Korea, Vietnam and the U.S. war machine

By Deirdre Griswold
March 5, 2019

The latest summit meeting between Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and U.S. President Donald Trump ended abruptly in Hanoi on Feb. 28 with no agreement.

While Trump, with his outsized ego and unpredictable behavior, had wanted to get credit for some sort of peace deal, he himself laid the basis for the meeting’s failure with his appointments of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, both hard-liners against the DPRK.

On Feb. 28, 2018, Bolton had written a piece for the Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” In other words, he deserves the title of war maniac. Three weeks later, Trump appointed Bolton to be his national security adviser.

At the time of the appointment a year ago, many in the capitalist media here called Bolton out. Simon Kuper of the Financial Times wrote on April 4, “A warmonger is about to start work a few steps from Trump in a White House devoid of procedure.’’ An article in The American Conservative (!) was entitled, “A Madman on the National Security Council.” A piece in Salon magazine was headlined, “Bloodthirsty John Bolton eager to kill North Koreans.”

Where are these bourgeois critics now? Where is the New York Times? Their editorial on the appointment was headlined, “Yes, John Bolton Really Is That Dangerous.” (March 23) Yet their reporting now, with the collapse of the talks, is blaming “big egos and bad bets” on both sides. Seemingly forgotten are the U.S. threats to launch a nuclear war against the DPRK.

Pompeo’s role

Suppose you represented a small country that had been ravaged by the U.S. military in the early 1950s, when the U.S. Air Force bombed every single building above two stories in north Korea and millions died. When you, as a responsible person, read that a bloodthirsty warmonger is now advising the president of the U.S., wouldn’t you do everything you could to strengthen your country’s defenses?

Bolton is still national security adviser to the president, but he did not accompany Trump to the meeting with Kim Jong Un. How could the Koreans sit in the same room with him?

Instead, it was Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state, whom the Times called “the adult in the room” and described as “the primary architect of Trump’s continuing negotiations” with the DPRK.

But what was the U.S. position put forth by Pompeo at the talks? It was that the DPRK should give up all its nuclear weapons, materials and facilities in exchange for an end to U.S. economic sanctions.

What do the Koreans want? An end to the state of war that is still official U.S. policy toward Korea. There was only a ceasefire agreement in 1953. Under the state of war that is still in effect, the U.S. continues to station almost 30,000 troops in south Korea, and could launch an attack on the north at any time.

Who are the real war maniacs in the world? As of 2017, the U.S. possessed nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons, many of them deployed around the world, ready to be launched from planes, submarines and missile bases. Yet the ruling class here, after years of threatening the DPRK with nuclear devastation, is acting shocked that the Koreans have now developed the technology to defend themselves with nuclear weapons.

How can the U.S. expect the Koreans to accept an offer to end the sanctions — which are in fact a violation of international law, meant to starve the people of the DPRK — when they contains not one word about letting up on the military pressure against the country?

The obvious conclusion is that the U.S. “offer“ — crafted by Pompeo — was meant to blow up the talks. But none of the leading capitalist media will say this. Nor will any of the Democratic Party leaders, who criticize Trump’s super-reactionary stands on other questions and his blatant racism and sexism, but line up with the administration on Korea.

In fact, the U.S. ruling class and the Democratic Party have actually criticized Trump from the right — as difficult as that might seem — when it comes to him saying anything positive about north Korea.

It is standard procedure in all U.S. corporate media to depict the DPRK in the most insulting terms, using the same stock phrases over and over again. They also endlessly repeat the same lie — that U.S. troops are in south Korea to defend the people there, who are terrified of the north.

But that lie was blown out of the water during last year’s Olympic Games in south Korea, when it was obvious to the whole world that the people of the south enthusiastically welcomed the athletic teams of the north and south marching together under a common flag.

Relations between DPRK and Vietnam

There was another side to Kim Jong Un’s trip to Hanoi that has received little comment in the corporate media here. But it was important to the people of both Vietnam and Korea and to people around the world struggling for socialism.

The trip to Hanoi was the first by a leader of the DPRK since Kim Il Sung, the legendary liberator of Korea from Japanese colonial rule and organizer of its resistance to the U.S. war of 1950-53, visited Vietnam in 1964. The Korean leader met at that time with the equally legendary Ho Chi Minh, leader of the struggle to liberate Vietnam from French colonial rule and then from the U.S. invaders.

On March 1, Kim Jong Un laid wreaths at the Mausoleum to Ho Chi Minh and at the Vietnam War Memorial in Hanoi, a memorial to all those who died fighting for independence and socialism in the war with the United States. Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong hosted a banquet for Kim Jong Un and the Korean delegation.

Both these Asian countries were divided by Western imperialist powers. Both have suffered horrible human and material losses at the hands of the Pentagon. Both have to figure out how to survive and strengthen their socialist development in a world still dominated by imperialism.

The people of Vietnam and Korea are doing all they can to move forward. The question is: What can people here in the U.S. do to stay the hands of war maniacs like Bolton, as well as the more deceptive but equally dangerous “adults in the room” like Pompeo, so that wars fought for profits for the super-rich ruling class never happen again?