Before a May 7 visit to US Congress by South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the Workers Solidarity Student Group — the student section of socialist group Workers Solidarity All Together — issued this statement about the threat to war on the Korean peninsula. It was translated by Chris Kim and is abridged from US Socialist Worker.
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Amid the continuing rise of military tensions on the Korean peninsula, South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, will make her first visit to the US since her inauguration in late February for a US-South Korean summit.
During her visit, she is likely to discuss strengthening the US-South Korea military alliance. South Korea's Blue House said the visit is “an important opportunity to take the broad strategic alliance [of the US and South Korea] to new heights”.
In plain language, this means that the US and its South Korean partner — the main forces responsible for the crisis on the Korean peninsula in the first place — will be getting together to add fuel to the fire. The result will be the further entanglement of South Korea in the instability of East Asia.
As socialists, we oppose all nuclear weapons, and we reject North Korea's bellicose behaviour, including its development of nuclear weapons. North Korea's nuclear ambitions don't contribute to peace on the Korean peninsula.
However, North Korea's provocations should be viewed as the result — not the cause — of the current crisis.
It has been the US-South Korea alliance of the past 20-plus years that has threatened peace on the Korean peninsula. It is the US, the world's most heavily armed military power, and South Korea, which spends more on its military each year than North Korea's entire GDP, that should be held accountable for the current situation.
The recent rise in US aggression is the crucial context for understanding the current crisis. The “Key Resolve” military training exercises that began in March were much larger than those in previous years. They were designed to demonstrate US capacity to attack North Korea with its state-of-the-art offensive weapons.
In the past two months, the US mobilised a nuclear submarine, B-52 bombers, B-2 stealth bombers and F-22 stealth fighters on the Korean peninsula, displaying their ability to use nuclear weapons to incinerate North Korea whenever they please.
At the same time, US officials preach about the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” and “a nuclear-free world” with nauseating hypocrisy.
The Obama administration's “pivot to Asia” to confront what it considers to be its chief global competitor, China, also helps explain the dark clouds gathering over the Korean peninsula.
Between 2009 and 2011, the number of US soldiers in South Korea rose from roughly 26,000 to 37,000. In Japan, they jumped from 41,000 to 87,000.
Using the pretext of North Korea's “nuclear arsenal”, the US has also upgraded its East Asian missile defences, deploying half of its missile interceptors on the west coast, while sending Aegis destroyers equipped with missile defence systems to waters off the Korean peninsula.
The US also plans to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in Guam.
The Park administration has also inflamed the crisis on the Korean peninsula. Park has agreed to a “combined counter-provocation plan” with the US, pre-emptively granting the US the power to intervene in any national conflict on the Korean peninsula.
She has also approved an order to “counter aggressively from the start, without any political consideration” in the event of a military confrontation with North Korea.
It is in this context — amid threats and displays of military force against North Korea — that Park visits the US.
Some observers may expect the summit to extend a message of reconciliation to North Korea. But the US and South Korean governments' proposal of conditional “dialogue” is hypocritical.
For the past 20 years, the harsh sanctions against North Korea imposed by the US and South Korea provoked North Korea's nuclear threats, not to mention the provocative military exercises and sabre rattling more recently. And in any case, such invitations to “dialogue” have in the past been fraught with the potential of greater conflict rather than the start of peace.
The US also hopes to use the summit to make the case for greater trilateral cooperation between South Korea, Japan and the US — again using the pretext of threats from China and North Korea.
Furthermore, the US government is also likely to push for South Korea's adoption of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a free-trade agreement aimed at restraining the rise of China's economic power in Asia while defending US interests in the region), its introduction of various weapons systems and a rise in South Korea's share of joint defence costs paid to the US.
But these policies only serve US interests, while victimising South Korean workers and citizens. This money should not be spent on weapons, but on the welfare of the population.
We must oppose the US and South Korean governments' discussion of any plan to “strengthen” the US-South Korea military alliance while ratcheting up threats against North Korea. This will only worsen the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
All progressive students who yearn for peace on the Korean peninsula should stand together in protest against Park’s visit to the US.