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US Presence in South Korea Drives Instability

The Geopolitics of the US-North Korea Standoff

US and European interests continue to portray the government and nation of North Korea as a perpetual security threat to both Asia and the world. Allegations regarding the nation’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs are continuously used as justification for not only a continuous US military presence on the Korean Peninsula, but as justification for a wider continued presence across all of Asia-Pacific.

In reality, what is portrayed as an irrational and provocative posture by the North Korean government, is in fact driven by a very overt, and genuinely provocative posture by the United States and its allies within the South Korean government.

During this year’s Foal Eagle joint US-South Korean military exercises, US-European and South Korean media sources intentionally made mention of  preparations for a “decapitation” strike on North Korea. Such an operation would be intended to quickly eliminate North Korean military and civilian leadership to utterly paralyze the state and any possible response to what would most certainly be the subsequent invasion, occupation and subjugation of North Korea.

The Business Insider in an article titled,SEAL Team 6 is reportedly training for a decapitation strike against North Korea’s Kim regime,” would report:

The annual Foal Eagle military drills between the US and South Korea will include some heavy hitters this year — the Navy SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden, Army Special Forces, and F-35s — South Korea’s Joon Gang Daily reports. 

South Korean news outlets report that the SEALs, who will join the exercise for the first time, will simulate a “decapitation attack,” or a strike to remove North Korea’s leadership.

To introduce an element of plausible deniability to South Korean reports, the article would continue by stating:

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross later told Business Insider that the US military “does not train for decapitation missions” of any kind. 

Yet this is a categorically false statement. Throughout the entirety of the Cold War, US policymakers, military planners and operational preparations focused almost solely on devising methods of “decapitating” the Soviet Union’s political and military leadership.


In more recent years, policy papers and the wars inspired by them have lead to documented instances of attempted “decapitation” operations, including the 2011 US-NATO assault on Libya in which the government of Muammar Qaddafi was targeted by airstrikes aimed at crippling the Libyan state and assassinating both members of the Qaddafi family as well as members of the then ruling government.

Similar operations were aimed at Iraq earlier during the 2003 invasion and occupation by US-led forces.

Regarding North Korea more specifically, entire policy papers have been produced by prominent US policy think tanks including the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) devising plans to decimate North Korea’s military and civilian leadership, invade and occupy the nation and confound North Korea’s capacity to resist what would inevitably be its integration with its southern neighbor.

A 2009 report titled, Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea,” lays out policy recommendations regarding regime change in North Korea. It states in its description:

The authors consider the challenges that these scenarios would pose–ranging from securing Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal to providing humanitarian assistance–and analyze the interests of the United States and others. They then provide recommendations for U.S. policy. In particular, they urge Washington to bolster its contingency planning and capabilities in cooperation with South Korea, Japan, and others, and to build a dialogue with China that could address each side’s concerns.

Preparations for these documented plans which include provisions for invasion, occupation and the eventual integration of North Korea with South Korea have been ongoing for years with the most recent Foal Eagle exercises being merely their latest, and most blatant manifestation.

The aforementioned Business Insider article would also report:

Yet a decapitation force would fit with a March 1 Wall Street Journal report that the White House is considering military action against the Kim regime. 

The SEALs boarded the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and should arrive in South Korea on Wednesday, Joon Gang Daily reports. 

South Korea has also made efforts toward a decapitation force, and international calls for action have increased in intensity after North Korea’s latest missile test, which simulated a saturation attack to defeat US and allied missile defenses.

While US-European and South Korean media platforms continue claiming such preparations are being made in reaction to North Korean military programs, careful analysis of North Korea and South Korea’s respective economic and military power reveal immense disparity and North Korea’s military capabilities as solely defensive with any first strike against its neighbors almost certainly leading to retaliation and the nation’s destruction.

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and its expanding ballistic missile capabilities serve then only to raise the costs of any first strike carried out against it by US and South Korean forces. Claims that preparations by US and South Korean forces to carry out these first strikes are in response to North Korean provocations mirror similar political deceit that surrounded and clouded debate and analysis regarding US aggression in North Africa and the Middle East over the past two decades.

Ultimately, regardless of what political leaders in Washington or Seoul claim, the historical track record of the United States and its allies speaks for itself. Its annual military exercises and its adversarial approach to negotiations and relations with North Korea serve only to further drive tensions on both the peninsula and across the wider Asia-Pacific region.

For the United States, the perpetuation of instability helps justify its otherwise unjustifiable presence in a region literally an ocean away from its own borders. And while Washington cites “North Korean” weapons as a pretext for its continued presence in South Korea, its decades-spanning policy of encircling and attempting to contain neighboring China serves as its actual purpose for remaining involved in Korea’s affairs.

Provocative policies coupled with equally provocative military preparations including these most recent exercises openly aimed at North Korea’s leadership, guarantee continued instability and thus continued justification for a US presence in the region.

Washington’s careful cultivation of tensions on the peninsula serve as just one of many intentionally engineered and perpetuated conflicts across the region. Knowing well that nations targeted by US subversion and provocations will make preparations to defend against them, and possessing the media platforms to portray these preparations as “provocations” in and of themselves, the US has persuaded entire swaths of both its own population and those in regions inflicted by instability it itself drives, that Washington alone possesses the ability to contain such instability with its continued, extraterritorial presence.

In reality, the true solution for establishing peace and prosperity in these inflicted regions is for the US to simply withdraw.

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The Korean Crisis and the THAAD Missile Deployment: A Growing Tinderbox in the South


As the first military hardware associated with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, commonly called THAAD, arrives in the southern region of the Korean Peninsula, the tensions around and within the  region seem to be escalating. A number of ongoing crises in South Korea are starting to take their toll, and could have regional and global implications.

The most prominent source of tension is the new missile system being erected in cooperation with the United States. The narrative in US media surrounding THAAD is that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, smeared as “the crazy North Koreans,” are threatening to destroy the Republic of Korea located in the south. The new missile system is said to simply be a mechanism for protecting a vulnerable, democratic US ally, that faces being wiped out. Mark Toner of the US State Department described the erection of THAAD as “frankly a response to a threat.”

Who is mad about THAAD? And Why?

Objections to THAAD are not only coming from Pyongyang. Moscow and Beijing have both spoken up against the new missile system for reasons that are routinely ignored in US media discourse.

South Korea is hardly unprotected and alone. The United States already has 28,500 troops in South Korea. It also has F-16 fighter aircraft and A-10 bomber jets. South Korea’s military is also very well stocked, with F-35 Fighter Jets, Aegis Destroyers, and all kinds of military hardware purchased from the United States.

The THAAD missile system being erected in a contract with Lockheed-Martin, in cold war terms, is a “strike enabling system.” Once the system is completed, the US and South Korean forces that are already in the Peninsula are free to launch an attack on North Korea, China, or Russia. The THAAD system, modeled after Israel’s Iron Dome, would prevent retaliation strikes aimed at disabling the attackers. THAAD enables the US and South Korea to begin striking countries in the region, while shielding themselves from any response. Furthermore, THAAD includes a radar system that will closely monitor regional activity, not only in North Korea, but also in northern China.

Its not hard to tell why Russia and China are loudly objecting to this multi-billion dollar military project. Strike enabling systems with penetrating radars are not a mechanism of defusing tension, in an already tense region. THAAD is the latest development in the Pentagon’s ongoing “Asian Pivot,” moving forces into the Pacific. Similar moves have already escalated tensions in the South China Sea.

US media’s justification for the project depends on a false, racist and cartoonish caricature of the DPRK. Fictional Hollywood movies, disproven news items about executions by wild dogs, and endless rumor mongering have all painted a picture of DPRK’s leadership as a group of people hell bent on nuclear war. In reality, the government in the north has frequently stated that its goal is peaceful, democratic re-unification of the peninsula, not war, death, and destruction.

Dissent, Repression & Democracy

At the same time this controversial and provocative missile system is being erected, the President of the Republic of Korea is facing impeachment. Park Geun-hye has had her power suspended as the country prepares for an impeachment trial. Park has been caught taking bribes, and giving favors to members of the corporate elite. Lee Jae-yong, described as the de-facto leader of the multinational electronics conglomerate known as Samsung is facing criminal charges for his illicit dealings with President Park.

Lee Jae-myung, a left-wing populist, is growing in popularity. Lee’s political career has been closely identified with expanding the social safety net and workplace protections. Lee is also a loud opponent of THAAD. Lee’s voice joins a chorus of Korean activists who have filled the streets protesting against the ongoing presence of US troops and the installation of the new missile system. The large anti-US, left-wing activist movement among Koreans, which made global headlines in prior decades has not gone away. It persists among young and old Koreans, despite the heavy restrictions on its activity and constant repression.

Global media has dubbed Lee Jae-myung as “the Bernie Sanders” of South Korea. However, there is one key difference between Lee and Sanders. Sanders identifies himself as a “Democratic Socialist.” Lee does not use such terms to describe himself, as doing so is illegal under the National Security Laws. While millions of Koreans living in the south identify with organized labor, anti-capitalism, socialism, and other radical left-wing ideas, their ability to express themselves is tightly restricted.

The slightest criticism of capitalism, discussions of the history of the Korean War, or statements in any way perceived as being supportive of their northern countryfolk can land citizens of South Korea in prison. The National Security Laws of South Korea are condemned by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many international bodies. A 24 year old photographer and activist named Park Jung-geun was convicted and given a 10-month suspended sentence simply for sarcastically tweeting the phrase “Long Live Kim Jong-Il” in 2012.

The Unified Progressive Party, a dissident voice in Korean politics, has been outlawed. The leaders of the party were imprisoned after an audio recording surfaced. The crime for which party leaders were sentenced to decades in prison was a hypothetical conversation about what to do in the context all out war between the North and South.

While the US media’s narrative ignores it, for the majority of the years following the country’s division in 1945, the southern half of the Korean peninsula has hardly been democratic. Military dictators like Sygman Rhee ruled with an iron fist. The scandal ridden President who faces a pending impeachment trial is herself the daughter of Park Chung-Hee, the military dictator who ruled the country until his assassination in 1979.

The current President’s father not only brutally repressed labor unions and dissident students, but also slaughtered thousands of Koreans simply for being homeless. In 1975, Hee issued an order for the police to remove all homeless people from the capital city of Seoul. Koreans determined by the police to be vagrants were placed in a network of 36 different prison camps throughout the country, and forced to work long hours. Torture was routinely utilized in these camps, and an unknown number died. While US media endlessly hypes up unsubstantiated claims about “labor camps” in the North, often coming from defectors with clear incentives to exaggerate, the reality of labor camps under the US backed regime in the south, and the thousands who died after being worked to death in them, has been largely glossed over.

What Role Will South Korea Play?

China hasn’t simply objected to THAAD with words. Chinese corporations are tightly controlled by the Communist Party, and their activities fit in with the country’s five year development plan. International observers have often commented on the Chinese governments ability to cooperate with the private sector in order to serve geopolitical goals. An undeclared boycott of South Korea is now being carried out by Chinese businesses.

China’s tourism websites have stopped booking packages in South Korea, which has been a popular destination for Chinese tourists in recent years. The Japanese-Korean conglomerate known as Lotte has also faced a sudden loss of Chinese business. 23 Lotte owned stores in China have been closed own. South Korean music and TV programs have been blocked from web-streaming services on the Chinese mainland. As China cuts off a large amount of its business dealings with South Korea, critics of Beijing are calling these measures “unofficial sanctions” in retaliation for THAAD.

During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump questioned the US relationship with South Korea, saying “We are better off frankly if South Korea is going to start protecting itself … they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.”

Though Lee Jae-myung is a leftist, and Trump is identified with the extreme right wing in the United States, on this issue, they seem to agree. Lee is quoted as saying “Americans impeached their establishment by electing Trump… Our elections will do the same.”

Lee Jae-myung, who wants to US military presence scaled back, is one of the “big three” expected to run in the upcoming Presidential election. More and more Koreans agree with his argument that allying with the United States against the north, China, and Russia, is not in the people’s best interest. Furthermore, less than 4% of the population stands behind the disgraced President. South Korea could soon be moving in the same direction as the Philippines, where the long standing neoliberal, pro-American status quo was shaken up by the election of Rodrigo Duterte.

With the THAAD controversy boiling, amid bribery scandals, impeachment proceedings, discontent with the status quo, and renewed tensions with the North, the southern half of the Korean peninsula is gradually becoming more and more of a global hotspot. The point of disagreement seems to be about the role southern Korean will play in the world. Will it remain an extension of US influence in Asia, or will the southern half of the Korean peninsula follow in the footsteps of its powerful Chinese neighbors and northern countryfolk? Will Koreans in the south declare their economic, political, and military independence from the United States and Japan?

These questions, which have driven so many uprisings, protests, military coups, and strikes since 1945 are not going away any time soon.

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The Korean Crisis, the US’ Next Phase of Pan-Eurasian Containment

Andrew Korybko

The security situation has markedly deteriorated on the Korean Peninsula in recent days following the North’s latest missile test, which Pyongyang antagonistically said was a drill for striking US bases in Japan in response to the latest US-South Korean military exercises that it rightly views as a sign of hostility.

These surprise launches prompted the Pentagon to speed up its planned deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea, which has drawn the immediate ire of Russia and China who previously warned that it would set the precedent for undercutting their nuclear second-strike deterrent and spy on their territories.North Korea’s latest moves have also led to talk in Japan for a “first-strike option” to complement Tokyo’s militant reinterpretation of its post-war (supposedly) pacifist constitution. Not to be outdone, the Trump Administration ominously reiterated that “all options are on the table”, which Reuters reports could include “a return of U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea, and even pre-emptive air strikes on North Korean missile installations.” China has frantically sought to cool down the dangerously rising temperatures on the peninsula and kick start a new round of negotiations by wisely calling for the dual suspension of the North’s nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the US and South Korea putting their joint military exercises on hold.

Neither side, however, seems ready to follow Beijing’s advice, thus running the risk that tensions will only continue to rise for the foreseeable future. This can’t help but work to Russia and China’s overall strategic detriment since the leading Eurasian Great Powers can ill afford for the US to open up yet another containment front against them. On the upside, however, this would serve to strengthen the already rock-solid Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership and accelerate Moscow and Beijing’s previously stated joint efforts to confront THAAD, though both of them are at a loss for how to properly respond to their wayward and increasingly reckless North Korean partner.High Stakes

All of the actors in Northeast Asia have significant stakes in the outcome of the Korean Crisis, not least of which is that they’d all like to avoid the worst-case scenario of a nuclear war. Here’s a brief look at the interests and agendas that the exclusively Asian countries are pursing, followed later by an examination of the US and Russia’s:

North Korea:

Pyongyang has the long-term goal of reunifying the Korean Peninsula under communist leadership, though its short-term motivations are more directly geared towards countering US-South Korean belligerence in staging their inciting war games (which this year happen to be the largest-ever) so close to the DMZ. The North’s nuclear and missile tests are muscle flexing aimed at showing the US that it will not fall victim to a Yugoslav-Iraqi-Libyan-style regime change war, but its predictable knee-jerk reactions feed into US strategy by gifting Washington the excuse for THAAD and other expected future deployments which are tactically much more about subverting Russia and China than North Korea.South Korea:

Just like the North, the South also wants to reunify the peninsula, albeit under capitalist leadership, and its latest moves are responses to what it perceives as (and is led by the US to believe is) the “North Korean” threat, ignorantly unaware of how its own actions play into and actually started this whole escalation cycle in the first place. In regional terms, South Korea endeavors to remain the pivotal economy wedged between its larger Chinese and Japanese neighbors, ideally retaining respectable and positive relations with each, but the country is inadvertently endangering its pragmatic and profitable high-level ties with China because of THAAD and strategically converging with Japan despite Seoul’s historical-territorial disputes with Tokyo (as per the US’ envisioned Northeast Asian NATO plans).


This archipelago country hosts the most US troops anywhere in the world at approximately 50,000 and is a key component of the Pentagon’s “Pivot to Asia”. The US and the Abe government aspire to help Japan return to its World War II-era sphere of influence in East and Southeast Asia in order for Tokyo to become Washington’s premier “Lead From Behind” partner in the Asia-Pacific. In pertinence to the problems on the Korean Peninsula, Japan plays the role of an indirect antagonist by giving the US an “unsinkable aircraft” carrier for deploying ever more THAAD-like systems under the cover of ‘responding’ to North Korea but in reality to undermine Russia and China. Tokyo also has personal disputes with Pyongyang over the latter’s alleged abductions of Japanese citizens throughout the years, while North Korea viciously hates Japan for its brutal 35-year-long occupation between 1910-1945.China:

Beijing wants a nuclear-free and stable Korean Peninsula preferably united by peaceful methods and becoming a militarily neutral country. China does not want to see American troops on the Yalu River again under any circumstances, as this would present a national security threat of the highest caliber. Accordingly, it also wouldn’t tolerate pro-American United Korean troops there either. China wants North Korea to act as a buffer between itself and the US military and its proxies, but it recognizes that this said buffer region also carries with it inherent risks as well. Other than the fact that the Kim government is irresponsibly enabling the US to expand its strategically disruptive military footprint in the peninsula, its sudden and unexpected collapse could generate a sweeping flood of millions of “Weapons of Mass Migration” into China which could later be exploited by any pro-American United Korean government to press ancient historical claims in destabilizing this part of the People’s Republic.American Aims

While none of the exclusively Asian participants in the Korean Crisis want a hot war to break out, the US doesn’t necessarily have the same reservations despite having at least 80,000 troops stationed in total in Japan and South Korea, to say nothing of their many dependents (family, contract workers, etc.). The author isn’t suggesting that the US’ one and only goal is to spark a regional war, but just that it comparatively has the least to lose out of any of the countries involved (whether directly or indirectly), and that its military forces are more than capable of obliterating North Korea, although likely with substantial American casualties depending on how long and effectively Pyongyang holds out (which could include a suicidal last-ditch nuclear strike).

Accepting that the above scenario is the worst-case and least-likely one (at least for the time being), it’s much more relevant to discuss the more realistic reason why the US instigated the Korean Crisis. In the larger scheme of things: the US is hoping that its provocations against Pyongyang can drive North Korea into simultaneously providing Washington with the indefinite ‘justification’ for THAAD and thus transforming the country into a troubling security liability for Russia and China. If successful, then Washington could cleverly prompt Moscow and Beijing into taking on the burden of dealing with Pyongyang and consequently making Kim Jong Un the ultimate international pariah by turning his last remaining partners against him.This would amount to skillfully utilizing Russia and China as the US’ ‘cat’s paws’ in handling North Korea, as all parties would by then have a large degree of common ground between them in working towards the same ends (restraining Pyongyang), whether together or separately, no matter which means they go about in attempting to do so (barring of course the unacceptable unilateral use of force by the US). There’s nothing wrong with multilateral cooperation on such a pressing regional security issue as North Korea, let alone one with such profound global implications, so the reader shouldn’t misinterpret this as necessarily being the author opposing this potential eventuality per se, but just that the US certainly has ulterior motivations in prompting this scenario in order to promote its own self-interests.

Russian Recourse to Prevent Divide And Rule

US Interventions in World Politics: Infographic
It was earlier alluded to how the leading Eurasian Great Powers of Russia and China can ill afford to intensely focus on the Korean Crisis at this moment in time, and the title of the article does indeed refer to the latest events being part of the US’ next phase of pan-Eurasian containment. What’s meant by this select choice of words is that the US has already engineered serious strategic proxy crises against Russia and China in Eastern Europe (Ukraine), the Mideast (“Syraq”), and Southeast Asia (South China Sea), and that yet another major disturbance in a different corner of Eurasia – this time one which borders both Great Powers – would occur at a very inopportune time for them.Moreover, the Korean Crisis is unfolding concurrently with the intensification of the existing containment proxy battlegrounds, with the Balkans boiling, the “Cerberus” coalition of the US-Israel-Gulf teaming up once more against Iran, and Myanmar slipping back into all-out civil war in parallel with Daesh ominously rising in the tri-border Mindanao-Sulawesi Arc between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Understandably, if the incipient Korean Crisis was paired with a Central Asian expansion of the Hybrid War on CPEC, then the entire supercontinent would be embroiled in destabilizing conflicts (or threats thereof), which would surely create the perfect divide-and-rule existential challenge for the emerging Multipolar World Order.

The most realistic recourse against this insidious stratagem is for Russia to leverage its newfound diplomatic balancing role in Asia by urgently staging a diplomatic intervention aimed at calming tensions between the two Koreas in order to stem the American-encouraged spread of pan-Eurasian destabilization. Moscow enjoys excellent relations with Beijing, is in a promising rapprochement with Tokyo, and has unrealized by strong potential to better its ties with both Koreas, so it’s perfectly positioned to liaison and mediate between the four most directly affected actors. While the ongoing “deep state” war in the US has considerably diminished the prospects for reaching a New Détente in the New Cold War, Russia could still find a way to utilize any pivotally forthcoming diplomatic role that it plays in the Korean Crisis to its own bargaining advantage in attempting to secure a holistic and comprehensive ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with the US.At the end of the day, since all Eurasian diplomatic roads lead through Russia nowadays and the solution to seemingly intractable conflicts like Syria and Afghanistan is being actively discussed in Moscow, there’s no reason why Russia shouldn’t be at the center of organizing multilateral efforts aimed at resolving the Korean Crisis too and simultaneously strengthening its own “Pivot to Asia.”

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South Korea’s Political Crisis: Who Was Behind the Dissolution of the UPP Opposition Party?


Recently leaked evidence suggests Park Geun-hye’s former chief of staff Kim Ki-choon may have meddled in the Constitutional Court’s controversial 2014 ruling to dissolve the opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP). A journal left behind by the late Kim Young-han, former Senior Blue House Secretary for Civil Affairs,suggests Kim Ki-choon had prior knowledge of the court’s verdict and discussed it at a meeting at the Blue House two days before the court delivered its ruling. According to the journal, Kim Ki-choon also had insider knowledge of a split among the Constitutional Court judges on whether the court’s decision to dissolve the party should unseat UPP’s representatives in the National Assembly.

Kim Ki-choon, who was instrumental in drafting the 1972 Yushin constitution that granted dictatorial powers to Park Geun-hye’s father Park Chung-hee, also served as the Minister of Justice during Roh Tae-woo’s military dictatorship and was the chief orchestrator of the motion to impeach former President Roh Moo-hyun in the National Assembly in 2004. He has often been criticized for wielding excessive power as Park Geun-hye’s chief counsel.

Former Blue House Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon (Photo -

The UPP was dissolved by an unprecedentedConstitutional Court ruling in December 2014 in response to a petition filed by the Park Geun-hye government, which alleged that the party was under orders from North Korea to subvert the South Korean state through violent revolution.

Kim Young-han’s journal, recently released by his family to the media, contains a detailed record of Blue House cabinet meetings while he served as a senior secretary to the president. It has become the focus of the National Assembly’s ongoing “Choi Soon-sil Gate” hearings, broadcast on live television everyday this week, and is fanning public indignation ahead of Friday’s vote on Park Geun-hye’s impeachment in the National Assembly.

New Evidence Suggests Blue House Meddled in Dissolution of Opposition Party and Sewol Fact-finding

Kim Young-han had written on December 17, 2014, “Party dissolution confirmed, proportional representatives lose seats” under a section entitled “Chief,” denoting then-Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon. The Constitutional Court announced its 8 to 1 verdict to dissolve the UPP two days later on December 19.

Kim Young-han had also written, “Split on whether district representatives should lose their seats; chief justice mediating opinion (today). After mediation, 19th, early 22nd.” It appears the Blue House also had insider knowledge of diverging opinions among the judges on whether the UPP’s district representatives to the National Assembly, i.e. elected by the people of their districts, should lose their seats as a result of the court’s ruling. It also apparently knew that the chief justice was in the process of mediating consensus and that the court would deliver its ruling on December 19 or 22.

The Constitutional Court has said in the past that it had reached its final ruling to dissolve the UPP just prior to its announcement on December 19, 2014. But Kim had noted both the verdict and the timing of the announcement two days before it actually occurred. This implies the possibility of illicit contact between the Blue House and the Constitutional Court and raisesserious questions about the political independence of the judiciary.

Other records in the journal indicate that the Blue House kept close track of public opinion on the UPP case and may have collaborated with the Ministry of Justice to exert undue influence. The following are excerpts from the journal:

August 25, 2014— “Find ways to provide support regarding UPP case;” “Trial in progress, __ with Justice Ministry TF (Task Force).

(What “support” might the Blue House have sought to provide regarding the UPP case and to whom? And did it collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to meddle in the case? The note attributes these comments to Kim Ki-choon, who appears to have played a key role in the dissolution of the UPP.)

November 25, 2014— “Constitutional court trial— public opinion battle, direction of activity established (civil society activity).” (On the same day, right-wing groups gathered outside the Constitutional Court to burn the flag of the UPP and demand the dissolution of the party.)

November 26, 2014— “Persuade constitutional scholar to write column— collaborate with Justice Ministry

November 28, 2016— “Director of Central Election Management Committee— excludes qualification of local representatives— law— shortcoming— alternative party— legal regulation— formal review— divergent views— revocation lawsuit (administrative). Constitutional litigation.”

(This suggests that even before the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the Blue House knew that a ruling to dissolve the party would not unseat UPP lawmakers in local legislatures, and that it anticipated a legal challenge from the UPP’s local lawmakers and was thus preparing countermeasures.)

December 11, 2014— “New Politics Alliance for Democracy, opposes UPP dissolution — Saenuri rebuttal preparation.” (On the same day, the Supreme Council of the Saenuri Party denounced then-New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) Chair Moon Jae-in for his opposition to dissolving the UPP.)

December 28, 2014— “Post-UPP dissolution follow-up (civic group)

December, 29, 2014— “UPP follow-up investigation (rank and file)” (This was noted around the time the prosecutor general raised the possibility of investigating and punishing rank and file members of the UPP and suggests the Blue House may have exerted undue pressure on the prosecutor general.)

At a press conference earlier this week, former UPP Chair Lee Jung-hee demanded Park Geun-hye and Kim Ki-choon explain their role in the dissolution of the party— “What conspiracy did the president and the Blue House scheme to forcibly dissolve the UPP? President Park Gun-hye and former Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon must confess.” She added, “The dissolution of the UPP was an act of political retaliation planned by the Blue House, which mobilized right wing groups and the ruling party to carry it out.”

Blue House Diary Notes on Sewol

Kim Young-han’s journal also suggests the Blue Housemay have interfered with the recovery efforts after the Sewol tragedy. He had written on October 27, 2014, “Raising the Sewol— body recovery X, government responsibility, burden.” The comment was attributed to Kim Ki-Choon and noted on the day that the bereaved families of the Sewol tragedy requested the government continue to search for the missing bodies of the Sewol victims. Nine bodies are still missing.

Kim Ki-choon, who appeared as a witness at the National Assembly’s “Choi Soon-sil Gate” hearing this week, was asked pointedly, “Did you say at a Blue House cabinet meeting that recovering the bodies of the Sewol tragedy will be a burden to the government?” Kim Ki-choon denied having said any of the things attributed to him in Kim Young-han’s journal and suggested the notes are merely the subjective thoughts of the author.

Kim Young-han’s notes also suggest the Blue House meddled in the composition of the Sewol fact-finding commission-

November 28, 2014— “Sewol Tragedy Fact-finding Commission 17 people— vice chair and executive director (aspiring politician),” followed by “2) Seok Dong-hyun, 1) Jo Dae-hwan”

(Two weeks later on December 11, 2014, the Saenuri Party appointed five people to the Sewol special investigative commission, including Attorney Jo Dae-hwan as vice chair and executive director, just as Kim’s notes had indicated, as well as Attorney Seok Dong-hyun as a non-standing commissioner.)

December 19, 2014— “Sewol Fact-finding Commission—Supreme Court—Justice Ministry cooperation” (This comment, too, was attributed to Kim Ki-choon.)

After Impeachment— All Eyes on Constitutional Court

The National Assembly will vote on Park Geun-hye’s impeachment tomorrow, Friday at 3 pm (Seoul). Impeachment seems a near certainty as the Saenuri Party, keenly aware of public sentiment, has decided not to vote against impeachment as a bloc but allow the party’s lawmakers to vote individually as they wish. Opposition party lawmakers have all vowed to resign should the impeachment vote fail to pass and are keeping vigil overnight at the National Assembly to demonstrate their unified stance on the eve of the vote.

If the impeachment vote passes, all eyes will then turn to the Constitutional Court, which has 180 days to deliver a ruling on the impeachment while the prime minister serves as acting president. The mass protests that made the historic impeachment vote possible will shift their focus to ensure that the Constitutional Court delivers a just ruling. This time, the Blue House and meddlers like Kim Ki-choon will have no room to maneuver to shape the outcome.

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South Korea’s President Park Outmaneuvers Parliamentary Opposition; Protests Call for Her Immediate Ouster


Park Geun-hye, who faced imminent impeachment at the start of this week, blindsided opposition parties on Tuesday with what appeared to be an offer of resignation. And with this game-changing move, she has effectively put off impeachment and may even avoid it all together.

Here’s how it all went down-

Opposition parties drew up a motion for impeachment this week. They need a two-thirds majority for the motion to pass the National Assembly – which means they need at least twenty-eight members of the conservative Saenuri party to vote with them. And earlier in the week, it was looking like they had those twenty-eight votes in the bag due to an internal split within the Saenuri Party.

(The Saenuri Party is split between the pro-Park and anti-Park factions. The anti-Park faction, with the support of the conservative media, spent the past month trying to distance itself from the crisis-ridden president and calling on the leadership of the Saenuri party to step down. It intended to dissolve the party and reorganize and rebrand itself as a new conservative party in time for the next presidential election. In order to do so, however, it needs to buy time, and the impeachment process, which requires a Constitutional Court ruling that can take up to six months, seemed its best option.)

Park Outmaneuvers Opposition; Protests Amp up Call for Immediate Ouster

So it looked as though the anti-Park faction in the Saenuri party would go along with the opposition parties’ motion for impeachment, which the opposition was planning on presenting for a vote on Friday.

But that plan fell apart when Park broke weeks of silence on Tuesday to lob a monkey wrench in the process. She announced that she would be willing to step down before the end of her term if the National Assembly can ensure a “stable transfer of power” in accordance with “legal procedures.”

Park Geun-hye during her third address to the South Korean public since the eruption of the corruption scandal; Photo - getty images Korea

After Park’s announcement, the anti-Park forces in the Saenuri party had a sudden change of heart. They proposed to postpone the impeachment vote until December 9 to see if all parties can come to an agreement for a “stable transfer of power.” Meanwhile, the pro-Park forces have proposed a timeline of April 2017 for Park’s resignation, followed by a new election in June 2017.

So for now, Park remains in the Blue House. And if the opposition parties are unable to secure a two-thirds majority by December 9, impeachment, which had seemed a foregone conclusion just a few days ago, may become out of reach.

Embedded in Park’s announcement was an even more cunning ploy. Technically, Park’s public offer on Tuesday was not to “resign,” but to step down after a “reduced term” in accordance with “legal procedures.” Reducing the president’s term requires a constitutional amendment, which has been on the Saenuri party wish list for some time.

Without a viable presidential contender, the Saenuri party has been wanting to overhaul the country’s political system into a parliamentary system, which would relegate the president to a largely ceremonial role and empower the federal legislature to choose a prime minister, who would act as the government head. The Saenuri party, confident that it can eventually lure members of the centrist People’s Party into an alliance to gain the upper hand in the legislature, believes changing to a parliamentary system is its best bet to secure its ruling power long term. And discussion of legal procedures for reducing her term, as Park suggests, would open the door for the Saenuri party to propose the constitutional amendment and system overhaul it had been wanting to pursue all along.

A well-played hand by Park.

December 3, 2016 - 1.6 million South Koreans take to streets in Seoul to demand Park's ouster; Photo - Voice of People
December 3, 2016 - Sixth consecutive weekly mass demonstration - citizens have stepped up their demands and symbollically showing the growth of their candlelights to torches; Photo - Voice of People

But the wild card that Park, or her puppeteer, hasn’t yet accounted for is the power of the mass protests on the streets. This week’s events have fueled even more public anger and brought out 2.12 million people in protests across the country today in the sixth consecutive week of protests. South Korean media report 200,000 in Busan, 100,000 in Gwangju, 50,000 in Daejeon, 10,000 in Jeju, 12,000 in South Jeolla, 15,000 in Jeonju, 15,000 in Ulsan, 4000 in Sejong and 1.6 million in Seoul. Some held up images of Park Geun-hye in handcuffs and prison garb.

If the opposition parties’ gamble on impeachment fails on December 9, the line in the sand will only become clearer. It may finally consolidate the opposition around the people’s demands, which are–Park’s immediate resignation, investigation of the president for her involvement in the corruption scandal, and the dissolution of the Saenuri party.

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The Korean Peninsula within the Framework of US Global Hegemony


On 8 July 2016 it was announced in Seoul that the US would, as had long been anticipated, deploy an initial unit of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.1 The announcement was made at a press conference hosted by the South Korean Deputy Minister of Defense Ryu Je-seung and the Chief of Staff of US Forces in Korea (USFK) who has the significant, if unfortunate, name of General Vandal. The decision did not attract much attention in the international media being overshadowed by the Brexit drama in Europe, shootings and electioneering in the US, and Obama’s last NATO summit in Warsaw.

General Thomas Vandal, the Chief of Staff for the US Forces in Korea and South Korea’s Deputy Minister Of Defense Ryu Je-seung announce the decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul, July 8. (Yonhap News)

The limited coverage however was definitely ‘on message’:

  • US and South Korea agree THAAD missile defence deployment (BBC)2
  • South Korea and US agree to deploy THAAD missile defence system (Guardian)3
  • Pentagon to deploy anti-missile system in South Korea (Washington Post)4
  • South Korea and US Agree to Deploy Missile Defense System (New York Times)5

It was Reuters which delivered the whole message in the headline:

South Korea, US Agree to Deploy THAAD Missile Defense to Counter North Korea Threat6

So, the message goes, we have two equal allies–South Korea and the US (and that is often the order in which they are given) –who after much deliberation are stationing this segment of Missile Defense precisely to defend South Korea against a belligerent North Korea. It must be admitted that China7 and Russia8 are making a bit of a fuss although it has been patiently explained many times that the sole purpose of THAAD was, as Minister Yoo reiterated at the press conference “to guarantee the security of [South Korea] and its people from the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles” and is “not aimed at a third country”9. Indeed, Jane Perlez suggested in the New York Times, China was peeved because the deployment show that despite its attempts to woo Seoul ‘Ms. Park’s government showed that it was embracing its alliance with Washington more than ever, and that it would rely less on China to keep North Korea and its nuclear arsenal at bay.’10

However, a little burrowing beneath the surface reveals that the reality is very different from the official US and South Korean government line so assiduously reported by the media.

There are, for a start, serious doubts amongst experts that THAAD would in fact be effective against North Korean missiles. Even those in the military-industrial-security complex such as Michael Elleman formerly of the US Department of Defense and now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) who is, by profession, ‘pro-THAAD’ cautions that it would not offer complete protection.

Adding THAAD to missile-defense deployments that already include Patriot systems would likely substantially enhance South Korea’s capacity to minimize the damage caused by a large North Korean missile attack. However, it is important to note that a layered defense will not be able to completely block such an attack. As a result, missiles armed with nuclear weapons could cause significant casualties as well as damage in the South.11

A similar point is made by Garth McLennan, who refers to the technique of haystacking where a large number of missiles are fired, only a few of which have nuclear warheads (because they are in short supply). The nuclear component then becomes a needle in a haystack:

THAAD would not, however, serve as an effective tool in countering a North Korean nuclear strike if such an attack were haystacked among a barrage of conventional warheads.12

A more trenchant, and independent critic, is Theodore Postol, emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is frequently cited by the liberal Seoul newspaper Hankyoreh.13 Postol argues that North Korea could make its missiles tumble or fragment in flight in order to confuse THAAD and hence penetrate defences.14

There appears to be a consensus amongst experts that despite claims by the South Korean Defense Minister a single THAAD unit would be ineffective against Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMS) because it only has a 120 degrees azimuth, or window, and since SLBMs can be launched from any direction it would be necessary to have at least three to cover the whole 360 degrees.15

THAAD on the Korean peninsula, used for detecting Chinese ICBM (hypothetical)16

Then there is the question of where the THAAD unit would be stationed. The right wing Chosun Ilbo has expressed concern that it would be positioned to protect US bases, rather than Seoul.17

Postol concludes, in a lengthy technical presentation given at Harvard, that “The claim that the US is aiming its missile defense at North Korea is simply nonsense.18

If THAAD offers little or no protection against North Korea’s missiles, why the deployment? The answer lies in THAAD’s AN/TPY-2 radar system which can penetrate deep into China, and Russia.19 Postol explains:

The Chinese are concerned about the THAAD radar because it was designed from its beginning to provide cuing information to the US National Missile Defense. The placement of a THAAD radar in South Korea has the unambiguous technical appearance of placing the radar in a location where it can provide track information on Chinese ICBMs before they rise over the curved earth-horizon and can be seen by the main radars of the US National Missile Defense in Alaska…

South Korea will get no military benefit from the THAAD defense system, and China will consider the radar‘s deployment to South Korea as a hostile act by South Korea against China. It therefore has a significant negative impact on South Korean/Chinese relations, with essentially no real benefit to South Korea.20

Russia has warned that it ‘could deploy missile bases to its Far East region that would be within reach of THAAD bases in South Korea’.21

China has gone further in an editorial in the authoritative Communist Party newspaper Global Times, which outlined a number of measures in response to the THAAD deployment:

We recommend China to take the following countermeasures.

  • China should cut off economic ties with companies involved with the system and ban their products from entering the Chinese market.
  • It could also implement sanctions on politicians who advocated the deployment, ban their entry into China as well as their family business.
  • In addition, the Chinese military could come up with a solution that minimizes the threat posed by the system, such as technical disturbances and targeting missiles toward the THAAD system.
  • Meanwhile, China should also re-evaluate the long-term impact in Northeast Asia of the sanctions on North Korea, concerning the link between the sanctions and the imbalance after the THAAD system is deployed.
  • China can also consider the possibility of joint actions with Russia with countermeasures. 22

The enormous implications of these measures are obvious. For one thing it seems likely that the deployment, combined with US containment of China in the South China Sea, will reinforce Chinese rethinking of its conciliatory policy over the Korean issue.

In South Korea there have been serious concerns raised about the commercial impact of the response from China, its major economic partner. The Korea Times, in an article entitled ‘Businesses fear backlash from China’ reported:

Company officials and analysts expressed concern that THAAD may stoke anti-Korean sentiment in the neighboring country.

They also said business ties with China could worsen, heightening uncertainties about the Korean economy.

“The THAAD issue is more about politics and diplomacy, but it could hurt Chinese consumer sentiment about Korean products,” Hyundai Securities analyst Kwak Byeong-yeol said.

Company officials expressed worries over retaliatory actions such as higher tariffs and stricter rules on some Korean products manufactured in China.23

South Korean companies exporting to, or producing in China, would not be the only casualties. There is also tourism. The Hankyoreh noted that

What the South Korean government and business are most concerned about in connection with the THAAD debate are economic sanctions. China is by far South Korea’s number one export market, accounting for 26% of exports as of 2015 – a figure that rises to 31.8% if Hong Kong (5.8%) is included.

Last year, 45% (6 million) of foreign visitors to South Korea were Chinese, and they are lavish consumers, spending five times more than the average foreign tourist’s expenditures (US$400). Chinese investors hold 17.5 trillion won (US$15.22 billion, 18.1%) in government bonds and other publicly traded securities in South Korea, more than any other country. Furthermore, around 23,000 South Korean companies were doing business in China as of 2013. Sanctions from China would deliver a body blow to the South Korean economy.24

So we have a situation where the South Korea government has, it claims, willingly agreed to the deployment of a weapon system which will afford it little or no protection against North Korea, but will exacerbate North-South tensions which are already at highest level in decades.25 THAAD will inevitably increase the danger of South Korea being a target of Chinese and Russia counterattack in the case of war.26 And in the meanwhile it is producing the likelihood of substantial damage to the South Korean economy as the relationship with China and Russia sours.27

The United States is inflaming the situation on the Korean peninsula, and worldwide. THAAD is clearly one part of a larger pattern. Obama at the NATO summit in Warsaw 8 July confirmed ‘Russia as implacable enemy No. 1, while Defense Secretary Carter’s recent campaign to up the military ante in the western Pacific casts China as a close No. 2.’28 At the same time Abe Shinzo, with another electoral victory under his belt continues his inexorable journey towards revision or ‘reinterpretation’ of the Japanese ‘peace constitution’ and the remilitarisation of Japan. 29 How do we explain the hysteria and the war-mongering? And, in the case of South Korea, the self-harm?

Choi Sun-sil depicted as a Shaman

A framework for analysis with the US at its core

In order to make sense of this and, lay the foundation for activism, as appropriate, we must contextualise and establish a framework for analysis. The starting point for this framework is that we must look in the right direction. Most writing and discussion on Korean peninsula issues focuses almost exclusively on North Korea. We are told of the North Korea problem, the North Korea threat, how North Korea, or the Kim family, is mad, bad, unpredictable, and so forth. The clue is to look at phrases such as the “Vietnam War”, the “Korean War”, “invasion of Afghanistan”, “invasion of Iraq”, and work out what they have in common; or rather what is left out that they have in common. The answer of course is the United States. The US is the common denominator.

No doubt some wise person thousands of years ago pointed out that we will not see the mountain, however high it may be, if we are looking in the wrong direction. And the American mountain is very high indeed. The US is the global colossus. It is the world’s major economy (although now overtaken in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms by China) and one relevant consequence of that has been its fondness for economic warfare. Physical sanctions may devastate a target economy without impinging on the far larger American one. The US had an embargo against China for 25 years without American business protesting; mind you they didn’t realise what they were missing out on. Sanctions on North Korea have been in place for some 70 years, with no apparent protest from American business. The US dominance in the international business and banking architecture makes financial sanctions very appealing; again they cause great damage without much cost to the US. 30American economic might means there is plenty of cash to buy friends and influence people. General David Petraeus claimed that ‘money is my most important ammunition in this [Iraq] war’ and this insight led to a US Army manual entitled Commander’s Guide to Money as a Weapons System.31 Vicky Nuland’s boast, in December 2013, just before the coup in the Ukraine, that they had ‘invested’ $5 billion in the Ukraine is one example; then there are all the stories of CIA operatives sashaying through Afghanistan and Iraq with dollars, not in fistfuls but in suitcases. 32

The US is uniquely blessed by nature, with extensive agricultural and mineral resources meaning it cannot be blockaded into submission, however strong a future enemy might be. It is protected by vast oceans east and west and bordered by small, non-threatening countries north and south and surrounded by a huge network of overseas bases.33 Despite this geographical invulnerability, the US spends on its military nearly as much as the rest of the world put together. If one adds to its military budget that of its ‘allies’ and compares that to the military wherewithal of potential adversaries the disproportion is staggering. At a rough calculation using data from the latest Military Balance assessment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the military expenditure of US and its ‘allies’ is about $1 trillion a year. 34They outspend China seven times, Russia 15 times and North Korea somewhere between 100 times and, if one accepts the estimate of Pyongyang’s military budget made by the director of the South Korean Defence Intelligence Agency back in 2013, 1000 times.35

The United States also has immense Soft Power which includes diplomatic power and its domination of the global intellectual space which are linked together, the one feeding off the other.

The US has immense diplomatic power. Hence for instance all those dubious UN Security Council resolutions censuring North Korea, and violating the sovereignty of Libya, Yugoslavia, Iraq, or Iran.36 The US is able to bully, cajole or perhaps just instruct permanent and non-permanent members of the UNSC to commit egregious violations of the UN Charter, damaging its enemies and protecting its friends, such as Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and of course itself. Again its power is not absolute, but it is extraordinary.

The official US narrative not merely fashions Western media and academia but also much of that in Russia and China. If you look at Russian or Chinese media, in English at least, you will see that unless national interests are directly challenged – in Ukraine and Eastern Europe for the Russians and the South China Sea for the Chinese, the default position is to accept uncritically what the Western news agencies, and hence Western officials, portray. This, needless to say, only works one way. No Western newspaper would ever regurgitate a statement from Tass or Xinhua without inserting it in a political envelope telling the reader not to believe it.

As a result of this domination of the international intellectual space no one seems to blink when the US, with its thousand nuclear tests, fulminates against North Korea’s five, or with its myriad nuclear and conventional missiles, bombers, fighters, aircraft carriers, and submarines claims that it is being threatened by North Korea with its very limited and uncertain ability to project power far beyond its borders. This goes beyond hypocrisy and double standards into the construction of a special sort of unreality.

Of all countries in the world North Korea alone has been censured by the UNSC for launching satellites, and that on the strange ground that they utilised ballistic missile technology. Strange because not merely are all satellites launched by ballistic rockets, but ballistic missiles are not themselves illegal.37 How could they be when the US has so many of them?

There are various bilateral and multilateral agreements by which the US attempts to fortify its hegemony by managing the utilisation of missiles by other countries – there is, for instance, the limitation it has imposed on South Korean missiles (they don’t want Seoul attacking China without permission) but missiles per se are not prohibited Similarly for nuclear tests and weapons. There are various ‘voluntary’ agreements – the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty – but these are different in nature from, for instance, the prohibition on invading other countries which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and dates back to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.38 In this regard the construction of North Korea as an international pariah is an expression of American power rather than, as is usually claimed, a result of the infringement of international law. In fact, the discriminatory charges against North Korea are themselves a violation of the norms of international law and the equal sovereignty of states.

American power means that nothing much happens in the world without the US being involved although that is frequently hidden. Sometimes it is the dominant actor, sometimes just an endorser, but the US is always there. This does not mean that the US is omnipotent. Indeed it is intriguing the way that clients sometimes have surprising leverage against the US One thinks of Syngman Rhee in South Korea the 1950s, or more recently Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. These are people who were installed by the US, had not much popular support and many domestic enemies, but nevertheless at times could disobey orders quite flagrantly. The client/master relationship is constantly being negotiated and is complex. However, if push comes to shove the master prevails, as Rhee found out in 1960.

Deciphering US global strategy

So, in analysing world affairs the starting point must be the US What does America want? That, needless to say, often bears little connection with what it proclaims as its objective. Analysis must be hard-nosed looking beyond the spin and rhetoric, focussing on actions and seeking real explanations. When we have some idea of America’s position we can start looking at the other players, in descending order of importance. For most countries, most of the time, the United States is their major strategic partner-cum-adversary. They tend to tailor their policy in relation to third countries in the light of their political relationship with the United States. However for many countries, and South Korea is by no means alone, there is the dilemma of reconciling the economic importance of China with the relationship with the US.39 At the same time we must presume that Washington has a global grand strategy (however incoherent and subject to various factions that may be) and that this strategy prioritises and subordinates the part to the whole.

US Vice President Joe Biden clasps hands with President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House before Biden signs the visitor’s book, Dec. 6. (Blue House photo pool)40

The failure to put the US at the core of geopolitical analysis is a fundamental reason why so much writing on the Korean peninsula is usually off the mark. We have innumerable websites and NGOs, books and articles focusing on North Korea, often with little attention paid to the US, other than considering what effect North Korea, and often ‘the North Korean threat’ has on America. Looking in the wrong direction, asking the wrong questions, they get misleading or meaningless answers. Associated with this, and arguably a result of it, is the fact that virtually all the experts, all the pundits we hear from are, to use Perry Anderson’s term ‘state functionaries’. 41He was talking about American experts on China but the same term can be applied to American experts on Korea, and much the same holds for experts from Britain, Russia, and China. Most of these experts either currently work for the US government or have in the past – in the CIA, Defence, or State usually. If they are former employees they now work for think tanks or NGOs which are, to put it politely, state-aligned. Even academics are constrained by the desire for research funding. There are very few neutral, dispassionate, disinterested (in the proper meaning of the term) voices. One simpler indicator is that virtually all of them express horror at the idea of North Korea having nuclear weapons but few have any qualms about the US and its arsenal. They tend to view the prospect of the US attacking North Korea with moral equanimity. There are, of course, honourable exceptions. Donald Gregg, former CIA operative and George H. Bush’s ambassador to South Korea has become a leading advocate of engagement, as well as offering a critical perspective on US policy.42 James Hoare, the British diplomat (and Korean scholar) who opened the British mission in Pyongyang.43 Robert Carlin, with a background in the CIA and State Department, who offers such interesting insights into US negotiations with North Korea.44

The Korean peninsula in US strategy

Why is the US interested in the Korean peninsula? The answer is location. Korea is the most valuable piece of geopolitical real estate in the world. It is the nexus where most of the great powers meet and contend. China and Russia share a land border with Korea, Japan is separated by a small sea, and although the Pacific is a large ocean it is also ‘the American lake’. None of these powers want a unified Korea subservient to any of the others and since the US is by far the most powerful it has the most pro-active policy. The US is also different in that it alone, at the moment, has aspirations for global hegemony. This means keeping Japan subservient, and containing China and Russia with the longer term aim of fragmenting them so that they are no longer competitors. It is easy to see how Korea fits in with these strategic objectives. As a physical location it provides bases adjacent to China and Russia and whilst the number of troops permanently deployed in South Korea is small, one of the functions of the joint exercises with the ROK is to practice the rapid influx of massive reinforcements. Japan fulfils the same role.

As an aside it might be noted that Korea also provides a base for keeping an eye on Japan. Whilst the US has been an enthusiastic supporter of Japanese remilitarisation, thinking in terms of the containment of China, it is possible this may change. A remilitarised Japan (and it should be remembered that Japan has the expertise to rapidly develop nuclear weapons and delivery systems that might well be superior to China’s), made a ‘normal’ country again, may want to assert its independence from the US. As Palmerston remarked, back in the nineteenth century, countries don’t have perpetual friends and enemies, merely perpetual interests.45

In the meantime Japan remains America’s main asset in East Asia and an important aspect of the US presence in the southern part of the Korean peninsula, dating from 1945, is its function as a bulwark protecting Japan from any military threat from the Asian mainland. In 1945 that meant the Soviet Union but as time passed China has been perceived as the bigger threat. However the military facet is less important than the political one. The US has to be concerned that Japan does not become too friendly with its Asian neighbours, South Korea and Taiwan being obvious, but ultimately perhaps partial, exceptions. This concern was well illustrated by the ‘Dulles Warning’ of 1956 when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, alarmed at peace treaty negotiations between Japan and the Soviet Union, threatened that the US would not relinquish Okinawa if Japan went ahead by agreeing to a Soviet proposal for a compromise solution to the territorial dispute (Kurils/Northern Territories) between the two countries. Dulles was also worried that if Japan concluded a peace treaty with the Soviet Union this might lead to a normalisation of relations with China.46 Dulles got his way and relations between Japan and Russia are still bedevilled by territorial disputes, as are Japan’s relations with China.47 Fears that Prime Minister Koizumi’s visit to Pyongyang in 2002 might lead to a rapprochement with North Korea may have been the trigger that led to the Bush administration’s abrogation of the Agreed Framework.48 Japan is the jewel in America’s East Asian crown, but the Korean peninsula has been regarded as essential to its protection.

The Korean peninsula not merely provides the US with physical bases for its military; it provides access to a huge reservoir of Korean military assets. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies( IISS) report, Military Balance 2016, South Korea has a total troop complement – that is the combination of service personnel and reserves – of about 5.1 million. For comparison this is 2.6 times as much as that of North Korea’s ostensible 2 million, considerably more than America’s 2.2 million and quite a bit more than China’s 3.5 million.49 As an aside it might be noted that South Korean scholars using census data estimate the North Korean armed forces at about 700,000.50 In addition, it is claimed that 400,000 are engaged full time in construction. 51 Which leaves about 300,000 for ordinary soldiering, rather less that the IISS estimate of 1.19 million.

Because of interoperability, these South Korean troops can fight alongside America, under American command, but probably can’t operate on their own in a major war. The Joint military exercises such as Key Resolve, Foal Eagle and Ssang Yong are described as defensive to deter North Korean aggression. Given North Korea’s incredible military inferiority against the US-led forces this is obviously a pretext. The exercises practise more than the invasion of the North. The Chosun Ilbo which, like Donald Trump sometimes blurts out an inconvenient truth, recently made this comment about the exercises:

The underlying aim is to bring South Korea, Australia, Japan and the US closer together to thwart China’s military expansion in the Pacific.52

When the United States looks at Korea, it sees China.

The 20th CBRNE Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives) is participating in Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian in South Korea, Aug. 17 – 28. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Antwaun J. Parrish, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)53

So it is clear that for the Unites States the Korean peninsula is hugely important. This is partly in its own right – its 75 million people put it on a par with Germany or France. However its main significance to the US is that it is a strategic asset in its confrontation with China, and to a lesser extent, Russia. If the peninsula could be detached from the Asian mainland, towed down to the South Pacific and parked near New Zealand, then the US would be far less interested. We would not have had the division of Korea, the war, or the militarisation of the peninsula and of Japan.54

All this means that the US’s North Korea policy, and hence its South Korea policy, must be seen within the context of its struggle with China, and Russia. In 1945 when the US had the peninsula divided its main concern was the Soviet Union. At that time the US ‘owned’ China, through Chiang Kai-shek. This changed over time and now China is the major component in its East Asia strategy. However Russia should not be overlooked. The US is a global power, and Russia straddles Europe and Asia, and although it is the European face of Russia which concerns the US, it is its Asian side which is most vulnerable.

To recap, the US’s Korea strategy is a component of its global strategy, and China is the major focus of that, with Russia coming in behind. North Korea is important because of the role it has in that strategy; it is not really important in itself. So, if for instance, the US decided that good relations with North Korea would better serve its containment of China than the present hostility – by no means a foolish idea – then its Korea policy would change, whatever the screams in Seoul.

US North Korea policy

What, then, is the US’s North Korea policy? Most people, left or right, find that easy to answer. It sees North Korea’s nuclear programme threatening and its focus is the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. The reality is not quite so straightforward. For one thing US hostility long preceded North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. More important and telling is the fact that there has never been a serious, bipartisan, and sustained attempt to negotiate with Pyongyang on the issue. There was, indeed, the Agreed Framework of 1994 but that was sabotaged by the Republicans while out of the White House, and torn up by them, by George W Bush, when they did hold the presidency. Bush did go through the motions of negotiating for some years, but despite North Korean gestures such as blowing up the cooling tower of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in 2008, these came to naught. Obama, under the rubric of ‘strategic patience’ has refused to negotiate. To some extent this history can be ascribed to infighting within the power elite, and between government agencies; for instance Treasury’s actions against Banca Delta Asia which scuttled the negotiations for some time. American governments are also reluctant to negotiate with adversaries because negotiation implies compromise, thus exposing themselves to charges of being soft and unpatriotic by opponents – Trump, Cruz, Rubio, et al. However, underlying this is a fundamental strategic dilemma.

Some argue that the US could easily negotiate a deal by offering a grand bargain where it guaranteed North Korea’s security with perhaps the concession of allowing Pyongyang to retain its present, probably inoperable and certainly tiny, nuclear deterrent. Sig Hecker’s ‘The Three No’s’ is an example of this – ‘no new weapons, no better weapons, no transfer of nuclear technology.’ 55 With Libya in mind, let alone the abrogation of the Agreed Framework, it is difficult to see how the US could offer credible guarantees, even if it wanted to. But it is scarcely likely that it wants to. North Korea’s major threat to the US is not its nuclear weapons but its proposal for a peace treaty. If North Korea, by developing a nuclear deterrent, by building a formidable, but primarily defensive, military, by refusing to buckle down under sanctions and having the temerity to launch satellites – if North Korea by doing all this is able to force the US into accepting peaceful coexistence then its example might be followed by others. The one thing empires detest above all else is independence; that and its brother, rebellion. It was for this crime that the Roman Empire reserved crucifixion. 56North Korea’s success would also have implications for China and Russia in their struggle with the US

Having said that, the US would probably negotiate if it were genuinely concerned that North Korea’s nuclear weapons presented a serious threat. It seems that despite the posturing, they do not. Firstly it is a deterrent, not an offensive weapon, so if North Korea is not attacked then it does not come into play. Barring accidents, the initiative lies with Washington. Secondly, there is no evidence that North Korea can actually deliver a nuclear weapon, certainly not to substantial US territory. This may change; miniaturization may proceed beyond photo opportunities, and an ICBM may someday be tested. Thirdly, the US, bolstered by its allies, has overwhelming military superiority. For the moment there is no pressing need to negotiate.

This brings us back to China policy. If the US did negotiate a peace treaty, or if it were able to invade and conquer North Korea and extend Seoul’s administration up towards the Yalu (under an American general of course) without provoking a Chinese intervention, what would this do to its China policy? If China did intervene then we would have a second Sino-American war, with all that might entail. But leaving aside that possibility and just considering the implications of a peaceful Korean peninsula we immediately see problems in justifying the US military presence, and missile defences. How would the US keep South Korea cooperating with the containment of China at great cost to itself without a North Korean threat? 57

It seems that the present situation of managed tension serves US policy towards China (and towards Russia) very well. Going to war to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons would be perilous, negotiating them away by accepting peaceful coexistence might be even more problematic for US global interests should other small countries follow North Korea’s example.

China and Russia – shared predicaments, common strategies

There are considerable differences between China and Russia but the most relevant in this context is the huge economic interpenetration of the Chinese and US economies. The US, and in particular Hillary Clinton appear to contemplate the economic consequences of war with Russia with so little concern that it seems never to be mentioned.58 China is different. It is plausibly argued that for various geo-economic and geopolitical reasons China would suffer much more than the US in the event of war. Much of US trade would be impervious to Chinese action while Chinese trade, especially imports of oil, are vulnerable to US interdiction.59 These are the strategic reasons behind China’s drive to develop rail and road links across Eurasia; the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to provide a more secure gateway for Middle East Oil, and rail links to the European market.60 They also underlay America’s interest in the South China Sea.61

Whilst economic considerations may be a restraint, especially in respect of China, it would be foolish to lay too much hope on economic rationality. Norma Angell famously argued in The Great Illusion that the consequences of ripping up the economic interdependence that by then existed between states made war obsolete. That book was published in 1910, on the eve of the Great War’.62

Despite their differences what China and Russia have in common is more relevant in this context. Both are competitors to the Unites States and so both are targets of US global strategy. In addition, both are resurgent states. Russia is recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Yeltsin years, and China from the 19th century meltdown of the Qing dynasty. Other things being equal, this means that both are getting stronger relative to the US, but both are currently very much weaker, Russia of course more than China.63But the shift in relative power means that the US has an incentive to go to war earlier rather than later, while for China and Russia the longer they can delay any such clash the better. This in itself does not mean that the US will attack either of them, although there is plenty of conjecture from all quarters on that. However, current weakness combined with the likelihood of greater security in the future, as the balance of military power moves against the US does present both China and Russia with a shared predicament.64 How do they cope with an America in relative decline, but which is still very strong, has a history of aggressiveness and, the current presidential campaign suggests, may be more adventurist in the future.65

This surely is no easy matter. It requires cool and calm judgement in balancing the need to be firm on core issues while giving the United States neither cause nor pretext to attack on more peripheral ones. But what is core and what is peripheral? And where does Korea fit in?

It is often said that the Korean peninsula is the most likely place for conflict between the United States and China (though the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea are also candidates). For Russia it is more likely to be Eastern Europe or Syria, but a war in Korea would involve Russia to some degree. It is also the place where Russia is most vulnerable. Whilst the US keeps a pretty firm grip on South Korea (it does have wartime control of its military for example66) China has little leverage over North Korea and Russia even less. So while the US can ratchet tension up and down as it requires, neither China nor Russia have much control over Korean events; an unenviable strategic position to be in.67

However, whilst recognising the dilemma they face it can be argued that they have erred on the side of timidity, even perhaps appeasement, especially in relation to the UN Security Council. They were both complicit in voting for UNSC resolutions censuring North Korea for actions which were quite legal such as attempting to launch a satellite.68 They have done this on other occasions; Libya comes to mind, but they seem to have learnt a lesson from that and have stood firmer on the issue of Syria. UNSC resolutions against North Korea stretch back to 1950, when unfortunately the Soviet Union absented itself and was not in a position to utilise its veto to defeat the US’s resolution to go to war in Korea, but the modern series of resolutions date from an attempted satellite launch in 2006.69Once having accepted that a satellite launch by North Korea was sui generis and uniquely a violation of the UN Charter they have been on a slippery slope with no way back.

The word ‘appeasement’ is often used loosely in order to condemn compromises which are the natural consequence of negotiations between adversaries of some degree of equality. Country A makes a demand of country B. If country B complies will that be the end of the matter; indeed will A reciprocate with a gesture of good faith? If so, well and good. However, if country A’s demands are really stepping stones on the way to an objective – perhaps the enfeeblement or destruction of B – then giving way only whets its appetite.

The problem for China is that America’s North Korea policy is really aimed at it itself. As Kim Ji-suk puts it ’Even when the US points at North Korea, we should understand that it is really aiming at China’.70 This means that concession does not solve the problem, but probably exacerbates it. The same, with obvious differences, applies to Russia.

It might be argued that China, and Russia, have followed a strategy in the UNSC of conciliation rather than confrontation. Given that the present composition of the Council automatically favours the United States they would have either been defeated or forced to use the veto which both, though China more than Russia, have been loath to do. Instead they have negotiated a softening of the resolutions and then not implemented them vigorously. 71 This has not been a wise strategy because it means they are constantly on the defensive. North Korea will remain intransigent, because it has no choice, and the US will continue its pressure. Putin’s response to the US-assisted coup in Ukraine and the US-assisted crisis in Syria offers lessons. Nimble footwork and countermeasures, a judicious amount of military intervention, both in quantity and duration, while at the same time restraining criticism of America with plenty of face-saving gestures.72 Even so it is reported that he is coming under pressure to take a firmer stand against the US.73

China, supported by Russia, calls for the resurrection of the Six Party Talks as a solution to the problem. 74 However, the Six Party Talks are probably dead, partly because as explained above the US has little interest in negotiating with North Korea but also because the Obama administration concluded that Bush had made a strategic mistake in agreeing to them in the first place. Allowing China, your main competitor, to chair and host the major security forum in East Asia while you, and your allies Japan and South Korea, sit on the second tier with North Korea and Russia was not a smart move. The US can go in either of two directions. One is to expand the number of countries in the talks to dilute China’s role.75 The other direction is the bilateral one, which has been much discussed over the years.76

China’s contortions, and those of Russia, have been painful to watch. They have condemned North Korea for its violations of the UNSC resolutions forbidding satellite launches and nuclear tests, but they are partly responsible for the resolutions in the first place. They are also partly responsible for the nuclear tests. The United States does provide security and a nuclear umbrella for South Korea. Because it is a master-client relationship it has been able to prevent the South developing nuclear weapons in the past, during Park Chung-Hee’s time, and will surely do so in the future despite Trump’s comments during the election campaign.77 Neither China nor Russia provides real security assurances, or a nuclear umbrella, to North Korea, so they can scarcely be surprised if it attempts to look after itself. To be fair, the United States is far superior in military terms and they perhaps cannot be expected to match America’s muscular approach. This leaves China in particular in a vulnerable, defensive position where the initiative is in America’s hands. Foreign Minister Wang Yi has warned that “As the largest neighbour of the peninsula, China will not sit by and see a fundamental disruption to stability [there], and will not sit by and see unwarranted damages to China’s security interests.” 78.

But what does this mean in practice? Is he saying that if the US does invade North Korea, China will intervene? If so, surely it would be wise for China to be more explicit. It should be recalled that in 1950, with no direct communication with the US, China conveyed a message through Indian Ambassador K. M. Panikkar that it would intervene if US forces invaded the North and moved towards the Yalu. Washington did not hear, did not listen, or just ignored that warning.79 The first Sino-American War ensued. Will history repeat itself for a lack of a clear understanding of the consequences of invasion?

If, however, the U S decides that now is the time to give resurgent China a bloody nose, explicit warnings will be irrelevant. Starting the conflict in Korea would give the US signal advantages, not available elsewhere. It would automatically bring in the formidable South Korean military, with the world’s largest reservoir of military manpower. It would certainly utilise Japan, whose military budget is 25% higher that South Korea’s and whose air and seapower is reputedly superior to China’s.80

Japan – leveraging the Korean situation for remilitarisation

Japan’s position in all this is relatively straightforward. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party has long sought to remilitarise, to shed itself of the constraints of Article 9 of the ‘Peace Constitution’ imposed by the US after its defeat in 1945, and so become a ‘normal’ nation again. This process has accelerated under Abe Shinzo.81 It has used the Korean situation, and the perceived ‘North Korean threat,’ buttressed by a good dose of Japanese colonial racism as a pretext for remilitarisation.82 This has been supported by the US, not in respect of North Korea, where it is scarcely needed except as a place for bases, but as a bulwark against China.83 Japan’s recent eagerness to join in conflict on the Korean peninsula, however, has caused considerable anguish in Seoul.84 Fighting fellow Koreans under an American general is bad enough, but for South Korea soldiers to fight alongside Japanese troops would be a public relations disaster.

South Korea – the pivot which did not turn

When Lee Myung-bak’s term of office came to an end in 2013 it seem reasonable to suppose that whoever succeeded him there would be a shift in North Korea policy. His policy had been such a disaster that it seemed that the new president would move in some ways to correct things. Lee had increased the danger of war, and his sanctions had damaged the South Korean economy while pushing the North’s into the hands of China. Even on his own terms nothing had been achieved.

Whilst Park was less likely than a progressive to want to improve the relationship with the North she has a distinct advantage in being able to do so, if she wishes. Just as Nixon, with his anti-Communist reputation could go to Beijing and play the ‘China card’ against the Soviet Union without being accused of being ‘soft on Commies’ so too could Park, as the daughter of the late anti-Communist dictator, Park Chung Hee, engage Pyongyang in ways that the more liberal Moon Jae-in (her opponent in the 2012 presidential election) could not.

Back in 2011, before the election President Park published an article in Foreign Affairs entitled ‘A new kind of Korea: building trust between Seoul and Pyongyang’ where she talked about ‘Trustpolitik.’85 That, and the phrase ‘peaceful unification’ was often on her lips; a notable occasion being her speech in Dresden in 2014.86 She described unification as a ‘bonanza’ and described her dream, stolen in fact from Kim Dae-jung, of a Eurasian land bridge through the Koreas and Russia through to Western Europe. 87The words still live on. Yet her actions have always belied her words.

Obviously, if she had been serious about building trust she would have cancelled the May 24 Sanctions, have built economic and social links between South and North, and have at least attempted to curtail the joint military exercises88. She did none of those things. On the contrary, she has now done what Lee couldn’t do, and closed down the Kaesong industrial Park, and the current exercises are larger than ever. It is commonly agreed that she has brought inter-Korean relations to a nadir. The Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents of 2010 were spurious but they did provide Lee with an alleged justification for his actions.89 Nothing comparable has happened during Park’s term of office. The things that did happen, and were seized upon by her to escalate tension with the North, related primarily not to South Korea but to the United States. Long range missile development and nuclear tests were a response to US policy and had little to do with South Korea in itself. The exception was the satellite launch programme which was in fact part of North-South competition. 90But even this was construed, incorrectly, as the development of an ICBM aimed at the United States.91 And an ICBM, by definition, was not relevant to inter-Korean combat.

Park Geun-hye aside South Korea remains what might be called a ‘pivot state’. All the other actors in this drama, from the US through to North Korea, have their lines written for them. The United States is an empire and will do what empires do. It has many options within that characterisation but the general thrust is fairly ineluctable. Mao Zedong once said that we shouldn’t expect imperialism to put down its butcher’s knife and become a Buddha. Conceivably it could, but it won’t. North Korea is a vulnerable target state and will do what it can to defend itself, wisely or unwisely. It has few options and cannot avoid the role it has to play.

South Korea is different. Born as a client state of the US from the ruins of the Japanese empire it now has considerable economic and social strength. It has options. It can make choices. It can, at its most brutal, choose between putting Korea first or serving the US. Roh Moo-hyun, in a rather sad exchange with Kim Jong Il at their 2007 summit described how he was attempting to make gradual moves towards autonomy from the US. 92 He did not succeed but the challenge is still on the agenda.

Park Geun-hye’s administration has not been a happy or successful one. South Korea is beset with economic problems, due in part to encroaching Chinese competition. 93 It is reported that ‘Most Koreans Feel Economy Is in Crisis’.94 There is a general lack of manufacturing competitiveness against Japan and China.95 Key South Korean industries such as shipbuilding96, shipping97, automobiles98, and overseas construction99 are faltering, with some top companies going into receivership. Dreams of Seoul becoming an East Asian financial hub are fading.100 Samsung’s woes with its ‘exploding’ Galaxy Note 7 smartphone have captured headlines around the world but an editorial in the Chosun Ilbo suggested that the problems lie deep and are symptomatic of much of the South Korean economy – 3rd generation chaebols which cannot cope with competition from China, and a political class so entangled with them that it cannot seek solutions.

South Korea has social problems common to many countries – corruption, ageing society, lack of meaningful employment, nepotism, and limited social mobility.101 However the problems are felt to be so pressing and intractable that young people have coined a term for their country: ‘Hell Joseon’ (variously ‘Hell Chosun’ and ‘Hell Korea’).102

All countries tend to utilise foreign threat – real , imagined, or exaggerated- to divert attention from domestic problems but for South Korea this has been so inbuilt by historical circumstance that it is more part of the political fabric than is the case in most other places. Conservative politicians, and Park Geun-hye, is no exception are prone to use the ‘North Wind’ – the perceived threat from North Korea – both for electoral advantage and for diversion.

Under Park Geun-hye South Korea’s foreign relations have followed a distinct pattern, reminiscent of the Cold War and a definite regression since the days of Roh Moo-hyun’s attempt to position the country as a ‘balancer’.103 The relationship with North Korea is the worst it has been in decades. That with Japan is bedevilled by the ghost of Japanese colonialism, exemplified by the ‘comfort women’ issue, territorial disputes and lingering mutual antipathy. Park Geun-hye, under American pressure, has given into Japan over the comfort women issue.104 That, though galling, is mainly symbolic. More important she has antagonised China, and Russia, over the proposed deployment of THAAD missiles in South Korea. This is not a temporary irritant because THAAD is just a stage in the incorporation of South Korea into the US missile defense architecture, so the problem will not fade away, but rather grow.105 This in itself is important, but it is also a symbol of a deeper and continuing dilemma. The United States sees South Korea as a pawn in its struggle against China, and Russia. Pawns, as we know, sometimes survive but are often sacrificed.

The one country with whom relations have blossomed during her tenure in office is the United States, and therein lies the root of Park’s failure. She has shown herself willing to sacrifice the interests of Korea to those of the United States, with THAAD being the most prominent recent example.

Early revelations, with presumably more to come, on the role played by Choi Sun-sil (also transliterated Choi Soon-sil), Park Geun-hye’s ‘Shaman confidante’ in influencing policy towards North Korea are shedding new light on this strange, rather dysfunctional administration.106 Choi Sun-sil inherited her relationship with the Park family, father and daughter, from her father Choi Tae-min, who was labelled in State Department cable, Korea’s Rasputin.107

President Park Geun-hye, center, who served as first lady for her father President Park Chung-hee, left, after her mother was assassinated, speaks to Choi Tae-min, her mentor and the father of Choi Soon-sil, at a hospital owned by Guguk (save-the-nation) missionary group, set up by the senior Choi, in 1976. / Korea Times file

In particular it is alleged that Choi Sun-sil was instrumental in the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Park, and propagated the myth of North Korea’s imminent collapse.108 Obama’s policy of ‘Strategic Patience’ is widely supposed to have been based on the collapse myth – no negotiations with North Korea were necessary because collapse was just around the corner.109 We are left with the intriguing possibility that recent US policy towards North Korea has been based on Shamanistic prediction, unconsciously echoing the Reagans’ predilection for astrology.110

North Korea – limited options of a target state

Most writers put North Korea first; here it is last because there is less to say. There are few options to discuss.

Militarily speaking, as we have seen, North Korea is vulnerable and far inferior to its adversaries who outspend it from a hundred to a thousand times. It has survived sanctions so far – some 70 years and counting – but that is to a large degree due to uncertain and undependable Chinese policy.

There are many things about North Korea policy that are difficult to fathom. It is unclear, for instance, why Kim Jong Un has not worked harder at relations with China and Russia. There may be good, but unknown reasons, why he did not attend the anniversary celebrations in Moscow and Beijing in 2015, leaving the stage to Park Geun-hye.111Why, with his overseas education did he not do anything to reform North Korea’s notoriously dysfunctional foreign communications/propaganda apparatus? Having lived in Switzerland he must have been aware of how superbly the Americans do these sorts of things. Lack of resources is clearly an issue and frankly however sophisticated and adroit the communications became it would not make much difference to the way that North Korea is portrayed in the mainstream Western media.112 The Russians run a pretty sophisticated show but that has not stopped the demonization of Putin and the vilification of Russia. But it would help on the margins. Then there are the ridiculously excessive prison sentences imposed on foreigners, most of whom are seemingly mentally unstable or pawns, for petty crimes.113 There is a long list.

Nevertheless these are relatively minor matters compared with the overriding reality of the problems that North Korea faces, circumstances forged by geography and history, and forged primarily, but not exclusively, by US policy. If South Korea can be seen as a pivot state with some freedom of action to develop autonomy, North Korea can be thought of as a responsive state whose main challenge is how to cope with the United States. It cannot deflect or ignore American hostility, but it must respond to it.

North Korea is constantly portrayed as a threat to the United States.114 In military terms it could conceivably be considered as a threat to South Korea on its own (but not in alliance with the US), although the South is very much stronger. However given the huge disparity in power between the US, buttressed by its allies, its bases, and with its geographic invulnerability the assertion of a North Korea threat is nonsense. It is a belief produced by unrelenting propaganda and indoctrination which even a cursory examination of reality should dispel. It is part of a pattern in which the US is depicted as threatened by countries which are far weaker and have absolutely no ability to project power to attack it – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Iran come immediately to mind.

North Korea cannot threaten the US, but the US certainly does threaten North Korea and has waged war against it since the late 1940s.

First of all North Korea is constantly under military threat – the frequent joint military exercises with South Korea, increasingly involving Japan,115 are just one example – and is subject to continual economic, propaganda, and psychological warfare.116 Sometimes this is relatively straightforward with physical and financial sanctions. Occasionally it is very petty as illustrated by a couple of stories from Japan, one of a South Korean who was arrested for sending sweets, garments, dishes, spoons and forks to North Korea and another of the Chinese woman arrested for selling knitwear.117 Sometimes the warfare is more invidious. Recently there were media stories from Australia of goods for the sports clothing company Rip Curl being made in Pyongyang by ‘slave labour’.118 Unnerved by the hype, Rip Curl apologised and cancelled the contract. Perhaps the unfortunate textile workers in Pyongyang lost their jobs – which were probably highly prized – just like those of their compatriots in Kaesong.

‘Slave labour’ is also a term used in respect of North Koreans working abroad and whilst the propaganda has been around for some time, 2016 has seen a concerted push by the US. The intention is to dissuade countries from permitting the employment of North Korea citizens by a mix of bilateral pressure and action through the United Nations.119 It is unclear how much remittances from overseas workers contribute to the North Korean economy. The South Korean Ministry of Unification estimates $200-300 million a year.120Others suggest $500million.121 The Chosun Ilbo goes up to $1billion and an article in Foreign Affairs came up with a high of $2.3 billion. 122 In the other direction Yonhap, perhaps drawing on US estimates quotes ”low $100s of millions” a year.123 Remittances from overseas workers (and migrants) are an important part of the global economy. In 2015 it was estimated that China would receive $66billion in remittances, continuing a trend stretching back centuries.124 Remittances to lower and middle income countries in 2016 were projected to reach $422billion.125 The Philippines has some 10million overseas workers ‘often employed in low-paying service jobs and under harsh working conditions. Stories of maltreatment and abuse are …common’.126 In fact the global migrant worker industry is often revealed as scandalous, with stories about Qatar being just a recent example.127 Ironically in this context, South Korea has a particularly bad reputation in respect of migrant (i.e. non-Korean) workers, both at home and abroad.128

There is no credible evidence that North Korean workers overseas in general fare any worse than others. Plenty of lurid stories from the propaganda mills of course but nothing substantial. It was reported in August 2016 that the State Department had issued a report to Congress on the subject and it might perhaps have been expected that it would contain some solid evidence. However the South Korean state news agency Yonhap admitted that ‘Details of the latest report were not immediately available’.129 That was August; the report had not appeared on the State Department website by the end of October, suggesting that something was amiss. Many of the stories about North Korean overseas workers revolve around allegations that they are left with little disposable income after deductions by North Korean government agencies. 130 There is no rigorous evidence on the level of deductions but it appears that they escape the fate of so many migrant workers who fall into a debt trap in which they find it very difficult to repay their debt to the recruitment agency. One estimate has 21 million people worldwide trapped in this ‘modern-day slavery’. 131 Are North Koreans to be counted amongst them? Andrei Lankov, the Seoul-based Russian academic who is certainly no friend of the North Korean government, is scathing:

But are these people actually “modern day slaves?” Well, they certainly do not see themselves as such, and not because they have been brainwashed by North Korean propaganda, but rather because they are doing what they and their compatriots overwhelmingly see as a prestigious and exceptionally [well] paid job. Indeed, the selection process is highly competitive, and nearly all those who make it have to make use of family connections and/or bribes to get selected.132

Most discussion about North Korea are infused with hypocrisy – for a country which has conducted over a 1000 nuclear tests, many atmospheric with damage to both humans and the environment, to express such indignation over a country that has conducted just five underground tests requires considerable chutzpah. The subject of overseas labour is no exception, providing fruitful ground for displays of insincerity and historical amnesia. The United States was founded to some extent on slave labour and, more relevant, the economic development of South Korea was due in large part to the export of labour. Park Chung-hee sent over 300,000 troops to Vietnam between 1964 and 1973, which provided a great stimulus to the economy, and foreign exchange133. Then the ‘Middle East Boom’ of the 1970s provided a further opportunity. Between 1975 and 1985 nearly one million labourers were sent to the Middle East to work mainly in construction, often for Korean chaebol, providing profit and foreign exchange. In the peak year of 1982 Middle East construction constituted 6.6 percent of South Korea’s GDP.134 By comparison North Korea’s overseas labour is small beer, but it does provide a useful source of foreign exchange, where such opportunities are much constrained by sanctions, as well as income for the workers and their families.

The ostensible rationale given for trying to stop North Koreans working overseas, and for sanctions on exports – from coal to fish – is that the foreign revenue is used for nuclear weapons. We are told that North Korea ‘ is likely to expand the export of fish to continue pursuing development of nuclear weapons.135 So, the argument goes, if foreign exchange is cut off then spending on weapons will go down. This is both untrue and masks the strategy behind sanctions. Since money is fungible and the North Korean government, like others, spends its revenue on a wide variety of activities from defense through to importing grain for domestic consumption, building hospitals and schools, agricultural and industrial development and so on, then constraining revenue streams does not necessarily impact on expenditure of a certain type.136 In fact any government faced with an existential threat will prioritise national defence so if sanctions impose constraints they are more likely to impact on general, civilian expenditure. Moreover, as noted below, since a nuclear deterrent is cheaper than a conventional one, the nuclear weapons programme is unlikely to suffer from sanctions, and may even get a boost.

If sanctions cannot stop North Korea’s development of a nuclear deterrent, what is their purpose and strategy? Here we might go back to the classic studies of US sanctions conducted by Gary Hufbauer and colleagues who describe the objective of sanctions against North Korea, stretching back to 1950 as ‘1) impair military potential 2) destabilize communist government’.137’Destabilisation’ covers a range of objectives from creating a dysfunctional ’failed state’, with impaired military potential to the replacement of a hostile or independent regime with something more compliant. Sanctions are one way of achieving such objectives – propaganda campaigns and funding opposition movements – being alternative or complementary mechanisms. By creating economic distress which is blamed on the government, rather than the sanctioner, they seek to create an environment in which the victims try to escape (as refugees or, or in South Korean parlance, ‘defectors’) or rebel in some way against the government. No doubt there are those in Washington, and Seoul, who hope that sanctions will produce food riots in Pyongyang which would provide a justification for a ‘humanitarian intervention’. However, sanctions tend not to be very effective in achieving these objectives. Famine in the 1990s did not lead to massive protest against the government and realistic observers see no likelihood of that happening today even if increased sanctions were to result in similar food shortages.138 Hufbauer tends to be sceptical about them and as we have seen in the recent case of sanctions against Russia they may have the opposite effect, of actually increasing the popularity of the government.139 Nevertheless they can cause immense suffering and damage. One North Korean source estimates the damage done by ‘economic sanctions and blockade, the products of the US hostile policy toward the DPRK….for six decades up to 2005 to 13,729,964 million US dollars’.140

North Korea has sought to counter American hostility by a dual strategy. It has basically been open to genuine negotiations with the US. ‘Genuine’ primarily revolving around negotiations without preconditions that would deliver to the US its objectives without concessions on its part.141 The conventional wisdom is that the US honestly has tried over the years to negotiate with North Korea but has not got anywhere because Pyongyang is untrustworthy and ‘cheats’.142 The logic of the situation suggests that the reverse is more likely. North Korea is a small, tightly controlled state for whom these negotiations are of huge, existential importance. It has a strong incentive to honour an agreement. The US is very different. It is the global hegemon with many choices to make and is run by a large fractious elite within which foreign policy is contested between cliques, institutions, personalities and of course succeeding administrations. The US finds it very difficult to honour its commitments.143 For North Korea Hillary Clinton’s destruction of the Gadhafi government in Libya in contravention of Condoleezza Rice’s assurances must be the outstanding example.144

The other side of this dual strategy is the development of defensive and deterrent capability, culminating in Kim Jong Un’s Byungjinpolicy. This strategy of a simultaneous development of a nuclear deterrent with economic development is sensible and perhaps inevitable although it has often been pilloried as evidence of economic mismanagement and irrationality.145 It is really merely a special variant of the guns and butter dilemma that all governments face and can be analysed dispassionately.146

There is clearly no easy way for North Korea to counter what it rightly calls the ‘hostility policy’ of the US except with nuclear weapons. For all their direct and indirect costs, they do make sense. They are cheaper than conventional arms.147 Although the long-term development costs, which crucially must include delivery systems, are considerable, some costs are surprisingly modest. For instance the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) estimated that the fifth nuclear test on 9 September 2016 ‘Only Cost $5 Million’.148 Moreover, even if it suddenly acquired huge wealth North Korea could never match the conventional military power of the US and its allies. It may be the best option for North Korea in the circumstances, but it does have its drawbacks. ‘Best option’ of course does not mean that something is desirable, merely that of all of the possible options it is the best choice. This obvious point is often avoided or obscured by people who do not recognise the predicament that North Korea is in; a predicament produced by geographical location, by history and by US global strategy. It was the US that divided the Korean peninsula; it is the US that is hostile to North Korea. This is not a situation that North Korea can avoid, but only seek to cope with.

Being cheaper than conventional weapons means that more resources can be devoted to the economy. There are indications that this is happening.149 The March 2016 budget showed a small decrease in the proportion devoted to national defense.150

As a corollary, it should be remembered that one function of the military threat, as exemplified by the invasion exercises, is to force North Korea to divert resources from the productive economy into defence. ‘Going nuclear’ offers a way of avoiding that trap.

The most authoritative assessment of the Byungjin policy comes from the Russian Koreanologist Georgy Toloraya. Writing in 38 North,the Washington website set up by former US official Joel Wit, he noted that he saw evidence in his recent trips to North Korea substantial (though constrained) economic growth and pronounced the Byungjin policy a success:

Despite all the mockery, North Korea’s Byungjin policy seems to have proven more effective than foreign critics expected. This is evidenced by empirical data I have collected during recent visits to North Korea…

What are the sources of this [economic] growth? One explanation might be that less is now spent on the conventional military sector, while nuclear development at this stage is cheaper—it may only cost 2 to 3 percent of GNP, according to some estimates.151

There are however three major disadvantages of the nuclear weapons option.

Firstly the early stage of nuclear weapons requires physical testing. The US no longer needs that, because it already has under its belt those 1000 physical tests in the past that brought it to this position. Unlike, for instance, acquiring an F-35 fighter or an Aegis destroyer nuclear tests are obvious and newsworthy and attract much opprobrium, hypocritical though most of that is. One of the great successes of American propaganda has been to attach to non-proliferation the assumption of peace and disarmament. In fact it has nothing to do with that, it is merely preserving the monopoly of nuclear weapons states. The authoritative US political scientist Kenneth Waltz argued that proliferation is peace-enhancing because it provides protection to small states that that they would not otherwise have.152

Secondly, nuclear weapons for North Korea can only be used as a deterrent. However unlike the prospect of mutually assured destruction (MAD) of the US-Soviet Cold War, North Korea’s deterrent is rather like the ‘Sampson Option’ described by Seymour Hersh in respect of Israel.153 It is similar to a suicide bomber who kills himself, and in the process some, but not all, of the enemy.

In any case deterrence is a matter of convincing the other side that attacking you would result in intolerable damage to them, and that it is not worth the risk. So it is a matter of perception rather than reality. You may be bluffing – and bluff is an inherent aspect of deterrence – and your defences may in reality be weak, but that is irrelevant.

North Korea is often mocked for making extravagant claims about its military capabilities and accused of being crazy for threatening to attack the US. That is a misunderstanding of what it is all about. North Korean threats are always essentially conditional. For instance the warning by the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Supreme Command regarding stories that the US was preparing to launch a ‘decapitation’ attack:

…all the powerful strategic and tactical strike means of our revolutionary armed forces will go into pre-emptive and just operation to beat back the enemy forces to the last man if there is a slight sign of their special operation forces and equipment moving to carry out the so-called “beheading operation” and “high-density strike.”[Emphasis added] 154

The media often, especially in headings, leaves out the crucial little word ‘if’ thereby creating the false impression that North Korea is being threatening and bellicose, when in reality it is the other way round. The military exercises, the practising of decapitation and amphibious landings, and of the invasion of North Korea are surely threatening and belligerent – one can well imagine the uproar in the West if it were Chinese and North Korean forces practising to invade the South. North Korean statements therefore are not a matter of threat, but of deterrence.

However, the third problem for North Korea is that its deterrent in respect of the US is a nuclear one. If the US were not involved and it were merely a matter of deterring the South then North Korea’s artillery, which it claims can turn Seoul into a sea of flames, would be sufficient. 155 But it is the US that must be deterred and the only feasible way to do that is to convince American leaders that there is a real chance that America itself might be damaged in a counterattack and that means nuclear weapons. In this context bluff is quite reasonable since it is a matter of instilling doubt in the minds of the other side. North Korea almost certainly can’t deliver a nuclear warhead on the US at the moment but it just might.156

The phrase used above -not worth the risk- is relevant here. From the point of view of the US it is a matter of risk-benefit analysis. The amount of risk must be related to the amount of benefit. We might image some megalomaniac strategist sitting in Washington and calculating that it might be worthwhile losing the West Coast if it meant destroying China. With China out of the way the US would have no challengers for generations. The world would be at its feet. It would be a big prize.157 North Korea is quite a different matter. It is a very small prize and as discussed above removing it through war, or indeed peace, would cause problems for the containment of China.

Moreover a nuclear deterrent is a blunt instrument. For a small country like North Korea, faced by vastly more powerful adversaries, a retaliatory attack has to be all out, no holds barred. No calibrated response, no escalation such as a powerful country might apply to a weak one – Vietnam comes to mind. But, as noted above, this is the Samson option, one that could result in the devastation of North Korea.

This brings us to the word ‘pre-emptive.’ This was misconstrued by George W. Bush to mean unprovoked. A simple dictionary definition is an action to prevent attack by disabling the enemy. Since Iraq was in no position to attack the US, the invasion was clearly not pre-emptive. Pre-emption is normally associated with the action of a weaker person or country faced with what is perceived as an imminent attack by a stronger adversary. This is probably what would happen in a conflict between the US and China, apart from the scenario of China intervening, as in 1950, in response to a US invasion of North Korea.158 The US would force China into a situation, say in the South China Sea or Taiwan Straits, in which it felt it was compelled to make a pre-emptive strike.159 Being by far the stronger combatant the US would absorb this strike, and then having gained the moral high ground would launch the attack, now a counter-attack, that it had planned; a variant on Pearl Harbour.160

Leaving aside the moral deception involved in shifting blame there is the danger that the weaker party might misinterpret the actions of the stronger and launch a pre-emptive strike unnecessarily. This is particularly plausible in the case of North Korea which has very limited surveillance and intelligence capabilities compared with the US (North Korea’s satellite programme is an attempt to remedy this deficiency).161 The US makes a feint which North Korea interprets as presaging, say, a decapitation strike and launches a pre-emptive all-out attack. The war, so long desired in certain quarters, comes about.

It might well be argued that for North Korea nuclear deterrence is unwise and might in fact incite the US to attack now, before it is too late. If tomorrow the enemy will be invulnerable, better to attack today. This is the inevitable predicament in developing a deterrent. Certainly to do so is to enter a dangerous period, as Stratfor explains:

As Pyongyang approaches a viable nuclear weapon and delivery system, the pressure is rising for the United States and other countries to pre-empt it. Consequently, the final moments of North Korea’s transition from a working program to a demonstrated system are the most dangerous, providing a last chance to stop the country from becoming a nuclear weapons state. For North Korea, then, these final steps must happen quickly.162

This is probably the explanation for the frenetic pace of North Korea nuclear and missile tests in 2016. 163 The US is unlikely to attack during a presidential election year, but 2017 is different. It is probable that the bellicose Hillary Clinton will be in her first year of office, and Park Geun-hye in her final full year.164 It might be that Clinton will be less of a hawk than most observers expect or too occupied with Russia to embark on a potential war with China.165 It might be that Park Geun-hye will be impeached or her political power fatally wounded by the Choi Sun-sil affair.166 However at this stage it would be prudent to assume that 2017 will be a particularly dangerous year for North Korea. Indeed, Josh Rogin, writing in the Washington Post on the eve of the 2016 election in an article entitled ‘The coming clash with China over North Korea’ concluded that:

…the North Korea issue could mean that the first foreign crisis of a potential Clinton presidency will come not in the Middle East or with Russia, but in northeast Asia.167

The report that the US command in Korea (United States Forces Kores, USFK) has begun to practice the evacuation of US civilians is surely a better indicator than any article of speech that the US military is anticipating that conflict is likely under the incoming administration.168

North Korea could say ‘if you invade we will unleash a people’s war – remember the 1950s, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan.’ The problem with that is what might be called the ‘Stalingrad factor’. Stalingrad, it has been said, was easier to defend against the Germans when it had been reduced to rubble. But who wants their cities reduced to rubble?

North Korea’s nuclear deterrent also have the potential to force the US into some sort of peace agreement in a way that a conventional defence, which by its nature would pose little danger to the US, ever could. Whether that might come to pass is another matter but since peace with America must remain North Korea’s major foreign policy goal, it will always be on the agenda even if denied. 169


The American empire is a curious one, rather different to the ones with which most of us are familiar – the Roman, the British, or the French. It is an empire which does not proclaim itself; indeed it denies its existence, to the condescending amusement of admirers such as Niall Ferguson. 170It often names its weapon systems after vanquished peoples – Apache and Iroquois –perhaps in a somewhat cannibalistic attempt to acquire their fruitless valour and to deny their subjugation. Denial goes a long way back; what other group of slave owners would have written in their declaration of independence that ‘all men are created equal’? The United States does not erect statues of its presidents in its foreign possessions. Its imperial forces in Europe are described as those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and those in South Korea, in the ‘Republic of Korea’ are called the United Nations Command. There is little doubt where the power really lies; an American general is in command of both. Indeed, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti the commander of the US forces in South Korea, and hence of the United Nations Command, and the ROK army, was transferred to Brussels in March 2016 to become NATO commander, in a career move which would have been familiar in the Roman Empire.171 Despite its relative invisibility the American empire is the greatest in history and the salient reality of contemporary geopolitics. Any analysis of a geopolitical situation must start with the US, though not end there.

The US is by no means omniscient or strategically coherent, and it is certainly not omnipotent; the relationship with ‘allies’ and adversaries is under constant negotiation. This means the relationships have to be carefully scrutinised, avoiding simplistic narratives. Nevertheless it is the dominant factor in most circumstances and in general, and in the long term (though not necessarily in the short term) it is the initiator to which other countries respond. The US divided Korea in 1945 as part of its strategy of containing the Soviet Union and protecting its war booty of Japan. The focus has now shifted to China but the basic thrust is the same. The US has a necessary and crucial interest in Korea because of its strategic location and this situation informs its Korea policy. North Korea is far too small to threaten the US, but the US does threaten North Korea and has conducted economic and diplomatic war against it since the late 1940s. The Korean War itself had its own specific causes and effects but it was one episode in a longer historical struggle. This hostility has moulded North Korean politics into a particular defensive and distorted configuration, and has produced, amongst other things, the putative nuclear deterrent. North Korea has long proposed a peaceful coexistence in the form of a peace treaty to the US, and the US has refused out of concerns about the impact on its global strategy of preserving nuclear superiority (‘non-proliferation’) and its containment of China, and Russia.172North Korea’s commitment to a peace treaty is likely to endure because it is the gateway to survival and prosperity. American policy on that may conceivably change as it attempts to cope with shifts in the international landscape. In order to understand what is going on, and attempt to anticipate future developments, it is essential to start with the US and move out from there.

This is a revised and updated version of a paper prepared for webinar Crisis in Korea – Causes/aftermaths of 2016 H-bomb test and Satellite Launch, 19 March (US/Canada) 20 March (Korea/New Zealand) 2016 organised by the Korea Policy Institute, Los Angeles.


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“South Korea and US agree to deploy THAAD missile defence system,” Guardian, 8 July 2016.

Missy Ryan, “Pentagon to deploy anti-missile system in South Korea,” Washington Post, 7 July 2016.

Sang-Hun Choe, “South Korea and U.S. Agree to Deploy Missile Defense System,” New York Times, 8 July 2016.

Jack Kim, “South Korea, U.S. Agree to Deploy THAAD Missile Defense to Counter North Korea Threat,” Reuters, 7 July 2016.

Shinhye Kang, “China Blasts U.S., South Korea Missile Defense Deployment,” Bloomberg, 8 July 2016.

David R. Sands, “Russia, China react angrily as U.S. to put anti-missile THAAD system in South Korea,” Washington Times, 8 July 2016.

“S.Korea, U.S. Agree THAAD Deployment,” Chosun Ilbo, 11 July 2016.

10 Jane Perlez, “For China, a Missile Defense System in South Korea Spells a Failed Courtship,” New York Times, 8 July 2016.®ion=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

11 Michael Elleman and Michael J. Zagurek Jr., “THAAD: What It Can and Can’t Do,” 38 North, 10 March 2016.

12 Garth McLennan, “Needle in a Haystack: How North Korea Could Fight a Nuclear War,” 38 North, 13 June 2016.

13 Yong-in Yi, “Critic of THAAD wins prestigious award for scientific contribution,” Hankyoreh, 24 Februrary 2016.

14 Yong-in Yi “Expert rebuts Defense Ministry’s claims about THAAD missile interception “ Hankyoreh, 17 February 2016.; Yi Yong-in, “Expert says S. Korean government has overstated THAAD’s efficacy,” Hankyoreh, 17 February 2016.

15 Seung-woo Kang, “Defense chief’s SLBM claims doubted,” Korea Times, 11 July 2016.; Whan-woo Yi, “THAAD can destroy SLBMs: defense chief,” Korea Times, 10 July 2016.

16 Hyun Park and Byong-su Park, “THAAD missile defense system could be used to defend against Chinese attack on US,” Hankyoreh, 2 June 2015.

17 “Can THAAD Batteries Protect Seoul?,” Chosun Ilbo, 11 July 2016.

18 Theodore Postol, “How the US Nuclear Weapons Modernization Program Is Increasing the Chances of Accidental Nuclear War with Russia,” Harvard College Peace Action, 25 February 2016.

19 Hyun Park, “AN/TPY-2 radar could track any Chinese ICBMs as they pass over the Korean peninsula,” Hankyoreh, 2 June 2015.

20 Yong-in Yi, “Expert says THAAD needlessly raises tension, hurts security,” Hankyoreh, 11 July 2016.

21 Byong-su Park and Oi-hyun Kim, “South Korea and US officially announce deployment of THAAD missile defense system,” Hankyoreh, 9 July 2016.

22 Editorial, “China can counter THAAD deployment,” Global Times, 9 July 2016.

23 Yoo-chul Kim, “Businesses fear backlash from China,” Korea Times, 11 July 2016.

24 Oi-hyun Kim, “After THAAD deployment decision, a backlash from China,” Hankyoreh, 11 July 2016.[24]

25 ibid; “Poll: fears of war in Korea have increased since Park gov’t took office,” Hankyoreh, 24 June 2016.

26 Yong-in Yi, “How a beefed-up military actually raises security risks,” Hankyoreh, 26 August 2016.

27 Sung-jin Choi, “Tourism industry will feel pain of Chinese visitor cut,” Korea Times, 26 October 2016.

28 Patrick L. Smith, “Disarray in NATO Completes Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy,” Fiscal Times, 11 July 2016.

29 Motoko Rich, “Japan Election, a Landslide for Abe, Could Allow a Bolder Military,” New York Times, 11 July 2016.

30 A recent Cuban estimate is $126billion; Nelson Acosta, “Cuba launches new international campaign against U.S. embargo,” Reuters, 10 September 2016.

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40 Jin-hwan Seok, “Biden seeks Seoul’s support on US ‘rebalancing to Asia’ policy,” Hankyoreh, 7 December 2013.

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49 “Military Balance 2016.”

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52 “Korea, U.S. to Stage Drills with Commonwealth Countries,” Chosun Ilbo, 11 March 2016.

53 19 August 2015.

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55 Joe Cirincione, “How to stop North Korea’s bomb,”, 26 January 2016.

56 Johnna Rizzo, “How the Romans Used Crucifixion—Including Jesus’s—as a Political Weapon,” Newsweek, 4 April 2015.

57 Suk-koo Jung, “Ironically, N. Korea’s nuclear program serves the US’s interests,” Hankyoreh, 28 May 2015.

58 Clinton Ehrlich, “The Kremlin Really Believes That Hillary Wants to Start a War With Russia,” Foreign Policy, 7 September 2016.

59 David C. Gompert, Astrid Stuth Cevallos, and Cristina L. Garafola, “War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable,” RAND, 28 July 2016.; Mike Pietrucha, “The Economics of War with China: This Will Hurt You More than It Hurts Me,” WarontheRocks, 4 November 2015.

60 Daniel Twining, “As the US pivots away, China bets on Pakistan,” PACNet Newsletter, 23 April 2015. “China-Europe fast rail brings mutual benefit “, Xinhua, 2 January 2016.

61 Tim Beal, “Shenanigans in the South China Sea – Implications for Korea,” Zoom in Korea, 16 August 2016.

62 Norman Angell, The Great Illusion (London; New York: Heinemann; Putnam, 1910).

63 Vladimir Isachenkov, “New Russian military might on full display in Syria,” Washington Post, 24 October 2015. Eric Heginbotham et al., “Tallying the U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Relative Capabilities and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996–2017,” RAND Corporation, 14 September 2015.

64 David Smith, “Military power in Asia ‘shifting against’ the US, major report warns,” GUardian, 20 January 2016.; Michael J. Green et al., “Asia-Pacific Rebalance 2025: Capabilities, Presence, and Partnerships,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 19 January 2016.

65 “China fears Hillary Clinton far more than it does Donald Trump,” Reuters, 11 July 2016.; Molly O’Toole, “From Reset to Realpolitik, Clinton’s New Hard Line on Moscow,” Foreign Policy, 22 September 2016.

66 Won-je Son, “The “most remarkable concession of sovereignty in the entire world”,” Hankyoreh, 4 November 2014.

67 Daniel W. Drezner, “Let’s dispense with the fiction that China will solve the North Korea problem,” Washington Post, 11 February 2016.

68 Chol Min Kim, “North Korea has legitimate right to satellite launches,” NK News, 6 April 2016.

69 Tim Beal, “The United Nations and the North Korean missile and nuclear tests “ NZ Journal of Asian Studies 9, no. 2 (2007).

70 Ji-suk Kim, “The Korean peninsula amid US-China confrontation,” Hankyoreh, 15 October 2015.

71 David Feith, “China’s Proliferation Rap Sheet,” Wall Street Journal, 25 February 2016.; Jane Perlez and Hufan Huang, “A Hole in North Korean Sanctions Big Enough for Coal, Oil and Used Pianos,” New York Times, 31 March 2016.

72 Mark Landler, “What Quagmire? Even in Withdrawal, Russia Stays a Step Ahead,” New York Times, 15 March 2016.®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

73 Alastair Crooke, “Putin Is Being Pushed to Abandon His Conciliatory Approach to the West and Prepare for War,” Huffington Post, 17 May 2016.

74 “China urges for early resumption of six-party talks,” Xinhua, 24 June 2016.

75 Leszek Buszynski, “The Six-Party Talks have had their day: time for an expanded dialogue,” East Asia Forum, 6 August 2013.

76 Sung-jin Choi, “US experts on N. Korea call for direct dialogue, reciprocity,” Korea Times, 4 October 2016.; Charles “Jack” Pritchard, “The Korean Peninsula and the role of multilateral talks,” Brookings Institution, 1 March 2005.

77 Yong-in Yi, “Senior White House official decries calls for South Korea to get nuclear weapons,” Hankyoreh, 23 September 2016.

78 Liu Zhen and Pinghui Zhuang, “We Won’t Tolerate Instability: Beijing’s Warning to Washington and Pyongyang,” South China Morning Post, 8 March 2016.

79 Thomas J. Christensen, “Threats, Assurances, and the Last Chance for Peace: The Lessons of Mao’s Korean War Telegrams,” International Security 17, no. 1 (1992).

80 Jeremy Bender and Gus Lubin, “Why Japan’s Smaller Military Could Hold Its Own Against China,” Business Insider, 5 May 2014.; Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “China’s Dangerous Weakness, Part 1: Beijing’s Aggressive ‘Self-Defense’ “ Breaking Defense, 26 September 2013.

81 Alexis Dudden, “The Nomination of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution for a Nobel Peace Prize,” The Asia Pacific Journal Japan Focus, 20 April 2014. Gavan McCormack, “Abe Days Are Here Again: Japan in the World,” The Asia Pacific Journal, 1 December 2012.; Ichiyo Muto, “Retaking Japan: The Abe Administration’s Campaign to Overturn the Postwar Constitution “ The Asia Pacific Journal, 4-5 August 2015.

82 Yonhap, “Japan could go nuclear in 10 years to contain N. Korea provocations: study,” Korea Times, 8 October 2016.; Nobuhiro Kubo and Tim Kelly, “North Korean missile advances expose Japan in two-decade arms race: sources,” Reuters, 3 October 2016.; Ayako Mie, “Defense Ministry requests ¥5.1 trillion for fiscal 2017 to address new threats,” Japan Times, 31 August 2016.

83 Lawrence Repeta, “Japan’s Proposed National Security Legislation — Will This Be the End of Article 9?,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 22 June 2015.

84 “Defense Ministry in Deepening Mire Over Japanese Troops,” Chosun Ilbo, 23 October 2015.; Yun-hyung Gil and Byong-su Park, “Could Japan intervene militarily on the Korean peninsula?,” Hankyoreh, 22 September 2015.

85 Geun-hye Park, “A new kind of Korea: building trust between Seoul and Pyongyang,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 5 (2011).

86 , 28 March 2014.

87 ———, “Remarks by President Park Geun-hye at the 2013 International Conference on Global Cooperation in the Era of Eurasia,” Cheong Wa Dae, 18 October 2013.

88 Editorial, “Sanctions on N. Korea,” Korea Times, 22 May 2015.

89 Tim Beal, Crisis in Korea: America, China, and the risk of war (London: Pluto, 2011); ———, “Korean Brinkmanship, American Provocation, and the Road to War: the manufacturing of a crisis,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 20 December 2010.

90 ———, “Satellites, Missiles and the Geopolitics of East Asia.”

91 Whan-woo Yi and Ji-hye Jun, “N. Korea fires long-range rocket,” Korea Times, 7 February 2016.; John Schilling, “Satellites, Warheads and Rockets: Is North Korea’s Space Program Really about Missile Development?,” 38 North, 28 September 2015.

92 Kyu-won Kim, “At 2007 inter-Korean summit, then-Pres. Roh discussed autonomy “ Hankyoreh, 26 June 2013.

93 “For S. Korean businesses, China patent blitz is a clear and present danger “, Hankyoreh, 2 April 2015.; “Chinese Manufacturers Threaten Korean Rivals,” Chosun Ilbo, 7 May 2016.

94 Hyeon-cheol Bang, “Most Koreans Feel Economy Is in Crisis,” Chosun Ilbo, 24 October 2016.

95 Sung-jin Choi, “Korea’s manufacturing competitiveness behind Japan, China “ Korea Times, 12 March 2016.

96 “Korea Plummets to 6th in Global Shipbuilding Orders,” Chosun Ilbo, 3 June 2016.

97 Hyun-woo Nam, “Hanjin Shipping files for court receivership “ Korea Times, 1 September 2016.

98 Seung-bum Kim and Eun-jin Shin, “Fresh Woes for Hyundai Crisis as Exports Plunge by Half,” Chosun Ilbo, 13 October 2016.

99 Ki-hong Kim, “Shipbuilding, Construction Orders from Overseas Plummet,” Chosun Ilbo, 21 July 2016.

100 Jae-won Kim, “Seoul’s dream to become financial hub evaporating,” Korea Times, 22 January 2016.

101 Jun-beom Hwang, “Less than 1.5 years left, more corruption bombs expected in Park government,” Hankyoreh, 24 September 2016. Hwangbo Yon, “Due to aging, South Korean population headed for structural reversal,” Hankyoreh, 20 October 2016. Park. Hyong-ki, “Inequality concerns grow amid increased income distribution to rich,” Korea Times, 16 October 2016.

102 Se-Woong Koo, “Korea, Thy Name is Hell Joseon,” Korea Expose, 22 September 2015.; No-ja Park, ““Hell Joseon” — a country where sleepless toil brings no mobility,” Hankyoreh, 6 October 2015.

103 Emanuel Pastreich, “The Balancer: Roh Moo-hyun’s Vision of Korean Politics and the Future of Northeast Asia,” The Asia Pacific Journal Japan Focus, 1 August 2005.

104 Editorial, “Humiliating comfort women settlement incurs fierce backlash,” Hankyoreh, 5 January 2016.

105 Seong-hun Park and Sarah Kim, “U.S. Defense Department is developing Thaad 2.0,” JoongAng Ilbo, 19 July 2016.

106 Young-jin Oh, “Choi Soon-sil – Shaman or con artist?,” Korea Times, 6 November 2016.; Ha-young Choi, “Don’t call Choi a shaman, it’s disgrace to shamans,” Korea Times, 8 November 2016.; Ye-rin Choi, “Park Geun-hye believed in Choi Tae-min after he predicted her father’s death,” Hankyoreh, 6 November 2016.

107 Aidan Foster-Carter, “Did Park Geun-hye’s Rasputin run her North Korea policy?,” NK News, 28 October 2016.; Min-hyuk Lim, “Leaked U.S. Embassy Cable Warned of ‘Rasputin’ Behind Park,” Chosun Ilbo, 28 October 2016.

108 Sang-hun Choe, “A Presidential Friendship Has Many South Koreans Crying Foul,” New York Times, 27 October 2016.; Yong-in Yi, “Strange memories of a President’s late and ambiguous decisions,” Hankyoreh, 4 November 2016.; Jin-cheol Kim and Eui-gyum Kim, “Was Choi Sun-sil behind the closing of the Kaesong Industrial Complex? ,” Hankyoreh, 27 October 2016.

109 John Delury, “The Urgency of Now: Why Obama Needs to Take the Lead on North Korea,” 38 North, 9 December 2014.; Aidan Foster-Carter, “Obama Comes Out as an NK Collapsist,” 38 North, 27 January 2015.

110 Steven V. Roberts, “White House Confirms Reagans Follow Astrology, Up to a Point,” New York Times, 4 May 1988.

111 “N.Korea Mum Over China Parade,” Chosun Ilbo, 4 September 2015. “Park Attends China Parade,” Chosun Ilbo, 4 September 2015.

112 Hoare, “Potboiler Press: British Media and North Korea.”

113 Nate Thayer, “Freed American Matthew Miller: ‘I wanted to stay in North Korea’,” Guardian, 20 November 2014. Konstantin Asmolov, “Fifteen Year’s Sentence for a Motto Torn Off,” New Eastern Outlook, 17 April 2016.

114 David Ignatius, “North Korea is scarier than ever,” Washington Post, 13 October 2016.

115 Yonhap, “S. Korea, US, Japan to conduct joint military exercise against N. Korea,” Korea Times, 14 May 2016.

116 Ji-hye Jun, “Tensions grow as joint drills begin,” Korea Times, 7 March 2016.; Alexander Vorontsov, “War Games: who is responsible for tension on the Korean peninsula?,” NK News, 15 September 2016.

117 Jiwon Song, “Chinese woman arrested in Japan for selling knitwear to N.Korea,” NK News, 2 March 2016.; Jiwon Song, “S.Korean arrested in Japan for export to N.Korea through Singapore,” NK News, 26 February 2016.

118 Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker, “Surf clothing label Rip Curl using ‘slave labour’ to manufacture clothes in North Korea,” Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 2016.

119 Whan-woo Yi, “UN rights resolution may include N. Korea workers,” Korea Times, 16 October 2016.; Yi-jun Cho, “Seoul, Washington to Push on N.Korean Slave Labor at UN,” Chosun Ilbo, 17 October 2016.; Yong-in Yi, “UN seeking to fill few existing loopholes with additional sanctions on North Korea,” Hankyoreh, 13 September 2016.

120 “Up to 100,000 N.Koreans Labor Abroad,” Chosun Ilbo, 18 March 2016.

121 ———, “UN seeking to fill few existing loopholes with additional sanctions on North Korea.”

122 Cho, “Seoul, Washington to Push on N.Korean Slave Labor at UN; Sarah E. Mendelson, “Outsourcing Oppression: Trafficked Labor from North Korea,” Foreign Affairs, 28 May 2015.

123 “U.S. State Department to release report on N. Korea’s labor exports this week “, Yonhap, 15 August 2016.

124 “Overseas Chinese to send home US$66 bln this year,” China Daily, 22 June 2015. Mark Selden, “East Asian Regionalism and its Enemies in Three Epochs: Political Economy and Geopolitics, 16th to 21st Centuries,” Japan Focus, 25 February 2009.

125 Dilip Ratha, “Trends in Remittances, 2016: A New Normal of Slow Growth,” World Bank, 6 October 2016.

126 Ana P. Santos, “Why is Duterte so popular in the Philippines?,” DW, 9 September 2016.

127 Pete Pattisson, “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’,” Guardian, 25 September 2013.

128 Michael Field, “Slave fishing in NZ waters exposed,” Sunday Star-Times, 8 November 2011.; Hyun-woong Noh, “Government investigation finds foreign workers on Korean vessels were abused,” Hankyoreh, 11 June 2012. “South Korea: End rampant abuse of migrant farm workers,” Amnesty International, 19 October 2014. Ko, “In the hurt of the sea,” Korea Times, 20 October 2016.

129 Yonhap, “US State Department submits report on N. Korea’s labor exports to Congress,” Korea Times, 30 August 2016.

130 Greg Scarlatoiu, “Testimony to Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission entitled “North Korea’s Forced Labor Enterprise: A State-Sponsored Marketplace in Human Trafficking”,” Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 29 April 2015.

131 Pattisson, “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves’.”

132 Andrei Lankov, “North Korean workers abroad aren’t slaves,” NK News, 27 November 2014.

133 “60 Years of the Republic: Troop Dispatch to Vietnam “, Chosun Ilbo, 23 July 2008.; Charles Armstrong, “America’s Korea, Korea’s Vietnam,” Critical Asian Studies 33, no. 4 (2001).

134 Editorial, “Second Middle East boom,” Korea Herald, 3 March 2015.; Alon Levkowitz, “The Republic of Korea and the Middle East: Economics, Diplomacy, and Security,” Korea Economic Institute, Academic Papers Series, August 2010.

135 Whan-woo Yi, “North Korea earning currency through fish sales,” Korea Times, 19 October 2016.

136 Leo Byrne, “North Korea quadruples rice imports after flood,” NK Pro, 3 November 2016.

137 Gary Clyde Hufbauer et al., Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, 3rd ed. (Washington DC: Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2007). (Case 50-1)

138 Andrei Lankov, “North Korea: Don’t dream the impossible,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1 June 2016. Georgiy D. Toloraya, “Byungjin vs the Sanctions Regime: Which Works Better?,” 38 North, 20 October 2016.

139 Gary Clyde Hufbauer, “Sanctions-Happy USA,” Washington Post, 12 July 1998. Andrew Osborn and Maria Tsvetkova, “Putin firms control with big win for Russia’s ruling party,” Reuters, 19 September 2016.

140 “KCNA on Tremendous Damage Done to DPRK by US “, KCNA, 24 June 2010. For comparison a Cuban estimate of the damage caused by the US embargo was $125.9 billion;

141 Ji-hye Jun, “NK-US thaw unlikely under Obama,” Korea Times, 20 December 2015.; Alexander Vorontsov, “The reasons for the crisis on the Korean Peninsula,” Strategic Culture Foundation, 12 April 2013.

142 Michael Auslin, “Kim Jong Untrustworthy,” Foreign Policy, 11 January 2016.; Michael Green, “Six Reasons Why Trump Meeting With Kim Jong Un Is a Very Bad Idea,” Foreign Policy, 18 May 2016. Robert A. Manning and James Przystup, “What’s Wrong with Both Sides of the North Korea Debate,” National Interest, 9 October 2016.

143 Babak Dehghanpisheh, “Iran’s Khamenei: Nuclear Deal Proves Pointlessness of Negotiating With U.S.,” Haaretz, 2 August 2016.; Tim Arango, “Kurds Fear the U.S. Will Again Betray Them, in Syria,” New York Times, 1 September 2016.; Andrew C. Kuchins, “That brief U.S.-Russia strategic partnership 15 years ago? New interviews reveal why it derailed.,” Washington Post, 23 September 2016.

144 In-sun Kang, “Libya Intervention Makes It Harder to Denuclearize N.Korea,” Chosun Ilbo, 30 March 2011.; Christine Kim, “Libyans should have kept nukes, says Pyongyang,” Joongang Ilbo, 24 March 2011.

145 Scott Snyder, “The Economic Costs of North Korean Nuclear Development,” Council on Foreign Relations, 25 November 2013.; Joseph R. DeTrani, “North Korea’s Irrational Approach to Diplomacy—Is There Any Hope?,” 38 North, 17 December 2013.

146 Jeffrey Sachs, “The fatal expense of American imperialism,” Boston Globe, 30 October 2016.

147 Dingli Shen, “What’s Behind the North Korea Nuclear Test? ,”, 20 January 2013.

148 Seung-sik Yang, “N.Korea’s Nuke Test ‘Only Cost $5 Million’,” Chosun Ilbo, 12 September 2016.

149 Tim Beal, “The transformation of the nuclear weapons calculus,” NK News, 19 June 2014.

150 Ha-young Choi, “North Korea to decrease national defense proportion this year,” NK News, 31 March 2016.

151 Toloraya, “Byungjin vs the Sanctions Regime: Which Works Better?.”

152 Kenneth N. Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,” International Institute for Strategic Studies: Adelpi Papers171(1981).

153 Simon Shen, “Have Nuclear Weapons Made the DPRK a Rogue State? Studying the Korean Peninsula Crisis from the Waltzian Theory,” Journal of Comparative Asian Development 10, no. 2 (2011). Seymour M. Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (New York: Random House, 1991).

154 “Crucial Statement of KPA Supreme Command,” KCNA, 24 February 2016.

155 “KPA Mission Statement on US-S. Korea Joint Military Exercises,” KCNA, 27 February 2011.

156 James R. Clapper, “A Conversation With James Clapper,” Council on Foreign Relations, 25 October 2016.

157 Gompert, Cevallos, and Garafola, “War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable; Peter Apps, “Commentary: Here’s how a U.S.-China war could play out,” Reuters, 9 August 2016.

158 Robert Farley, “Asia’s Greatest Fear: A U.S.-China War,” National Interest, 9 June 2014.

159 Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “China’s Fear Of US May Tempt Them To Preempt: Sinologists “ Breaking Defense, 1 October 2013.

160 Richard Sanders, “How to Start a War: The American Use of War Pretext Incidents,” Global Research, 2 May 2002.

161 Tim Beal, “North Korean satellites and rocket science,” NK News, 3 February 2016.

162 “A Rare Congress and Mixed Signals in North Korea,” STRTFOR, 5 May 2016.

163 John Schilling, “Musudan Could Be Operational Sooner Than Expected,” 38 North, 17 October 2016.

164 Tim Beal, “The Dangerous Year, 2017 – Part 1,” Zoom in Korea, 20 July 2016.; ———, “The Dangerous Year, 2017 – Part 2,” Zoom in Korea, 28 July 2016.

165 Michael Kranish, “Hillary Clinton regrets her Iraq vote. But opting for intervention was a pattern,” Washington Post, 15 September 2016.; “‘Surgical’ U.S. strike on N. Korea would lead to ‘bloodbath,’ war with China: expert warns,” Yonhap, 1 November 2016.

166 Anna Fifield and Yoonjung Seo, “South Korea’s presidency ‘on the brink of collapse’ as scandal grows,” Washington Post, 29 October 2016.; Hyo-jin Kim, “Hard-line N. Korea policy put on line,” Korea Times, 30 October 2016.

167 Josh Rogin, “The coming clash with China over North Korea,” Washington Post, 6 November 2016.

168 Yong-weon Yu, “USFK Practices Evacuating American Civilians,” Chosun Ilbo, 8 November 2016.

169 Robert Carlin, “Paying Attention Helps: Pondering North Korean Signals,” 38 North, 6 September 2016.

170 Niall Ferguson, “Is the U.S. an Empire in Denial? A Lecture by Niall Ferguson,” Foreign Policy Association, 17 September 2003.

171 “NATO announces nomination of General Curtis M. Scaparrotti as Supreme Allied Commander Europe,” NATO Press Release, 11 March 2016.

172 Christine Ahn, “To End North Korea’s Nuclear Program, End the Korean War,” Foreign Policy in Focus & The Nation, 7 January 2016.; Nam Hyok Jong, “Replacing Armistice Agreement with Peace Agreement is the best way for ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and the rest of the northeast Asian region,” PacNet Newsletter, 10 March 2016.; Mike Mullen and Sam Nunn, “How to deal with North Korea,” Washington Post, 15 September 2016.

Posted in North Korea, South KoreaComments Off on The Korean Peninsula within the Framework of US Global Hegemony

THAAD in south Korea – China warns the US: you’re playing with fire







By pushing ahead with THAAD deployment, Washington and Seoul are redrawing the map of the region – to the detriment of imperialism

As the US Obama administration limps towards its end, its ‘pivot to Asia’, aimed at the encirclement of China, as well as Russia, is creating one crisis after another and considerably increasing the threat of a devastating Third World War.

Alongside crises in the South China Sea, and in the East China Sea (between China and Japan), a particularly dangerous situation is once again emerging on and around the Korean peninsula. (For a detailed analysis of the South China Sea issue, see ‘US imperialism’s military aggression is the major factor behind South China Sea disputes’, Proletarian, August 2016.)

War games

On 22 August, the annual joint US-south Korean military exercises known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) began in south Korea.

These military drills involve some 25,000 US military personnel, some 2,500 of them introduced from outside south Korea. They are joined by 75,000 troops from south Korea. At present, the US has 28,500 troops permanently stationed in south Korea.

The US-dominated UN Command Military Armistice Commission declared it had notified the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) military that the UFG exercises were “non-provocative”. However, this ridiculous assertion is at complete variance with the facts. Over the past five years especially, the Obama administration has repeatedly used exercises with south Korea to stage a menacing show of force and to threaten the DPRK and other states in the region.

Last November, the US and south Korea formally adopted a new military strategy, Operational Plan 5015 (OPLAN 5015), that is explicitly offensive in character. According to this plan, in a conflict with the DPRK, US and south Korean forces would make so-called “pre-emptive strikes” on key targets, including nuclear facilities, and carry out “decapitation” raids to assassinate high-level officials in acts of state terrorism, including the DPRK’s supreme leader Comrade Kim Jong Un.

OPLAN 5015 provides the framework not only for the UFG exercises, but also the Soaring Eagle military drill being carried out simultaneously by the south Korean air force, involving some 60 military aircraft and 530 troops. The south Korean media reported that their air force was practising to “pre-emptively remove the north’s ballistic missile threats by proactively blocking the missiles and their supply route”.

During last year’s UFG drill, the US exploited the situation to station nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers at its bases on Guam in the western Pacific.

Chinese condemnation

The latest US-south Korean war games have not only been denounced by the DPRK but also by China.

In a commentary issued on 24 August, entitled ‘S. Korea-US war games to further escalate tension in Northeast Asia’, the Xinhua news agency noted that:

The south Korean-US annual joint war games that kicked off on Monday will further escalate tension on the Korean peninsula and damage peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

“The joint annual war games, scheduled to run through next Friday, was claimed by the two allies to be defensive in nature but considered by Pyongyang as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion.”

The Xinhua commentary went on to note that: ” This year’s south Korea-US war games simulate a wartime joint response scenario, a doctrine that involves a US-south Korea pre-emptive strike against the DPRK, raising the possibility for military conflicts on the peninsula .”

It continued by highlighting the dangerous regional situation against which the US-south Korean war exercises are being held:

Northeast Asia has already witnessed heightened tension following an agreement between Seoul and Washington in July to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system in south Korea.

“The THAAD deployment may accelerate the DPRK’s efforts to develop its SLBM[submarine-launched ballistic missile] technology as THAAD’s X-band radar cannot detect and track ballistic missiles fired from a DPRK submarine that moves deep under the waters. [On 24 August, it was reported that the DPRK had indeed successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its eastern coast, demonstrating, according to the south Korean military, ” a significant improvement in its efforts to build a harder-to-detect means to strike American and allied forces” -Ed.]

Moreover, China and Russia are strongly opposed to the deployment of THAAD, as its radar can snoop on Chinese and Russian territories, breaking a strategic balance in the region and damaging the security interests of Beijing and Moscow .”

The formal declaration of the US-south Korean intention to deploy the THAAD missile defence system in south Korea by the end of 2017 came on 8 July, provoking open fury in Beijing.

What is THAAD?

THAAD consists of interceptor missiles and the AN/TPY-2 X-band radar system. It is designed to locate and knock out incoming missile attacks. But its real purpose is far from defensive. The United States’ plan is to use the system to prevent any Chinese counterattack hitting US military bases and other targets should Washington launch a nuclear first strike against China. In other words, under the pretext of countering a supposed threat from the DPRK, the US intention is to leave China (as well as the far east of Russia) helpless in the face of US nuclear blackmail.

The system is also connected to the Link 16 intelligence-sharing network, providing intelligence on troop and possible target movements in real-time. In January, Seoul announced it would join Link 16, which includes the US, Japan and Nato countries.

US imperialist bad faith

On 2 March this year, following another nuclear test by the DPRK, Washington succeeded in cajoling China and Russia into acquiescing to another round of stringent anti-DPRK sanctions in the United Nations Security Council. The Obama administration, in weeks of horse-trading, had threatened Beijing with unilateral sanctions that would penalise not only the DPRK but entities and businesses from other countries (which overwhelmingly means China) doing business with it, as well as a possible deployment of the THAAD system.

Having secured the UN resolution, perhaps not altogether surprisingly the US and its closest allies went on to introduce a range of further unilateral sanctions anyway and have now signalled their intention to go ahead with THAAD.

This finally drew the admission from the Chinese newspaper, Global Times, in an 11 August editorial, that the DPRK’s ” nuclear ambition was primarily triggered by long-standing military pressures imposed by south Korea and the US…The escalating pressures have [led to] bolder nuclear projects. China, being a well-intentioned and responsible mediator, has been paid back by a threatening advanced military system.”

For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that deploying THAAD would “undermine the existing strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond” and“have the most negative impact on global strategic stability, which Washington so likes to discuss a commitment to“.


Already, since the THAAD announcement, in the UN Security Council, China, supported by Russia, has blocked an attempt by the United States and its allies to censure Pyongyang further for a recent round of missile tests, with Beijing’s representative telling his US counterpart to his face that they had brought the problem on themselves.

In fact the THAAD deployment is already showing the potential to redraw drastically the geopolitical map of Northeast Asia – ironically in a way that is far from favourable to imperialism.

We are already seeing a considerable deterioration in the bilateral relations between China and south Korea, which had been growing steadily closer for years. Some time ago, China replaced the United States as south Korea’s largest trade partner. But, whilst its economic dependence on China grew, it remained, needless to say, utterly dependent on the USA in the military and security fields. Therefore, Beijing and Seoul might have been compared to an unlikely couple sharing the same bed but with very different dreams – whilst China hoped to use the attractions of its huge and buoyant economy to encourage south Korea to distance itself somewhat from the USA and play a more constructive role in the region, south Korea hoped to use its burgeoning economic ties to weaken the long-standing fraternal relations between the socialist allies, China and the DPRK.

Starting with the entertainment and cultural industries, but doubtless moving on from there, south Korea is now set to pay an economic price for its actions against China.

But the strategic implications go far beyond that. As Woo Jung Yeop, a research fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, a leading south Korean think tank, aptly put it, south Korea’s actions give the DPRK a chance to ” bring the Northeast Asian order back to the cold war period when China and Russia backed north Korea and did not have good relations with South Korea and Japan “.

A new cold war

A veritable deluge of official media commentary from China lends credence to Woo’s view.

On 29 July, Xinhua released a commentary entitled ‘New Cold War looms large in Northeast Asia as Seoul accepts THAAD’. The writer, Liu Chan, noted:

A new Cold War is looming large in Northeast Asia as Washington insists on installing an anti-missile shield in south Korea, a provocative move that could further split the region, trigger a fresh arms race and crush hopes of denuclearising the Korean peninsula…

“The Obama administration claims the anti-missile shield could help defend south Korea against a potential security threat from its neighbour the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“However, given the fact that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile shield is designed to intercept incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles at relatively higher altitudes, the DPRK needs only short-range rockets and conventional arms to launch devastating attacks on its southern neighbour, thereby rendering the shield as an ineffective deterrent.

“Furthermore, THAAD, which has a 200 km-range for intercepting missiles, is to be set up some 300 km southeast of Seoul in Seongju county, far from the border with the DPRK. That means the capital and the surrounding areas, the country’s most populated region, will not be protected.

“While Washington’s reasoning for the THAAD deployment is untenable, its self-serving motivation sticks out a mile.

“THAAD’s X-band radar is believed to have a detection range as far as 2,000 km in forward-based mode. Thus once placed in south Korea, the United States would be able to peer conveniently deep into China and Russia, imposing a grave threat to the security interests of the two countries and to regional peace.

“With Seoul agreeing to let THAAD in, a new arms race is well expected. If that were to happen, then regional countries will be sucked into a security dilemma and an unavoidable action-reaction cycle.

“Already, the Chinese defence ministry has confirmed recently that Beijing is testing its own anti-missile systems to ratchet up self-defence capabilities. The deployment would only encourage the DPRK to be even more adventurous, building more bombs and testing more missiles. As for the Russians, don’t expect Moscow to stand idle if its national interests are challenged.

“By strengthening its military posture and alliance in the region, Washington is producing two contentious camps on both sides of the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula, and diminishing any hope that the region’s nuclear issue can be solved diplomatically.

“For that, Washington and Seoul need to tread very carefully. Otherwise, the outcome of a misplaced decision could be too calamitous to overcom e.”

The next day, Xinhua writer Chen Shilei followed up with a commentary entitled, ‘Seoul should stop playing with fire by planning to deploy THAAD’. According to Chen:

South Korea should stop playing with fire by hosting the US anti-missile system on its own soil, as the move will not only isolate itself but also undermine regional stability.

“Less than two weeks ago, south Korea and the United States reached the agreement to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) in the southern region of south Korea, despite continued opposition from neighbouring nations.

“Although the two countries claimed THAAD will not target any other third party but will be operated only in response to nuclear and missile threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the deployment is no doubt a key step in the US strategy of pivoting to Asia and will escalate tensions in Northeast Asia, especially on the Korean peninsula.

“It is believed that Seoul knows what the consequences of hosting THAAD are, but its siding with Washington for whatever reasons on THAAD shows its short-sightedness and poor diplomatic judgement…

“Escalating tensions on the peninsula will only shatter the Korean people’s dream of peace and reunification, which will be the bitterest legacy of the Park Geun Hye government and the biggest misfortune of the Korean people…

“The reason why Beijing and Moscow firmly reject the missile defence system is that with the shield’s X-band radar, Washington is able to peer conveniently into China and Russia, posing a grave threat to the security interests of the two countries and to regional peace…

“Seoul has yet to fully understand that accepting the deployment of a missile shield will only let south Korea become the frontline for possible strategic confrontation between the world’s major countries .”

On 4 August, Xinhua ran a further commentary under the heading ‘China, Russia will by no means compromise on their security interests’, which reads as follows:

Both China and Russia oppose the planned deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system on the Korean peninsula, which endangers their national security and challenges the region’s strategic balance.

“The joint decision by the United States and south Korea is seen as part of a Washington-intended global anti-missile shield to serve US hegemony. The move, with the declared purpose of protecting south Korea from alleged missile and nuclear threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is no doubt intended for China and Russia.

“The THAAD system is useless against low-altitude missiles from the north, but its X-band radar could easily penetrate into the territories of China and Russia, which the United States considers the main challengers to its supremacy.

“Deployment of such an anti-missile system is expected to prompt countermeasures and an arms race with a new Cold War looming in the region. Russian analysts believe this is the most serious military provocation in years in Northeast Asia.

“Political trust could be unravelled, prosperous economic and trade ties could be destabilised and regional security could worsen.

“As the Korean peninsula plays an important role in the international geopolitical landscape, it is in the interests of China and Russia to maintain peace and stability there.

“The United States should not underestimate the determination of both countries to safeguard their strategic security interests. The two countries are coordinating closer than ever before, which will serve as a basis to face the THAAD challenge.

“For Washington, its devoted efforts towards a global anti-missile shield also reveals an anxiety over its declining influence in the world and a lack of confidence in keeping its territory safe. However, safeguarding its own security while putting other countries at risk is simply intolerable .”

Finally, for the purpose of this brief review, on 8 August, Xinhua carried a commentary by Luo Jun, entitled, ‘Seoul invites strategic catastrophe as THAAD threatens more than Pyongyang’. According to Luo:

The south Korean government is either making a historic misjudgement, or is using it as a weak excuse, to state that the deployment of a US anti-missile system could pit Beijing against Pyongyang.

“Instead, the decision to deploy the anti-missile system will bring catastrophe to the Korean peninsula and destroy the hard-won political mutual trust and economic ties between Seoul and its neighbours in Northeast Asia.

“Trying to defend an unpopular decision to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in Seongju county, southeast of Seoul, a south Korean government spokesman on Sunday called China’s criticism unreasonable and shifted the blame to the ‘nuclear and missile threats’ from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“However, Pyongyang’s proposals for a halt of military and nuclear activities on both sides have repeatedly met cold rejection from Washington and Seoul, which have stuck to frequent military exercises and flown nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Korean peninsula, in a clear show of hostility against Pyongyang.

“Such measures were against the DPRK only. Now with the decision to deploy THAAD, which can snoop on vast territories in China and Russia, the United States and south Korea have alienated China and Russia with severe threats to their national security.

“It is unmistakably a strategic misjudgement for Seoul to violate the core interests of its two strong neighbours, at the cost of its own security, and only in the interests of American hegemony.

“The THAAD deployment is based on shaky grounds as it is incapable of intercepting Pyongyang’s short-range missiles, nor can it shield south Korea’s most populated city, Seoul, which is far away from Seongju county.

“However, the THAAD radar system’s strong spying capability means that its location will be among the first targets to be wiped out in case of conflict.

“By allowing the United States to deploy THAAD on its soil, the south Korean government has brought more danger than security to its people, and shut the door to peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

“Now facing a common threat to their national security imposed by Washington and Seoul, China and Russia, along with other regional countries, will have little choice but to come closely together to address the issue. [In this context “other regional countries” can only refer above all to the DPRK – Ed.]

“Some analysts have pointed out that the only beneficiary of turmoil in Northeast Asia is the United States, as it relies on the ‘necessity’ of its military presence in the region to remain a hegemonic global power.

“If Seoul and Pyongyang gradually eased tension, Washington’s military presence in south Korea would be hard to justify. That is why Washington has often discouraged Seoul from talks with Pyongyang and insisted on war drills.

South Korea needs to draw lessons from the disastrous results of conflicts in the Middle East and correct its strategic mistake of inviting THAAD, before it makes itself a powder keg in Northeast Asia.

“The future of the Korean peninsula lies in the constructive exchanges and common development of regional countries, with a goal of gradual reconciliation between Seoul and Pyongyang. Deploying THAAD is clearly a move toward the opposite direction .”

Popular opposition to THAAD

The firm opposition of Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow to THAAD is echoed by the broad mass of people in south Korea and all the democratic and progressive forces there.

In early August, four Members of Parliament from the opposition Minjoo (Democratic) Party of south Korea visited Beijing in an attempt to defuse tensions. For their pains, they were subjected to ferocious

attack from President Park Geun Hye and officials of her ruling Saenuri party. The MPs were accused of “sympathising with China” and of making ” absurd arguments that jibe with north Korea’s“. They were even labelled as “flunkies of China” – this charge is particularly ironic as, ever since she came to office, Park, rather than engaging in dialogue with compatriots in the north, has shamelessly travelled the world engaged in mendicant diplomacy designed to mobilise great and small powers alike against the DPRK.

The stand of the opposition parlia-mentarians is, however, in accord with a broad mass movement of students, trade unionists, environmental campaigners and others, who are organising against THAAD.

What is most noteworthy in this regard is the militant opposition of the people of Seongju to the proposed deployment of THAAD in their community. When Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn visited the county on 15 July, residents greeted him with a barrage of eggs and water bottles.

A crowd of around 3,000 surrounded a bus that Hwang had taken refuge in to escape the projectile eggs, saying they would not let him go until he promised to retract the decision. The standoff lasted for many hours.

The local people also blocked the entrance to the government compound, where Hwang was trapped, with a tractor as security guards struggled to keep them at bay.

It was the third consecutive day of protests in the town. “You bastard,” a protestor shouted, according to south Korea’s Yonhap news agency. “Why would you bring THAAD to Seongju?”

Indeed, by pushing ahead with the THAAD provocation against China and Russia, by their aggressive policies towards the DPRK, and by their arrogant and repressive treatment of the people in south Korea, US imperialism and their south Korean puppets can but strengthen the unity of China, Russia and the DPRK and can but incite the mass of people in south Korea to step up the anti-imperialist struggle for peace, democracy and national reunification. In a word, imperialism and its puppets are once again engaged in their time-honoured practice of lifting a rock only to drop it on their own feet.

Posted in USA, China, South KoreaComments Off on THAAD in south Korea – China warns the US: you’re playing with fire

Women Peace Activists Peace Treaty Initiative To End Korean War

Request to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon

On Tuesday, September 27, women peace activists held a press conference at the Interchurch Center across from the United Nations Headquarters building in NYC. They announced that they had delivered a letter signed by more than 100 women asking UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to initiate a peace process which will lead to a peace treaty between the US and the DPRK by 2020.

They explained that with 100 days left before the UN Secretary General completes his second five year term at the head of the UN Secretariat, he has an obligation to fulfill on a promise he made in a speech in 2007 where he stated: “Beyond a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue with North Korea, we should aim to establish a peace mechanism, through transition from armistice to a permanent peace regimen.”

In their letter the peace activists reminded the UN Secretary General, “We look to you to leave behind a legacy of diplomacy for peace in Korea, Northeast Asia and the World.”

In the past few weeks, journalists who are part of the UN press corps have asked the Secretary General if he has any intention of using his little time left as Secretary General to do something to work toward a peaceful resolution of the tension on the Korean Peninsula. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s term in office will expire on December 31, 2016.

In response to the questions posed by these reporters, the Secretary General replied that he has no special plans.

It is to the credit of these women peace activists that they continue to call on the Secretary General to fulfill on the obligation of his office to work to lessen the tension on the Korean Peninsula. But whether their efforts will lead to any action on the part of the Secretary General or not does not detract from the importance of such efforts on the part of journalists and peace activists.

The peace activists holding the press conference pointed out that currently tensions are especially high on the Korean Peninsula. The combination of military exercises by US and South Korea, the US bringing B1 bombers to South Korea, and the North Korean nuclear tests leave the situation on the Korean Peninsula as one with no obvious means of lessening the tension.

During the press conference, one of the speakers, Suzy Kim, described a meeting held by the peace activists in February 2016 in Bali, Indonesia.

The International peace activists group Women Cross the DMZ (WCDMZ) had invited a South Korean women peace delegation and a North Korean women peace delegation to meet with them to discuss how to work toward the signing of a peace treaty between the US government and the North Korean government that would end the Korean War. In order to make the arrangements for their meeting, there was a need to get permissions from the South Korean government and the North Korean government for the women from their respective countries to meet with each other. While the delegation of WCDMZ peace activists got the needed permission from the North Korean government for the proposed meeting, the South Korean government would not approve such a meeting. Therefore, the international peace activists decided to hold separate meetings with the North Korean women and the South Korean women.

The web site includes a summary which describes the Bali meetings and includes a statement of principles created by the North Korean women and the international peace activists. Following is the statement:

Bali Indonesia February 10, 2016
(Between WCDMZ International Delegation and DPRK Delegation)

“1. We will make active efforts for public education and awareness raising regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and the need for an end to military action that further aggravates the situation.

2. We will work together as Korean and international women, in efforts to improve inter-Korean relations and achieve peaceful reunification of Korea, in the spirit of prior inter – Korean agreements such as the June 15 North and South Joint Declaration, 2000.

3. We will carry out work toward the achievement of lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. This includes the removal of various political and physical hindrances to peace and reunification, replacement of the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty, and the eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the entire world.

4. We will promote women’s leadership at all levels of peacebuilding, including preventing armed conflict and participating in peace negotiations. International women will actively work to urge each government to support women’s involvement in the Korean peace process, as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 1325.”

Such a statement provides a guide for a transnational peace building campaign. The statement is an expression of the need for peace negotiations toward replacing the Korean War Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and the eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the rest of the world.

The summary of the February Bali meeting offers a demonstration of the value of including women in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in peace negotiations for the Korean Peninsula.

The importance of implementing UN Resolution 1325 in the conflict on the Korean Peninsula was also raised at an October 3, 2016 press conference at the UN marking the Russian Federation assuming the October 2016 rotating presidency of the UN Security Council. On the agenda for the October 2016 schedule is a UN Security Council meeting on October 25 which will be an open debate on UNSC Resolution 1325.

A question raised by a journalist and the response from Ambassador Vitaly Churkin at the October 3 press conference helps to support the need for women peace activists to be part of the peace process in difficult conflict situations like the Korean conflict:

Following is the slightly edited transcript of this question and Ambassador Churkin’s response:

(Journalist): “Yes, I have a question about (Security Council Resolution-ed) 1325. There are women, international women peace activists who went from North Korea and South Korea, and met with women in both countries. And now they sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon asking him for a process towards a peace treaty (between the US and North Korea-ed) and also to involve women in the process. And here we have the situation with North Korea where the Security Council has not made any progress. And they (the international peace activists-ed) are saying we need women involved in doing this, women working for peace.

Is there any way you see of doing this, any way you see to have 1325 actually implemented so you get some help toward having a peace development?”

Response from Ambassador Churkin:

“Well, You know what we believe is that, this is an extremely difficult situation. And the cycle of action and counter action which we have seen in the past few years, actually since 2005 when this deal of September 19 fell through, it is not working.

So we do believe we need to try some creative thinking. We don’t have some specific immediate proposals, but certainly, DPRK testing and then US and others conducting some higher level military maneuvers there, you know, beefing up their military presence, that does not help at all.

In that creative thinking, it may well be the greater involvement of women could be one of the elements that might move the situation forward.” (1)

By recognizing the need for and importance of contributions for the peace process mandated by UNSC Resolution 1325, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would do well to favorably respond to the letter from the international women peace activists.


1) See webcast for Oct 3, 2016 press conference with Ambassador Churkin: h/ambassador-vitaly-churkin- of-the-russian-federation- president-of-the-security- council-of-october-2016-press- conference/5153898747001

(at 33:08-33:58, and 33:59-34:42)

Posted in North Korea, South KoreaComments Off on Women Peace Activists Peace Treaty Initiative To End Korean War

Nightmarish Global Military Agenda. Threats of US Nuclear Attacks against North Korea

Nightmarish Global Military Agenda. Threats of US Nuclear Attacks against North Korea. American Empire Is the Real Enemy of Both Koreas

Warring hotspots all over the world are flaring up in 2016 in what amounts to preparation for World War III between the military forces of the US led Western Empire against the forces of the Eastern axis led by Russia and China joined by Iran and North Korea. Let’s be clear – the globalists are the puppet masters behind the Western forces intentionally provoking catastrophic world war.

We live in a time when the earth’s ruling elite has willfully created this foreboding, seemingly suicidal endgame scenario, using US Empire to prod, orchestrate, and push the world into two enemy camps in a West vs. East showdown. Global war timed with the inevitable collapse of their Ponzi-schemed global economy will open the floodgate to unbridled tyranny brought on by their long plotted one world government. The systematic destruction of the West and its First World affluence is but part of this sinister scheme to destabilize every region on the planet in order to engineer such dire, devastating conditions that the surviving global masses will automatically seek refuge and protection from deep state’s one world governance as their only means of staying alive. Meticulously creating the conditions most ripe for war, ecological degradation leading to disease and famine ensures that the elite’s eugenics depopulation agenda will leave a slave class of a half to one billion people on earth to serve the diabolical ruling class.

Thus as the only means of escaping this horrific outcome, it’s extremely important to expose this nightmarish globalist agenda that’s using the US Empire-NATO war machine to aggressively provoke rising world tensions and hostilities as precipitating pre-WWIII events. Per last year’s UN Global Trends Report, at near 60 million, 2014 saw more people being displaced around the world than any previous time in recorded history. The elite’s carefully engineered global hotspots cover every corner of the globe, from the US-induced political and economic unrest creating havoc now in Brazil and Venezuela; a stepped up war in Ukraine flanked by the built-up deployment of hostile NATO troops at the Russian border; ongoing war with no end in SyriaIraqLibyaAfghanistanYemen, and prewar skirmishes, flare-ups and small scale wars in SomaliaPakistanNagorno-KarabakhSouth SudanBurundi and Central African Republic all the way eastward to the rising tensions in the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula as well as stretching northward to the Arctic Circle, the West’s push for confrontation, aggression and domination against the Eastern alliance is making global war eminent and virtually unavoidable.

Russia, China, Iran and even North Korea do not want war. And neither do all the people living in the West. But the Western crime cabal in charge never cares what the people want. As Kissinger says, we are all just “useless eaters,” taking up precious space and consuming their “nearly depleted” 19th century energy sources. The elite has made sure the masses stay stuck in the dark, unable to get their hands on or wrap their minds around free energy technologycancer curesantigravity technology or the global capacity to wipe out hunger and starvation to feed a world population up to 11 billion. All because a very powerful handful amongst the near 7.5 billion people on our planet want nearly all of us dead. And they are the driving force that controls the warmongering Western despots frothing at the mouth for global war and total planetary destruction.

The US Empire has maintained an unending agenda to stir up and keep hostile relations hot between US-backed South Korea and the Chinese-backed North Korea, otherwise known as George W’s “axis-of-evil” member. As part of the post-WWII contrived divide and conquer cold war of US-led “free world” versus those “nasty evil Commies” Russia and China, the globalists who ideologically have always leaned far closer towards Communist totalitarianism than free enterprise democracy have been carving up and splitting nations, pitting humans belonging to the same ethnic group against each other from Europe to Asia into two distinct warring camps.

Be it US backed and controlled West Germany versus Soviet backed and controlled East Germany, US backed and controlled Western Europe versus Soviet backed and controlled Eastern Europe, Soviet backed and partially controlled China versus US backed and controlled Taiwan, US/French backed and US controlled South Vietnam versus Soviet/Chinese backed and controlled North Vietnam to US backed and controlled South Korea versus Soviet/Chinese backed and controlled North Korea. For centuries the globalist agenda has ruthlessly and systematically torn apart nation after nation, literally down to tearing apart family after family just to keep wars and the threat of human self-annihilation alive and US global hegemony thriving at the rest of humanity’s expense.

This presentation will focus on just one of these countless hotspots that could at any time trigger World War III. Heightened tensions this week on the Korean Peninsula have brought Cold War 2 to the near boiling point between US puppet South Korea and China’s wayward puppet North Korea. The latest North Korean launch of last week’s nuclear missile test, the second this year, has the US and South Korea ready to up their anti-North Korean ante. Despite economic sanctions supposedly intended to dissuade a targeted nation to curb its militarized activities, sanctions have only had the opposite effect on North Korea.

The six nation diplomatic talks with North Korea to curtail its pursuit of a nuclear bomb broke down eight years ago and the “most sanctioned nation on earth” as George W Bush called North Korea has been sanctioned and re-sanctioned ad nauseam to no avail. Yet recent calls for more diplomacy rather than confrontation and escalation appear to be falling on deaf ears. When North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un rightly believes that US-led forces pose a grave nuclear threat to North Korea’s very survival, no sanctions will deter a nation from doing what it believes it must do to survive.

After last Friday’s nuclear test detonation estimated to be twice the strength of Hiroshima’s blast, the international community once again lambasted the North Korean dictator. Though portrayed by Western press as an unpredictable, highly volatile, paranoid madman, US aggressions historically have forced Kim and his Pyongyang government to expend their limited resources almost exclusively on expanding its military self-defense. The much maligned so called nation pariah is simply doing what it believes is necessary to survive in an increasingly hostile world led by US Empire. An objective examination of North Korea’s history will demonstrate the veracity that it’s not North Korea that’s been the true aggressor but the US Empire.

For over five centuries from 1392-1910 under the Josean Dynasty, Korea remained a united nation with one culture and one language. Then from 1910-1945, Korea became a colonial victim of Japanese imperialism. Once Japan was defeated in WWII, since the Philippines had already been an imperialistic possession of the US and Japan itself was the vanquished enemy, they were both placed directly under postwar control of the US Empire. With Korea a lesser priority, by convenient expediency, the Korean people were once again re-victimized, arbitrarily divided by the two occupying military forces at the close of WWII, the Soviets in the north and Americans in the south.

With US interests represented by two Army colonels working as junior State Department officials, one Dean Rusk, the future Secretary of State under John Kennedy, just five days prior to Japan’s surrender in August 1945, without input from any Koreans, their nation was severed roughly in half at the 38th parallel, ensuring that the capital Seoul would remain under US auspices. The provisional South Korean government sought friendly relations with all nations, independence, social and land reform and ultimate reunification. These democratic principles and policies that were beneficial to the South Korean citizens stood in stark contrast with the imperialistic design that US military control would accept and the provisional government in September 1945 was quickly disbanded. Eventually in its place was inserted an anti-Communist oppressive dictator that suited US interests. The Truman Doctrine essentially took over where Japanese imperial rule occupation left off in both East and South East Asia. Empire’s sphere of influence included Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), Formosa (Taiwan) and Indonesia.

By the original postwar mandate the two Koreas were supposed to be reunified by 1948, but because the globalist designed cold war was already in full swing, the puppet regime in the north controlled by Stalin didn’t trust the US installed South Korean anti-Communist puppet dictator who wantonly murdered democratic opposition movements especially from the left. Stalin’s boy to the north was just as bloodthirsty. Like trained cock fights, both world powers encouraged and promoted espionage and covert aggression against the other. So by imperialistic design, Korea was never liberated and for over a century now has remained a divided and conquered people living in an occupied and divided nation for over seven decades.

Former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles organized a series of covert incursions by South Korean provocateurs into North Korean territory in 1949 and 1950 prior to the start of the Korean War. This offensive tactic of probing and war baiting is a familiar strategy in US false flag history designed to intentionally trigger wars. This same sort of false flag was used as the precursor that President Johnson jumped on to falsely accuse North Vietnam of firing upon a US Navy vessel in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964 in order to jump start the Vietnam War that his predecessor JFK had vowed to avoid. But less than 9 months after co-conspirator LBJ murdered Kennedy, he ignited what would become America’s longest running war in history, that is until the same cloak and dagger neocons came to power this century to secure their own “endless war on terror.”

With the Rockefeller funded and founded Council on Foreign Relations as well as the United Nations actively co-opted by the US government, a prior arrangement had been secretly made that authorized UN troops (of course consisting almost exclusively of US military) to come to South Korea’s aid if it was determined that North Korea attacked South Korea. Thus, the US-led incursions north of the 38th parallel were designed to provoke North Korean forces to retaliate and the case of North Korea invading South Korea could be bogusly claimed. From June 1950 until July 1953, an estimated sum of 3 million Korean civilians (some estimate as high as 4-5 million) were killed, two thirds in North Korea although North Korea cites up to one third of the total population in the north were killed as forgotten victims of US crimes against humanity. No other war has inflicted so many casualties on any one nation in history.

The nonstop carpet bombing and firebombing of North Korea with napalm mercilessly pulverized its 78 cities and countless villages in both North and South Korea. And within less than six months of the war’s outset, the US Empire began threatening the north with atomic bombs, a constantly used ultimatum weapon America has been clubbing Pyongyang with for the last two-thirds of a century. In violation of the Armistice Agreement, in 1958 the US began installing nuclear warhead missiles in South Korea aimed directly at North Korea. In 1974 South Korea (otherwise known as Republic of Korea or ROK) began preparing its own nuclear development. And over the decades Empire has upgraded and augmented its nuclear weapons systems both in and outside South Korea to destroy North Korea (otherwise known as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK). These nukes obviously pose a direct threat to both DPRK and China. Is it any wonder then that North Korea has invested so heavily in efforts to acquire a nuclear arsenal as its only deterrent to protect itself from the nuke-powered world bully possessing the dubious distinction of being the only nation on earth to callously use such heinous WMD’s on two large human populated cities?

Korea’s “undeclared war” tripled the Pentagon budget, expanded NATO power and its anti-communist false flag Gladio operations in Europe, fueled exponential growth of the military industrial complex that Eisenhower would later warn America against, and recruited the UN as an imperialistic partner-in-crime whose co-conspiring role carries on even more so to this day. Then with the Chinese Red Army entering the conflict alongside North Korea in 1951, US war involvement fell into its first military quagmire reaching a trench war stalemate forcing a negotiated 1953 Armistice Agreement to cease hostile operations and retain the original 38th parallel demilitarized zone as an intractable artificial wedge dividing Koreans. The agreement is not a peace treaty as only military leaders from the US, China and North Korea signed it leaving out South Korea entirely. Plus it technically leaves the two nations legally in a continual state of war. A grass roots peace movement in South Korea has emerged calling for the ROK and its northern neighbor DPRK to implement a finalized peace treaty that includes stipulations for concrete steps toward reunification.

During the more than six decades since the Korean Armistice, the US Empire has operated the only permanent garrison in Asia stationed along the world’s most armed border. Under a false UN mandate, the US has continually maintained a hefty troop size from the current 28,000 to 37,000 American soldiers as South Korea’s permanent fixture occupying force. General Vincent Brooks as the recently assigned top ranking US commander in the Republic of Korea outranks even the South Korean president and top South Korean general. The entire 625,000 active duty soldiers and nearly 3 million on active reserve status comprising the ROK defense forces are also directly under US military command. According to both public print and CIA sources, South Korea’s military strength and firepower is rated 11th in the world compared to North Korea’s 25th position. Yet for US imperialistic and hegemonic reasons alone, forever colonized South Korea remains subjugated to its high command master.

The biggest arms importer in the world at last count in 2014 is none other than South Korea buying $7 billion of its $7.3 billion worth from you guessed it America. That’s 96% of its war-making materials coming from the US military industrial complex… yet another boondoggle reason the Empire will never leave South Korea. And South Korea will never be an independent sovereign nation nor will it ever reunify with its neighbor. The war-making American Empire will make certain that never happens. Neither peacemaking nor reunification have ever been part of the Empire’s foreign policy agenda. Thus, nonstop US military presence in South Korea drives the most powerful wedge against the two Koreas ever reunifying. Clearly the US stands in the way as the biggest impediment to ever achieving a lasting, peaceful, unified Peninsula with a united Korean people.

Just as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is currently flashing his “Yankee go home” card demanding the American military leave his country, so too should South Korea. But that’s simply out of the question since Seoul as a US puppet depends on US might to buffer and counter Kim’s bombastic bite. Plus way too much money is at stake. Additionally, South Koreans have been sufficiently brainwashed into believing that America is necessary to protect them from their so called menacing threat to the north.

Ever since the Korean War the United States has ensured that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remains politically and economically isolated from the rest of the world. With layers of inhumane sanctions piled on top of one another, the US has torpedoed North Korea’s national economy including its industrial base, its agriculture and foreign trade. As a recent example of how the US manipulates and controls the United Nations, in March this year the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2270 raining yet more crippling sanctions down on the beleaguered DPRK. The basis for the latest sanctions are unfounded since they are a consequence of bogus testimony of alleged human rights violations that have been proven false. The “eyewitness” testimony came from DPRK defectors who were paid to lie as confirmed by articles in both The New York Times and The Guardian.

This overly punitive UN resolution prohibits 50% of North Korea’s export sales of its minerals like gold, titanium, vanadium and other precious minerals and metals. Moreover, the resolution bans other UN nations from teaching North Koreans advanced computer science, physics, geospatial navigation, nuclear engineering and other advanced academic and technological disciplines, effectively impoverishing the people of DPRK from learning skills required for modern development and sound medical treatment, relegating the nation to primitive healthcare service and last century technology.

Since 1998 North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests and launched six rocket carrying satellites, the latest test a week ago and the second since last January. While US Empire has vowed it will never allow DPRK to gain possession of a single nuclear weapon, since 1998 the US has been busily developing new precision guided nukes, built more non-nuclear WMD’s and spends $8 billion each year to maintain and upgrade its vast 7,100 nuclear warhead arsenal. And even though official US statements assert that all American and South Korean nuclear weapons have been removed from ROK a quarter century ago, it’s a meaningless, misleading gesture because of US capability to launch its warheads against North Korea and China from the continental United States as well as from any strategic nuke-powered submarine.

Meanwhile, a number of other nations have recently shot satellites into orbit and even tested long range ballistic missiles. Yet North Korea and to some extent Iran are the only nations singled out and attacked by the world community of course led by Empire. A blatant double standard exists when so called Western allies like Israel are given carte blanche to continue stockpiling its nukes but when countries on Empire’s shit list exercise their rights to defend themselves, they’re customarily demonized. The apartheid Jewish State just finagled a near billion dollar a year boost in US military aid to expand its nuclear threat and genocidal policies against Palestinians and the Arab world with an obscene $38 billion commitment at US taxpayer expense over the next decade. In response to near a half century of nuclear threats with US nukes aimed directly at North Korea, the DPRK withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and as such, no international law prohibits North Korea from developing nuclear weapons nor firing rockets carrying satellites into orbit. The pile-on of sanctions and hypocritical saber-rattling rhetoric against North Korea are both groundless and morally untenable.

In July Empire and ROK were at it again, instigating yet more threats to not only North Korea’s national security but Russia and China’s as well with the unveiling of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to be located inside South Korea. With its implementation in NATO members Romania and Poland on Russia’s western front already well in progress, this sophisticated radar system and ballistic missile interceptor is construed by the three targeted Eastern nations as one more reckless act of US belligerence and confrontation on the path to world war.

Like a tag team wearing down an opponent, Empire is betting on a strategy that helped bring the Soviet Empire to its knees and eventual ashes. By continuing to escalate provocation and threat by rolling out more potent weaponry like the THAAD missile defense system as part of an unbeatable arms race that an impoverished North Korea cannot begin to match, the objective is to bankrupt and destroy the poorest country in Asia. This same strategy already proved successful once against the Soviet Union. The neocons today are confident that it will once again work against DPRK. Knowing that the North Korean government will sacrifice everything in order to bolster its military capabilities to keep up with US-ROK at the expense of its own people, creating such extreme economic hardship on a destitute population, Empire’s banking on a desperate people in North Korea to rise up in rebellion triggering regime change.

This year the US and South Korea have dramatically stepped up their joint military exercises practicing war against their North Korean enemy from once a year to twice a year. And they’re bigger than ever.  Last spring’s annual drill was extended to two months in length. Three months later more war games began late last month and just ended two weeks ago. Seeing the US aggressively militarizing their homeland like never before, the latest round of drills was met by protests from antiwar peace groups within South Korea that recognize practicing preemptive war strikes on the Korean Peninsula is not making them any safer or more secure but only increasing the risk of an epic scale war and massive carnage. A growing number of Koreans on both sides of the border realize that these US-ROK war games are not about defensive deterrence at all, but are geared to launch first strike attacks on North Korean nuclear and missile facilities and to take out the Pyongyang leadership. In response, the North Korean foreign minister issued this statement:

The military drill is an unpardonable criminal act of pushing the situation of the Korean peninsula to the brink of a war as the situation there has become unprecedentedly unstable due to the US introduction of nuclear strategic bombers, THAAD and other strategic assets into the peninsula and its vicinity.

In preparation for the coming war to take out North Korea, the US military has been quietly moving its fleet of nuclear bombers to nearby Guam. In an unprecedented display of air power, last month both B-1 and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers were dispatched to join B-52 bombers for a triple joint air operation for the first time. Understandably, the Pyongyang government interpreted it as evidence of a US plan to preemptively drop nuclear bombs on North Korea. Both the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) and the Bomber Assurance and Deterrence Deployment (BAAD) operations being conducted now in the Pacific are indisputably connected to offensively targeting North Korea. Yet the world media ignores Empire transgressions that cannot hide its intent to start a nuclear war against DPRK. If the roles were reversed, all the world would be reacting with sheer outrage over such brazen acts of warmongering aggression. Again, always the double standard.

Then earlier this week to take it up a notch in a grand show of force designed to intimidate Pyongyang, Empire again flexed its airpower muscle with a staged flyover of strategic nuke-powered bombers just 50 miles from North Korea so all the world could see. Sanctions, saber-rattling and more threats have never worked on this poorest outcast nation on the Asian continent. DPRK is determined to exercise its right to defend itself with whatever means is necessary, and though it cannot compete in the Empire ruled nuclear arms race, for its survival it will not back down from seeking a semblance of nuclear parity.

While every North Korean action to defend itself against impossible odds is indignantly portrayed as raw aggressive insanity that must be stopped at all cost, in contrast the far deadlier, far more provocative machinations committed by the US and its ROK puppet ally are always favorably slanted as righteous efforts to protect the world by keeping the lawless rogue state in check.

Pure deceit is how the US and its globalist masters continue getting away with mass murdering our planet, multiple targeted nations at a time. Using nonstop war propaganda through mainstream media, the Empire that’s always clearly been the biggest single threat to the entire world is constantly twisting reality around to ensure that the tiny nation of North Korea is perceived to be the out of control demon bent on destroying not just ROK and US but the whole world.

The US has sought to create and maintain barriers between not only both Korean nations but also exploit potential conflicts that might weaken ties between DPRK and its closest ally China as well as Russia. Indeed a major reason why the US stations so many of its troops and weapons in ROK is to militarize South Korea as part of its aggressive “Asian pivot” strategy to encircle its other Eastern enemy China. And so status quo of yet another dissected nation and divided people prevails as American Empire remains at war really with both Koreas, subversively sabotaging whatever mutual effort or will each may possess to want to reunify and live in peace.

Growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula are but one example of the hectic pace of destabilizing events unfolding around the globe. They are near daily reminders of just how dangerous our world is becoming. The hostilities in a dozen hotspots are soaring and the likelihood of another global war has never been closer. Continuing to deny this tragic and alarming reality is suicide. The dire warnings that we realists are shouting from the rooftops are not the raving mad rants of the Chicken Littles of the world as the CIA and gov.corp would have us believe.

Since the JFK assassination whitewash, the CIA labeled those of us who question deep state lies as conspiracy theorists as its highly effective strategy to dismiss the dark truth from ever reaching the light of day. Sticking our heads in the sand playing passive and powerless will allow billions to needlessly die in the coming years. We have no choice but to stop these traitorous killers from committing the unthinkable – human genocide and slaughter of nearly 7 billion humans currently living and breathing on this planet right now. Acting purely in self-defense and self-preservation, we must imprison the guilty to save ourselves, our children, future generations and our precious planet from complete ruin. With the stakes never higher in history, it’s do or die time on planet earth.

Posted in USA, North Korea, South KoreaComments Off on Nightmarish Global Military Agenda. Threats of US Nuclear Attacks against North Korea

Police State South Korea Clamps Down on Peace Movement

Deployment of US THAAD Missile System in South Korea

Statement of the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea on the Park Geun-hye Government’s Deportation of its Members

Financial Crisis Conducive to Instability of Asia's Currency Markets: South Korea Imposes Currency Controls

On July 26, 2016, the South Korean government blocked the entry of two Korean American peace activists – Juyeon Rhee and Hyun Lee – into its country. The two are representatives of the U.S.-based Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea. They had traveled to South Korea to participate in the annual Jeju Peace March as well as join protests against the recent U.S.-South Korean decision to deploy the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.

After being detained by immigration officers at Incheon International Airport, the two were deported pursuant to Articles 11 and 12 of the Korea Immigration Law, which prohibits the entry of foreigners who, among other things, are “deemed likely to commit any act detrimental to national interests of the Republic of Korea or public safety.”

The two activists had traveled to South Korea numerous times in the past with no problems. They have never broken any laws in South Korea and had never been denied entry nor deported in the past.

The denial of their entry can only be seen as an attempt by the Park Geun-hye administration to block peace activists from internationalizing the growing opposition in South Korea against THAAD deployment. Since announcing its decision to collaborate with the U.S. military to deploy the missile system in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, the government has waged an aggressive campaign to crack down on all those who oppose the government’s decision. President Park recently referred to those voicing opposition as “subversive forces” and declared, “It’s important to block subversive forces from all affairs, and we must be thorough in weeding them out.”

The rushed decision by the South Korean and U.S. governments to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea was undemocratic with no input from South Korean citizens. The burden of producing and operating the THAAD system will ultimately be borne by U.S. and South Korean taxpayers. The cost of the system is estimated at $1.3 billion, and the average annual operating and sustainment costs amount to $200 million. Many fear that long-term exposure to high frequency electromagnetic waves emitted by the THAAD radar and noise caused by its engines may be detrimental to the health of the Seongju residents who live near the designated site. The THAAD system has been deemed ineffective in the defense of South Korea. Its deployment is a provocative move against North Korea, China and Russia and will redraw Cold War lines as well as escalate tensions in a region that is already heavily militarized with weapons of mass destruction.

The South Korean government’s action of refusing entry to peace activists shows just how much it has devolved into a police state under the Park Geun-hye administration and that it deems international solidarity a threat to its policy of military confrontation. Indeed, only the strength of international solidarity between citizens of the United States and South Korea can stop the two governments’ provocative action towards increased militarization. The Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea is resolved to redouble its efforts of solidarity with the people of South Korea fighting for democracy and peace and call on all those who stand on the side of justice to join the opposition against the dangerous U.S. move to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.

Posted in South KoreaComments Off on Police State South Korea Clamps Down on Peace Movement

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