“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters March 17 on a visit to Seoul, a not-so-veiled threat of U.S. military action. “All options are on the table.”
Washington demands the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea get rid of its nuclear weapons and cease all efforts to build intercontinental missiles that could threaten the U.S.
Tillerson cynically added, “North Korea has nothing to fear from the United States.” But the U.S. has some 28,000 troops stationed permanently in South Korea and another 49,000 in Japan.
Two days later Tillerson went to China. A key part of his discussions with Chinese officials was Washington’s push to get Beijing to press harder against Pyongyang.
The war talk is not just hype. The U.S. Army recently sent 100 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to South Korea that could be used in any attempt to cross the heavily mined Demilitarized Zone into the North.
These moves come on top of increasingly draconian economic sanctions designed to deepen the hardships on working people in the North.
In the midst of the U.S.-South Korean war games, the Pentagon announced it has begun stationing a new generation of attack drones in the South that are capable of staying in the air for 24 hours, equipped with Hellfire missiles.
Washington also began deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, anti-missile system in South Korea — a decision made under the Barack Obama administration — despite strong protests from Beijing, which see it as also aimed at China.
Simultaneously with Operation Foal Eagle, Japanese military forces joined the U.S. and South Korean navies in large-scale drills off the Korean coast.
The Trump administration’s shift has bipartisan support. A March 22 editorial in the Washington Post, which has published daily attacks on Trump and his supporters, congratulated the White House on its belligerent stance toward Pyongyang.
The Trump administration has “properly focused on what may be the biggest single threat it inherited: the manic pursuit by the regime of Kim Jong Un of nuclear warheads and the capacity to launch them at the continental United States,” the editorial said. “The new administration is starting with the most sensible opening steps — a strong effort to enlist China, as well as other nations, in a new campaign of pressure.”
Under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, Washington has tried to paint Pyongyang as the aggressor and a rogue nation. George W. Bush included the North in his infamous “axis of evil” speech in 2002, along with Tehran and the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. The next year Washington invaded and occupied Iraq.
Decades of U.S. aggression
Tillerson turned history on its head claiming it is Pyongyang that has broken previous agreements and that Washington wants a “nuclear-free peninsula.”
And the U.S. rulers seem oblivious to the added insult of joint maneuvers with Japanese forces during this year’s war games. For four decades prior to World War II Japanese imperialist forces occupied Korea, suppressed teaching the Korean language and history in school, banned Korean-language newspapers, and arrested or killed tens of thousands of workers and farmers.
Korean workers and farmers took advantage of the defeat of the Japanese army to advance their fight for independence. Washington blocked the fight, landing troops in the south in September 1945 and, with the agreement of the Stalinist regime in Moscow, dividing the country in two.
By 1948 Washington had crushed the rebellion in the south in blood and imposed the Syngman Rhee dictatorship. North of Korea’s 38th parallel, the workers and peasants took power and organized a deep-going agrarian reform, expropriated landlords and capitalists and carried out other social measures.
War broke out on June 25, 1950. The U.S. military drove the northern Korean forces back, virtually to the Chinese border. The new Chinese government, which until then had given little aid to Korea, poured a million volunteer soldiers into the war.
Washington and its “blue hat” United Nations allies utilized carpet bombing with napalm and other weapons of mass destruction that reduced cities to rubble, but was unable to defeat the North. The war ended in a stalemate in 1953 — the first military defeat for U.S. imperialism. Some 3 million Korean civilians, half a million North Korean soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Chinese volunteers, and 100,000 South Korean and U.N. soldiers, including 54,000 from the United States, were dead.
A large majority of Koreans on both sides of the border support reunification.
While the cease-fire remains in place, the U.S. government refuses to sign a peace treaty with North Korea to formally end the war. Is it any wonder that the government of the DPRK and its people are suspicious of Washington’s intentions?
But North Korea is not without defenses. Pyongyang has the fourth-largest army in the world, as many as 200,000 special forces, 10,000 artillery pieces and nuclear weapons based underground that could hit Seoul as well as U.S. military bases anywhere in South Korea.
Any preemptive strike by Washington on Pyongyang — as Tillerson says is “on the table” — would not be capable of destroying all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. The chance they could launch a response against Seoul — with over 25 million people in the metropolitan area, half the country’s population — is high.
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