meal, courtesy of Pyongyang: it had just successfully tested a new, solid-fuel missile, fired from a mobile launcher. Kim Il-sung and Kishi are meeting again through their grandsons. Eight decades have passed, and the baleful, irreconcilable hostility between North Korea and Japan still hangs in the air.

In the West, treatment of North Korea is one-sided and ahistorical. No one even gets the names straight. During Abe’s Florida visit, Trump referred to him as ‘Prime Minister Shinzo’. On 29 April, Ana Navarro, a prominent commentator on CNN, said: ‘Little boy Un is a maniac.’ The demonisation of North Korea transcends party lines, drawing on a host of subliminal racist and Orientalist imagery; no one is willing to accept that North Koreans may have valid reasons for not accepting the American definition of reality. Their rejection of the American worldview – generally perceived as indifference, even insolence in the face of overwhelming US power – makes North Korea appear irrational, impossible to control, and therefore fundamentally dangerous.

But if American commentators and politicians are ignorant of Korea’s history, they ought at least to be aware of their own. US involvement in Korea began towards the end of the Second World War, when State Department planners feared that Soviet soldiers, who were entering the northern part of the peninsula, would bring with them as many as thirty thousand Korean guerrillas who had been fighting the Japanese in north-east China. They began to consider a full military occupation that would assure America had the strongest voice in postwar Korean affairs. It might be a short occupation or, as a briefing paper put it, it might be one of ‘considerable duration’; the main point was that no other power should have a role in Korea such that ‘the proportionate strength of the US’ would be reduced to ‘a point where its effectiveness would be weakened’. Congress and the American people knew nothing about this. Several of the planners were Japanophiles who had never challenged Japan’s colonial claims in Korea and now hoped to reconstruct a peaceable and amenable postwar Japan. They worried that a Soviet occupation of Korea would thwart that goal and harm the postwar security of the Pacific. Following this logic, on the day after Nagasaki was obliterated, John J. McCloy of the War Department asked Dean Rusk and a colleague to go into a spare office and think about how to divide Korea. They chose the 38th parallel, and three weeks later 25,000 American combat troops entered southern Korea to establish a military government.

It lasted three years. To shore up their occupation, the Americans employed every last hireling of the Japanese they could find, including former officers in the Japanese military like Park Chung Hee and Kim Chae-gyu, both of whom graduated from the American military academy in Seoul in 1946. (After a military takeover in 1961 Park became president of South Korea, lasting a decade and a half until his ex-classmate Kim, by then head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, shot him dead over dinner one night.) After the Americans left in 1948 the border area around the 38th parallel was under the command of Kim Sok-won, another ex-officer of the Imperial Army, and it was no surprise that after a series of South Korean incursions into the North, full-scale civil war broke out on 25 June 1950. Inside the South itself – whose leaders felt insecure and conscious of the threat from what they called ‘the north wind’ – there was an orgy of state violence against anyone who might somehow be associated with the left or with communism. The historian Hun Joon Kim found that at least 300,000 people were detained and executed or simply disappeared by the South Korean government in the first few months after conventional war began. My own work and that of John Merrill indicates that somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people died as a result of political violence before June 1950, at the hands either of the South Korean government or the US occupation forces. In her recent book Korea’s Grievous War, which combines archival research, records of mass graves and interviews with relatives of the dead and escapees who fled to Osaka, Su-kyoung Hwang documents the mass killings in villages around the southern coast.

In short, the Republic of Korea was one of the bloodiest dictatorships of the early Cold War period; many of the perpetrators of the massacres had served the Japanese in their dirty work – and were then put back into power by the Americans.

Americans like to see themselves as mere bystanders in postwar Korean history. It’s always described in the passive voice: ‘Korea was divided in 1945,’ with no mention of the fact that McCloy and Rusk, two of the most influential men in postwar foreign policy, drew their line without consulting anyone. There were two military coups in the South while the US had operational control of the Korean army, in 1961 and 1980; the Americans stood idly by lest they be accused of interfering in Korean politics. South Korea’s stable democracy and vibrant economy from 1988 onwards seem to have overridden any need to acknowledge the previous forty years of history, during which the North could reasonably claim that its own autocracy was necessary to counter military rule in Seoul. It’s only in the present context that the North looks at best like a walking anachronism, at worst like a vicious tyranny. For 25 years now the world has been treated to scaremongering about North Korean nuclear weapons, but hardly anyone points out that it was the US that introduced nuclear weapons into the Korean peninsula, in 1958; hundreds were kept there until a worldwide pullback of tactical nukes occurred under George H.W. Bush. But every US administration since 1991 has challenged North Korea with frequent flights of nuclear-capable bombers in South Korean airspace, and any day of the week an Ohio-class submarine could demolish the North in a few hours. Today there are 28,000 US troops stationed in Korea, perpetuating an unwinnable stand-off with the nuclear-capable North. The occupation did indeed turn out to be one of ‘considerable duration’, but it’s also the result of a colossal strategic failure, now entering its eighth decade. It’s common for pundits to say that Washington just can’t take North Korea seriously, but North Korea has taken its measure more than once. And it doesn’t know how to respond.

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To hear Trump and his national security team tell it, the current crisis has come about because North Korea is on the verge of developing an ICBM that can hit the American heartland. Most experts think that it will take four or five years to become operational – but really, what difference does it make? North Korea tested its first long-range rocket in 1998, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the DPRK’s founding. The first medium-range missile was tested in 1992: it flew several hundred miles down range and banged the target right on the nose. North Korea now has more sophisticated mobile medium-range missiles that use solid fuel, making them hard to locate and easy to fire. Some two hundred million people in Korea and Japan are within range of these missiles, not to mention hundreds of millions of Chinese, not to mention the only US Marine division permanently stationed abroad, in Okinawa. It isn’t clear that North Korea can actually fit a nuclear warhead to any of its missiles – but if it happened, and if it was fired in anger, the country would immediately be turned into what Colin Powell memorably called ‘a charcoal briquette’.

But then, as General Powell well knew, we had already turned North Korea into a charcoal briquette. The filmmaker Chris Marker visited the country in 1957, four years after US carpet-bombing ended, and wrote:

Extermination passed over this land. Who could count what burned with the houses? … When a country is split in two by an artificial border and irreconcilable propaganda is exercised on each side, it’s naive to ask where the war comes from: the border is the war.’

Having recognised the primary truth of that war, one still alien to the American telling of it (even though Americans drew the border), he remarked:

‘The idea that North Koreans generally have of Americans may be strange, but I must say, having lived in the USA around the end of the Korean War, that nothing can equal the stupidity and sadism of the combat imagery that went into circulation at the time. “The Reds burn, roast and toast.”’

Since the very beginning, American policy has cycled through a menu of options to try and control the DPRK: sanctions, in place since 1950, with no evidence of positive results; non-recognition, in place since 1948, again with no positive results; regime change, attempted late in 1950 when US forces invaded the North, only to end up in a war with China; and direct talks, the only method that has ever worked, which produced an eight-year freeze – between 1994 and 2002 – on all the North’s plutonium facilities, and nearly succeeded in retiring their missiles. On 1 May, Donald Trump told Bloomberg News:

‘If it would be appropriate for me to meet with [Kim Jong-un], I would absolutely; I would be honoured to do it.’

There’s no telling whether this was serious, or just another Trump attempt to grab headlines. But whatever else he might be, he is unquestionably a maverick, the first president since 1945 not beholden to the Beltway. Maybe he can sit down with Mr Kim and save the planet.

Posted in North Korea0 Comments

US-Backed Regime Change in Thailand: When Warning Bells Should Go Off

It is unfortunate that despite the practice of Western-backed color revolutions becoming a widely familiar tactic exposed across the alternative media including larger national networks like RT – ideology, emotions, and ignorance are still being used to perpetuate this tactic in the service of Western special interests.

More unfortunate still is that occasionally the alternative media charged with exposing these tactics ends up an unwitting accomplice because of sloppy research, emotions, and ideology taking over where realism, fact, and solid research should guide headlines and analysis.

Not only is Western-backed regime change still being carried out on well-known battlefields like Syria, it is a tactic the West has aimed at other nations all around the world from Venezuela to Azerbaijan, and from North Korea to Thailand. The West depends on touching raw ideological and emotional nerves to circumvent the facts regarding who opposition groups really are, who funds them, and what wider agenda their activities truly fit into.

However, when a nation, leader, or institution suddenly finds itself under concerted attack by the West, warning bells should go off.

Thailand is Targeted by US-Backed Regime Change

Thailand is the only Southeast Asian state to avoid Western colonization. For seven centuries Thailand has been unified and led by its own sovereign institutions including its widely revered monarchy. Modern attempts to overthrow and replace the monarchy by British and American interests stretch back to an Anglo-American backed coup in 1932 that ended absolute monarchy in Thailand. Since then, attempts have been made to co-op or topple the monarchy, up to and including present day.

Thaksin Shinawatra, client regime of choice for US and European special interests.

Currently, efforts to destabilize, divide, and destroy Thailand are led by US-backed opposition groups and an ousted US client regime headed by billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra. He assumed office as prime minister between 2001-2006. In 2006 he was ousted in a military coup. He has attempted to seize back power in two Western-backed color revolution – the color of choice being “red” – in 2009 and 2010. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, would assume the office of prime minister as his illegal proxy between 2011-2014 before a second coup ousted her from power.

Throughout the process, the Shinawatras’ efforts to take and hold power has been augmented by fronts funded by the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED), convicted financial criminal George Soros’ Open Society foundation, and a collection of other US and European government funds.

Posing as nongovernmental organizations. “academics,” media platforms, and student groups, these fronts have worked not specifically on promoting the Shinawatras, but instead on concerted attacks aimed at the Shinawatras’ opponents – Thailand’s independent institutions.

Former US Ambassador Kristie Kenney touring US-funded Prachatai’s office in Bangkok, Thailand. Prachatai had previously denied it was funded by the US government despite the information being available on the US NED’s own website.

These include Prachatai – who initially both withheld information about its US State Department funding and even lied to its readers about a lack of resources while soliciting cash from them – fronts like the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Democracy Cafe, ENLAWTHAI, and many others. Many share offices, openly collaborate and coordinate campaigns among themselves and with the Western media, and many have gone through great lengths to conceal or downplay the significance of their US funding and their dealings with US representatives.

And while these fronts claim they stand for “human rights” including “democracy” and “free speech,” they selectively target Thailand’s independent institutions while omitting, spinning, excusing, or otherwise deceiving the public regarding abuse carried out by the Shinawatra regime and its supporters. This includes covering up concerted and widespread terrorism, mass murder, and an array of very real human rights abuses.

“Thailand is a nation many are not familiar with. The concept of “monarchy” to many in the West is unappealing, and issues of “free speech” regarding it get almost instinctual and unconditional support. Exploiting this ideological and emotional flaw, the West has managed to get many of the sharpest minds in the alternative media to help spread their concerted attack rather than expose it.” 

More important than understanding US designs for Thailand is understanding that they go beyond dividing and destroying a single nation. It is part of a much larger and long-term agenda of encircling and containing China either with a unified front of US-controlled client regimes, or failed states that drag Beijing down in a series of political, economic, and security crises.

It is a verbatim replay of other US-backed destabilizations either having already divided and destroyed other nations around the world, or currently consuming them. Despite the obvious body of evidence regarding Thailand’s current and ongoing political crisis, some are still falling for the same tricks and tactics used to garner support for US regime change operations elsewhere such as in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine, and beyond.

How the West is Short-Circuiting Critical Thinking 

In order to get an increasingly astute global public to forget the West’s history of meddling worldwide and to sidestep evidence of its involvement elsewhere, the Western media seeks ways to prey on ignorance, emotions, and ideology.

An example of this comes in the form of an unfortunate article gracing RT’s headlines regarding the current Thai head of state, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The video included in the article itself allegedly features inconsequential details of his private life, depicting him on an outing abroad with “tattoos” covering his upper body. Despite its inconsequential nature, it was spread across the Western media in a deliberate and concerted manner. It is a “juicy” video for gossipers and those seeking to present the head of state of a nation targeted for US-backed regime change in an unflattering light.

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That the Western media is now eagerly and concertedly attempting to undermine the Thai head of state and create controversy over the Thai government’s reaction should immediately have warning bells go off for any objective analyst applying critical thought. But because of ideology, emotions, and sloppy research, many have failed to hear these bells.

Thailand is a nation many are not familiar with. The concept of “monarchy” to many in the West is unappealing, and issues of “free speech” regarding it get almost instinctual and unconditional support. Exploiting this ideological and emotional flaw, the West has managed to get many of the sharpest minds in the alternative media to help spread their concerted attack rather than expose it.

In reality, King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his circle of advisers represents a continuity in leadership and principles that have guided Thailand through centuries of stability and defended it against centuries of attempts by outside powers to subjugate and colonize it. This goes far in explaining why the Western media has committed to a concerted effort to undermine and overthrow this institution.

For the majority of Thais, they revere their institutions and share pride and prestige with them in a way unique from Western “monarchies” and “democratic” institutions. They have been unphased by literally decades of rumors and slander aimed at their institutions by the Western media.

The Thai government’s move to control the spread of Western-backed sedition across social media like Facebook is not out of fear of the truth, but out of fear of what Western-backed lies have done to other nations when allowed to spread unchecked.

The West’s ability to create the illusion that the majority of a population stands against a targeted nation was key in provoking and perpetuating the crisis in Syria. That Syria has failed to fall precisely because the majority was not behind regime change, exposes not only this tactic, but the absolute danger of not stopping it in time.

Clearly, there is much more behind this story than meets the eye. RT has been instrumental in telling both sides of stories like these, and hopefully will continue to do so. It was encouraging to see in the comment section of the story, regular readers of RT catching on to the possibility that the controversy represents Western-backed agitation more than an issue of “free speech.” Hopefully RT will be more careful in the future and continue exposing and opposing Western lies rather than serving as a means of magnifying them.

As for those in the alternative media who have lent this narrative credibility, they stand as proof that there are still buttons the West can push even among the most informed to illicit emotional and ideological knee-jerk reactions where sober analysis and research should be applied.

Posted in USA, Far East0 Comments

Pyongyang slams ‘Israel’ as ‘disturber of peace armed with illegal nukes under US patronage’

NOVANEWS
Image result for ISRAELI NUCLEAR CARTOON

North Korea has accused the Jewish Nazi regime of being the “only illegal possessor” of nukes and threat to peace in the Middle East, and threatened Tel Aviv with a “thousand-fold punishment” after Nazi Defense Minister called Pyongyang’s leadership a “crazy and radical group.”

In an interview with Hebrew news site Walla this week, Nazi Avigdor Lieberman stated that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is a “madman” in charge of a “crazy and radical group” which is “undermining global stability.”

Pyongyang “seems to have crossed the red line with its recent nuclear tests,” the Nazi defense minister said, according to the Times of Israel.

In response, Pyongyang promised a “thousand-fold punishment to whoever dares hurt the dignity of its supreme leadership,” calling Nazi Lieberman’s “sordid and wicked” remarks a part of Nazi regime smear campaign to cover up its own crimes.

Firing back at the perceived hypocrisy, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said that, unlike the Jewish Nazi regime, which is a “disturber of peace” in its neighborhood, their country is fully entitled to seek deterrence against “US aggression.”

“Israel is the only illegal possessor of nukes in the Middle East under the patronage of the US. However, Israel vociferated about the nuclear deterrence of the DPRK, slandering it, whenever an opportunity presented itself,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman said, as cited by state-run agency KCNA.

While Nazi regime has never publicly confirmed or denied possessing nukes, it is universally believed to have dozens of warheads, and maintains ambiguous policy that it will not be the first to “introduce” them in the Middle East.

“The DPRK’s access to nuclear weapons is the legitimate exercise of its righteous right for self-defense to cope with the US provocative moves for aggression and the DPRK’s nuclear force is the treasured sword of justice firmly defending peace on the Korean peninsula and in the region,”  the North Korean statement added.

Pyongyang went on to call ‘Israel’ a “culprit of crimes against humanity” and an “occupier” which seeks to dominate the region and oppress Palestinians.

Nazi Lieberman’s remarks also sparked criticism at home, with some Nazi politicians noting that their country has enough enemies to create even more with such reckless statements.

“We have enough enemies. Let’s focus on them,” MP Shelly Yachimovich of the Zionist Union said on Twitter.

“The minister of talk is chattering irresponsibly about North Korea. And there is no prime minister to rein in the babbling and posturing ministers,” former defense minister Nazi Moshe Ya’alon wrote on Twitter, Times of Israel reports.

Already heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalated further on Saturday after the North conducted yet another failed test of its ballistic rocket technology. The test was conducted as US kicked off joint naval exercises with South Korea just after the US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Carl Vinson entered the Sea of Japan.

For some time now, it has been speculated that Pyongyang is also getting ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test. Speaking about North Korea on Saturday, Trump noted that neither China nor the US would welcome a further North Korean nuclear test.

“I would not be happy,” Trump said in a CBS interview for Sunday’s Face the Nation. When asked if the sixth Korean nuclear test would prompt American military action, Trump responded: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, North Korea0 Comments

Anti-DPRK Propaganda War – a Cavalcade of Comedy

NOVANEWS

dprk 123

People living in western Europe and North America are bombarded with stories about north Korea – often centred around rumour, mysterious ‘intelligence’ sources, or the south Korean and US governments.

Most stories are nothing but rumours, spread to portray the DPRK as crazy and unpredictable, but now, more and more often, we are seeing major news sources such as the Guardian, the Telegraph, and the Independent being forced to apologise and write retractions after these blatant lies have been exposed.

This writer’s favourite example is a story published this year by Yonhap news agency (a south Korean news company) claiming that south Korea had ‘captured a spy drone’ from the north.

The ‘drone’ was examined by the south Korean military and, upon closer inspection, was revealed to be the door of a portable toilet and not, after all, a piece of sophisticated military hardware.

RT wrote a story in response titled ‘Truth flushed out:”Crashed drone” near Seoul is portable toilet door’.

RT: http://rt.com/news/158980-korea-drone-crashed-door/

Think about this for a second.

The USA can fly heavily-armed bombing or hi-tech surveillance drones over foreign countries with no objection from imperialist politicians and media. It can blow up weddings and kill scores of innocent people in countries where it has no jurisdiction without consequences. But if the DPRK is suspected of fling a single unarmed drone within its own borders then the world needs to be alerted to its ‘criminal’ activity.

The emperor can light entire villages on fire but the people are forbidden from lighting a single candle.

But not only did the ‘drone’ turn out to be the door of a portable toilet, but YTN (a south Korean news channel) superimposed an image of the ‘drone’ onto a photograph of Kim Jong-un.

Now we’ve established the level of desperation that the bourgeoisie media go to ridicule the DPRK, let’s have a brief look at some of the other ludicrous stories that have emerged in the last few years – this cavalcade of comedy is a gift that keeps on giving.

1. North Korea discovers a unicorn lair

In 2012, a story spread which asked us to believe that the DPRK was claiming to have discovered the lair of a unicorn and this was a conformation that the people there believe the creatures really exist.

In reality, DPRK archaeologists had reported the discovery of a rock with engravings that translated to “unicorn lair” and that this was an important archaeological site that referred to an ancient legend of a unicorn ridden by King Tongmyong – one of the founders of the kingdoms of Korea 2,000 years ago.

One of the first western media sources to report this was a media source called USnews, and the Guardian was among the many papers that repeated the story. It later printed a retraction, blaming the original on a mistranslation.

USnews: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/11/30/north-korea-says-its-found-a-unicorn-lair

Guardian repeat: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/30/unicorn-lair-discovered-north-korea

Guardian retraction: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/05/north-korea

2. Execution by pack of dogs

Following the arrest of DPRK political official Jang Song-thaek on charges of corruption, the media went wild with stories that he had reportedly been fed to a pack of starving dogs.

The British Independent spread the story that Kim Jong-un’s uncle had been fed to a pack of hungry dogs, but later published a retraction admitting the story was satire.

According to the Independent, “The story was nonetheless reported by the English-language Singapore daily Straits Times, and from there quickly made headlines around the western world.

Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/kim-jonguns-executed-uncle-jang-song-thaek-stripped-naked-fed-to-120-dogs-as-officials-watched-9037109.html

Independent retraction: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/kim-jongun-uncle-fed-to-120-dogs-story-begun-by-chinese-satirist-9042072.html

Explanation on RT with George Galloway and Keith Bennet from the CPGB-ML:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7_GnhOSEyY&list

3. Executions for watching foreign films

This was another satire story that was shared by the Independent as fact.

The Independent said “Seoul’s Joong Ang Ilbo daily reported that the killings were carried out in seven separate cities on 3 November, with an alleged 10,000 people forced to attend one group execution held in a sports stadium in the eastern port city Wonsan.

This story might seem solid on the front – that is, if we didn’t live in the information age, where a quick YouTube search for Pyongyang’s 13th International Film Festival can prove this story false.

The festival featured films from countries including France, Indonesia, China, Pakistan, Egypt, Russia and Switzerland (and a joint film was made by artists from Britain and the DPRK called Comrade Kim Goes Flying).

Germany won Best Actor for Daniel Brühl in a film called Der Ganz Grosse Traum des Konrad Koch, a movie about an English teacher in a German boarding school who upsets the strict rigged order of the school to teach the children football.

He also played parts in films such as The Fith EstateInglorious Bastards7 Days in Havana,Eva, and Goodbye Lenin.

Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/north-korea-executes-80-people-for-watching-foreign-films-8932104.html

Pyongyang 13th International Film Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCPZJ6plxR0

Daniel Brühl and his movie, Der Ganz Grosse Traum des Konrad Koch:http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/daniel-bruhl-kicks-german-soccer-25223

4. Kim Jong-un executed his girlfriend

The Chosun Ilbo published a story saying “Sources in China said singer Hyon Song-wol as well as Mun Kyong-jin, head of the Unhasu Orchestra, were arrested on 17 August for violating north Korean laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later.

The article went on to say they were accused of videotaping themselves having sex and selling the videos. The tapes have apparently gone on sale in China as well.

The Huffington PostBusiness Insider and the Telegraph repeated the story that Hyon Song-Wol had been executed.

However, after some time had passed the Telegraph published a retraction admitting that Ms Hyon had actually appeared alive and well on television.

Business Insider wrote that the reported ‘sex tape’ was actually a video of a woman dancing to Elvis Presley’s, Aloha Oe.

Chosun Ilbo: http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/08/29/2013082901412.html

Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/hyon-song-wol-pornographic-video-kim-jong-un-ex-girlfriend-2013-9

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/08/29/kim-jong-uns-ex-lover-hyon-song-wol-executed-north-korean-firing-squad-sex-tape_n_3835131.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/10272953/Kim-Jong-uns-ex-lover-executed-by-firing-squad.html

Telegraph retraction: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/10837897/Executed-Kim-Jong-Un-girlfriend-reappears-on-North-Korea-television.html

5. How Americans live

In 2013, a short film entitled How Americans Live spread on YouTube.

The film featured film scenes from the USA with an English narrator making over-the-top claims about how the people there were forced to eat snow for sustenance.

Spencer Ackerman of WIRED called the film evidence of a “north Korean propaganda video” while the Washington Post, in its ‘analysis’, declared that the video’s “message is consistent with north Korean propaganda“.

The film actually turned out to be satire posted by the British travel writer Alun Hill.

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/how-americans-live-today-north-korea-fake-video_n_2868121.html

There are far too many such stories for us to dismantle them all, but these are just a sample of the most prominent.

If you would like to get behind the hostile imperialist propaganda barrage and understand a little more of the truth about the DPRK, we recommend this short interview with CPGB-ML member Keith Bennet on George Galloway’s RT programme Sputnik:

Posted in North Korea0 Comments

China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative: “A New Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe”

NOVANEWS
 

On Sunday May 14, China’s President Xi Jinping will inaugurate the One Belt One Road summit, the object of which is to to build a “new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe”, largely focussing on infrastructure investment. Global Research brings to the attention of its readers this carefully researched review by political scientist Zhao Bingxing

*      *      *

The debate on China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR, also referred to as “Belt and Road”) initiative seems gradually cooled down in the last year and one plausible reason was the relatively slow and limited progress it made. But recent news released by Chinese government reheated it: The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing in the middle of this May and 28 heads of state and government leaders [including North Korea] have confirmed their attendance.

For international observers, at least two factors make this forthcoming meeting eye-catching. On the one hand, it may tell whether China can convince other countries it is capable of playing a leading role in promoting global free trade by implementing OBOR when the U.S. turns to isolationism and protectionism.

On the other hand, three and a half years have passed since this initiative was announced and a mid-term review is required, which should preferably in a summit or high-level forum, rather than by a one-sided progress report, and the conclusion of this review will be a focus. To make judgment on either of the issues, the analysis of the motive, rationale of OBOR are necessary but still not enough. We need to examine how successful this initiative was implemented in those relevant countries so far and what impact OBOR will bring to them. Considering the different national power, developing level, economic institution of these countries, and even their complicated relations with China, an unified or too generalized view without studying of each country should be avoided.

In this article, four countries in the OBOR scope, i.e. Russia, Uzbekistan, Malaysia and Germany are selected to do case studies and it shows that OBOR, though based on  positive principles, which focus on enhancing connectivity, facilitating trade and improving infrastructure, may not bring equal benefit to the relevant countries along this route and its impact on these countries differs significantly from one to another. In the meantime, the response of these countries also differs, which is closely relates to their economic, geopolitical and ideological consideration.

Russia

According to Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (hereafter referred to as Vision and Actions), the official guiding document of OBOR, one of the three routes of the “Belt” passes Russia and two passes Central Asia, whereby Russia considers it to be a part of its historical economic and regional interests.[1][2] Hence, Russia can be viewed as a key to the success of OBOR. In a sense, the construction of the “Belt” will face more challenges if it lacks Russia’s cooperation, or at least consent.

A recent official remark in respect to bilateral relations between Russia and China seems quite optimistic. On Jan 17 and 18, 2017, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and a Chinese spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs respectively stated that Sino-Russian relations were “at their best level ever in the two countries’ history”.[3] Both of them also mentioned OBOR as a part of Sino-Russian cooperation.[4] Though China has consistently been seeking support and cooperation with Russia (and all the other countries along OBOR as well), it is important to note, however, that Russia’s position was not consistent and underwent an obvious shift.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Initially the Kremlin didn’t give the OBOR initiative positive feedback and it didn’t show enthusiasm for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the first place, either, which reflected a dominant view of Russian elites that these would lead to a mutual distrust between the two countries.[5]

Russia’s concern about losing freight traffic was one reason for its unwillingness because the original route based on Chinese planning was to bypass Russia.[6] More importantly, it worried that the closer economic ties between China and the Central Asian countries would compete with Russia’s own integration plans for this region, which may further make the Central Asian countries drift away from Russia and embrace China.[7] But President Putin soon changed his position when China acknowledged Russia’s concerns and agreed to make some concessions to accommodate Russia’s needs, followed by the Russia’s endorsement of OBOR and its joint declaration with China on coordinating and linking OBOR to Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in the middle of 2015.[8]

In fact, China did show considerable willingness and flexibility to cooperating and this was exemplified by China’s “creation” of an economic corridor with Russia and Mongolia, which would connect the “Belt” to Russia’s transcontinental railroad plan which was not in the initial plan of the OBOR.[9] Besides, China’s “Three Nos” principle in Central Asia, i.e. no interference with Central Asian countries’ internal affairs; no attempt to seek a dominant role in regional affairs; and no desire to create a sphere of influence, being a policy for dealing with its relations with Central Asian countries, to some extent eased Russia’s concern about China’s involvement in this region, because such showed that China had no intention of changing the status quo (Russia’s dominant influence) even though China didn’t formally acknowledge Central Asia as Russia’s backyard.[10] So far the concessions China made with regards to Russia are probably the most significant ones made during the promotion of OBOR because no other country alone constituted a reason for China to change the route.

Russia’s consideration is also based on the fact that some benefits, including infrastructure construction and cooperation on industrial capacity with China are not a priority and the only significant and substantial benefit to be incurred may be the receipt of funding from China. Rather, apart from the competing interest in Central Asia, some cooperation models as used in other countries such as contracting a construction project and dispatching thousands of Chinese workers there would hardly be acceptable for Russia due to its vigilance on the issue of Chinese migrants, especially in Far East region.

However, there are some reasons that Russia eventually decided to support this initiative. First, there is some tangible benefit that Russia can expect, though it doesn’t seem so imperative for Russia to seek out for the time being. In addition to being another channel for funding of infrastructure, OBOR, after an adjustment to its route as per Russia’s requirements, both in the plan and in practice, has brought some benefits to Russia.

Since Russia’s transcontinental rail was connected to OBOR and China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor started to build, freight volume rocketed up in the railway routes from China to Russia, and to Europe via Russia, both of which used Russia’s transcontinental railroad, such as Chongqing-Inner Mongolia-Russia (Yu-Meng-E) and Hunan-Inner Mongolia-Europe (Xiang-Meng-Ou), which had positive effects for both China and Russia.[11]

Second, EEU is currently Russia’s priority. Though initially OBOR was viewed more as a rival, China’s clarification and commitment on connecting the two projects eased Russia’s concerns to a large extent. As a concrete step, a document was signed in the middle of 2016 in which the two governments decided to formally start negotiations on an economic partnership, mainly focusing on trade facilitation, merging different standards on intellectual property, customs, and other areas.[12] Third, it might not be wise nor feasible for Russia to contain China’s influence in Central Asia, or larger scope by boycotting this initiative.

For one thing, though the influence of Russia, the “elder brother” in Eurasia is still dominant, which is determined by its close political, economic, cultural, language and even people-to-people ties with the five republics in this region, the latter have long been seeking reducing their overdependence on Russia and striking a balance among big powers. Of course, Russia and China are the most important two in the region. In the past decade, China’s influence in the field of economics in this region grew very quickly and as such China has been able to compete with Russia, if not surpass it.

In 2015, all Central Asian countries have a larger share of their two-way trade with China than with Russia except for China’s exports to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and imports from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.[13] Besides, the build-up of mutual trust and cooperation in other areas such as that of anti-terrorism also increased China’s influence and say in this region. These facts make it very difficult for Russia to sway these countries by one-sided action. It is even interesting that Kazakhstan, where Xi Jinping first announced the “One Belt” initiative, is exactly the country which has the closest relations with Russia in Central Asia. For the other, OBOR is basically based on the actual needs of both China and many other countries. Also, China has enough political will and financial resources to push forward with. These factors mean that it can still proceed even if the support from some of the local big powers is absent.

Image result for silk road economic belt

In addition, it is necessary to examine Russia’s position beyond the calculation of the benefit or loss of OBOR per se and put it in a broader context. After the annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory in March, 2014, the West imposed the harshest sanctions since the Cold War was over against Russia and this was a heavy, though not devastating blow to Russia, both in politics and in economy.

Data showed that Russia entered into a recession, with GDP growth of -2.2% for the first quarter of 2015, as compared to the first quarter of 2014, which was regarded as a success of Western sanctions in terms of the proximate goal of inflicting damage on the Russian economy.[14] Under this great pressure, it is no surprise that the Kremlin turned to the East and sought cooperation opportunities from China. Though China didn’t support Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and basically held a neutral position, it did have a great deal of interest in strengthening bilateral cooperation with Russia in economic, military and other areas because China also faced pressure from the West and needed political support from Russia. Admittedly, joining OBOR cannot bring enough benefits to Russia to offset its losses from the sanctions, nor can the closer relations with China.

However, a positive attitude to OBOR is vital for Russia if it hopes to get more financial support from China, whether under the OBOR initiative or other bilateral projects. It is hard to image that the $400 billion USD gas deal between the two countries, which was signed shortly after Russia annexed the Crimea and other cooperation projects can be implemented smoothly if Russia eventually declines this initiative that China attaches the most importance to.

On the whole, the benefit of OBOR seems more symbolic than substantial for Russia and thus Russia still sticks to the EEU project, which can help to bolster its economic and political dominance in Eurasia. This has been evidenced by the wording used when Lavrov mentioned that the Russia-China relations were at the best of all time this January. He emphasized “aligning” the two projects, instead of “joining” OBOR. Nevertheless, Russia still cannot neglect OBOR because the latter is closely related to China, who is able to provide key support to Russia. This support was vital to Russia when it suffered from the sanctions from the West and is expected to continue to play an important role in the near future because the relations between Russia and the West have been in a stalemate and chances of lifting the sanctions look very slim in the near future.

Uzbekistan

It is not a coincidence that Xi chose Central Asia to announced the “One Belt” initiative first. One plausible explanation for such is that this is the region where the ancient Silk Road first passed by when it left West China, but the underlying reason may be that the five republics of Central Asia are the countries who best match the ideas of OBOR and support it most as well. Since they gained independence twenty-five years ago, these landlocked countries had to face a common challenge, i.e. how to develop their economies in the Post-Soviet time?

Although Putin showed a strong desire to play an even bigger role in this region, Russia’s capabilities alone are not enough to ensure the prosperity of these counties. More importantly, such support is not without a price—overreliance on one big power will risk their independence. The rise of China provided an alternative to these countries which enabled them to choose partners from a wider range and benefit from both. OBOR is attractive to Central Asian countries because the focuses of this initiative, such as promoting connectivity, facilitating trade and investment, and improving infrastructure are all imperative to them. In this section, Uzbekistan is selected as an example, which can be a representative of the other four countries.
In May 2014, one year before the Vision and Actions was released, the then Uzbek President Karimov stated that Uzbekistan would actively participate in the building of the Silk Road economic belt when he met with Chinese President Xi.[15] In June 2015 China and Uzbekistan agreed to expand trade and economic cooperation under the framework of the “Belt initiatives”.[16] In June 2016, Karimov and Xi agreed to focus on jointly promoting this initiative.[17] All of which clearly shows Uzbekistan’s positive attitude to OBOR.

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Uzbek President Karimov and Chinese President Xi Jinping

The main areas of cooperation under the OBOR framework include economic and trade cooperation, gas pipeline, railway tunnel construction, people-to-people exchange, etc. and much progress has been witnessed since a series of pacts were signed.[18] For example, the Qamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan, which is a part of the Angren-Pap railway line that connects Tashkent and Namangan, was completed on June 22, 2016 as a major achievement of OBOR.[19]

There is also some uncertainty about the implementation of OBOR in this country, which not only comes from the death of Karimov in last September, but also comes from local Uzbekistanis’ insufficient knowledge and recognition of OBOR, and too even China’s overall model of economic development.[20] In spite of this, cooperation related to OBOR still seems to be on track and there is no sign that it has been set aside by Uzbekistan.

Admittedly, the five republics in Central Asia differ from each other in terms of levels of democracy, natural resources, economic development levels, even in terms of domestic tensions or conflicts. Nevertheless, their common feature in geographic location cannot be overlooked. Being landlocked states, their trade connectivity with the rest of the world is limited, but they are also the overland juncture between East Asia and Europe, which gives them the potential to become a transportation hub that can connect the East and the West.[21] OBOR looks like a perfect solution to this situation.

If properly managed, it can better the connectivity within their individual country and that with other countries, which will bring triple benefits to them. First benefit is in meeting their local needs. Second is in facilitating their own export and import, and the third is to make profit by providing transshipment services. Also, appealing to Central Asian countries is China’s “no intervention in domestic politics”, “business-is-business” and economic oriented approach. When compared to Russia or other powers, China “is more inclined to perceive the local situation in terms of a sophisticated win-win scenario rather than in terms of aspirations of geopolitical dominance in the region” and such this policy has been approved to be successful.[22]

Overall, OBOR is beneficial to Uzbekistan and joining this initiative can be a reasonable choice. In fact, Uzbekistan can be a typical case with regards to OBOR from two different angles. One is that it represents the other four Central Asian countries which have similar geographic advantages as well as disadvantages and economic status quo. The other is that it can represent many medium or small developing states which have little direct conflicting interest with China in terms of geopolitics and thus can focus more on the economic cooperation they are mutually interested in. Basically, it is not difficult for them to find some areas in which they can cooperate with China on and benefit from them together.

Malaysia

Being an important part of 21st century Maritime Silk Road, or “One Road”, the other half of the OBOR, Malaysia, has its significance in two aspects. First, it is sitting on a strategic spot, in that Kuala Lumpur is quite close to the Malacca Strait, the second busiest waterway in the world. Trade statistics show that almost half of the world’s total annual seaborne cargo passed through this passage, which is jointly administered by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.[23] Second, Malaysia is now China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN and the third largest in Asia and its policy option can be used as reference for some other countries.[24] In addition, Malaysia is able to help China expand markets in other ASEAN and neighboring countries.[25] All these factors together make Malaysia’s position key to the prospects of “One Road”.

In fact, Malaysia is perhaps the most active country regarding the OBOR in ASEAN, or Southeast Asia. In October 2014, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak voiced his country’s readiness to support both OBOR and AIIB when meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.[26] In addition, many other high-ranking governmental officials also echoed Najib’s position on OBOR. For example, Liow Tiong Lai, the Minister of Transport of Malaysia reiterated that the OBOR was a win-win project and indicated that Malaysia was ready for that in his speech at the Boao Forum for Asia in June 2015.[27]

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Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Several key areas and projects have been highlighted by both Malaysia and China under the umbrella of OBOR, including infrastructure, transportation, energy, property and even education and some progress have been made on each to date. For example, 60% of the equity of the 1MDB-owned Bandar Malaysia project in Kuala Lumpur was sold to a consortium led by a Malaysian company and China Railway Engineering Corp (CREC, a stated owned Chinese company) at RM7.41 billion in early 2016.[28] In November of the year, following an official visit to China by Najib, Malaysian and Chinese companies saw the signing of fourteen agreements on several iconic and mega agreements worth RM144 billion.[29] Another eye-catching project which China hopes to incorporate into OBOR is the High Speed Rail (HSR) connecting Malaysia and Singapore. Though the final result of HSR bidding will not be available until 2018, it is a general consensus that a Chinese-led consortium is one of the two most promising competitors (the other is Japanese-led consortium) because of its successful precedent as set in Indonesia.

There are several reasons that can explain the positive attitude of both government and business sectors. First, Malaysia has basically maintained friendly relations with China over the past few decades. In fact, Malaysia was the first country in Southeast Asia to build formal ties with China in 1974.[30] Such good relations are also based on the fact that there was little strategic conflict between the two countries after 1980s whereas there was also a frequent people-to-people exchange that occurred because of the large Chinese ethnic population present in Malaysia. It should be noted that territory disputes between the two countries do exist, which is about the waterways in the South China Sea. However, both Malaysia and China seem to be restrained about such and downplay this dispute, which is unlike the situation between the Philippines and China in the last several years. As a result, this dispute didn’t impede the bilateral relations. Second, both Malaysia and China have benefited a lot from previous economic cooperation and thus there is a strong driving force for them to maintain such development. A closer look at the bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries shows that two-way investment and trade involves different sectors, from manufacturing to construction, and different regions in these two countries, which reflects the in-depth and successful cooperation of both. Third, Malaysia believes that much of its needs in infrastructure, transportation and investment can be met by joining OBOR. As Najib notes, for instance,

“[The double-track East Coast Rail Line] will spur socio-economic growth in specific areas and bring great benefit to the people in the East Coast [of Malaysia]”.

Image result for east coast rail line malaysia

Also, with the implementation of OBOR, Malaysia sees more opportunities to attract Chinese investment.[31]
OBOR can be a good opportunity for Malaysia too because it is more likely to succeed in this country than in some other developing countries along the OBOR. Aside from the strategic significance, Malaysia has a relatively stable political environment, well-established legal system and sound economic framework and good infrastructure. Its unique advantages include its large Muslim population as well as its Chinese ethnic population. The latter can help Chinese businesses easily enter into the local market and the former provide a possibility to connect the Chinese halal industry to the Muslim world.[32]

Though geopolitical consideration is not frequently and publicly emphasized when Malaysian high-ranking officials talk about OBOR, there is good reason to believe that Malaysia is trying to seek a balance between the two big powers of the United States and China. While actively getting involved in OBOR, Malaysia is also a member of TPP, a US-led trade agreement.[33] Since OBOR and TPP are widely considered to be part of a rivalry between China and the US, the involvement of both projects clearly shows that Malaysia hopes to benefit from both but not to overly rely on any. In a sense, the choice of “OBOR or TPP” reflects the choice of “US or China”, which is a common issue facing almost all the ASEAN countries, which is largely due to the geographic location of these countries. Although ASEAN countries try to speak with one voice, each of them have different responses to the “US or China” issue — some are more pro-American and others seem more pro-China. Of course, such is subject to change depending on their leadership and certain circumstances and the dispute over the South China Sea plays a key role in the policy option.

Last but not least, skepticism and concerns about OBOR can also be found in Malaysia. In addition to the dispute concerning the South China Sea, the “indifference” of Malay ethnic people as opposed to the “enthusiasm” of Chinese ethnic people and the exaggeration of the potential effect of OBOR are also challenges.[34] However, it seems that the Malay-Chinese cooperation on OBOR hasn’t been influenced much by such opinions.

Germany

China became the biggest trading partner of Germany in 2016 for the first time, overtaking France and the US, and Germany has long been China’s biggest trading partner in Europe.[35] This clearly shows the even closer economic relations between the two countries. From China’s perspective, Germany’s significance for OBOR primarily lies in its geographic location as one of the destinations of OBOR as well as its identity as an important actor among Western countries, which means that cooperation on OBOR, if successfully implemented, may set an example for other Western countries in Europe and attract more Western partners. Overall, the German government holds a relatively positive position towards OBOR and its focus is mainly on the areas of improving connectivity and trade and investment facilitation. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has welcomed the initiative to secure more Chinese investment in Europe.[36] At the same time, reservations and ambiguity can also be read from German government positions. German Consul General in Hong Kong when asked about the position of Germany on OBOR, said that Germany welcomed China’s openness to the rest of the world but he also highlighted that “any roads and any belts should be and will be in both directions”.[37]

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Although German government is not very willing to provide clear and strong support to OBOR, it didn’t refuse the relevant business opportunities that came with such. However, when compared to the Central Asian countries or some Southeast Asian countries, the result yielded in Germany under OBOR seems rather limited. The most prominent progress related to OBOR made in Germany is the Sino-European freight trains. In fact, the only five big projects to be undertaken by the end of 2016 were those linking the existing railroads. But it should be noted that several of them had been planned long before the announcement of OBOR and were just included in this initiative later.[38]

Unlike some countries which are China’s immediate rivals or have territory disputes with China, Germany can stay away from such tricky problems. As a result, the responses of Germany regarding OBOR, especially those positive ones, including the statements of the government or business sectors and projects discussed or agreed to are almost all based on economic calculations. In fact, the realistic or foreseeable benefits for Germany may also lie in this area. For one thing, the operation of Sino-German freight train provided a new option for the transportation of goods between China and Germany, and other European countries with a shorter timeline and more affordable cost. According to the China Railway, the total freight volume of the Sino-European railway reached 42 million tons in 2016, an increase of 12% and Germany was the main destination.[39] It should be noted that there are other destination countries of eastbound freight trains aside from China, such as Kazakhstan.[40] This demonstrates that the connectivity achieved can be beneficial to all the countries along OBOR. For the other, it did attract more Chinese investors to Germany. So far around seventy enterprises have settled in Duisburg, one of the destinations of Sino-German freight train, and most of them entered the European market within the last two years.[41] Overall trade and investment statistics show a very positive trend for the past three years and OBOR did play “some” positive role in such, though it may not be easy to measure precisely to what extent OBOR contributed to this trend.

Admittedly, the challenge facing OBOR in Germany is huge, and such a challenge is quite different from that in the developing countries or in China’s neighboring rivals. For a Westernized developed economy like Germany’s, infrastructure, one of the key pillars of OBOR, which is also a focus for many of the countries in Central Asia and Southeast Asia, is not a priority, nor even a concern of Germany’s because infrastructure is well-established throughout the country. Foreign investment is generally welcomed but not a pressing need. The cooperation on manufacturing capacity which has been in operation by China and some developing countries along OBOR is not applicable to Germany at all. This explains why the major benefit, if not the only benefit, that is attractive to Germany may be the connectivity created by OBOR and the resultant trade and investment opportunities.

In addition to the mismatch as mentioned, the obvious divergence between Germany and China regarding China’s markets, transfer of cutting-edge technology to Chinese companies, Chinese state-owned enterprises, or ultimately, China’s model of economic development is also a big obstacle for OBOR. For example, Berlin became seriously concerned that Chinese acquisition of hi-tech German companies would make China an even more aggressive competitor while Chinese officials criticized this new protectionist tendencies in Germany in response.[42] Needless to say, this is a common issue between almost all the EU countries and China. Furthermore, the EU’s approach has, to a large extent been based on a democratization and human right paradigm, which can be viewed as one of the root causes of their indifference and skepticism of OBOR.[43]  As a result, Germany’s involvement with OBOR is limited and the influence of OBOR to this country is drastically weakened.

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Siemens is a German conglomerate company with headquarter in Beijing, China.

For years Germany’s policy on China has been split between the economic interests and ideological considerations. On the one hand, it cannot ignore the Chinese markets and cooperation with China, which has brought huge benefit to its economy. On the other hand, Germany’s free market capitalism and values can hardly accommodate China’s development and expansion based on the Chinese model and thus deterrence is required. This dilemma has inevitably influenced how Germany looks at OBOR and what impact OBOR will bring to Germany. The result is, not surprisingly, a temporary balance between the two objectives. Of course, such a balance is not unchangeable and the struggle over economic interests and ideological principles will continue. A recent and noticeable event that occurred which may sway Germany’s position might be US president Trump and his isolationism. Before Merkel’s meeting with Trump, Merkel and Xi stressed a commitment to free trade during a telephone call.[44] This move signals that Germany may have to attach more importance to achieving economic cooperation with China, which means OBOR will probably have a more favorable environment in Germany in the future.

The case of Germany can reflect the general European situation to some degree and it basically coincides with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s statement, who also emphasizes the importance of investment and links and holds that this initiative can bring huge benefit to both China and the EU, if it works well.[45] However, the representation of Germany shouldn’t be overestimated. On the one hand, there is no official EU position on OBOR as of yet and EU countries also lack a collective voice.[46] On the other hand, the Germany case is more applicable to Western Europe than Eastern, Central and Southeastern Europe. Unlike Germany, most countries in the Central, Eastern and Southeastern parts of Europe are less developed and thus need more infrastructure building assistance and foreign investments, which brings them more opportunities to cooperate with China under OBOR. And this has been evidenced by a series of cooperation between two parties, such as the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO)’s purchase of the Greek port of Piraeus and China’s building of a high-speed railway from Hungary to Serbia.

Conclusion

The analysis of the four countries, though fragmented and not adequate to provide a whole picture of the impact of OBOR for those countries within the scope as well as their response, to some extent reveals the trend of the relations between OBOR and the relevant countries, because each of the four countries can represent a group of countries, or at least reflects some key consideration of the countries with the same features.

First, big powers are more inclined to put OBOR in the context of power rivalry and this inevitably reinforces OBOR as a challenge and usually leads to distrust of this initiative. Russia’s response initially reflected

this relationship but China’s immense move towards making concessions and Russia’s plight in the Ukraine eventually changed Russia’s position. By comparison, India is a case in point to show how another power is wary of China’s OBOR initiative. Since India positions China more as a rival than a partner, and there are no key drivers that emerged like those which occurred in Russia’s case that could reverse the trend, to date India hasn’t endorsed this initiative and there is little hope it will in the future. To some degree, the benefits or losses that OBOR can yield have become secondary to geopolitical considerations. Small or medium states, such as the Uzbekistan and Malaysia cases suggest, however, don’t want to get involved in the great power games and tend to focus on the tangible and immediate gains that can be derived from OBOR. They don’t seem to care whether or not China can get more from the bilateral cooperation than they do. In reality, many of them tend to seize the opportunity as it presents itself and transform it to improve their own country’s economy.

Second, developing countries are meant to benefit more from OBOR. Overall, the trade and investment facilitation, one of main goals of OBOR is universally welcomed by both developed countries and developing countries alike. But only the developing countries have huge demands for infrastructure building and requirements for relevant funding to be invested, which can probably be met by the implementation of OBOR. Then it should come as no surprise that developing countries along OBOR show relatively more positive attitudes towards it.

Third, political and economic institutions and too even ideology can play a important role in the assessment of OBOR as well as the position a country takes on it. Western counties are more concerned about the role of the Chinese government and state-owned enterprises in OBOR and are prone to link the implementation of this initiative outside China to the market environment within China. By contrast, non-Western countries have less concern in this regard partly because some of them are also practicing state capitalism, rather than free market capitalism. Therefore, their judgment is basically centered on what result OBOR can yield and to what degree such is beneficial to them.

In general, the idea of enhancing connectivity and promoting trade, which constitutes the main rationale of OBOR, is positive and this explains why OBOR won quite a bit of recognition after three years of intensive promotion, though it has always been accompanied by skepticism and challenges outside China. However, this initiative is still not a one-size-fits-all solution because its real effect relies heavily on the different situation of each country. Then it is no surprise that each country has different positions, all depending on the consideration of various factors, including economic, geopolitical, ideology, etc. Roughly speaking, OBOR is more of an opportunity for small and medium developing states than big powers or Western countries.

In a sense, Trump’s new policy, Brexit and even the rise of right-wing political force in West Europe provided an unexpected opportunity for China’s OBOR initiative because most countries in the world are still in favor of open and free trade. In the meantime, they also need some kind of mechanism and project to materialize this conception. Intentionally or unintentionally, OBOR may probably play a positive role in this regard, but we also need to realize its limit and avoid too optimistic or unrealistic expectation.

NOTES

[1]National Development and Reform Commission, Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.
[2]Linn, J. F., Central Asian Regional Integration and Cooperation: Reality or Mirage?, 96.
[3]See Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference on the results of Russian diplomacy in 2016, Moscow, and
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying’s regular press conference on January 18, 2017.
[4]Ibid.
[5]Li, X., Silk Road Can Find Common Ground with Eurasian Economic Union.
[6]Wilson, The Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Silk Road: Implications for the Russian–Chinese Relationship, 119.
[7]Yu, China-Russia Relations: Putin’s Glory and Xi’s Dream.
[8]Wilson, The Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Silk Road: Implications for the Russian–Chinese Relationship, 119.
[9]Li, X., Silk Road Can Find Common Ground with Eurasian Economic Union.
[10]Yu, China-Russia Relations: Putin’s Glory and Xi’s Dream.
[11]Xinhua, China Uses Cooperation on Regional Ports to Boost China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor.
[12]Shtraks, China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative and the Sino-Russian Entente: An Interview with Alexander Gabuev.
[13]Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook,
[14]Christie, Sanctions after Crimea: Have They Worked?
[15]Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC, Xi Jinping Meets with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.
[16]Xinhua, China, Uzbekistan to Strengthen Cooperation Under the Silk Road Initiative.
[17]Xinhua, China, Uzbekistan Agree to Focus on Belt and Road Development.
[18]Xing, Guangcheng, and Weiwei Zhang, Promote the Building of Sino-Uzbeki “One Belt, One Road”.
[19]Xinhua, Chinese, Uzbek Leaders Hail Inauguration of Central Asia’s Longest Railway Tunnel.
[20]Chen, Julie Yu-Wen, and Olaf Günther, China’s Influence in Uzbekistan: Model Neighbor or Indifferent Partner?
[21]Li, Z. G., Central Asia Embraces “One Belt, One Road” Because of the Matched Interest.
[22]Kozłowski, The New Great Game Revised: Regional Security in Post-Soviet Central Asia.
[23]InvestKL, One Belt One Road: Kuala Lumpur is Sitting on a Strategic Spot.
[24]Foon, “Belt-road” to Benefit Businesses.
[25]Ibid.
[26]Xinhua, China, Malaysia Wow to Promote Bilateral Relationship.
[27]Liow, Speech By YB Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, Minister Of Transport, Malaysia, Boao Forum For Asia – Luncheon Speech One Belt One Road Strategy, Vision, Action Plan.
[28]Khoo, China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiatives in Malaysia.
[29]Bizhive, Riding the dragon: Harnessing Malaysia-China’s Trade Partnership.
[30]Foon, “Belt-road” to Benefit Businesses.
[31]Bizhive, Riding the Dragon: Harnessing Malaysia-China’s Trade Partnership.
[32]Liow, Speech By YB Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, Minister Of Transport, Malaysia, Boao Forum For Asia – Luncheon Speech One Belt One Road Strategy, Vision, Action Plan.
[33]With the inauguration of President Trump, the US quitted TPP on Jan 23, 2017. See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38721056
[34]Chen, J.S., Where is “One Belt, One Road” Heading for?
[35]Xinhua, Sino-German Trade Reaches a New Level Based on Mutual Benefit.
[36]Gaspers, Germany Wants Europe to Help Shape China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
[37]Lau, Make China’s Belt and Road Initiative a Two-way Street, Says German Consul General in Hong Kong.
[38]Ibid.
[39]Guan, “One Belt, One Road” Is a Lucky Key for Us.
[40]Ibid.
[41]Ibid.
[42]Larres, China and Germany: The Honeymoon Is Over.
[43]Arduino, China’s One Belt One Road: Has the European Union Missed The Train? 14.
[44]DW, Germany, China Stress Commitment to Free Trade Ahead of Merkel’s Meeting with Trump.
[45]Xinhua, Interview: Europe to Benefit from China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative: EC chief.
[46]European Parliament, One Belt, One Road (OBOR): China’s Regional Integration Initiative.

SOURCES

Arduino, Alessandro. “China’s One Belt One Road: Has the European Union Missed the Train?” Policy Report, Nanyang Technological University, Mar 2016

Bizhive, Yvonne Tuah. “Riding the Dragon: Harnessing Malaysia-China’s Trade Partnership.” Borneo Post Online, Nov 13, 2016
http://www.theborneopost.com/2016/11/13/riding-the-dragon-harnessing-malaysia-chinas-trade-partnership/

Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook, CIA website
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/wfbExt/region_cas.html

Chen, Jinsong. “Where is ‘One Belt, One Road’ Heading For?” (yi dai yi lu, lu zai he fang), Oriental Daily News, Sept 27, 2016
http://www.orientaldaily.com.my/columns/pl20153441#

Chen, Julie Yu-Wen, and Olaf Günther. “China’s Influence in Uzbekistan: Model Neighbor or Indifferent Partner?” The Jamestown Foundation Global Research & Analysis, Nov 11, 2016
http://www.silkroadreporters.com/2015/05/13/chinas-influence-grows-in-uzbekistan/

Christie, Edward Hunter. “Sanctions after Crimea: Have they Worked?” NATO Review
http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2015/Russia/sanctions-after-crimea-have-they-worked/EN/index.htm

DW. “Germany, China Stress Commitment to FreeTtrade Ahead of Merkel’s Meeting with Trump.” DW, Mar 16, 2017
http://www.dw.com/en/germany-china-stress-commitment-to-free-trade-ahead-of-merkels-meeting-with-trump/a-37973301

European Parliament. “One Belt, One Road (OBOR): China’s Regional Integration Initiative.”  European Parliament Briefing, July (2016): 1-12
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPRS_BRI(2016)586608

Foon, Ho Wah. “’Belt-Road’ to Benefit Businesses.” The Star Online, Aug 2, 2015
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/08/02/belt-road-to-benefit-businesses/

Gaspers, Jan. “Germany Wants Europe to Help Shape China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” The Diplomat, Dec 17, 2016
http://thediplomat.com/2016/12/germany-wants-europe-to-help-shape-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative/

Guan, Kejiang. “’One Belt, One Road’ is a Lucky Key for Us.” (yi dai yi lu shi wo men huo de de xing yun yao shi), People’s Daily, Jan 26, 2017
http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2017-01/26/nw.D110000renmrb20170126_4- 03.htm

InvestKL. “One Belt One Road: Kuala Lumpur is Sitting on a Strategic Spot.” InvestKL website, Oct 27, 2016
http://www.investkl.gov.my/Relevant_News-@-One_Belt_One_Road-;_Kuala_Lumpur_is_Sitting_on_One_of_the_Prettiest_Spots_.aspx

Khoo, Ryan. “China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiatives in Malaysia.” The Edge Property, Feb 1, 2016
http://www.theedgeproperty.com.sg/content/china%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98one-belt-one-road%E2%80%99-initiatives-malaysia

Kozłowski, Krzysztof. “The New Great Game Revised: Regional Security in Post-Soviet Central Asia.” Warsaw School of Economics, (2014): 190-203

Larres, Klaus. “China and Germany: The Honeymoon is Over.” The Diplomat, Nov 16, 2017
http://thediplomat.com/2016/11/china-and-gemany-the-honeymoon-is-over/

Lau, Stuart. “Make China’s Belt and Road Initiative a Two-Way Street, Says German Consul General in Hong Kong.” South China Morning Post, Apr 10, 2016
http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/1935033/make-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-two-way-street-says

Li, Xin. “Silk Road can Find Common Ground with Eurasian Economic Union.” Global Times, Apr 26, 2015
http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/918736.shtml

Li, Ziguo. “Central Asia Embraces ‘One Belt, One Road’ Because of the Matched Interest.” (li yi gao du qi he, zhong ya re qing yong bao yi dai yi lu), Beijing Review, Jun 1, 2015
http://www.beijingreview.com.cn/caijing/201506/t20150601_800033793.htm

Linn J. F. “Central Asian Regional Integration and Cooperation: Reality or Mirage?” EDB Eurasian Integration Yearbook 2012
https://www.brookings.edu/wpcontent/uploads/2016/06/10-regional-integration-and-cooperation-linn.pdf
Liow, Tiong Lai. “Speech by YB Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, Minister of Transport, Malaysia, Boao Forum for Asia – Luncheon Speech One Belt One Road Strategy, Vision, Action Plan.” Boao Forum for Asia, Jun 11, 2015
http://www.asli.com.my/uploads/20150615173806_Dato%20Sri%20Liow%20Tiong%20Lai%20Speech-Bo%20Ao%20Forum.pdf

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of P.R. China. “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on January 18, 2017.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC website, Jan 18, 2017
http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1431615.shtml

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of P.R.China. “Xi Jinping Meets with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, May 20, 2014
http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/topics_665678/yzxhxzyxrcshydscfh/t1158604.shtml

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. “Sergey Lavrov’s Remarks and Answers to Media Questions at a News Conference on the Results of Russian Diplomacy in 2016.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation website, January 17, 2017
http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/- asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2599609

Mohan, C. Raja. “Silk Route to Beijing.” Indian Express, Sept 15, 2014
http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/silk-route-to-beijing

National Development and Reform Commission of P.R.China. “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.” NDRC website, Mar 08, 2015
http://en.ndrc.gov.cn/newsrelease/201503/t20150330_669367.html

Shtraks, Greg. “China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative and the Sino-Russian Entente: An Interview with Alexander Gabuev.” The National Bureau of Asian Research, Aug 9, 2016
http://www.nbr.org/research/activity.aspx?id=707

Wilson, Jeanne. “The Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Silk Road: Implications for the Russian–Chinese Relationship.” European Politics and Society, 17:sup1, (2016): 113-132, DOI: 10.1080/23745118.2016.1171288

Xing, Guangcheng, and Weiwei Zhang. “Promote the Building of Sino-Uzbeki ‘One Belt, One Road’.” (tui jin zhong guo wu zi bie ke yi dai yi lu jian she), China Social Science Net, Feb 10, 2017
http://www.cssn.cn/sjs/sjs_rdjj/201702/t20170213_3412851.shtml

Xinhua. “China, Malaysia Vow to Promote Bilateral Relationship.” Xinhuanet, Oct 8, 2014
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-10/08/c_133698261.htm

Xinhua. “China Uses Cooperation on Regional Ports to Boost China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor.” (zhong guo jie qu yu kou an he zuo zhu tui zhong meng e jing ji zou lang jian she), Xinhuanet, Jun 18, 2015
http://news.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2015-06/18/c_1115658858.htm

Xinhua. “China, Uzbekistan to Strengthen Cooperation Under the Silk Road Initiative.” Xinhuanet, Jun 15, 2015
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-06/15/c_134328727.htm

Xinhua. “Chinese, Uzbek Leaders Hail Inauguration of Central Asia’s Longest Railway Tunnel.” Xinhuanet, Jun 23, 2016
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-06/23/c_135458470.htm

Xinhua. “China, Uzbekistan Agree to Focus on Belt and Road Development.” Xinhuanet, Jun 22, 2016
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-06/22/c_135458277.htm

Xinhua. “Interview: Europe to Benefit from China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative: EC Chief.”  Xinhuanet, May 7, 2015
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-05/07/c_134218780.htm

Xinhua. “Sino-German Trade Reaches a New Level Based on Mutual Benefit.” (hu li gong ying, zhong de mao yi zai shang xin tai jie), Xinhuanet, Mar 14, 2017
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Yu, Bin. “China-Russia Relations: Putin’s Glory and Xi’s Dream, Comparative Connections.” Comparative Connections, Vol 15, Issue 1, Jan 2014

Posted in China0 Comments

Why Do North Koreans Hate Us?

NOVANEWS

Korean women weep as they identify bodies on Oct. 28, 1953. The army said the victims were among political prisoners killed by suffocation by the Communists outside Hambung, Korea. The Army said the victims were forced into caves which were then sealed off. (AP Photo)

[Editor’s note: The great secret of the Korean War is that the North invaded the South in order to liberate them from the brutal, murderous totalitarian Rhee regime that had been installed by the US. They almost succeeded in pushing the foreigners out of the country but in the end, they got embroiled in three long years of war that saw the US and their UN allies burn virtually every village and town in the North and bombing raids to rival those inflict on Japan in WW2 in their murderous slaughter of civilians. By the time of the ceasefire the North was a wasteland and it’s people were starving, homeless refugees; they had been ‘bombed back to the stone age’ to use a US military phrase. Small wonder the North has not forgiven or forgotten and maintains a burning hatred. Ian]

__________
The Intercept
Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason — They Remember the Korean War.

“WHY DO THEY hate us?”

It’s a question that has bewildered Americans again and again in the wake of 9/11, in reference to the Arab and Muslim worlds. These days, however, it’s a question increasingly asked about the reclusive North Koreans.

Let’s be clear: There is no doubt that the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea both fear and loathe the United States. Paranoia, resentment, and a crude anti-Americanism have been nurtured inside the Hermit Kingdom for decades. Children are taught to hate Americans in school while adults mark a “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month” every year (it’s in June, in case you were wondering).

North Korean officials make wild threats against the United States while the regime, led by the brutal and sadistic Kim Jong-un, pumps out fake news in the form of self-serving propaganda, on an industrial scale. In the DPRK, anti-American hatred is a commodity never in short supply.

“The hate, though,” as longtime North Korea watcher Blaine Harden observed in the Washington Post, “is not all manufactured.” Some of it, he wrote, “is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.”

Forgets as in the “forgotten war.” Yes, the Korean War. Remember that? The one wedged between World War II and the Vietnam War? The first “hot” war of the Cold War, which took place between 1950 and 1953, and which has since been conveniently airbrushed from most discussions and debates about the “crazy” and “insane” regime in Pyongyang? Forgotten despite the fact that this particular war isn’t even over — it was halted by an armistice agreement, not a peace treaty — and despite the fact that the conflict saw the United States engage in numerous war crimes, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, continue to shape the way North Koreans view the United States, even if the residents of the United States remain blissfully ignorant of their country’s belligerent past.

For the record, it was the North Koreans, and not the Americans or their South Korean allies, who started the war in June 1950, when they crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the south. Nevertheless, “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings writes in his book “The Korean War: A History,” “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.”

How many Americans, for example, are aware of the fact that U.S. planes dropped on the Korean peninsula more bombs — 635,000 tons — and napalm — 32,557 tons — than during the entire Pacific campaign against the Japanese during World War II?

How many Americans know that “over a period of three years or so,” to quote Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, “we killed off … 20 percent of the population”?

Twenty. Percent. For a point of comparison, the Nazis exterminated 20 percent of Poland’s pre-World War II population. According to LeMay, “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea.”

Every. Town. More than 3 million civilians are believed to have been killed in the fighting, the vast majority of them in the north.

How many Americans are familiar with the statements of Secretary of State Dean Rusk or Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas? Rusk, who was a State Department official in charge of Far Eastern affairs during the Korean War, would later admit that the United States bombed “every brick that was standing on top of another, everything that moved.” American pilots, he noted, “were just bombing the heck out of North Korea.”

Douglas visited Korea in the summer of 1952 and was stunned by the “misery, disease, pain and suffering, starvation” that had been “compounded” by air strikes. U.S. warplanes, having run out of military targets, had bombed farms, dams, factories, and hospitals. “I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe,” the Supreme Court justice confessed, “but I had not seen devastation until I had seen Korea.”

How many Americans have ever come across Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s unhinged plan to win the war against North Korea in just 10 days? MacArthur, who led the United Nations Command during the conflict, wanted to drop “between 30 and 50 atomic bombs … strung across the neck of Manchuria” that would have “spread behind us … a belt of radioactive cobalt.”

How many Americans have heard of the No Gun Ri massacre, in July 1950, in which hundreds of Koreans were killed by U.S. warplanes and members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry regiment as they huddled under a bridge? Details of the massacre emerged in 1999, when the Associated Press interviewed dozens of retired U.S. military personnel. “The hell with all those people,” one American veteran recalled his captain as saying. “Let’s get rid of all of them.”

How many Americans are taught in school about the Bodo League massacre of tens of thousands of suspected communists on the orders of the U.S.-backed South Korean strongman, President Syngman Rhee, in the summer of 1950? Eyewitness accounts suggest “jeeploads” of U.S. military officers were present and “supervised the butchery.”

Millions of ordinary Americans may suffer from a toxic combination of ignorance and amnesia, but the victims of U.S. coups, invasions, and bombing campaigns across the globe tend not to. Ask the Iraqis or the Iranians, ask the Cubans or the Chileans. And, yes, ask the North Koreans.

For the residents of the DPRK, writes Columbia University historian Charles Armstrong in his book “Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992,” “the American air war left a deep and lasting impression” and “more than any other single factor, gave North Koreans a collective sense of anxiety and fear of outside threats, that would continue long after the war’s end.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not pretending that Kim’s violent and totalitarian regime would be any less violent or totalitarian today had the U.S. not carpet-bombed North Korea almost 70 years ago. Nor am I expecting Donald Trump, of all presidents, to offer a formal apology to Pyongyang on behalf of the U.S. government for the U.S. war crimes of 1950 through 1953.

But the fact is that inside North Korea, according to leading Korea scholar Kathryn Weathersby, “it is still the 1950s … and the conflict with South Korea and the United States is still going on. People in the North feel backed into a corner and threatened.”

If another Korean war, a potentially nuclear war, is to be avoided and if, as the Czech-born novelist Milan Kundera famously wrote, “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” then ordinary Americans can no longer afford to forget the death, destruction, and debilitating legacy of the original Korean War.

Posted in USA, North Korea0 Comments

The Korean War and Crimes against Humanity: Forgotten When We Need to Remember

NOVANEWS

The world is so constructed that unless we look at what’s happened in the past, we won’t be able to deal with the present.

 

“ON JANUARY 3 [1951] AT 10:30 AM, AN ARMADE OF 82 FLYING FORTRESSES LOOSED THEIR DEATH-DEALING LOAD ON THE CITY OF PYONGYANG. … 

“THE NUMBER OF INHABITANTS OF PYONGYANG KILLED BY BOMB SPLINTERS, BURNT ALIVE AND SUFFOCATED BY SMOKE IS INCALCULABLE, SINCE NO COMPUTATION IS POSSIBLE. SOME FIFTY THOUSAND INHABITANTS REMAIN IN THE CITY, WHICH BEFORE THE WAR HAD A POPULATION OF FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND.” [UN Repository]

With tension ever mounting in the Korean peninsular, all the higher every year with US bombers conducting annual drills over South Korea within direct strike range of North Korea, it is notable and deeply regrettable the West has lost all sight and memory of the enormous suffering of the Korean people in the Korean War 1950-53.

How can we ever in the West begin to understand the large scale militarisation of North Korea if, in the US and UK in particular, political assessment and judgement takes no account of Korean history?

North Korea was as a matter of historical fact through the Korean war carpet bombed for three years by US bombers. There was, after the first months of the war, mounting air defences in northern most North Korea bordering China, including Russian MIG fighters but, none-the-less, US B29s bombing was for most of the war free-range over the whole peninsular

To quote from testament from both sides,

“The US airforce destroyed every town and village in north Korea”. “The destruction was enormous”.

In the  words of Air Force General Curtis LeMay:

“We burned down every town in North Korea …. over a period of three years or so we killed – what – 20 percent of the population”.

And this including the very worst of it large scale use of napalm. To quote Senator John Glenn, then a major in the US air force before becoming an astronaut:

“We did a lot of napalm work dropping fuel tanks loaded with napalm, flying in low, called a Nape Scrape”.

Napalm, jellied petroleum and phosphorus. No-one likes to spell it out but people quite simply burn to death.

In all some 600,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the towns and villages and cities of the country. That is well over a million concussion bombs, along with 40 million gallons of high octane napalm. And to add to this, in the final stages of the war, mass bombing (1,514 sorties) of Sui-ho hydro-electric and irrigation dams (the world’s fourth largest) on the Yalu River then flooding and destroying huge areas of northern farmland and crops.

“Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.10 Only emergency assistance from China, the USSR, and other socialist countries prevented widespread famine”. [Asia-Pacific Journal 2009]

In the words of Professor Charles Armstrong, Director of the Centre for Korean Research, Columbia University:

“The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating UN forces”.

That then is the horror of the brutal Korean war. Over two million Korean civilians died including many tens of thousands of children. On US pilot testament destruction was “indiscriminate”.

Is it then any wonder North Korea turns out a highly militarised state, deeply loathing the “Yankees”, raining bombs and death and destruction on their towns and villages for three years ?

No-one can deny the one-party state authoritarianism of North Korea but then we surely have to ask how much of this huge militarisation has been created by the horrors of warfare, all the more so large scale bombing impacting on civilian populations. As also not to forget, until the end of WW2, Korea suffered 35 long years of brutal occupation by the Japanese. Over one million forced deportations, suppression of Korean culture and identity, deaths in Japanese labour camps estimated at over half a million.

In all Korea was a long suffering country for many decades, the very worst not forgotten by the Koreans the enormous destructive US bombing ’50-53.

International Perspective – East or West trauma is not forgotten.

The US, and New York in particular, were devastated by the attack on the Trade Centre towers in 2001. Terrible shock traumatic destruction with 2,996 deaths and 6,000 injuries. And that huge and deep trauma living on to this day and for whole lifetimes in those directly affected, all who lived and live in New York, and indeed in the consciousness of the whole of the US, and the world.

But the West forgets and is oblivious or indifferent to the suffering visited on the Korean people 1950-53. And that is bombing and destruction and loss of life of many thousands of Trade Centre attacks. Not loss of life from air attacks on armies in combat but bombing of civilian populations in towns and cities to “terrorise” a country into submission. That was, on all the evidence, in the face of huge Chinese troop influx into the peninsular, US military policy.

In the end you have to say the US and West have, historically, clearly played a hugely determinate role in the creation of the deeply alarming militarised state of Korea which the West now condemn. Three years of carpet bombing and loss of life, and this following brutal Japanese occupation, surely provides an understandable rationale why a country would become formidably militarised. Defence of the country the all-consuming priority.

For the people of North Korea the mass killing and destruction of civilians a holocaust against their people. For them, United States enormous war crimes and atrocities never brought to any court of justice.

Instead the great and hugely admired US East Asia commanding general of the time, General Douglas MacArthur, returned home in 1951 to a huge New York ticker-tape heroes welcome. And this is MacArthur who at the time advocated dropping atomic bombs on “five Chinese cities” to get the war over and unite Korea.

“His [MacArthur’s) plan was to drop between 30 and 50 atomic bombs-strung across the neck of Manchuria, and spread behind us, from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea – a belt of radioactive cobalt for at least 60 years there would be no invasion of Korea from the North.” [B-29s Over Korea – Wayland Mayo]

History Repeating – self same military mind-sets gathering again.

And now we have history on the brink of repeating yet again. The whole situation enormously high risk and dangerous with Secretary of State Tillerson indicating in his view, as he did in discussion April 12th with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov over Crimea and Syria, “history is not the issue”. What matters, as Tillerson said, is dealing with “current threats”. Mr Tillerson excluding all relevance of historical causes and motivations why North Korea is so vehemently anti-American.

Foreign Ministr Sergy Lavrov:

“As far as Syria is concerned and Bashar al-Assad, we talked today about the history, and Rex [Tillerson] said that he was a new man and is not interested so much in history; he wants to deal with today’s problems. But the world is so constructed that unless we look at what’s happened in the past, we won’t be able to deal with the present”. [US Dept of State – Lavrov-Tillerson meeting 12th April]

Since then the Secretary of State has made clear, in the UN Security Council 28th April, “the time for strategic patience is over”. And all the more deeply alarming telling the Council there will be “no negotiations” until North Korea “first” takes “concrete steps” to shut down all missile activity and “de-nuclearise”. For Tillerson, and UK Foreign Secretary Johnson, in considerable contrast to the views of China and Russia, the reasons why North Korea has become one of the most militarised states in the world are not relevant. The Korean War with 3 million dead not counted in contemporary political calculus.

And so it is the West makes no effort to understand another nation’s history then history repeats. But then in the US and in the UK the Korean war is known as the Forgotten War. Forgotten for one reason as in burying memory of large scale war crimes against civilian populations. Horror for civilian population, horror for combatant troops. The West in so many ways in denial of a war that was “long ago” but then, for the Koreans, as alive today as terror and fear of the US and West as sixty years ago.

And from the side of the West, to face up to responsibility for the huge numbers of civilian casualties from bombing of Korean towns and cities a US governments would, as at Nuremberg, face the self same charges the West brought against the Nazi regime after WW2: Crimes against Humanity. War crimes against civilian populations.

Understanding the other side – understanding ourselves.

Such Human Rights courts of justice not on any agenda anywhere in the West a very good start to ease tension would be, as is being called for by China and Russia, high level meetings between all major parties. And in this respect, at the heart of the whole current tension, it is of the deepest concern that in the West it is rarely brought to light that the US has repeatedly turned down North Korea offers to end nuclear weapon development.

Image result for nuclear north korea

That will come as a shock to many but negotiation records show that offers have been put forward by North Korea back to the Clinton administration in the 1990s but then rejected by the US as, in return, North Korea asks that the US and South Korea end annual large-scale “warfare exercises” on their borders. The most recent offer 2015:

“North Korea announces offer to suspend nuclear testing …in exchange for the United States and South Korea calling off annual joint-military exercises slated for spring 2015. The United States rejects the offer.” [Arms Control Association]

As of May 2017 Warfare exercises including the newly installed US  anti-missile THAAD system, low flying bombers within immediate strike range of North Korea, together with an aircraft carrier battle fleet, including who knows how many nuclear strike submarines, in Korean off-shore waters.

North Korea finds all this US “menace”, as both China and Russia have repeatedly emphasised, hugely threatening (as indeed do the Chinese). And one would think, if it was our own country, terrifying. For UK just compare the 1940 blitz with cities across the UK from London to Liverpool ablaze. British people do not forget. And for the US, missiles on Cuba in the early ’60s and that very nearly leading to world nuclear war. But on the North Korean offers to de-nuclearise the US repeatedly refuses quid pro quo de-escalation with parallel negotiations.

On scores for belligerance the US, and others in the West including the UK, could surely not be higher. On four counts: enormous destruction of North Korean civilian population by vastly superior US air forces 1950-53 (albeit bannered under the “UN”) ; repeated US refusal of North Korea’s offers of quid pro quo de-escalation of forces on both sides; US bringing even more over-whelming military force into South Korea and off-shore seas ; US and UK calling for and indeed demanding, through the UN, imposition of more and more powerful sanctions, most crippling closing international access to sources of financial exchange. This then closing off (blockading) routes for trade driving North Korea into deeper isolation and poverty.

Threats mounting on both sides, racking up more and more tension and fear. As in all conflicts so much mirroring, of behaviour, both sides then condemning the other. Defence and survival on one side seen by the other as threat and belligerence. In the case of North Korea desperation leading who knows where.

The enormous tragedy for Korea – for all Korean people.

In all an enormous tragedy for all Koreans. Bitterly and deeply ironically both sides in Korea want to unite, as one Korea. Huge loss of life and huge casualties, three years of war with estimates of over three million dead, both sides fighting to “unite their country”, only to end up summer 1953 exactly where they started on the 38th parallel. Such utter futility. The pity and insanity of war at its most tragic.

As matters stand now, with increasingly intense US and South Korean military exercises each year, in the face of ever increasing North Korean nuclear strike capacity, the whole situation is clearly becoming progressively more precarious year by year for the whole peninsular, and for the world. High level careful communication is clearly needed, as repeatedly promoted by the Chinese. Not warships and missiles, from either side, ending up mirroring each other into destruction.

For the North Koreans, how ever hollow we view their society, however much it appears or indeed is a sham, the people clearly have enormous pride. In so many ways (the great buildings and missiles and military parades) trying to show to the world how much they have achieved, and that is achieved from ground zero 1953 total destruction of their country.

And this achievement in huge contest and rivalry, with powerful national jealousies, between North and South. The two sides the great misfortune to end up on the world’s most volatile tectonic plates between communism and capitalism. Both sides showcasing what their “side” has achieved: the South hosts the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, the North parades and launches missiles. This whole psychological cauldron is surely what the West needs to understand and respect.

Respect Fuche – self-reliance – the founding ideology of the country. However badly from the West we view North Korea, to the country’s credit they made huge and indeed heroic efforts to provide universal education, health care, and housing, for all their population. Its not all bad, unless we in the West will only see it that way: esse est percipi -thinking makes it so.

SOURCES:

Interviews and Transcripts

Korean War – Part 19 – Use of Napalm … Senator John Glenn – in 1950 a major in US Air Force : “We did a lot of napalm work … dropping fuel tanks loaded with napalm .. we call it a Nape Scrape” “You could strafe them, bomb them, napalm them. Quite a variety of weapons.

Korean War – Part 22 – bombing of North Korea .. the United States Air Force destroyed every town and city in Norht Korea. Kim Un Sun – factory worker – “Lets make bullets of revenge to give to the Americans”.

North Korea Remembers US War Crimes – what the West wants to forget … the view of North Korea : “Brutal atrocity of US Imperial Aggressors”.

Air Force General Curtis LeMay – “… we burned down every town in North Korea …”

Air&Space 2015 – How the Korean war almost went nuclear … Operation Hudson Harbor …

B-29s Over Korea – US Planned to A-Bomb N. Korea: [MaArthur’s] plan was to drop between 30 and 50 atomic bombs-strung across the neck of Manchuria, and spread behind us, from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea- a belt of radioactive cobalt for at least 60 years there would be no invasion of Korea from the North

Attacks on the Sui-ho Dam … the hydroelectric targets were subjected to attacks totalling 1,514 sorties.

Asia-Pacific Journal 2009: Professor Charles Armstrong “Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.10 Only emergency assistance from China, the USSR, and other socialist countries prevented widespread famine”.

The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea – 2009: Professor Charles Armstrong, “The US Air Force estimated that North Korea’s destruction was proportionately greater than that of Japan in the Second World War, where the US had turned 64 major cities to rubble and used the atomic bomb to destroy two others. American planes dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea — that is, essentially on North Korea –including 32,557 tons of napalm”.
“The DPRK government never forgot the lesson of North Korea’s vulnerability to American air attack,…”

New York Times – Choe Sang-Hun – 2015: North Korea offers US Deal to Halt Nuclear Tests …

Arms Control Association – 2015: North Korea announces offer to suspend nuclear testing …in exchange for the United States and South Korea calling off annual joint-military exercises slated for spring 2015. The United States rejects the offer.

12th April 2017 Tillerson Lavrov Press Conference on Syria – Lavrov emphasises “historical context” – Tillerson dismisses history with emphasis on “current threats”.

US Dept of State – 12th April 2017 Tillerson Lavrov Transcript:  Foreign Ministr Lavrov : “As far as Syria is concerned and Bashar al-Assad, we talked today about the history, and Rex said that he was a new man and is not interested so much in history; he wants to deal with today’s problems. But the world is so constructed that unless we look at what’s happened in the past, we won’t be able to deal with the present”.

28th April 2017 – UN Security Council Meeting on Korea … full meeting.

US Dept of State – 28th April 2017 – Secretry Tillerson Statement to UN Security Council: “The policy of strategic patience is over”. Call for economic and financial isolation of DPRK. North Korea must take concrete steps to end illegal weapons programs before we can even consider talks.

NY Times – Choe Sang-Hun – 2nd May 2017 – US Antimissile System Goes Live in South Korea ….

CGTN – 2nd May 2017 – Us B-1B Lancer bombers fly over South Korea angering DPRK

Commentary and Analysis

2012 – Washing Post John Tirman : Why do we ignore the civilians killed in American wars? “Estimates of Korean war deaths …. widely believed to have taken 3 million lives, about half of them civilian.”

Global Research 2010 – Professor Michel Chossudovsky: “It is now believed that the population north of the imposed 38th Parallel lost nearly a third its population of 8 – 9 million people during the 37-month long “hot” war, 1950 – 1953.” “US Sources acknowledge 1.55 million civilian deaths in North Korea”.

Wikipedia Civilian Casualty Ratio – Korean War: The median total estimated Korean civilian deaths in the Korean War is 2,730,000.

March 2015 – Washington Post fomer reporter Blaine Harden: The US war crime North Korea won’t forget – “War reporters rarely mentioned civilian casualties from U.S. carpet-bombing. It is perhaps the most forgotten part of a forgotten war”. “People in the North feel backed into a corner and threatened”.

Boundless – World History – Korea under Japanese Rule: The 1910-1945 Japanese occupation of Korea was marked by the suppression of Korean culture and heritage, mass exploitation of the Korean labor, and violent repressions against the Korean independence movement.

Vox – Max Fisher August 2015 – Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea:  You can glimpse both the humanitarian and political consequences in an alarmed diplomatic cable that North Korea’s foreign minister sent to the United Nations .. in January 1951 : THE NUMBER OF INHABITANTS OF PYONGYANG KILLED BY BOMB SPLINTERS, BURNT ALIVE AND SUFFOCATED BY SMOKE IS INCALCULABLE, SINCE NO COMPUTATION IS POSSIBLE. SOME FIFTY THOUSAND INHABITANTS REMAIN IN THE CITY, WHICH BEFORE THE WAR HAD A POPULATION OF FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND.

UN DAG Repostory – source of 1951 diplomatic cable: English copy of cable.

Democracy Now – April 2017 – Noam Chomsky on North Korea ….”China and North Korea proposed to freeze the North Korean missile and nuclear weapons systems. And the U.S. instantly rejected it … “

Posted in USA, North Korea0 Comments

Fukushima: Japanese Government Guilty of Destroying Pacific Ocean

The Japanese Government has been ordered to pay tens of millions in compensation after it was found guilty of negligence causing the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Reports also claim that the ruling could also include other pacific nations like the US who could also be eligible for compensation from the Japanese government who has effectively poisoned the entire Pacific Ocean and damaged the world’s food chain beyond repair. YNW reports: The nuclear plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, was also found guilty of negligence that led to the disaster that nuclear experts say will likely continue affecting wildlife and humans for the next 250,000 years.

Friday’s stunning ruling by the Maebashi District Court was the first to recognize negligence by the state and Tepco. Previously the Japanese government and Tepco, a subsidiary of General Electric, had strongly denied any wrongdoing, arguing they were the victims of bad luck. The judge called the massive tsunami “predictable” and said the major nuclear disaster, which is responsible for 300 tons of radioactive water entering the Pacific Ocean every single day, could have been avoided. According to Japan Times:

The district court ordered the two to pay damages totaling ¥38.55 million to 62 of 137 plaintiffs from 45 households located near the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown caused by the tsunami, awarding ¥70,000 to ¥3.5 million in compensation to each plaintiff. The plaintiffs had demanded the state and Tepco pay compensation of ¥11 million each — a total of about ¥1.5 billion — over the loss of local infrastructure and psychological stress they were subjected to after being forced to relocate to unfamiliar surroundings.

Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said in the ruling that

“Tepco was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators.”

Image result for Japanese Tepco

It pointed out that the state should have ordered Tepco to take bolstered preventive measures, and criticized the utility for prioritizing costs over safety. Fukushima radiation has contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean. The nuclear disaster has contaminated the world’s largest ocean in only five years and it’s still leaking 300 tons of radioactive waste every day. According to a True Activist report:

Radioactive Debris from Fukushima approaching North America’s western coast.

If that weren’t bad enough, Fukushima continues to leak an astounding 300 tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean every day. It will continue do so indefinitely as the source of the leak cannot be sealed as it is inaccessible to both humans and robots due to extremely high temperatures. It should come as no surprise, then, that Fukushima has contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean in just five years. This could easily be the worst environmental disaster in human history and it is almost never talked about by politicians, establishment scientists, or the news. It is interesting to note that TEPCO is a subsidiary partner with General Electric (also known as GE), one of the largest companies in the world, which has considerable control over numerous news corporations and politicians alike. Could this possibly explain the lack of news coverage Fukushima has received in the last five years? There is also evidence that GE knew about the poor condition of the Fukushima reactors for decades and did nothing. This led 1,400 Japanese citizens to sue GE for their role in the Fukushima nuclear disaster – and now have been found guilty.

Even if we can’t see the radiation itself, some parts of North America’s western coast have been feeling the effects for years. Not long after Fukushima, fish in Canada began bleeding from their gills, mouths, and eyeballs. This “disease” has been ignored by the government and has decimated native fish populations, including the North Pacific herring. Elsewhere in Western Canada, independent scientists have measured a 300% increase in the level of radiation. According to them, the amount of radiation in the Pacific Ocean is increasing every year. Why is this being ignored by the mainstream media? It might have something to do with the fact that the US and Canadian governments have banned their citizens from talking about Fukushima so “people don’t panic.”

Further south in Oregon, USA, starfish began losing legs and then disintegrating entirely when Fukushima radiation arrived there in 2013. Now, they are dying in record amounts, putting the entire oceanic ecosystem in that area at risk. However, government officials say Fukushima is not to blame even though radiation in Oregon tuna tripled after Fukushima. In 2014, radiation on California beaches increased by 500 percent. In response, government officials said that the radiation was coming from a mysterious “unknown” source and was nothing to worry about. However, Fukushima is having a bigger impact than just the West coast of North America. Scientists are now saying that the Pacific Ocean is already radioactive and is currently at least 5-10 times more radioactive than when the US government dropped numerous nuclear bombs in the Pacific during and after World War II. If we don’t start talking about Fukushima soon, we could all be in for a very unpleasant surprise.

Posted in Japan0 Comments

After The South Korean Election: The Movement That Ousted Park Cannot Rest

NOVANEWS
 

War threats before a major political election had been effective in the past in swinging the South Korean electorate to the right, but not this year. The conservative camp is battered and split into two warring parties following the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye. The general public—its collective consciousness heightened through the mass protests that successfully ousted Park—is no longer rallying behind hawkish candidates who fan public paranoia to garner votes.

Barring a last-minute surprise upset, liberal democrat Moon Jae-in will be the next president of South Korea. But does he truly represent the interests of the millions who took to the streets to unseat Park and demand systemic change? And what are the tasks facing the left vis a vis the new administration? These are the questions this article will discuss, but first, let’s quickly review the field of candidates.

A Brief Run-down of the Candidates

Moon Jae-in

Image result for moon jae in

Front-runner Moon Jae-in is arguably the greatest beneficiary of the mass protests that led to Park’s impeachment. Widespread discontent against Park and her party as well as the public’s desire for political change have catapulted Moon of the main opposition Minjoo Party to the front of the pack with a significant lead over all other candidates.

Moon was the Chief of Staff for the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, who ruled from 2003 to 2008 and continued his predecessor Kim Dae-jung’s “sunshine policy” of engagement and economic cooperation with North Korea. If elected, Moon will likely reverse South Korea’s policy toward North Korea to one of engagement. He has pledged to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex—the joint inter-Korean economic project that was the last remaining hallmark of peaceful North-South engagement before it was shut down by the Park Geun-hye administration in 2016.

The question is, if Moon is elected, will the United States be willing to recalibrate its strategy to allow Moon to lead? And if not, how much will Moon stand up to the United States to chart an independent path?

Ahn Cheol-soo

Image result for Ahn Cheol-sooThe runner-up, according to polls, is Ahn Cheol-soo, who defected from the Minjoo Party to establish the centrist People’s Party in the lead-up to the 2016 general election. His public branding as a successful entrepreneur and political outsider had once made him wildly popular among young people. But his rightward shift in an attempt to court the conservative vote in the aftermath of Park’s impeachment has estranged him from his former fans. He promotes strengthening South Korea’s alliance with the United States and expanding it to a “comprehensive strategic alliance” that includes closer cooperation not just militarily but also in the areas of politics, economy and culture.

Hong Jun-pyo 

Image result for Hong Jun-pyo

Neck and neck with Ahn is Hong Joon-pyo, the governor of South Gyeongsang province and the candidate of the Liberty Korea Party, the right-wing faction of the conservative split. Hong has appealed to South Korea’s far right by doubling down on his conservative positions and slinging mud at his liberal opponents. He has said he wants to bring U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea and has blamed gay people for the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

Sim Sang-jung

Image result for Sim Sang-jungSupport for Sim Sang-jung of the left-leaning Justice Party climbed to a record 11.4 percent in the week leading up to the election. Disaffected voters disappointed by Ahn Cheol-soo’s rightward shift are turning to Sim whose progressive and principled stance on issues such as LGBT rights appeals to young voters seeking change. After splitting off in 2012 from the Unified Progressive Party, which was forcibly dissolved a few years later by Park Geun-hye, the Justice Party has embraced pragmatism over left ideology and rebranded itself as a reformist party to appeal to a broader public. The leaders of the party will likely take official positions in the new liberal democratic administration. Whether the party can consolidate forces on the left to build on the momentum of the mass movement that ousted Park and push for systemic change remains doubtful. 

Yoo Seong-min

Image result for Yoo Seong-min

Trailing far behind the rest of the pack is Yoo Seong-min, who represents the moderate, anti-Park faction of the conservative camp. He once served as Park Geun-hye’s chief of staff when she was a lawmaker in the National Assembly. But the two grew apart when his open criticisms of her policies drew her ire and he was excluded from the Saenuri Party’s nomination process in the 2016 general election. During Park’s political scandal, Yoo left the Saenuri Party to help found the splinter Bareun Party. His strongest base is in the conservative stronghold of Daegu and North Gyeongsang province.

Whoever is President, the Mass Movement Cannot Rest

Park’s historic impeachment, which created the opportunity for the upcoming election, did not come about through the political strength or deft maneuvering of the opposition parties. It was the organized power of millions of ordinary people, who rejected Park’s corrupt rule and took to the streets week after week, that pushed the wavering opposition parties into action. 

And that mass movement has now just about handed the presidency to Moon Jae-in. As a liberal democrat, Moon is far better than Park whose authoritarian rule rolled back decades of gains made by the country’s pro-democracy forces. But his party has done little to challenge the previous administration’s labor market reform initiative or block the ongoing deployment of a controversial U.S. missile defense system in Seongju. South Korean progressives note with bitterness that negotiations on the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement, which has led to privatization of public services, such as healthcare, began when Moon was in the Blue House as the chief of staff for former President Roh Moo-hyun. 

Clearly, the mass movement that ousted Park cannot rest after May 9 if it wants real change. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this year’s election is that while people power created a historic opportunity for change, there is no political party that can consolidate that power and build on its momentum to fight for issues that are important to the broad majority of working people.

A decade of conservative rule—from Lee Myung-bak to Park Geun-hye, who jailed many opposition leaders, including Han Sang-gyun, the president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, and forced the dissolution of the opposition Unified Progressive Party—has battered and fragmented South Korea’s organized left. Whoever is president after May 9, the left has a lot of ground to regain.

The Rise and Fall of the Democratic Labor Party

The South Korean left’s entry into the political arena has its roots in the mass uprisings of 1987, a pivotal year for the country in many regards. The decades-long South Korean struggle for democracy culminated in the June people’s uprising of 1987 and finally put an end to a succession of U.S.-backed military dictatorships. The following months of mass labor strikes in industrial manufacturing zones across South Korea laid the groundwork for the eventual formation of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. And for the first time since the division of Korea in 1945, masses of South Koreans openly called for reconciliation towards peaceful reunification. The formation of the National Council of Student Representatives (Jeondaehyeop) led to South Korean participation in the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in Pyongyang in 1989 and the historic, defiant crossing of the DMZ by the late Reverend Moon Ik-hwan and then-student activist Lim Su-kyung

Image result for korea labor strike

1987, paradoxically, also marked the year that South Korea’s economy, once tightly controlled by an autocratic state, began its transition to a neoliberal market economy modeled after Reagonomics. Thus, the South Korean political forces post-1987 comprised of a political and economic ruling class that embraced neoliberalism and trampled on the rights of workers in the name of “globalization,” on the one hand, and a new democratic force borne out of militant resistance against the system of national division and capitalist exploitation on the other.

Despite major political differences on questions of strategy, the forces at the helm of the pro-democracy struggle, labor unions and social movement organizations joined together in 1987 to form the People’s Victory 21, which became the foundation for the establishment of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) in 2000. The DLP went on to garner 13% of the general vote and gain ten National Assembly seats to become the third largest political party in South Korea in 2004. Its success in 2004 was due in part to a change in election law, which, for the first time, allowed proportional representation, but it would not have been possible without disparate political forces reaching beyond their differences to come together in a united front.

For a relatively small party, the DLP played a key role in South Korean politics from 2000 to 2008. Through direct democracy, the party kept itself firmly rooted in the struggles of workers, farmers and the urban poor, who made up the majority of its membership. Its principled and persuasive positions on behalf of politically marginalized sectors forced the established parties to adopt progressive reforms and had the effect of pulling South Korea’s entire political spectrum to the left. Before its forced dissolution in 2014, the DLP’s heir, the Unified Progressive Party was the most vocal opponent of Park Geun-hye’s policies on a range of issues, from privatization of public services to her hostile stance towards North Korea. 

In the last two decades, South Korea’s political and economic system began to show signs of faltering. The inter-Korean summits between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il in 2007 shook the very foundation of South Korea’s decades-old political system based on national division. South Korea’s economy, which once grew rapidly through neoliberal policies that forced its workforce to tighten their belts and endure longer and harsher working conditions, faced persistent crises, and its core, festering with corrupt collusion between the country’s largest conglomerates and the government, is now laid bare for the entire world to see. 

The mass candlelight protests of 2008—which brought out tens of thousands to protest the reversal of a U.S. beef import ban as part of South Korea’s free trade negotiations with the United States—and the recent protests to oust Park Geun-hye were the embittered expressions of a populace frustrated with the country’s outdated political and economic system and in search of an alternative. The words to their anthem, sung in unison at every candlelight protest, is article one of the constitution: “The Republic of Korea is a democratic republic. All state authority shall emanate from the people.” More than just expressions of discontent over rotten beef or the president’s secret shamanic advisor scandal, the protests raised a fundamental question: the meaning of true sovereignty.

Image result for mass candlelight protests korea

The left, unfortunately, has not provided an answer. Friction due to political differences on questions of strategy led to a split in the DLP in 2008 and created deep rifts within the South Korean left. 2008 also marked the beginning of a decade of conservative rule, which systematically eroded the gains made by the pro-democracy forces in the previous decades. The previous Park Geun-hye administration’s transgressions against the people—from its mishandling of the Sewol Tragedy to its backdoor deal with the Japanese government to silence the former “comfort women” who endured sexual slavery by the Japanese imperial army during WWII—are too many to enumerate. What’s more egregious is the incompetence of the existing opposition parties that have failed to stand up to these overt acts of authoritarianism. The undisguised degeneration of South Korean politics and the rightward shift of the opposition parties are a direct result of the marginalization and isolation of the organized left following the DLP’s break-up.

Time to Regain Lost Ground

The South Korean people, who declared “Basta ya!” and gave Park Geun-hye the boot are still fighting—in the melon fields of Seongju, by the watery grave at Paengmok Harbor and on picket lines small and big across the country. Whoever wins the election on May 9, the mass movement that ousted Park will need to build on the momentum of its victory and keep the pressure on in a number of fronts.

Image result for Park Geun-hye

Former President Park Geun-hye

The most pressing task for the new administration will be to mediate the current crisis between the United States and North Korea. Despite Trump’s declared willingness to sit down with Kim Jong-un, no one—not even China—is able to broker such a meeting. That has to be the task of the incoming South Korean leader. For reconciliation with the North and permanent peace on the peninsula, the South Korean people will need to press the new administration to stand up to the Trump administration and chart an independent path. Demanding the United States end its provocative war exercises in exchange for a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and withdraw its dangerous missile defense system in Seongju is now more urgent than ever.

The fight against the government’s labor market reform initiative—aimed at turning South Korea’s entire workforce into a disposable pool of temporary and precarious labor and undermining the power of unions—will intensify even with a liberal democrat in the Blue House. Unless the mass movement continues to press the next administration, the corrupt system exposed through the Park Geun-hye-Choi Soon-sil scandal—the cozy back-scratching relationship between South Korea’s largest conglomerates and its political leaders—will remain unchanged.

Abolishing the National Security Law—mainly used to punish political opponents, dissolve social organizations and political parties and suppress progressive voices—is a task that even Moon Jae-in failed to do as Roh Moo-hyun’s chief of staff. It will take an organized fight from the left to overturn the archaic law once and for all.

What the movement to impeach Park Geun-hye laid bare is that South Korea’s current political and economic system is no longer sustainable. It also showed clearly that state power, which confines the democratic aspirations of the people, can also be pushed back by their organized power. The fissures in the political system exposed by their struggle are openings for the broader left. 

But people power does not emerge spontaneously. Only when the people are organized through social movements and have a political party that can fight for their interests can they mount effective and sustained resistance to challenge the status quo. A left political party cannot exercise its power in the political arena without the organized social movement of the disenfranchised, who make up the party’s base. Likewise, without a political party that can fight for their interests in the political arena, social movements can easily be defeated. A unified political party fighting in tandem with a social movement of the organized masses is essential for systemic change.

After May 9, the movement that ousted Park cannot rest, as the South Korean majority seeks, as a matter of survival, a political force that will forge a new path. Creating that force—by building social movements and unifying the left to build political power—should be top on the agenda of everyone on the left. And supporting that effort should be a priority for all those outside Korea who were inspired by the awesome mass protests that toppled Park Geun-hye’s regime.

Posted in South Korea0 Comments

THAAD Rocket Fuel: Likely Ground Water Contamination Coming to Seongju, South Korea

NOVANEWS
 

The unwelcome US deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense (MD) system in Seongju, South Korea is not only a significant threat to regional peace but is also a major environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.

The reason is that rocket fuel contains a deadly chemical component called perchlorate. And since the Seongju area is a melon farming community the risk of ground water contamination by perchlorate should be alarming to all concerned.

Perchlorate, the explosive ingredient in solid rocket fuel, has leaked from military bases and weapons and aerospace contractors’ plants in at least 22 states, contaminating drinking water for millions of Americans.

In the US scientists have warned that perchlorate could cause thyroid deficiency in more than 2.2 million women of childbearing age. This thyroid deficiency could damage the fetus of pregnant women, if left untreated.

Image result for perchlorate

Reports indicate that 20 million to 40 million Americans may be exposed to the chemical.

“We know that the Center for Disease Control has found perchlorate in 100 percent of the people they’ve tested, so there’s widespread exposure, through contaminated drinking water and also through contaminated food,” one expert reported.

The government has found traces of a rocket fuel chemical in organic milk in Maryland, green leaf lettuce grown in Arizona and bottled spring water from Texas and California.

Iceberg lettuce grown in Belle Glade, Florida had the highest concentrations of perchlorate discovered anywhere.  The greens had 71.6 parts per billion (ppb) of the compound, the primary ingredient in rocket propellant. Red leaf lettuce grown in El Centro, California had 52 ppb of perchlorate. Whole organic milk in Maryland had 11.3 ppb of perchlorate.

Next week South Koreans go to the polls to elected a new president after the previous right-wing President Park was impeached.

The Pentagon rushed the THAAD deployment ahead of schedule wanting to lock-in the controversial MD system before a new government took office.  The US fears that the likely new President Moon (a progressive) would ultimately delay or possibly even prevent the US from deploying the interceptor system due to the outrage coming from China and Russia who view THAAD as really being aimed at them rather than North Korea.

As the people of Seongju continue their fight against THAAD they’d be wise to begin to talk about the likely groundwater contamination from the rocket fuel that will be transported and stored on site at the new base presently being constructed at a former golf course.  It’s only a matter of time that perchlorate will be seeping into the water and ultimately impacting their health and their melon crops.

Posted in USA, South Korea0 Comments

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