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US and its Western allies to scuttle peace on the Korean peninsula

ASAP Statement - July 18, 2003

Plans to "interdict" North Korean shipping and the Pentagon’s Operations Plan 5030 – brought to light in the July 21 US News and World Report, and which explicitly identifies steps to provoke confrontation with Pyongyang – are the latest moves by the US and its Western allies to scuttle peace on the Korean peninsula.

The Howard government is no small player in this, having hosted the July 9-10 Proliferation Security Initiative meeting between the 11 countries that will carry out the "interdiction". The issue also tops Howard’s agenda on his tour of several Asian countries this month.

The pretext is stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The reality will be closer to a blockade of North Korean shipping trade, aimed at economically strangling North Korea into submission – yet another imperial attack against the people and sovereignty of a very poor country.

This is already in addition to the US’s decades-long regime of economic sanctions against North Korea, including barring access to Asian Development Bank and other international loans.

The irony is that since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and a series of crippling natural disasters in the 1990s, North Korea has desperately worked towards peaceful reunification with South Korea and to break out of its international isolation. Economic, political and cultural relations with the south have steadily increased since the early 1990s, reaching a high-point at the June 2000 inter-Korean summit. Families separated for 50 years by the Korean War have met regularly; exchanges have occurred between young people, artists, journalists and sports teams.

North Korea has repeatedly made only two demands of the US (its adversary in the 1950-53 Korean War, which was suspended by an armistice): full normalisation of political and economic relations, and a guarantee against military attack.

The second concern is a very real one. North Korea has been the only non-nuclear country to have faced the threat of nuclear attack for half a century. The US conducted mock nuclear attacks during the Korean War and, afterwards, based its battle plans in Korea on "H + 1" – the use of nuclear weapons within one hour of the outbreak of war. Routine military exercises between US and South Korean forces have involved the use of nuclear-armed bombers and ships. During the last standoff in 1998, the US Air Force rehearsed a long-range nuclear bombing run at the Avon Park Bombing Range in Florida. Washington’s 2002 Nuclear Posture Review formalised the doctrine of targeting the US’s nuclear arsenal at non-nuclear countries, explicitly identifying North Korea among its targets.

The threats against North Korea are nothing short of hypocrisy. The danger of nuclear, chemical and biological conflict originates with the biggest possessor of weapons of mass destruction in the world today – the US. It is the US that has used these weapons in war, such as the atomic bombing of Japan, and the use of germ warfare in the Korean War and napalm in Vietnam.

Therefore, the most urgent and fundamental step necessary for removing the nuclear threat is complete worldwide nuclear disarmament beginning with the US. The root source of the problem is the world’s sole superpower threatening and committing "regime change" against poor countries that don’t obey US dictates and holding the threat of nuclear annihilation over their heads.

The fear campaign over "nuclear proliferation" is nothing other than an attempt to justify the US’s overwhelming nuclear superiority and the planned "Son of Star Wars" National Missile Defence scheme, which, if successful, will give Washington a total monopoly of nuclear force.

Hostility towards North Korea goes directly against the wishes of the South Korean people. The majority of South Koreans favour peaceful relations with the North and want an end to US interference. In a May BBC global survey on attitudes to the US, the majority of South Korean respondents said they saw the US as "more dangerous" than North Korea and that US military superiority made the world "a more dangerous place".

But this is far from Washington’s concerns. Stoking up a standoff with North Korea serves a wider agenda that is directly at the expense of the wishes and rights of the Korean people. First, it justifies the US barging in to retake the strategic initiative on the Korean peninsula and blocking South Korea from exercising any measure of independent policy towards the north. Second, whipping up the North Korean bogey serves to shore up US dominance in a geopolitical region containing major rivals such as Japan, Russia and China.

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