This week, the North and South Korean leadership held an historic meeting, eroding decades-long hostility between the two countries but does this signal the end of the “North Korean crisis,” or is it too soon to celebrate?
The United States is a country that, at any given time, is bombing at least seven (or eight) different countries, all the while threatening to bomb at least two or three more. Despite these unprecedented acts of aggression, North Korea – currently bombing no one – is inexplicably and without fail, the country that is universally branded as an uncontrollable threat to global security.
“It’s time to bomb North Korea,” wrote former government advisor Edward Luttwak in an opinion piece for Foreign Policy in January this year.
No, it isn’t. In fact, if I recall correctly, the US already bombed North Korea at least once before, committing an endless supply of potential war crimes in the process.
In the early 1950s, the US bombed North Korea so relentlessly that, according to DPRK, it destroyed over 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, 600,000 homes, and eventually killed off perhaps 20 percent of the country’s population. As noted by the Asia Pacific Journal, the US dropped so many bombs that they ran out of targets to hit, so they began punishing the local population by decimating the North’s irrigation systems instead:
“By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.”
No one considers this historical incident worth mentioning when discussing the so-called “threat” of North Korea. And this is only going to get worse. Not too long ago, Donald Trump’s now national security advisor, John Bolton, wrote an op-ed article published by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) entitled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” This is an idea so catastrophic that about a week later, the WSJ had no choice but to publish the counter viewpoint entitled “Striking North Korea First Is a Bad Proposal.”
Bolton replaced former National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, a man who was also reportedly one of the main architects of a secret plan to hit the North Korean leadership with a “bloody nose strike.” It speaks volumes that this man was apparently not even hawkish enough for Trump that he needed to be replaced by someone as bloodthirsty as Bolton.
How recent developments may influence North Korea’s talks with the US later this year
After this week’s historic meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the two countries formalized their new relationship through a statement which “confirmed” their stated “common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.” As you will be aware, this too is the apparent goal of Washington – to completely denuclearize the region.
However, this proposal comes with a catch: For North Korea, full denuclearization entails the complete withdrawal of all nuclear-capable US weapons within reach of the peninsula, as well as the withdrawal of its 28,500 troops from South Korea.This is a deal-breaker for Washington and may prove to be a sticking point, especially given that the US military still refuses to leave Japan, despite improved diplomatic relations in the decades following the end of World War Two and in addition to recent protests, some of which have last for over 5,000 consecutive days.
It is also the same reason that the US still has bases in Germany and troops in the Philippines where it is expected to increase its military footprint, even though it was formally kicked out of the country in 1991. Let’s face it, the US hardly ever leaves a country once its military has established a presence. Consider that in Syria, the US controls almost one third of the country, including Syria’s most oil-rich region, without any discernable legal basis to be there in the first place.
In other words, the US may pursue an inevitable, collapsible deal similar to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached with Iran in 2015, but ultimately it will never give North Korea the security that it seeks. Putting aside one’s own thoughts of the North Korean leadership, it was the US who destroyed North Korean livelihood to the point of no return in the early 1950s. Remember that Americans still struggle to reconcile with a lone attack on its sovereignty that took place seventeen years ago; surely in that context one can try to understand the plight of the North Korean people.
The real “threat” that North Korea poses
North Korea is not a threat because of its alleged nuclear weapons program. The US has over 1,000 military bases worldwide, has a military budget of $700 billion and a nuclear weapons stockpile so sophisticated that it could make entire continents uninhabitable. A war with North Korea would be no major challenge to the US.
No, North Korea is a threat for the same reason that Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran are a threat: natural resources and the ability to tie the development of those resources to a currency that will challenge the status of the US dollar.
You see, North Korea sits on reserves of more than 200 minerals, including rare earth minerals, which are believed to be worth up to 10 trillion USD. North Korea’s main ally, China, is currently in the process of realizing a monumental project known as the One Belt One Road initiative, which will connect China to the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and even the Pacific to the complete detriment of the US.
China has openly said that any nation can contribute to this proposed initiative and, unfortunately for the US, they were being one hundred percent sincere. In May last year, China invited North Korea to its Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. In other words, China might actually be years away from creating a “Silk Road” which takes advantage of these vast resources, while leaving the US out.
As of right now, China has already begun inking deals with other nations which involve the Chinese yuan, not the US dollar. It already launched its oil crude futures exchange earlier this year which opens the door for the yuan to be used to buy and sell oil on the global financial markets, further threatening the hegemony of the US dollar.
One can only imagine the effect that China’s proposal will have on the status of the dollar if this proposal comes to fruition and involves known US adversaries like North Korea.
The future of North Korean Talks: The Blunt Truth
The harsh reality of the matter is that Pyongyang knows what happened to Iraq and Libya will ultimately happen to North Korea (for the second time) should they be willing to sit down with the US for peace talks without receiving the quid pro quo they have been searching for.
This is not conjecture. “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” that the country’s decision to abandon its weapons programs in 2003 was undoubtedly “an invasion tactic to disarm the country” – according to North Korea’s Foreign Ministry. North Korea has been bombed by the US before, and they have no intention of letting that happen again. That is why, over and over again, the North Korean leadership has made it abundantly clear it will only give up its nuclear weapons program if the US meets them halfway:
“[T]he DPRK would neither put its nukes and ballistic rockets on the table of negotiations in any case nor flinch even an inch from the road of bolstering the nuclear force chosen by itself unless the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat to the DPRK are definitely terminated,” reads a statement from July 4, 2017.
Of course, North and South Korea are always free to pursue their own foreign policy agenda without the interference of the US. The decision to formally bring about the end of the Korean War is almost certainly progress, though one would be hard-pressed to realistically give credit for this positive development to the Trump administration, which has openly called for war in the Korean peninsula for over a year.
The presence of John Bolton in Trump’s already hawkish administration cannot be a coincidence, however, and it would appear that if the US gets its way, there will be no removal of the American military presence on North Korea’s border. Without this guarantee, North Korea will be unlikely to give up its weapons, as it has watched the US simulate an invasion of its territory every year without fail.
The current conundrum can best be described as a “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” type scenario, in which there are too many known people behind the scenes who have ulterior motives far beyond that of the fruition of a peaceful relationship between North and South Korea – at least not until there is a government in Pyongyang that is more representative of Washington’s economic interests.