The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The U.S. Vs. North Korea:
Who Is the Real Threat to Peace?

Mar 3, 2003

In mid-February, the Bush administration announced that it was considering sanctions against North Korea. These sanctions involve cutting off the money sent to North Korea by Koreans living in Japan and reducing food aid–measures to squeeze this severely impoverished country, already plagued by widespread famine and malnutrition. According to Bush, the reason for such actions is that North Korea builds nuclear warheads and long-range missiles with the intent of delivering them all the way to the U.S.

In reality, it’s not the U.S. which is threatened by this small, underdeveloped, severely impoverished country. North Korea would not survive a nuclear confrontation with the world’s only superpower which owns the world’s largest and deadliest arsenal, both conventional and nuclear. The threats all go in the other direction, and have for over half a century.

Starting with the U.S. decision to divide Korea, followed by the U.S. war on Korea, the country was decimated. The U.S. heavily bombed North Korea, destroying much of its infrastructure. The U.S. also used chemical weapons in the war, causing widespread contamination and severe damage and disease in the local population, as well as among U.S. troops.

Since the Korean War in the 1950s, the U.S. has never really eased the pressure on North Korea. To this day, almost 50 years after the end of the fighting, the U.S. has refused to sign a peace treaty to officially end the war. The U.S. maintains 37,000 combat troops in South Korea in addition to the South Korean army, which is under U.S. joint command. These forces are supported by nuclear-armed submarines in the Pacific. While the U.S. is now accusing North Korea of planning to build nuclear weapons, for the past half century the U.S. itself has always kept the threat of a nuclear attack against North Korea alive.

In addition, the U.S. has isolated North Korea from the world by imposing a trade embargo on the country. The heavy U.S. bombing during the war had already thoroughly destroyed North Korea’s industry and infrastructure, effectively sending the country back 100 years. The embargo ever since has made sure that North Korea stays like that.

The end of the Cold War not only didn’t end North Korea’s isolation, it actually made things even worse for that country. The two major countries that had traded with North Korea and provided some aid during the Cold War years, the Soviet Union and China, cut off their subsidies to North Korea as they established closer ties with South Korea. Severe shortages, especially in food and energy, started to plague North Korea. In the mid-1990s, famine killed an estimated two million people, that is, 10% of the country’s population.

In 1994, after a standoff with the U.S. similar to the current one, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear reactor. In return, the Clinton administration promised North Korea two smaller nuclear reactors, to be delivered by 2003. The U.S. has not yet fulfilled this promise and says that the reactors will not be ready for use at least until 2005. Under the agreement, the U.S. had also begun to send North Korea an annual supply of 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to help out with the energy shortage, but the Bush administration stopped deliveries of fuel oil last year. On top of all this, Bush made his famous speech last year in which he mentioned North Korea among the three "terrorist" countries forming an "axis of evil." And when Bush made that speech, the U.S. was already waging war against another poor country, Afghanistan, and was getting ready to start a full-scale war on another member of Bush’s "axis of evil," Iraq.

North Korea does not threaten the U.S. The U.S. has threatened and continues to threaten North Korea. And not only North Korea. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has played the role of imperialist cop in eastern Asia. It fought two major wars in Korea and Viet Nam, to impose its rule.

Today, a total of 100,000 U.S. troops are still stationed in South Korea and Japan, backed by the most massive and modern weaponry in the world. The never-ending accusations against the supposedly "rogue" North Korean regime are a smokescreen and an excuse for the U.S. to maintain this large military presence in the region. It’s the American military presence which is the real threat to peace and security in eastern Asia as well as other parts of the world.