Blog Archives

U.S.-North Korean Relations in a Time of Change

Talk Grows in U.S. of Possibility of Military Strikes on North Korea

Human Rights Violations: North Korea vs. the U.S.

Women Peace Activists Peace Treaty Initiative To End Korean Wa

Kim’s Latest Big Bang

Who Are the Crazies on Korea?

North Korea’s Nuke Test Sparks Calls for Diplomacy over Sanctions

New Sanctions on North Korea: An Act of War by Any Measure

North Korea: Love Thy Leader

Korea: The Dangerous Tone of US Media. Why is the Korean Nation Divided?

North Korea Vows to Stop Nuke Tests If US Ends Military Drills with Seoul

The Japanese Government Spreads Misinformation On North Korea’s Rocket Launch

North Korea Punished for Helping to Liberate Africa

Syria and Korea: The Logic of Peace and War

Look Before You Leap in North Korea

Why Does the West Hate North Korea?

North Korea and the Nuclear Question. The Political Isolation of the DPRK. China and Russia Endorse Sanctions

US Targets Russia and China with North Korea Pretext

Western Double Standards on North Korea

Why North Korea Wants Nukes. Extensive U.S. War Crimes Committed against the DPRK

Does North Korea Need Nukes to Deter US Aggression?

Assessing U.S. vs. North Korea Military Capabilities: What Would Happen if the US Went to War with North Korea?

Tensions remain high on Korean Peninsula

North and South Korea exchange artillery fire across border

US secretary of state berates North Korea

North Korean defector recants prison camp claims

US imposes new sanctions on North Korea

North Korea/Sony Story Shows How Eagerly U.S. Media Still Regurgitate Government Claims

Cybersecurity investigators raise doubts about North Korean responsibility for Sony hack

The Hollywood ‘Demonization Script”: “The Interview” and U.S. Regime-Change Policy Toward North Korea

We Can Conclusively Confirm North Korea Was Not Behind Sony Hack

Kim Jong un and the Demonization of North Korea. A Distorted Mirror of Reality

UN Security Council Prepares to Lynch North Korea. Manipulation to Justify Aggressive War?

North Korea: Longstanding US Punching Bag

North Korea’s Internet connections cut off

US stokes conflict with North Korea over Sony hacking

By Patrick Martin

19 December 2014

The US government is preparing to retaliate against North Korea for its alleged role in the hacking attack on Sony Pictures, Obama administration officials said Thursday. While declining to go on the record placing responsibility on North Korea for the hacking—likely in part because they can produce no evidence—several top officials suggested that US cyberwarfare countermeasures were already in preparation.

White House press spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that he would not name North Korea as the perpetrator of the Sony hacking in advance of investigations by the FBI and Justice Department, but added that the cyberattack was an example of “destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor.” US officials considered the hacking a “serious national security matter” and “would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response,” he said.

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, told a television interviewer Thursday morning that the administration was “actively considering a range of options that we’ll take in response to this attack.” He did not rule out military force, although Earnest’s reference to a “proportionate response” was portrayed by the US media as a threat of some form of electronic sabotage, rather than a direct military attack on North Korea.

The last two days have seen the transformation of the Sony incident from a corporate scandal—with the private information of tens of thousands of current and former employees dumped onto the Internet—into a far more sinister affair, involving US threats against both North Korea and China.

Beginning November 24, anonymous hackers, calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” have made several dumps of internal Sony information on the Internet, demanding the studio shelve its film The Interview, a comedy whose plot is based around the CIA hiring two American journalists (played by Seth Rogen and James Franco) to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

This week the affair escalated with vague threats of violence against theaters that showed the film, scheduled to open on December 25. On Wednesday morning, the four largest US theater chains cancelled the premieres, citing the threats, and Sony then withdrew the film from circulation entirely.

The US National Security Council then issued its first formal statement, not naming North Korea, but noting that the White House had offered Sony Pictures its support against the apparent cyberattack. The statement declared: “We know that criminals and foreign countries regularly seek to gain access to government and private sector networks—both in the United States and elsewhere … The US government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice and we are considering a range of options in weighing a potential response.”

Obama administration officials made unattributed statements to the US media Wednesday asserting that North Korea was responsible for the attacks on Sony, setting off a media frenzy, including speculation about possible cyberwarfare or military responses against the regime in Pyongyang. This was accompanied by suggestions that Iran was a co-conspirator in the cyberattacks, in retaliation for US and Israeli cyberwarfare against Iran’s nuclear energy facilities.

No evidence of any kind has been produced, with press reports limited to suggestions that some of the code in the malware used to infect Sony’s corporate computer system had been written in Korean, and that the code resembled that used in previous cyberattacks in South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

The United States, moreover, is heavily invested in cyberwarfare measures, particularly targeting China. Earlier this year, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed extensive offensive cyberwarfare measures, including attacks on government and military targets.

There is evidence as well that the US is whipping up conflict with North Korea in several arenas simultaneously. The escalation of the Sony Pictures affair coincided with the issuance of a report Tuesday by a United Nations committee recommending that North Korean officials be referred to the International Criminal Court for human rights violations.

On Thursday, just as the White House spokesman was threatening a “proportionate response” to the Sony hacking, the UN General Assembly approved the referral of North Korea to the ICC, sending it on to the UN Security Council, where Russia and China are expected to block further action.

The role of Sony Pictures also deserves serious scrutiny. The studio has a documented close relationship with the CIA, having made the film Zero Dark Thirty in 2012, in direct collaboration with the agency, portraying CIA torture of prisoners as vital to the targeting of Osama bin Laden by a Navy Seals death squad the previous year. The film served as a sort of video rebuttal-in-advance of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, which was completed in the summer of 2012 but delayed for two years by the Obama White House, until it was made public, in heavily redacted form, last week.

The decision to make a film that climaxed in the assassination of Kim Jong-un was peculiar, to say the least. As the New York Times wrote, “To depict the killing of a sitting world leader, comically or otherwise, is virtually without precedent in major studio movies, film historians say.” If North Korea, Iran or Russia had produced a similar film about a plan to murder Obama, complete with grisly images of the president being obliterated by a missile (the final scene in The Interview ), the US government and media would have raised an uproar.

Moreover, given the Obama administration’s claim that the president has the right to order drone missile assassination of any individual on the planet, including US citizens, at his own discretion, the depiction of such an attack by a major American film studio could well be seen as a veiled threat. There is no doubt that there were elements in the American government, aware of the mounting crisis and isolation of the North Korean dictatorship, who fully expected the film to be interpreted in that way in Pyongyang.

According to a report carried by the official US broadcast service Voice of America, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki confirmed that the US diplomat who is coordinating the anti-China campaign, Daniel Russel, “had held a routine meeting with Sony executives to discuss foreign policy in Asia.” The online publication Daily Beast said it had seen emails indicating that at least two US officials had prescreened The Interview and gave it their blessing.

The investigation into the Sony hacking is being coordinated by the FBI and the Mandiant forensics unit of FireEye Inc. This is the same private company that was the source of a series of reports, published in the New York Timesand embraced by the Obama administration, alleging that a Chinese Army unit specializes in hacking US corporate and government computer systems.

The campaign against North Korea could be transformed relatively quickly into another element in the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to mobilize US military and security resources against China.

North Korea sentences American prisoner, pushes for talks with US

By Ben McGrath

23 September 2014

A North Korean court on September 14 handed down a six-year sentence of hard labor to an American citizen who was arrested shortly after entering the country in April. Matthew Miller is one of three Americans currently being held, each accused of committing acts hostile to the state.

Another American, Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in December 2012, has already been given a 15-year sentence, while Jeffrey Fowle awaits trial. The three are being used by Pyongyang as bargaining chips in its dealings with the United States.

At the beginning of this month, all three were trotted out before CNN cameras prior to Miller’s trial, in order to plead with Washington to intervene on their behalf and secure their release. The news network conducted five-minute interviews with each American at a hotel in Pyongyang.

US State Department spokesman Darby Holladay demanded the release of the three, claiming that the charges against them would not result in arrest or imprisonment in the US or many other countries.

In reality, the Obama administration has little concern for the fates of the three men. It is continuing to demonize North Korea in order to help justify the US military buildup in the Asia-Pacific region. The arrest of the Americans plays into Washington’s hands in demonstrating the supposed threat of the North.

Washington can also use the arrests to pressure Pyongyang on issues related to China. The US has in the past held up Burma as an example for North Korea to follow. In other words, if Pyongyang were to begin distancing itself from Beijing as the Burmese regime did in 2011, today’s repressive regime could easily become the world’s next “emerging democracy.”

Miller, 24, landed in Pyongyang on April 10 with the travel group, Uri Tours. Upon arriving he tore up his visa and requested asylum, according to regime officials. Miller was convicted by the country’s Supreme Court for committing “acts hostile to the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] while entering … under the guise of a tourist,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Bae, a Christian missionary was arrested in November 2012. Originally from South Korea, he conducted tours in the North, based out of China. Bae, who is reportedly in poor health, was detained ostensibly for using his trips to preach Christianity.

Fowle was also arrested in May for a religious-based crime, supposedly for leaving behind a bilingual English-Korean Bible at a club for foreign sailors. Like Miller, Fowle entered the country as part of a tour group.

Pyongyang is hoping the three detentions will lead to high-level talks with Washington. Pyongyang rejected a US proposal to send Robert King, a special representative on North Korean human rights issues, to secure the prisoners’ release. North Korea has rejected talks altogether until a suitable envoy is proposed.

Pyongyang may be holding out for a former president, something directly suggested by Fowle in his CNN interview, during which he said Bill Clinton or George W. Bush would be acceptable. In 2009, Clinton went to Pyongyang to bring back two jailed journalists, while Jimmy Carter ventured to North Korea the following year to secure the release of Aijalon Gomes, a missionary.

Washington’s hardline stance toward North Korea is part of its “pivot to Asia.” The purpose of the “pivot” is to surround and isolate China, both economically and militarily. By targeting North Korea, the US has a pretext for its military “rebalance” to the region, including the deployment of 60 percent of its navy and air force in the Asia Pacific by 2020, and the installation of anti-ballistic missile systems, designed to try to ensure its dominance of any nuclear war with China. South Korea has agreed to US demands to host a THAAD anti-missile system, raising concerns in Beijing.

The Obama administration would undoubtedly require North Korea to jump through a series of hoops, even to begin initiating talks with the US. Washington has set the dismantling of the North’s nuclear weapons program as the prerequisite for resuming six-party negotiations between the US, North and South Korea, China, Russia and Japan on Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities.

Pyongyang has stated its readiness to return to the talks, but without conditions. It is unwilling to surrender its nuclear bargaining chip unless crippling US economic sanctions are lifted in return.

China has also called for a return to the talks without set conditions. Beijing is growing increasingly concerned over North Korea’s political stability and the possibility that conditions there will be exploited by the US.

For all its blustering and bombastic talk, the North Korean regime has no interest in a genuine confrontation with the US or South Korea. It is attempting to attract foreign investment to 14 special economic zones, announced last year. However, without approval from Washington, investment will not flow any time soon—hence Pyongyang’s desire to strike a deal.

Lately, on top of its usual bellicose rhetoric and short-range rocket tests, North Korea has attempted a charm offensive. Pyongyang sent diplomat Kang Sok-ju to Europe to visit Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. Kang is North Korea’s lead negotiator in nuclear diplomacy and was involved in striking a deal with the US in 1994. Premier Pak Pong-ju also stated during a ceremony marking the 66th anniversary of the founding of North Korea: “We will do our best to improve North-South relations.”

The North struck a deal with Japan earlier this summer in which the regime agreed to initiate an investigation into missing and abducted Japanese citizens in return for a relaxation of sanctions. A preliminary report is expected soon, but Pyongyang is also pressing for aid to continue the search, reflecting the regime’s desperation.

North Korea will be the topic of a high-level side meeting during this week’s UN General Assembly. Under the guise of human rights, the US will undoubtedly seek to rally support for its “pivot” and apply additional pressure on Pyongyang to comply with Washington’s demands. North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong will be in New York for the General Assembly meeting—the first time in 15 years an official of Ri’s status will visit the UN.

UN report on North Korea targets both Pyongyang and Beijing

By Peter Symonds 

18 February 2014

The UN report on human rights in North Korea released yesterday marks an acceleration of the US-led campaign to destabilise and ultimately remove the Pyongyang regime. The catalogue of horrors in North Korea is designed to stampede public opinion behind any US provocations directed against Pyongyang, but above all to intensify the pressure on North Korea’s ally, China.

The highly political character of the UN commission of inquiry was underlined by the comments of its chair, former Australian judge Michael Kirby, who declared that the repressive methods of the North Korean regime were “strikingly similar” to the crimes of Nazi Germany. He likened North Korean prisons to the Nazi concentration camps in which millions of Jews, gypsies and political prisoners were exterminated.

Kirby has already written to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, declaring that his commission is recommending that “the international criminal court render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for the crimes against humanity.” In his comments yesterday, Kirby declared that the purpose of the commission’s report was to “galvanize action on the part of the international community.”

Kirby’s condemnation of the North Korean regime, picked up and amplified by the US and international media, recalls the demonisation of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic as the “Serbian Hitler” prior to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign that rained death and destruction on that country’s population. Similarly, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was subjected to a campaign of vilification prior to the illegal 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that devastated the country and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

North Korea is a small, impoverished and isolated country, not an imperialist power like Germany, which, under the Nazis, launched wars of aggression that ravaged Europe. The international working class should give absolutely no political support to the Stalinist police-state regime in Pyongyang, which is certainly responsible for crimes against its people. However, the targeting of governments and individuals by the UN and its associated institutions is invariably highly selective, politically coloured and geared to the predatory interests of the imperialist powers, above all the United States.

No one is suggesting that a UN commission of inquiry be established into any of the crimes of US imperialism, such as waging wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq—the crime for which the Nazi leaders were convicted at Nuremberg. Similarly, no UN investigations are under way into the crimes and human rights abuses of US allies such as Israel or Saudi Arabia.

The lengthy report is based largely on the testimony of North Korean refugees and exiles who provided gruesome details of their treatment inside the prison camps. The commission of inquiry was barred from entering North Korea.

While some of the accounts are undoubtedly true, the North Korean exile community, particularly in South Korea, is heavily influenced by anti-communist organisations, right-wing Christian groups and the state apparatus, particularly the South Korean National Intelligence Service. The UN commission of inquiry has now given its official seal to testimony from this layer.

It is no accident that the report itself echoes the propaganda that has emanated from Washington for years. An entire section is devoted to “violations of the right to food,” which accuses the Pyongyang regime of causing widespread starvation and famine, while “large amounts of state resources… have been spent on the luxury goods and the advancement of his [the supreme leader’s] personality cult.”

Those who should be held criminally responsible for starving the North Korean people are above all the successive US administrations that maintained an economic blockade of the country following the 1953 termination of the Korean War, in which the United States killed hundreds of thousands of Korean civilians and soldiers. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington systematically tightened the sanctions regime on North Korea in a calculated effort to bring about its collapse. Any humanitarian aid came with political strings attached. In the mid-1990s, economic sanctions compounded food shortages caused by a string of natural disasters, leading to widespread famine and deaths.

While the role of the US and its allies in systematically destabilising North Korea goes unmentioned, the UN commission report does single out China for special mention. It specifically criticises China for its return of asylum seekers to North Korea, suggesting that it is in breach of its obligations under international refugee laws.

China is not alone, however, in branding asylum seekers as so-called “economic refugees” and forcibly repatriating them to face danger and persecution. Governments in Kirby’s own country, Australia, are notorious for the “refoulement” of refugees.

The real purpose of the accusation against China is to place it in the dock alongside North Korea, potentially opening up Chinese leaders to charges of complicity in “crimes against humanity.” The UN commission report feeds directly into the Obama administration’s escalating provocations and pressure against China throughout the Indo-Pacific region, as part of its “pivot to Asia.”

The US is targeting North Korea in particular because it is China’s only formal ally and acts as a buffer for China on its northern border. A change of regime in Pyongyang to one sympathetic to Washington would further tighten the noose of US alliances, bases and strategic partnerships around China.

Not surprisingly, the US State Department welcomed the UN report, saying it “clearly and unequivocally documents the brutal reality of North Korea.” An editorial in the Wall Street Journal praised the report for “naming and shaming Pyongyang’s accomplices in Beijing.”

The editorial continued, “The report marks the first major mention of China by name in a UN assessment of North Korea,” and concluded by bluntly declaring, “The report’s findings underscore that Western policy should focus on squeezing the regime with a goal of toppling it.”

The trip to Asia by US Secretary of State John Kerry over the past week signaled that the Obama administration intends to step up the “squeeze” not only on North Korea, but China as well. North Korea topped the agenda in Kerry’s talks with Chinese leaders. He told the media that China had to use “every tool at their disposal, all of the means of persuasion that they have” to compel North Korea to denuclearise.

By extending the accusations against the North Korean regime to “crimes against humanity”, the US is effectively ruling out any compromise or deal with North Korea and setting course for a confrontation with Pyongyang and its ally in Beijing.

Behind North Korea’s political crisis

23 December 2013

The summary trial and execution of North Korea’s no. 2 leader, Jang Song-thaek, on December 12 points to a deep internal crisis within the Pyongyang regime. Since the death of leader Kim Jong-il two years ago, his son and successor Kim Jong-un has removed around 100 of the country’s top 218 officials, including all but two of the seven who accompanied his father’s hearse.

The clearest indication of the turmoil inside North Korea comes from Jang’s supposed “confession,” which declared that he was planning to seize power “when the economy goes totally bankrupt and the state is on the verge of collapse.” Jang is being made the scapegoat for a stagnant, crisis-prone economy that is generating profound social tensions and instability in the police-state regime.

Whatever the immediate reason for the factional infighting, the chief responsibility for the political turmoil lies not in Pyongyang, but in Washington. The Obama administration, as part of its “pivot to Asia” aimed at undermining North Korea’s chief ally China, has intensified the longstanding US blockade of the country, transforming Pyongyang into a political pressure cooker.

Washington has maintained an attitude of unrestrained hostility toward North Korea for more than six decades. US imperialism and its allies fought a devastating war from 1950 to 1953 to prop up the right-wing South Korean regime of US-installed strongman Syngman Rhee—a war that killed millions of soldiers and civilians and left the Korean Peninsula in ruins. An armistice ended the fighting, but a peace treaty was never signed, meaning that a state of war still exists.

For the US, the target of the Korean War was not just North Korea, but China, where the US-backed Kuomintang was overthrown in the 1949 Chinese Revolution. Commander of the US-led forces, General Douglas MacArthur, advocated the use of atomic weapons against China as its forces pushed back against American troops approaching the Chinese border. Throughout the Cold War, the US military stationed tens of thousands of troops, as well as warships and warplanes, in South Korea and continues to do so today.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War only resulted in the intensification of American pressure on North Korea. Even though it had kept tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea for decades, the US used North Korea’s limited nuclear facilities as the pretext for maintaining its military bases in South Korea and Japan. After North Korea pulled out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the Clinton administration took the peninsula to the brink of war in 1994, before pulling back and signing an agreement known as the Agreed Framework to denuclearise North Korea.

The uneasy standoff and tentative moves toward a rapprochement between North and South Korea under the so-called “Sunshine Policy” came to a rapid end with the installation of the Bush administration. In 2002, Bush signalled his determination to escalate the confrontation with North Korea by branding it part of an “axis of evil” along with Iraq and Iran. Bush made explicit what has been the essential US strategy all along—to cripple the country economically in order to produce a political implosion in Pyongyang.

As the US-led occupation of Iraq turned into a military quagmire, Bush was compelled to turn to China to wind back tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The Bush administration took part in Beijing-sponsored six-party talks, but as with the Agreed Framework, never had the slightest intention of making concessions to Pyongyang.

The end of Soviet aid after 1991 left North Korea dependent on China and in a profound economic crisis. Like Stalinist regimes around the world, Pyongyang responded by moving to restore capitalism. However, its plans were undermined by the US denial of access to the global economy and foreign investment. Pyongyang’s nuclear tests since 2006 have been a desperate attempt to gain leverage in negotiations.

The Obama administration has ramped up the pressure on North Korea as part of its shift in foreign policy from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Asia. The so-called “pivot” is a comprehensive and extremely reckless strategy aimed at diplomatically undercutting and militarily encircling China. On coming to office, Obama made no attempt to restart the six-party talks but instead systematically wound up tensions on the Korean Peninsula—using North Korean nuclear and rocket tests to impose new sanctions and pressure China to do the same. When Pyongyang reacted to the latest UN sanctions in March with wild but empty threats, the US provocatively flew nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers into South Korea and exploited the opportunity to expand its anti-ballistic missile systems in Asia.

Just as Obama’s “pivot” has inflamed territorial disputes in the South China and East China Seas, so it has produced a highly volatile situation on the Korean Peninsula. Beijing has propped up the Pyongyang regime as an important strategic buffer against US forces in the region, but it can ill afford a political upheaval on its northern border. Since April, China has been pressuring North Korea to make concessions to the US. The execution of Jang, who was widely regarded as closely aligned to Beijing, appears to be in response.

Behind its façade of unity, the North Korean regime is clearly under stress and very brittle. A political meltdown in Pyongyang would immediately raise the danger of conflict as the US and its allies sought to exploit the crisis to manufacture a regime aligned with Washington—moves that China would certainly try to counter.

The Korean Peninsula is just one of the dangerous flashpoints in the Indo-Pacific that US imperialism has fuelled as it seeks to use its military might to ensure its continued domination of the region. The only social force capable of ending the rising danger of a catastrophic war is the international working class, through a unified struggle to abolish capitalism and restructure society on the basis of a world planned socialist economy.

Peter Symonds

US officials turn down North Korean offer of nuclear talks

By Ben McGrath 

20 September 2013

Washington has flatly rebuffed a North Korean offer to resume international talks on its nuclear program, days after reports emerged of activity at North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor.

While attending a Beijing conference, planned to coincide with the anniversary of an earlier agreement on North Korean disarmament signed on September 19, 2005, Pyongyang’s chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan stated: “We are ready to enter the six-party talks without preconditions.”

These are talks involving the United States, North Korea, and four regional powers: China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea.

China also pushed for the resumption of the six-party talks. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated at the conference in Beijing, “The situation on the peninsula was relatively stable when each party actively participated in negotiations. The situation was tense or even directionless when the talks stalemated.”

The United States, backed by South Korea and Japan, flatly rejected any such talks, however. US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “The onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations.”

The US has repeatedly made clear that it would only return to six-party talks if Pyongyang agreed in advance to give up its nuclear program—something the Stalinist regime has indicated it is not prepared to do.

Last week, US officials charged that North Korea had restarted the Yongbyon reactor, based on satellite images taken on August 31. David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which helped analyze the photos, said: “We know they’re producing steam, but we don’t know if this is a test or if the reactor is up and running.”

The State Department’s Harf criticized the North, stating: “Suffice to say, if it was true, it would be a violation of the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and, of course, contrary to North Korea’s commitments under its September 19, 2005 joint statement.”

Located north of the capital, Pyongyang, Yongbyon is the North’s only source of weapons-grade plutonium. The site was setup and developed in the 1950s and 1960s, with aid from the USSR, though the current facility was built by the North Koreans in 1986. As part of an agreement signed in 2005 during six-party talks, the reactor was shut down in 2007 in return for aid. This deal collapsed in 2008, however, after the US provocatively demanded additional verification.

Washington’s refusal to take up Pyongyang’s offer comes shortly after pulling back temporarily from attacking Syria, risking a war with Iran and Russia, in its efforts to topple the Syrian regime. Faced with overwhelming popular opposition in the United States and Europe, and the risk of a world war, Washington seized on a deal brokered by the Russians to inspect and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons programs. The Obama administration has emphasized that the war has not been called off, merely postponed.

The North Korean regime has long sought to use its nuclear program as a bargaining chip, offering to give it up in exchange for US guarantees that it could establish ties with Washington and integrate itself into the world capitalist economy. Ultimately, however, Pyongyang’s attempts have run afoul of the deep geopolitical tensions in the region. These have now been brought to a boil by Washington’s aggressive “pivot to Asia,” aimed at isolating China and maintaining US geopolitical supremacy in Asia.

In April this year, the United States carried out a series of provocations against North Korea, inflaming tensions and risking war, which included flying nuclear bombers over the Korean peninsula and dropping dummy bombs. All of this proceeded according to what US officials called a “playbook,” making clear that war preparations had been planned well in advance.

In keeping pressure on North Korea, Washington is making clear that its war drive against Syria and Iran in the Middle East will not distract it from continuing the “pivot to Asia.” Indeed, they are preparing to bring to East Asia the method of lies and provocations linked to “weapons of mass destruction” that were first used to justify US wars in the Middle East.

In August, during the ASEAN meetings in Brunei, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-jin to draw attention to North Korea. Hagel later told Congress that North Korea has a large stockpile of chemical weapons. His spokesperson George Little simply said, “We have very good information” on the issue.

Hagel’s spokesperson connected the case for war against Syria using the North Korean threat, saying, “If we sit idly by and allow the Syrian regime to perpetrate atrocities the likes of which we’ve seen recently, then what signal does that send to countries like North Korea?”

In trying to encourage China to agree to an attack on Syria last week, James Miller, the US undersecretary of defense said of his talks with Chinese officials: “I emphasized the massive chemical weapons arsenal that North Korea has, and that we didn’t want to live in a world in which North Korea felt that the threshold for chemical weapons usage had been lowered.”

The South Korean government has also taken up the US political line against the North and by extension, against Syria. Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin followed up his visit with Hagel by echoing the same concerns over chemical weapons and backing the war against Syria.

On Tuesday, South Korea released a statement condemning Syria for using of chemical weapons, citing the UN report released the day before. Even though the report did not assign blame for the attack to the regime or the US-backed Islamist opposition, the statement declared: “The U.N. report released on Sept. 16 seems to back up past assessments that the Syrian government is responsible for the massive use of chemical weapons.”

Since coming to office in February, President Park Geun-hye, while speaking of building trust with North Korea, maintained the unpopular hardline stance of her predecessor Lee Myung-back in order to maintain Seoul’s alignment on the US “pivot.” Her government’s support of a US war on Syria and accusations over North Korean chemical weapons will only add to tensions on the Korean peninsula and the wider region.

The Threat of Nuclear War, North Korea or the United States?

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, July 25, 2013

nuke2While the Western media portrays North Korea’s nuclear weapons program as a threat to Global Security, it fails to acknowledge that the US has being threatening North Korea with a nuclear attack for more than half a century.

On July 27, 2013, Armistice Day, Koreans in the North and the South will be commemorating the end of the Korean war (1950-53). Unknown to the broader public, the US had envisaged the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea at the very outset of the Korean War in 1950. In the immediate wake of the war, the US deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea for use on a pre-emptive basis against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in violation of the July 1953 Armistice Agreement. 

“The Hiroshima Doctrine” applied to North Korea

US nuclear doctrine pertaining to Korea was established following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which were largely directed against civilians.

The strategic objective of a nuclear attack under the“Hiroshima doctrine” was to trigger a “massive casualty producing event” resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. The objective was to terrorize an entire nation, as a means of military conquest. Military targets were not the main objective: the notion of “collateral damage” was used as a justification for the mass killing of civilians, under the official pretence that Hiroshima was “a military base” and that civilians were not the target.

In the words of President Harry Truman:

“We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. … This weapon is to be used against Japan … [We] will use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new. …  The target will be a purely military one… It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.” (President Harry S. Truman, Diary, July 25, 1945)

“The World will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima a military base.That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians..” (President Harry S. Truman in a radio speech to the Nation, August 9, 1945).

[Note: the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; the Second on Nagasaki, on August 9, on the same day as Truman’s radio speech to the Nation]

Nobody within the upper echelons of the US government and military believed that Hiroshima was a military base, Truman was lying to himself and to the American public. To this day the use of nuclear weapons against Japan is justified as a necessary cost for bringing the war to an end and ultimately “saving lives”.

US Nuclear Weapons Stockpiled and Deployed in South Korea

Barely a few years after the end of the Korean War, the US initiated its deployment of nuclear warheads in South Korea. This deployment in Uijongbu and Anyang-Ni had been envisaged as early as 1956.

It is worth noting that the US decision to bring nuclear warheads to South Korea was in blatant violation of  Paragraph 13(d) of the Armistice Agreement which prohibited the warring factions from introducing new weapons into Korea.

The actual deployment of nuclear warheads started in January 1958, four and a half years after the end of the Korean War, “with the introduction of five nuclear weapon systems: the Honest John surface-to-surface missile, the Matador cruise missile, the Atomic-Demolition Munition (ADM) nuclear landmine, and the 280-mm gun and 8-inch (203mm) howitzer.” (See The nuclear information project: US Nuclear Weapons in Korea)

The Davy Crockett projectile was deployed in South Korea between July 1962 and June 1968. The warhead had selective yields up to 0.25 kilotons. The projectile weighed only 34.5 kg (76 lbs). Nuclear bombs for fighter bombers arrived in March 1958, followed by three surface-to-surface missile systems (Lacrosse, Davy Crockett, and Sergeant) between July 1960 and September 1963. The dual-mission Nike Hercules anti-air and surface-to-surface missile arrived in January 1961, and finally the 155-mm Howitzer arrived in October 1964. At the peak of this build-up, nearly 950 warheads were deployed in South Korea.

Four of the weapon types only remained deployed for a few years, while the others stayed for decades. The 8-inch Howitzer stayed until late 1991, the only weapon to be deployed throughout the entire 33-year period of U.S. nuclear weapons deployment to South Korea. The other weapons that stayed till the end were the air delivered bombs (several different bomb types were deployed over the years, ending with the B61) and the 155-mm Howitzer nuclear artillery. (Ibid)

Officially the US deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea lasted for 33 years. The deployment was targeted against North Korea as well as China and the Soviet Union.

This composite image shows the LGM-30G Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) (L) and the LG-118A Peacekeeper missile(R). (AFP Photo/US DoD)

This composite image shows the LGM-30G Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) (L) and the LG-118A Peacekeeper missile(R). (AFP Photo/US DoD)

South Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program

Concurrent and in coordination with the US deployment of nuclear warheads in South Korea, the ROK had initiated its own nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s. The official story is that the US exerted pressure on Seoul to abandon their nuclear weapons program and “sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in April 1975 before it had produced any fissile material.” (Daniel A. Pinkston, “South Korea’s Nuclear Experiments,” CNS Research Story, 9 November 2004,]

The ROK’s nuclear initiative was from the outset in the early 1970s under the supervision of the US and was developed as a component part of the US deployment of nuclear weapons, with a view to threatening North Korea.

Moreover, while this program was officially ended in 1978, the US promoted scientific expertise as well as training of the ROK military in the use of nuclear weapons. And bear in mind: under the ROK-US CFC agreement, all operational units of the ROK are under joint command headed by a US General. This means that all the military facilities and bases established by the Korean military are de facto joint facilities. There are a total of 27 US military facilities in the ROK (See List of United States Army installations in South Korea – Wikipedia)

The Planning of Nuclear Attacks against North Korea from the Continental US and from Strategic US Submarines

According to military sources, the removal of US nuclear weapons from South Korea was initiated in the mid 1970s. It was completed in 1991:

The nuclear weapons storage site at Osan Air base was deactivated in late 1977. This reduction continued over the following years and resulted in the number of nuclear weapons in South Korea dropping from some 540 in 1976 to approximately 150 artillery shells and bombs in 1985. By the time of the Presidential Nuclear Initiative in 1991, roughly 100 warheads remained, all of which had been withdrawn by December 1991. (The nuclear information project: withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from South Korea)

According to official statements, the US withdrew its nuclear weapons from South Korea in December 1991.

This withdrawal from Korea did not in any way modify the US threat of nuclear war directed against the DPRK. On the contrary: it was tied to changes in US military strategy with regard to the deployment of nuclear warheads. Major North Korean cities were to be targeted with nuclear warheads from US continental locations and from US strategic submarines (SSBN)  rather than military facilities in South Korea:

After the withdrawal of [US] nuclear weapons from South Korea in December 1991, the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base has been tasked with nuclear strike planning against North Korea. Since then, strike planning against North Korea with non-strategic nuclear weapons has been the responsibility of fighter wings based in the continental United States. One of these is the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. …

“We simulated fighting a war in Korea, using a Korean scenario. … The scenario…simulated a decision by the National Command Authority about considering using nuclear weapons….We identified aircraft, crews, and [weapon] loaders to load up tactical nuclear weapons onto our aircraft….

With a capability to strike targets in less than 15 minutes, the Trident D5 sea-launched ballistic missile is a “mission critical system” for U.S. Forces Korea. Ballistic Missile Submarines and Long-Range Bombers

In addition to non-strategic air delivered bombs, sea-launched ballistic missiles onboard strategic Ohio-class submarines (SSBNs) patrolling in the Pacific appear also to have a mission against North Korea. A DOD General Inspector report from 1998 listed the Trident system as a “mission critical system” identified by U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea as “being of particular importance to them.”

Although the primary mission of the Trident system is directed against targets in Russia and China, a D5 missile launched in a low-trajectory flight provides a unique very short notice (12-13 minutes) strike capability against time-critical targets in North Korea. No other U.S. nuclear weapon system can get a warhead on target that fast. Two-three SSBNs are on “hard alert” in the Pacific at any given time, holding Russian, Chinese and North Korean targets at risk from designated patrol areas.

Long-range strategic bombers may also be assigned a nuclear strike role against North Korea although little specific is known. An Air Force map (see below) suggests a B-2 strike role against North Korea. As the designated carrier of the B61-11 earth penetrating nuclear bomb, the B-2 is a strong candidate for potential nuclear strike missions against North Korean deeply buried underground facilities.

As the designated carrier of the B61-11 earth penetrating nuclear bomb [with an explosive capacity between one third and six times a Hiroshima bomb] and a possible future Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, the B-2 stealth bomber could have an important role against targets in North Korea. Recent upgrades enable planning of a new B-2 nuclear strike mission in less than 8 hours. (Ibid)

“Although the South Korean government at the time confirmed the withdrawal, U.S. affirmations were not as clear. As a result, rumors persisted for a long time — particularly in North and South Korea — that nuclear weapons remained in South Korea. Yet the withdrawal was confirmed by Pacific Command in 1998 in a declassified portion of the CINCPAC Command History for 1991.” (The nuclear information project: withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from South Korea, emphasis added))

The Bush Administration’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review: Pre-emptive Nuclear War

The Bush administration in its 2001 Nuclear Posture Review established the contours of a new post 9/11 “pre-emptive” nuclear war doctrine, namely that nuclear weapons could be used as an instrument of “self-defense” against non-nuclear states

“Requirements for U.S. nuclear strike capabilities” directed against North Korea were established as part of  a Global Strike mission under the helm of  US Strategic Command Headquarters in Omaha Nebraska, the so-called CONPLAN 8022, which was directed against a number of “rogue states”including North Korea as well as China and Russia.

On November 18, 2005, the new Space and Global Strike command became operational at STRATCOM after passing testing in a nuclear war exercise involving North Korea.

Current U.S. Nuclear strike planning against North Korea appears to serve three roles: The first is a vaguely defined traditional deterrence role intended to influence North Korean behavior prior to hostilities.

This role was broadened somewhat by the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review to not only deter but also dissuade North Korea from pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

Why, after five decades of confronting North Korea with nuclear weapons, the Bush administration believes that additional nuclear capabilities will somehow dissuade North Korea from pursuing weapons of mass destruction [nuclear weapons program] is a mystery. (Ibid, emphasis added)

Who is the Threat? North Korea or the United States?

The asymmetry of nuclear weapons capabilities between the US and the DPRK must be emphasised. According to (April 2013) the United States:

“possesses 5,113 nuclear warheads, including tactical, strategic, and non-deployed weapons.”

According to the latest official New START declaration, out of more than 5113 nuclear weapons,

“the US deploys 1,654 strategic nuclear warheads on 792 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers…” (April 2013).

Moreover, according to The Federation of American Scientists the U.S. possesses 500 tactical nuclear warheads. ( April 2013)

In contrast  the DPRK, according to the same source:

 “has separated enough plutonium for roughly 4-8 nuclear warheads. North Korea unveiled a centrifuge facility in 2010, buts ability to produce highly-enriched uranium for weapons remains unclear.”

According to expert opinion:

“there is no evidence that North Korea has the means to lob a nuclear-armed missile at the United States or anyone else. So far, it has produced several atomic bombs and tested them, but it lacks the fuel and the technology to miniaturize a nuke and place it on a missile” ( North Korea: What’s really happening – April 5, 2013)

According to Siegfried Hecker, one of America’s pre-eminent nuclear scientists:

“Despite its recent threats, North Korea does not yet have much of a nuclear arsenal because it lacks fissile materials and has limited nuclear testing experience,” (Ibid)

The threat of nuclear war does not emanate from the DPRK but from the US and its allies.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the unspoken victim of US military aggression, has been incessantly portrayed as a war mongering nation, a menace to the American Homeland and a “threat to World peace”. These stylized accusations have become part of a media consensus.

Meanwhile, Washington is now implementing a $32 billion refurbishing of strategic nuclear weapons as well as a revamping of its tactical nuclear weapons, which according to a 2002 Senate decision“are harmless to the surrounding civilian population.”

These continuous threats and actions of latent aggression directed against the DPRK should also be understood as part of the broader US military agenda in East Asia, directed against China and Russia.

It is important that people across the land, in the US, Western countries, come to realize that the United States rather than North Korea or Iran is a threat to global security.

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