By George Cockburn
ONE OF the world’s largest military drills, involving almost a quarter of a million personnel, the United States Seventh Fleet’s “battle force” Task Force 70, B-54 and stealth bombers, amphibious beach landings, hundreds of tanks, artillery pieces and “nuclear-powered attack submarines” is coming to an end as this newspaper goes to press.
These exercises are taking place in one of most likely flashpoints on the planet for a major war to break out, in a divided country with one of the largest concentrations of armed forces in the world along the Military Demarcation Line (an artificial line drawn by US imperialism to divide Korea) – and yet they are virtually ignored by the western mass media.
In 2013 the Pentagon declared that the exercises included “long-range nuclear-capable B-2 (stealth) bomber flights over the Korean peninsula in a show of force,” in other words dummy nuclear bombing runs, yet in the same breath claimed they were of a "non-provocative nature"!
And this month Washington announced a plans to deploy missile defence forces in Korea, clearly intended to make a pre-emptive first nuclear strike against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) possible.
No wonder the Pyongyang (capital of the DPRK) daily Rodong Sinmun (Daily Worker) recently declared that inter-Korean relations were "inching close to a catastrophe". Viewed from Pyongyang such exercises can easily be seen as a cover for an actual invasion.
The Foal Eagle-Key Resolve exercises led by the US occupation forces in south Korea started 18 years ago this and year are taking place from 2nd March to 24th April.
Korean patriots and supporters of national re-unification and liberation in south Korea have held many protests at US bases and command centres in recent years calling for an end to the exercises.
They have been supported by many organisations, all of them risking arrest, police raids and prison sentences under south Korea’s infamous National Security Law and they include the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of the two largest trade union centres in south Korea with almost 700,000 members.
The Korean people need peace!
The Korean peninsula is one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the world, where war could break out at any time. The Korean War ended 1953 with a simple armistice signed by the US, DPRK and Chinese military commanders, but not by the puppet south Korean forces.
This means the DPRK and south Korea are technically still at war 62 years later, despite repeated proposals by the DPRK to normalise the situation and reduce tensions.
The true reason for the refusal by Washington and the puppet south Korean regime to negotiate a genuine peace is that the Korean peninsula is one of the world’s most strategic locations, from which the US can threaten the DPRK, China and Russia, and if the need arose Japan as well. In Washington’s eyes it is the key to its domination of East of Asia and the Pacific.
This policy treats the people of Korea, north and south, with contempt, as pawns in US imperialism’s drive for world domination. It is underpins Washington’s determination not to leave Korea and its ceaseless of lies and propaganda about the DPRK.
The bogus human rights allegations against the DPRK constantly churned out by the Washington-Seoul-Tokyo-Canberra propaganda machine are merely a smokescreen designed to hide US imperialism’s true intensions in Korea.
As the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK recently said: "These exercises are intolerable aggression moves pursuant to the US-Korea strategy designed to ‘bring down’ the socialist system chosen by the Korean people.”
In other words, they are yet another attempt at “regime change” by Washington.
Because of the ongoing state of war, the DPRK has no choice but to maintain large military forces and advanced weapons, and to be prepared for war, which could be unleashed at any time.
In this way the US hopes to prevent the DPRK from developing its economy and improving the living standards of its people but this policy, like the 55 year-long attempt to isolate Cuba, has failed spectacularly.
Danger: nuclear holocaust!
The danger of a US nuclear strike in Korea is very real. In 2011 Wikileaks revealed that the Pentagon had drafted plans for “pre-emptive” nuclear strikes against several states, and the US-Russian nuclear arms reduction talks have now completely broken down as a result of Washington’s mounting provocations against Russia.
Indications that US imperialism, in its desperate drive for world hegemony, is inching towards a new world war, even a nuclear war, are growing by the day.
This month Washington has announced a new shift in the military balance in Korea which, like the plans for a missile defence complex in Poland, are a new threat to the whole of East Asia.
The deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) anti-ballistic missile system in south Korea has been condemned by the Korean National Peace Committee, and is clearly intended to enable a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the DPRK.
But it also opens the way for “first strikes” against Russia and China, and follows the setting up of similar systems in Hawaii, Guam, Israel and Turkey, and is part of US imperialism’s plans for pre-emptive nuclear strikes against several countries.
Meanwhile Washington is giving the green light to Japan to end its constitutional ban on using force in international disputes. And plans for Japanese troops to be sent to Korea in the event of a military crisis are likely to be announced during Shinzo Abe’s imminent visit to Washington.
A history of US nuclear threats
During the Korean War President Truman ordered the transfer of nine Mark 4 nuclear bombs to Korea, and in November 1950 he said using nuclear weapons had "always been under active consideration".
This prompted British Prime Minister Clement Attlee to hurry to Washington, to be told by Truman him that the US had "no intention" of using atomic weapons in Korea except to prevent a "major military disaster”.
But soon after the end of the Korean War it was the US that unilaterally broke the 1953 armistice commitment not to bring new military systems into Korea, when President Eisenhower decided to deploy nuclear missiles and artillery in Korea. By 1967 the US had 950 nuclear warheads which threatened the DPRK, China and the Soviet Union.
By 1991 these nuclear weapons had been withdrawn, but the Korean peninsula is still under the US “nuclear umbrella” provided from the many US bases in the region.
Even without nuclear weapons, the north was utterly devastated in the 1950-1953 war, in which two million civilians died and more bombs were dropped than during the entire Pacific War.
As US Air Force General Curtis LeMay recalled: "We eventually burned down every town in north Korea... and some in south Korea too. We even burned down Pusan – an accident, but we burned it down anyway".
Napalm was widely used, including against Pyongyang. The world was shocked by the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and Winston Churchill (in his second term as prime minister) declared he would not take responsibility “for napalm being splashed about all over the civilian population”. Many others protested, including the Archbishop of New York and the Free Church of Scotland.
The DPRK has extended the hand of peace
In view of this history, it is little wonder the DPRK feels the necessity to have nuclear weapons of its own to defend its revolution and its sovereignty. In recent years Pyongyang has witnessed the spectacles of Iraq and Libya, having agreed to renounce their advanced weapons programmes, being swiftly and mercilessly crushed at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, their once high living standards now but a distant memory.
The DPRK’s leaders and people are not afraid of war to defend their national sovereignty, but their greatest desire is peace and reunification. For over 40 years the DPRK has set out proposals to consolidate peace, reduce tensions and move towards Korean reunification.
In 1972 DPRK President Kim Il Sung put forward the Three Principles of Reunification, plans for a Confederal Republic of Koryo in 1973, followed by the Five Point Policy for National Reunification in 1975.
On June 15 2000 the historic North-South Declaration was signed by DPRK Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and south Korean President Kim Dae Jung, opening the way for family visits, economic and transport links.
But all these efforts were sunk when George W Bush took office in 2003, declared the DPRK part of an “Axis of Evil”, and scrapped the 1994 Agreed Framework, the closest the DPRK and US have ever come to a peace settlement and normalisation of relations.
In his 2015 New Year Address DPRK First Chairman Kim Jong Un once again called for the north and south to avoid confrontation and resolve their differences, free of foreign interference, “By Our Nation Itself”.
End the exercises, withdraw US forces, negotiate peace!
Here in Britain the Korean Friendship Association, supported by the New Communist Party and other parties and progressive organisations, calls on the United States to pull its military forces out of Korea, end its nuclear strike threat against the DPRK, and agree to a genuine peace settlement.
Rather than being side-tracked by bogus allegations about human rights in the DPRK, the world should unite and call for an end to America’s sabre-rattling exercises, a peace agreement followed by the withdrawal of all US personnel, the reunification of north and south Korea after 60 years of sacrifices and humiliation, and the final national liberation of the Korean nation.
That would be a great achievement for the entire world peace movement.