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How Responsible Is the U.S. in Pushing North Korea to the Brink of War and Trump's Cold War Paradox Printer friendly page Print This
By Dallas Darling
Submitted by Author
Friday, Aug 4, 2017

Did you know that in 1993 the U.S. redirected some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles away from targets in the former Soviet Union to targets in North Korea, or that the nation would have stayed out of the nuclear business if not for outrageous U.S. economic sanctions? Did you know the U.S. humiliated Koreans as early as 1866 through economic imperialism, or that Koreans adhere to a popular form of resistance against foreign powers-which also includes military arrogance-known as “juche sasang?” And are you familiar with the Cold War Paradox that has plagued every president since WWII?

Since most us learn what little we know from the mainstream’s military-industrialized media, it’s easy to view North Korea and its people as a major threat to the U.S.-let alone U.S. And since we’ve never been on the receiving end of a full-fledged military invasion and armed occupation, or having most of our cities bombed to oblivion and our families massacred, it’s just as easy to supplant American Exceptionalism with “humanness” or approach any military engagement with a kind of ethnocentric benevolence.

Although the situation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missile program has the potential to blow up any moment, we’ll never find the right answers if we’re always asking the wrong questions. Indeed, one question that never gets asked is just how responsible has the U.S. been in pushing North Korea to the brink of war-nuclear or conventional? What’s more, and given that the U.S. seems to still be stuck in a Cold War Paradox, is the U.S. really pursuing a “war of  last resort?”

Self Determination and National Identity Runs Deep
Koreans, to be sure, know the imperial arrogance of the U.S. military and its soldiers in military vehicles. Along with South Koreans, who still demonstrate against U.S. bases and battle to regain their lands, during the Korean War (1950-1953) North Koreans still recall the attitude of occupying troops. From being crushed by military vehicles to being thrown off of busses and trains, including massacres and incidences of rape and homicide, decades of anti-American resentment still boils underneath the service.

But Korean grievances against the U.S. date back much further. Indeed, and having observed how the U.S. forced Japan and China to open its borders and gain markets for its products and to exploit cheap labor and resources, Korea decided to become a “Hermit Kingdom.” Still, and as early as 1866, Korea’s self-determination lost out against U.S. warships and ground forces. In other words, after a series of battles and imposed negotiations, Koreans had to submit to U.S. trade policies and a more humiliating defeat.

Korea’s distinct and innovative culture, along with its language called Hangul, which is still a powerful national identification, suffered even more under Chinese and Japanese military occupations. A popular form of resistance, known as “juche sasang,” or self reliance and popular resistance, consequently developed. Indeed, it is this same political ideology that many Koreans-including North Korea’s King Jong-Un-embraces. It is this same proud ideology that they will also fight to defend even if it means certain death.

The “Other” Forgotten Wars-Then and Now
As far as the Korean War and eventual division between North and South Korea, with U.S. troops occupying the south, it was another terrible humiliation. Koreans in both regions were not only looking forward to a quick reunification and to a time of self-determination, but they longed for a racist U.S. general, John R. Hodge, installed as viceroy of the Republic of Korea (ROK) to leave. Just as nationalists insurrections broke out, so did the Korean War, another piece to America’s and Soviet’s Cold War strategy.

Fearing that 30 percent of Koreans in the south were communist sympathizers, a secret policy of the U.S. Armed Forces was adopted, one that is just beginning to be known: episodic massacres of Korean civilians.(1) General Douglas MacArthur moreover ordered the wholesale destruction of Korea to gain the upper hand. Electricity production was destroyed. Dams were destroyed. Precious rice fields were flooded, and the introduction of a new weapon-napalm-was dropped on nearly every Korean settlement.

When the war was finally fought to a standstill, another humiliation occurred: the demilitarized zone, with Chinese and DPRK troops in the north and U.N./U.S. troops stationed in the south. To this day, the U.S.-client government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) still continues to repress. (During a popular uprising in 1980, for instance, over two thousand protesters in Kwangju were massacred.) Meanwhile, hundreds of GI border towns still exist, their main activities an affront to the sensibilities of many Koreans.

Another little known threat that North Korea faces is when in 1993, the U.S. decided to redirect some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles in Alaska from targets in the former Soviet Union to targets in the DPRK. Since this act was in conjunction with massive war games off Korea‘s coast-still being performed today, this might indeed explain why Kim Jong-Un is hell-bent on developing ballistic missiles to reach Alaska. In other words, North Koreans believed such events were hostile acts-and probably for good reason.

Setting Up North Korea for a Failed Peace and Cold War Paradox Redux

Whether or not North Korea has a schizophrenic leader, it seems the U.S. may have a schizophrenic foreign policy. To be sure, the arming and training and then prompting of Saddam Hussein’s forces to invade Iran, only to be later invaded by the same nation over fictional claims of weapons of mass destruction, caused the DPRK to withdraw from the Nonproliferation Treaty. It also influenced the nation not to submit to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections of “undeclared” nuclear sites.

What’s more, the DPRK would have been more than happy to stay out of the nuclear business altogether, were it not for outrageous economic sanctions pushed by the U.S. that simultaneously limited supply and severely constricted North Korean access to dollars-the currency in which world oil is denominated.(2) This little known strategy, using energy as a political weapon, caused factories to close, fertilizer to disappear, crops to cease, and hydroelectric plants that ran hospitals to shut down.

Not only was North Korea now in a position of extreme energy vulnerability, but the U.S. failed to act when it suffered a series of floods and severe droughts-causing some North Koreans to literally eat bark off of trees. Meanwhile, the U.S. threatened to punish South Korea if they even dared tried to help their brothers and sisters in need-what then President George W. Bush called the Axis of Evil. Given the “bad geography” of North Korea, perhaps the only thing North Koreans have left is the rugged spirit of juche sasang.

President Donald Trump just assured America that his administration “will handle” the North Korean crisis, blaming the situation on his predecessors. Perhaps he’s right, at least, about blaming his predecessors. To be sure, the Cold War Paradox haunted each leader. On the one hand, Korea was never vital to the U.S., nor did the U.S. ever have a real strategy for Korea. On the other hand, Americans knew if they didn’t stand up for their South Korean ally, their other allies around the world would lose confidence.

Handle With Care and Tread Lightly, Since Many Will Be Involved
As for “handling” North Korea, will it be responsible or irresponsible. More war games, aircraft carriers, supersonic bomber flyovers, or threats like “the time for talk is over,” won’t do much good. Neither will it do any good to demonize the DPRK or talk of regime change. What’s more, very little will be gained by ignoring Korean history and culture, or trying to blackmail Kim Jong-Un with nuclear bombs-let alone a major conventional war. Chastising China for not doing enough is irresponsible too.

To avert a humanitarian catastrophe, the only solution is compromise. The U.S. will have to unravel its shameful past with Korea by acknowledging juche sasang, redirecting its nuclear missiles, and discussing the eventual removal of occupation forces-with the DPRK doing the same. Direct talks between North and South Korea, and indirect talks with China and Russia, would moreover be beneficial. Finally, if President Trump and his administration doesn’t handle Korea responsibly, it could implode AND explode.

Leader Kim Jong-Un and the DPRK “must” live up to their responsibilities, gradually being inched back into the global community of nations that will hopefully learn to be built upon a foundation of true equality. Given their long history of involvement in the Korean Peninsula, the Americans, the Chinese, the Russians, and even the Japanese, must also be seen to tread lightly, knowing that whatever happens will probably involve them all-including their allies.

Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John‘s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for

(1) Goff, Stan. Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century. New York, New York: Soft Skull Press, 2004., p. 134.
(2) Ibid., p. 142.

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