Why we defend Korea

May 31, 2018

Ever since its establishment in 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been under the threat — at times open, at times implied — of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the U.S.

Especially tense was the period of the Korean War, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur actually proposed laying down a radioactive cobalt belt along the border with People’s China. This threat came even as U.S. Air Force planes were destroying — with “conventional” bombs — every building in North Korea over one story and millions of Korean people were dying in the war.

The real reason for that war was the great anti-colonial, pro-socialist revolution that had triumphed in the North, in which the political rule of Korean landlords and bosses — collaborators with Japanese colonial rule since 1910 — was pulled down and the masses liberated. It is no accident that the years of the Korean war were also a time of the most virulent attacks on progressive forces in the U.S. — the era of McCarthyism.

Since then, the Pentagon has organized, at great expense, semi-annual war “games” by the U.S. and South Korea that simulate an attack on the DPRK by nuclear-capable ships and planes. They have quite openly been described as exercises in “decapitating” the North’s leadership and, in recent years, have included military forces from Japan, the hated former colonial power.

Now, some 70 years since the division of the Korean nation was formalized by the U.S. setting up a puppet regime in the South, there is a glimmer of hope that discussions among both Koreas and the U.S. could bring an end to the state of war declared in 1950 that persists to this day. The enthusiasm of Koreans in the South, as well as the North, for such a discussion was made clear to the world at the time of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, when both Koreas marched together under one flag.

The nuclear weapons question

What has made it possible for such a discussion to even take place? The truth is that a new situation exists precisely because the DPRK now possesses nuclear weapons and the ability to use them if attacked.

We in the United States, of course, do not want another war. So how should we regard the nuclear capability of the DPRK?

It is a deterrent to a U.S. attack and therefore is an anti-war measure. The Koreans need such a powerful defense as long as they have no other guarantees against another U.S. war. They are the aggrieved party, and it is up to them to decide if and when their safety would be guaranteed without such weapons.

The DPRK has never attacked the U.S. They have only defended themselves from U.S. aggression, which took on monstrous proportions during the 1950-53 war.

The U.S. military has occupied South Korea since 1945. It sponsored a long line of military dictatorships in the South that carried out bloody repression there against anyone who even whispered sympathy for the North. The people’s movement in the South finally defeated the generals and ushered in civilian rule. However, despite decades of a popular movement against the military occupation, it has not yet been able to rid the country of U.S. troops and bases.

We have seen remarkable strides toward a rapprochement between North and South in recent months. And it looked as though the Trump administration was ready to sit down with the DPRK’s Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in to discuss concrete measures to defuse military tensions.

Now these expectations are up in the air. Trump has appointed as his national security adviser one of the most anti-DPRK figures possible — John Bolton, who in February wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal advocating a “preemptive” military strike against the DPRK. As of this writing, Trump, who at first was for the summit meeting but then rejected it, is now supposedly ­reconsidering.

These are life-and-death issues for all the peoples involved. They cannot be left to the whims of this extremely reactionary and unpredictable U.S. administration, which tells the world one thing today and another tomorrow.

People who understand the dangers need to make their voices heard. We need more demonstrations and other public statements opposing the current dangerous trend toward war coming from the U.S.

U.S. hands off Korea! Sign a peace treaty now!