13th August 2017
Locked and loaded. That was how US president, Donald Trump described the readiness of the US military in relation to the ‘threat’ posed by North Korea. It followed hard upon his promise to rain ‘fire and fury’ upon Pyongyang, should they carry out their threat to test inter-continental ballistic missiles anywhere near the US Pacific base of Guam.
To suggest that Trump is proposing to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut is putting it mildly. The power of the US military, as Trump has pointed out, is more awesome than the weaponry of any empire at any time in history. North Korea, on the other hand, may have found the means by which a small nuclear war head could be fixed to a missile, which may be able to get beyond its borders.
Any nuclear capability is a potential danger. Even a small atomic bomb can do untold damage and have consequences lasting generations, as the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can testify. As ever though, the US bluster is less about defending world peace than bolstering its own position as the world’s policeman.
Ever since its characterisation as one of the ‘axis of evil’ states by US President George W Bush, in his State of the Union address in January 2002, North Korea has been the subject of heightened attention by the US and its allies.
The reality is that US hostility to the efforts of the Korean people to free themselves from outside domination go back to the US led war of aggression in 1950 – 1953. During that time 20% of North Korea’s population were killed, almost every town in the country burned to the ground and the population driven into subterranean shelters. The fact that, even after such destruction, the US was unable to impose its will upon the country is at the root of US hostility.
With the defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, the United States announced that strategic nuclear weapons, previously targeted at the Soviet Union would be redirected towards North Korea. War games conducted by the United States and South Korea in 1993 prompted North Korea to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and seek to maximise its own defence capability.
Recent provocative activity has included simulated bombing missions by the US along the North Korean border and the deployment of two aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, to the waters between Japan and Korea, described by the Wall Street Journal as “a show of force not seen there for more than two decades.” These actions barely make the news, compared to the limited weapons testing carried out by the Koreans.
From a North Korean perspective the capacity of the US to destroy regimes it is in disagreement with is evident from its actions over the past 25 years, notably in Libya and Iraq. The US continues to have designs upon Iran, another ‘axis of evil’ state, and persists in its internationally condemned and illegal blockade of Cuba. Interventions in Syria and Afghanistan have caused significant destruction in recent years. Donald Trump has not ruled out military intervention in Venezuela.
North Korea is the most heavily sanctioned state on the planet. It is an international pariah with the US alliance but also with many on the international Left. The dynastic approach to leadership change does Pyongyang no favours with those who may otherwise have sympathy with its anti-imperialist position. Whatever the flaws and failings of the regime however, it is for the people of North Korea to determine how change will come about, not the United States.
It may be difficult for many on the Left to leap to the defence of North Korea but, seen in the context of its wider actions to suppress opposition to its diktats around the globe, there should be much greater concern about the United States. The increasing militarisation of the leadership around Donald Trump, as more generals find themselves in political office, is a creeping coup d’etat, which puts a lot of power into the hands of men with itchy trigger fingers. Being locked and loaded may not just apply to the US approach to North Korea.