THE US and South Korea have begun conducting annual military drills, ignoring North Korean appeals to halt the exercises.
Last week North Korea appeared to retreat from a threat to launch missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam, but said it would watch US actions. It has already condemned these drills as pouring ‘gasoline on fire’ and a preparation for invasion.
China and Russia had, in July, proposed a halt on military exercises in exchange for a freeze on North Korean missile tests. The US however would have none of this. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the military exercises were ‘not currently on the table as part of the negotiation at any level.’
On Sunday an editorial in North Korea’s official government newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said the exercises would worsen the state of the Peninsula and warned of an ‘uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war’.
Earlier this year it warned it would ‘mercilessly foil the nuclear war racket of the aggressors with its treasured nuclear sword of justice.’ The North Koreans are determined to not just acquire nuclear weapons but also the ability to deliver them to the US mainland. This is for very good reasons.
The Korean people were ecstatic, in August 1945, with their new freedom after being subjected to a brutal 40-year Japanese occupation. They immediately began creating local democratic peoples’ committees the day after Japan announced, on August 14 1945, its intention to surrender.
By August 28, all Korean provinces had created local peoples’ offices, and on September 6th delegates from throughout the Peninsula gathered in Seoul, at which time they created the Korean People’s Republic (KPR).
US President Truman immediately ordered his War Department to choose a dividing line for Korea. The 38th parallel was chosen, placing the historic capital city of Seoul and 70 per cent, or 21 million, of Korea’s 30 million people in the ‘American’ southern zone, and the north in a Russian zone.
A United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) was formed, and on September 8th, 72,000 US troops began arriving to enforce the formal occupation of the south. The Korean People’s Republic, officially formed just two days prior to the first arrival of US forces, was almost immediately shunned by the US which decided to stand behind right-wing politicians representing the traditional land-owning elite, and to conduct a ‘White’ terror in South Korea to drive back the revolution.
In December 1945 General John R. Hodge, commander of the US occupation forces, created the Korean Constabulary, led exclusively by officers who had served the Japanese. Along with the revived Japanese colonial police force, the Korean National Police (KNP), comprised of many former Korean collaborators with the Japanese, and powerful right-wing paramilitary groups like the Korean National Youth and the Northwest Youth League, the US Military Government and their puppet Syngman Rhee possessed the armed instruments of a police state to protect the old landlord class made up of rigid reactionaries and enthusiastic capitalists.
By the autumn of 1946, disgruntled workers declared a strike that spread throughout South Korea. By December the combination of the KNP, the Constabulary and the right-wing paramilitary units, supplemented by US firepower and intelligence, had contained the insurrections in all provinces. More than 1,000 Koreans were killed with more than 30,000 jailed. Regional and local leaders of the popular movement were either dead, in jail or driven underground.
With total US support Rhee busily prepared for a political division of Korea involuntarily imposed on the vast majority of the Korean people. During the Korean War of 1950-53 that followed, the US dropped 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,000 tons of napalm, mostly on North Korea, effectively destroying the area and killing hundreds of thousands of people. The US airforce ran out of targets.
This is where the desire of the North Koreans comes from to resist US imperialism, and to protect their independence from invaders with ‘the treasured nuclear sword of justice’. This is why the workers movement in the west must give its full support to North Korea and Korean reunification.