The rhetoric of war has reached fever pitch between North Korea and the US. Trump has threatened the country with ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen’.
In response Pyongang threatened to create an ‘envelope of fire’ around the US base in Guam. And then to ratchet it up even further, US Defence Secretary James Mathis (a former general known as ‘mad dog’) has told North Korea that ‘it faces the end of its regime and the destruction of its people’
Disaster could be staring us in the face. If a war breaks out, hundreds of thousands will die and the world would enter a new phase of nuclear war. Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be multiplied many times over.
Kim Jong Un has been described as a ‘crackpot’ a ‘madman’ and the ‘most dangerous man on the planet’. He is certainly a brutal dictator and a murderer. His sole interest is preserving a family dynasty and a ruling class that has controlled North Korea for decades.
The possibility of war, however, does not arise from his mental state – no more than it does from Trump’s state of mind. Behind the bellicose rhetoric of both sides like cold blooded strategic considerations.
Kim Jong Un knows of the fate of past dictators such as Gaddafi in Libya. Gaddafi was a pariah in the West but he eventually succumbed to pressure and gave up attempts to build nuclear weapons. None of this saved him, however, when the US backed a rebellion against him.
Kim Jong Un calculates that as long as he has nuclear weapons he has some protection against Gaddafi’s fate. He also wants to use a Korean memory of the last US intervention to rally support around his regime.
In his book, Napalm, Robert Neer reports that General Lemay wrote that ‘We (the US) burned down just about every city in North and South Korea’. There were an estimated 4 million casualties, including 1 million civilians in North Korea alone. Kim Jong Un wants to whip up nationalist memories of this conflict to rally his country around him."
Trump’s motives are quite different. His dreams of a world where US ‘leadership’ is unquestioned and wants to whip Japan and the EU into line by forcing them to back a US military adventure.
He – and previous US administrations - know that they face a growing economic challenge from China and want to contain it before it gets too strong. One aspect this ‘pivot to Asia’ strategy has been an attempt to develop a string of US military bases around the South China sea.
The other element of this strategy is to target North Korea, which is regarded as a Chinese ally. The US regime has placed a new missile system in South Korea, which can hit not only North Korean targets but also China itself.
Trump’s most recent threat of sanctions against any country which trades with North Korea is an even greater threat to China. Currently, China receives over 83% of North Korea's exports and is seen as an unruly ally of the Beijing regime.
People Before Profit totally oppose the escalation of warlike rhetoric from both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. We are opposed to the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea as much we are to those in Israel and the US.
But the conflict is not one between equal parties. The North Korean defense budget is no greater than the New York police department. Pretending that its regime represents a major threat is exactly the same type of propaganda the US used when it talked of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The US may complain about the nuclear tests of tin pot dictators but it has tested over 1,000 nuclear missiles. It regularly tests Minuteman-3 long range nuclear missiles from its Vandenberg Air Base in California that can reach and obliterate Pyongang.
It has sent 17,000 US troops to join 50,000 South Koreas in ‘war games’ that simulate an invasion of North Korea.
Its past history of brutality in the Korean peninsula gives it no right to set itself up as a guardian for security. There is no reason, for example, for it to maintain military bases such as those in Guam – seventy years after the ending of WW2.
What is required is a rapid de-escalation of the conflict. Korea should become a nuclear free peninsula, where all foreign forces are withdrawn. Its people should be given a right to decide their own fate and eventually overcome a partition imposed on their country by foreign powers.