US President Donald Trump made the unprecedented threat to “totally destroy” North Korea, not in a tweet or off the cuff remark, but in a written speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 20. No other leader of a country has ever stood before the UN and openly stated its intention to destroy another country.
Coupled with Trump’s earlier threat to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea, this threat must be seen as one that at least includes the possibility of a nuclear attack.
It is true Trump set conditions for this threat to be carried out — specifically that North Korea would threaten the US or its allies. But he left vague what this means.
Trump has repeatedly said that the US would not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea with the ability to deliver a weapon to the United States
North Korea is already a nuclear-armed state. Its recent missile tests demonstrate that it is well on its way to be able to hit the US, and it already has the capacity to hit the US-claimed territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.
North Korea has repeatedly said it will continue its nuclear and missile program unless the US finally puts an end to the Korean War by signing a peace treaty with it.
Bipartisan war drive
No US politician, from Bernie Sanders on the left to the most extreme right-wing Republican, has indicated any support for such a move. On the contrary, with bipartisan support the US just completed its annual belligerent “war games” in South Korea whose aim is to threaten the North.
These “games” include the South’s army, but that army is under the command of the US occupying force.
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jai-in, was elected on the promise of seeking dialogue with the North and restricting the deployment of the US Thaad anti-missile system. But Trump bullied Moon into reversing his stance on both. Now South Korea is deploying a special commando group with the avowed public goal of assassinating the North’s leadership.
One purpose of Trump’s UN threat is to pressure China to stop supplying oil to the North, which would devastate its economy, in the hopes that this would force it to abandon its nuclear program.
This is unlikely to occur. China does not want the North to collapse, which would be the consequence of an oil embargo. That would likely lead to a US invasion, resulting in a united Korea as a militarised US client state on its borders.
Even if China did cut off North Korea’s oil, a desperate North, facing collapse, would likely strike back. When then-president Franklin Roosevelt imposed an oil embargo on Japan as part of the intensifying rivalry between the two powers, Japan replied by striking at the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, triggering the spread of World War II to the Pacific.
It is obvious that the rising tensions between North Korea and the US pose a serious danger. Trump upped the ante with his UN speech.
North Korea has solid reasons for fearing a US attack, given Washington’s hostility towards it going back to the end of WWII.
After the defeat of Japan, which had been the colonial power in Korea, the US tried to occupy the Peninsula as the spoils of war. However, it was only able to occupy the southern part of Korea, while the USSR occupied the northern section. This stalemate explains why two Koreas emerged.
What became South Korea was ruled by the US military directly from 1945 to 1948. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union withdrew its armed forces from the North. In 1948, the US military staged phony elections in the South, installing the first in a long line of dictators up until 1987.
At the end of the war, the US tried to occupy parts of China, much of which had been occupied by Japan. China was the big prize the US coveted.
However, this plan had to be scrapped because of a mass uprising in the US armed forces called the “bring us home” movement, which balked at invading what was viewed as a US ally.
The US had influence with the Chinese government, being run at that time by the nationalists.
But in 1949, the Chinese Revolution completely tore the country out of the US imperialists’ hands. China now became Washington’s enemy.
The US used hostilities between North and South Korea as the pretext to invade Korea in 1950. US forces quickly moved deep into the North and threatened to continue into China. China countered by sending its army into Korea, blocking the US advance.
At that point, then-US president Harry Truman considered using atomic weapons against the Chinese and North Koreans. Nine nuclear bombs were transferred to the US-occupied Japanese island of Okinawa, along with bombers to deliver them. Fortunately, Washington decided against using them, which would have meant a major war with China and the Soviet Union.
The war continued until 1953, when a ceasefire recognised that it had become a stalemate. The North and South were again divided along basically the same lines as before the US invasion.
An armistice was signed, but not a peace treaty. The US and its puppet regime in the South remain in a state of war with the North.
China withdrew its troops from the North, but the US has maintained its occupation force in the South to this day. Washington has continued its hostile stance toward the North, including its “war games” practices for invading it.
In 1958, the US stationed tactical and strategic nuclear weapons in the South, aimed at the North, which would also be used against China and the Soviet Union in case of a general nuclear war. At its height, there were 950 US nuclear warheads in South Korea.
The US weapons were removed in 1991 as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction treaty. The US threat against the North then resided in the nuclear weapons in the US Naval fleet in the western Pacific, as well as other parts of Washington’s nuclear arsenal.
Beside the enormous inequality between small North Korea and the heavily armed US, there is Washington’s gross hypocrisy. The US was the first country to develop Atomic weapons and to keep a monopoly on them. That began the nuclear arms race.
The US is the only country to unleash atomic weapons against civilians, in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The purpose of those bombings had nothing to do with Japan, which had already been defeated, but to demonstrate to others that the US was willing to use such weapons, despite the human cost.
The US has never renounced the first use of nuclear weapons, and is opposed to any possible treaty to abolish such weapons.
Trump’s belligerent “America First” speech at the UN included much more than the threat to destroy North Korea, taking aim at much of the world. He stepped up threats against Iran, Cuba, Syria and Venezuela, among others.