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US imperialism, not North Korea, is the biggest threat

Brian Champ

April 23, 2013

US threats against North Korea are whipping up racism, providing a cover for US imperialism, and making it more difficult for the people of North Korea to overthrow their dictator.
The recent tension on the Korean peninsula started after UN condemnation of North Korea for launching a rocket into space last December, followed by the threat of economic sanctions. While North Korea claimed that the satellite launch was for peaceful and scientific purposes, the US asserted that it was dangerous because the rocket technology required could be used to launch long-range missiles targeting the US.

North Korea is the only country in the world to be condemned for launching its own satellite. In defiance, North Korea conducted it’s 3rd nuclear test, following the harsh UN economic sanctions and the military posturing from South Korea and the US. As South Korea socialist Kim Young-ik wrote of the North Korean regime, "their actions and rhetoric are the result—not the cause—of tensions ramped up by the US." The saber-rattling is a continuation of a patten that has been repeated over the past 20-plus years.

Since the end of the Cold War between the US and USSR, the North Korean regime has wanted to normalize relations with the US and solidify it’s place in the world system that has evolved since that time. Both Kim Ill-Sung and Kim Jung-Ill entertained ideas of visiting the US and going fishing with the US presidents.

While the fishing trip never occurred, the Agreed Framework pact was signed in 1994 between the US and North Korea, whereby in return for US provision of food supplies and fuel oil for heating and electricity production, North Korea agreed to halt the development of their nuclear power program.
But in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, the US didn't honor it’s side of the agreement, and it collapsed in 2003, with North Korea resuming the development of nuclear power. This is the context of North Korea being named as a part of the “axis of evil” by the Bush administration.

Having a boogeyman in North Korea was then, and is now, convenient for US foreign policy--allowing it to assert its power in North East Asia in order to counter the regional influence of China. The alleged threat from a “rogue” North Korean regime justifies its military bases in South Korea and Japan as well as the annual military demonstrations that are staged alongside South Korean military units near the North Korean border. Hysteria about North Korean missiles is used to justify the US "missile defense" system that militarizes space and reinforces US military supremacy.
But the hypocrisy of the situation is breathtaking given that the US is the only country in the world that has ever used nuclear weapons in a conflict, when they bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the very end of the Second World War, and has conducted, by far, the most nuclear weapon tests of any country in the world and today refuses to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, the US still has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, with more than 10,000 warheads.

In addition the largest military budget on the peninsula is not that of the North but belongs to the South: where North Korea spent $8.2 billion on the military, South Korea spent over three times as much ($26.1 billion).

The North Korea regime is pursuing nuclear weapons as a deterrent to US military aggression, having seen in the Iraq war what happens when these weapons are fictitious. They are well aware that talking the language of "nuclear weapons" seems to be the only way to get the US to the negotiation table. But this is a dangerous game as we can see by the increasing amount of anti-North Korean rhetoric that is being generated by much of the North American media.

But the fact is, by characterizing Kim Jung-Un as crazy and suicidal and bent on starting a nuclear conflict, much of this rhetoric is racist and indulges in fantasy to justify an increased US military presence in north east asia and increased domestic military expenditures in programs like National Missile Defense. The truth that both the US and North Korean regimes both know is that the North Korea is severely overmatched by US military power, but both regimes are using the rhetoric for their own international and internal agendas.
None of this is to say that there should be any illusions about the nature of the North Korean regime. It is an oppressive, state capitalist regime and has nothing to do with socialism. Nuclear weapons programs, no matter whether they are in the US or North Korea, have never protected working people, but the threat of their use can curtail critical movements from below. Since the relative stabilization of the division of the Korean peninsula between the North and South regimes after the Korean war, both have used the threat of military conflict with each other when facing resistance from below.

But US imperialism is the biggest threat in the world today, and we must defend countries like North Korea that are targeted by US imperialism. This does not mean we support the North Korean regime, but rather that it is only through struggle from below, crucially by workers, that the scourge of nuclear war can be relegated to the dustbin of history.
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