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News ::
Bush preparing US for a ‘war on two fronts’? (english)
04 Jan 2003
It's time to 'give peace a chance' on the Korean peninsula.
nuclear.jpg
It's time to 'give peace a chance' on the Korean peninsula.
Bush preparing US for a ‘war on two fronts’?


An earlier version of this article can be found at:

http://www.shoutmonthly.com/January-03/index.html

The author would be interested in responding to any expressions of interest from anyone wanting to republish this piece.

Tristan Ewins

tristane (at) bigpond.net.au


A nation of some 22 million, North Korea has long posed as something of a mystery to Western commentators. Closed and insular, the Communist North, however, is finally being driven to engage with the broader international community, as well as its southern neighbour. The threat of famine, and the problem of diplomatic and economic isolation following the collapse of the Soviet Union, have acted to motivate the North in its attempts at building dialogue with the South. In 2001, the North’s ‘Committee for Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland’ proposed that,

"that dialogue between North and South Korea reopen as soon as possible to open a wider road to reconciliation, unity and national unification".
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1522409.stm

As opposed to the previous tendency towards tension and confrontation, the “Sunshine Policy”, embraced by South Korea, has based itself upon the ideal of rapproachment and reconciliation, facilitated through the provision of economic aid, the development of trade ties, family reunion, and ongoing dialogue. Expectations have grown steadily, especially in South Korea, that this process of engagement would lead eventually to a negotiated re-unification. The ‘Sunshine Policy’ has developed with the clear renunciation of any suggestion the South might simply ‘absorb’ the North. http://www.hankooki.com/kt_nation/200205/t2002052319192741110.htm

The recent election of pro-reconciliation Presidential candidate, Roh Moo-hyun has promised to breath new life into this policy of engagement and dialogue, even despite the looming confrontation between P'yongyang and Washington.

Roh Moo-hyun has recently taken aim at the Bush Administration, reminding them that, should the confrontation with the North turn hot, is it Koreans who would pay the price.

"It ought to be borne in mind that a failed US policy toward the
North would be a matter of life and death for South Koreans while it
would not be to US citizens", the newly elected President commented.

Continuing, he added: "We cannot go to war with North Korea and we can't go back to the Cold War system and extreme confrontation." (AFP (with additional material by AP). http://groups.yahoo.com/group/broadleft/message/1735

Moves towards greater engagement and dialogue were, however, dealt a serious blow in October 2002 as the North openly confirmed that it had reinitiated its nuclear weapons programme. The North’s admission thus effectively ended the 1994 ‘Agreed Framework’ under which the North was to receive “light-water nuclear technology” in exchange for a commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.
http://www.lightparty.com/ForeignPolicy/NorthKoreaRelations.html

This fateful course had been preceded, however, by North Korean allegations that the US itself had violated the ‘Agreed Framework’ having failed to deliver “heavy fuel oil according to schedule and by not moving forward as planned with the light-water reactors.” http://www.lightparty.com/ForeignPolicy/NorthKoreaRelations.html


Apart from the North’s claims, we can only speculate on what further motivations lay behind its move, but possibly the North felt compelled to act in the face of a Hawkish US Administration eager to extinguish all remaining barriers to its global hegemony.

It is within the realm of legitimate speculation, also, to suppose that the North Koreans are hoping to establish a nuclear deterrent in order to be able to afford some relaxation of their military budget which, at 20%-25% of GDP, is a massive and crippling drain upon the North Korean economy. According to the Power and Interest News Report, North Korea has the fourth largest military in the world with over 1.2 million armed personnel. http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=920&mode=thread&order=0

The North Korean army, while huge, however, does not have the capacity to win an offensive war against the South. While North Korea’s massive military commitment is seen as a necessary deterrent, the North would likely embrace limited disarmament for the sake of economic growth and prosperity, were it seen to be a viable strategic option.

Meanwhile, constant references in the Western media to the regime being 'irrational' and 'unstable', have been made with the effect of building up the fear and apprehension necessary to rationalise possible military intervention - or at least diplomatic and economic sanctions certain to worsen the lot of the nation’s already starving people. Under such circumstances, with some 37,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, and some 100,000 in the broader region, the prospects of mutual disarmament between North and South Korea seem slim.

Earlier this year, George Bush identified North Korea, provocatively and threateningly, as part of a so-called 'Axis of Evil'. Thereafter, he suggested his possible willingness to take a 'pre-emptive action' to ‘take out’ ‘weapons of mass-destruction’ in so-called ‘rogue states’. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A22374-2002Jun9?language=printe The new Bush doctrine, foreseeing the development of tactical nuclear weapons, even seemed to suggest the possibility of a ‘nuclear first strike’. http://www.war-times.org/backissues/2art1.htm Suddenly, then, the prospect of the U.S fighting wars on two fronts: against P'yongyang and Baghdad – does not seem as remote as it might have but a few months ago. Thankfully, US Secretary of State has hosed down speculation of this sort, arguing his intention to take the ‘diplomatic road’. Such a ‘road’, however, may include crippling sanctions which once again drive the Communist nation into the grip of famine. Many, however, believe that the US is simply biding its time, planning military action at a later stage: ‘Iraq first’, ‘North Korea later’.

As tensions have spiralled between P'yongyang and the US, Anti-American sentiment has exploded in South Korea.

The deaths of two South Korean schoolgirls in a road accident involving a US serviceman acted as the catalyst for an unprecedented display of anger and frustration. As many as 300,000 South Koreans mobilized demanding greater control over US forces stationed in their country. Many demonstrators even went so far as to demand the total withdrawal of US forces. (AP - with additional material by Reuters and AFP). http://groups.yahoo.com/group/broadleft/message/1672

Behind this massive popular mobilisation simmered resentment over the perceived preference of the US Bush Administration for ‘containment’, or even confrontation, over the ‘Sunshine Policy’ of dialogue, reconciliation and eventual re-unification.

South Korean resentment has, indeed, reached an all-time high, following the inclusion by George Bush of North Korea in his so-called ‘Axis of Evil’. While the American President has become ever more strident in his aggressive posturing against those states he views has hostile to ‘US interests’ and hegemony, South Koreans are increasingly nervous at the damage such rhetoric has caused to their careful and sincere process of engagement and reconciliation.

The term 'Rogue State', it appears, is being used indiscriminately to describe all
states which do not form part of the support structure of the global
US hegemony in the post Soviet world order. In such a way, the US is poised to rationalise the removal of all resistance to its global hegemony – either through direct application of military force, or through covert action, or diplomatic pressure, including sanctions and/or the withdrawal of vital humanitarian aid.
It is very convenient for the US - in this a period of its unchallenged economic, political and military dominance, that it has been able to construct this ideology that legitimises its role as 'world policeman' for a world order it is constructing in its own image.

Certainly, North Korean trade and production has collapsed since the
fall of the USSR. The country has few significant trading partners, and few means of securing hard currency except from arms exports. Clearly it is in the country’s interests to pursue a policy of engagement and rapproachment - as opposed to one of confrontation.

Since the fall of the USSR, North Korea has faced the task of adapting. It has faced the difficult task of building diplomatic and trade ties, and of engaging with the global market economy. In the short term, due to the ongoing threat of famine, the provision of food aid remains essential.

What the Korean peninsula needs now is a renewal of dialogue aimed towards a negotiated settlement – whereby a new nation might be built including elements of the old political systems. (ie: including representative and economic democracy, the constitutional guarantee of social rights and civil liberties, as well as a mixed economy including a significant socialized sector)

This means economic, political and diplomatic ENGAGEMENT. It does NOT
mean stirring up talk of war or the indirect inference of possible 'nuclear first strikes'.

Despite popular wisdom, the regime is not simply 'irrational'. It is, however, increasingly desperate. The present nuclear gambit is evidence of this desperation to deepen economic and political engagement, lest the North face possible humanitarian catastrophe, terminal stagnation, and probable collapse.

The North’s willingness – indeed, desperation – to adapt, was further evidenced by the decision, in September, to establish a free-trade zone its northwest border with China, and to solicit foreign investment. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107686.html

Now is not the time for warlike rhetoric. And now, of all times, we ought be critical of attempts to soften public opinion to the prospect of confrontation with North Korea, with the possible final consequence of war and human tragedy.

Despite the deficiencies of the Communist regime, it ought be remembered that, from its current position of weakness, it may well be willing to give concessions - most notably in the crucial field of human rights. Indeed, further engagement and nurturing of the crucial ‘Sunshine Policy’ may yet, one day, lead to a negotiated re-unification, which finally ends decades of tension and confrontation in the Korean peninsula. The stationing of human rights monitors, for instance, could possibly be traded for the non-aggression treaty P'yongyang so dearly desires. Compromise, however, is the fruit of negotiation and détente: not that of exponentially escalating tension and confrontation. Should the US continue to eschew compromise and engagement, however, the mood on the
South Korean street will likely grow ever more resentful of the US military presence, and the perceived US obstruction of engagement, détente and reconciliation. Many South Koreans, noting their modern and impressive armed forces, already question the need for the continued presence of U.S forces.

In the current war of nerves, it is the Korean people who, as always, stand to suffer most of all. For the interests of all Koreans, it is time to press on with engagement and compromise. It is time to press on with negotiations aimed at ending the current nuclear tensions, fostering conditions conducive to mutual disarmament, and of further political, cultural and economic engagement. The world has had enough of the ‘winner takes all’ approach of the U.S Bush administration.

It is time to ‘give peace a chance’.


Tristan Ewins


The author resides in Melbourne, Australia, and is a writer, long time member of the ‘Socialist Left’ grouping of the Australian Labor Party, and former member of the Victorian ALP’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee.





A nation of some 22 million, North Korea has long posed as something of a mystery to Western commentators. Closed and insular, the Communist North, however, is finally being driven to engage with the broader international community, as well as its southern neighbour. The threat of famine, and the problem of diplomatic and economic isolation following the collapse of the Soviet Union, have acted to motivate the North in its attempts at building dialogue with the South. In 2001, the North’s ‘Committee for Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland’ proposed that,

"that dialogue between North and South Korea reopen as soon as possible to open a wider road to reconciliation, unity and national unification".
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1522409.stm

As opposed to the previous tendency towards tension and confrontation, the “Sunshine Policy”, embraced by South Korea, has based itself upon the ideal of rapproachment and reconciliation, facilitated through the provision of economic aid, the development of trade ties, family reunion, and ongoing dialogue. Expectations have grown steadily, especially in South Korea, that this process of engagement would lead eventually to a negotiated re-unification. The ‘Sunshine Policy’ has developed with the clear renunciation of any suggestion the South might simply ‘absorb’ the North. http://www.hankooki.com/kt_nation/200205/t2002052319192741110.htm

The recent election of pro-reconciliation Presidential candidate, Roh Moo-hyun has promised to breath new life into this policy of engagement and dialogue, even despite the looming confrontation between P'yongyang and Washington.

Roh Moo-hyun has recently taken aim at the Bush Administration, reminding them that, should the confrontation with the North turn hot, is it Koreans who would pay the price.

"It ought to be borne in mind that a failed US policy toward the
North would be a matter of life and death for South Koreans while it
would not be to US citizens", the newly elected President commented.

Continuing, he added: "We cannot go to war with North Korea and we can't go back to the Cold War system and extreme confrontation." (AFP (with additional material by AP). http://groups.yahoo.com/group/broadleft/message/1735

Moves towards greater engagement and dialogue were, however, dealt a serious blow in October 2002 as the North openly confirmed that it had reinitiated its nuclear weapons programme. The North’s admission thus effectively ended the 1994 ‘Agreed Framework’ under which the North was to receive “light-water nuclear technology” in exchange for a commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.
http://www.lightparty.com/ForeignPolicy/NorthKoreaRelations.html

This fateful course had been preceded, however, by North Korean allegations that the US itself had violated the ‘Agreed Framework’ having failed to deliver “heavy fuel oil according to schedule and by not moving forward as planned with the light-water reactors.” http://www.lightparty.com/ForeignPolicy/NorthKoreaRelations.html


Apart from the North’s claims, we can only speculate on what further motivations lay behind its move, but possibly the North felt compelled to act in the face of a Hawkish US Administration eager to extinguish all remaining barriers to its global hegemony.

It is within the realm of legitimate speculation, also, to suppose that the North Koreans are hoping to establish a nuclear deterrent in order to be able to afford some relaxation of their military budget which, at 20%-25% of GDP, is a massive and crippling drain upon the North Korean economy. According to the Power and Interest News Report, North Korea has the fourth largest military in the world with over 1.2 million armed personnel. http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=920&mode=thread&order=0

The North Korean army, while huge, however, does not have the capacity to win an offensive war against the South. While North Korea’s massive military commitment is seen as a necessary deterrent, the North would likely embrace limited disarmament for the sake of economic growth and prosperity, were it seen to be a viable strategic option.

Meanwhile, constant references in the Western media to the regime being 'irrational' and 'unstable', have been made with the effect of building up the fear and apprehension necessary to rationalise possible military intervention - or at least diplomatic and economic sanctions certain to worsen the lot of the nation’s already starving people. Under such circumstances, with some 37,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, and some 100,000 in the broader region, the prospects of mutual disarmament between North and South Korea seem slim.

Earlier this year, George Bush identified North Korea, provocatively and threateningly, as part of a so-called 'Axis of Evil'. Thereafter, he suggested his possible willingness to take a 'pre-emptive action' to ‘take out’ ‘weapons of mass-destruction’ in so-called ‘rogue states’. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A22374-2002Jun9?language=printe The new Bush doctrine, foreseeing the development of tactical nuclear weapons, even seemed to suggest the possibility of a ‘nuclear first strike’. http://www.war-times.org/backissues/2art1.htm Suddenly, then, the prospect of the U.S fighting wars on two fronts: against P'yongyang and Baghdad – does not seem as remote as it might have but a few months ago. Thankfully, US Secretary of State has hosed down speculation of this sort, arguing his intention to take the ‘diplomatic road’. Such a ‘road’, however, may include crippling sanctions which once again drive the Communist nation into the grip of famine. Many, however, believe that the US is simply biding its time, planning military action at a later stage: ‘Iraq first’, ‘North Korea later’.

As tensions have spiralled between P'yongyang and the US, Anti-American sentiment has exploded in South Korea.

The deaths of two South Korean schoolgirls in a road accident involving a US serviceman acted as the catalyst for an unprecedented display of anger and frustration. As many as 300,000 South Koreans mobilized demanding greater control over US forces stationed in their country. Many demonstrators even went so far as to demand the total withdrawal of US forces. (AP - with additional material by Reuters and AFP). http://groups.yahoo.com/group/broadleft/message/1672

Behind this massive popular mobilisation simmered resentment over the perceived preference of the US Bush Administration for ‘containment’, or even confrontation, over the ‘Sunshine Policy’ of dialogue, reconciliation and eventual re-unification.

South Korean resentment has, indeed, reached an all-time high, following the inclusion by George Bush of North Korea in his so-called ‘Axis of Evil’. While the American President has become ever more strident in his aggressive posturing against those states he views has hostile to ‘US interests’ and hegemony, South Koreans are increasingly nervous at the damage such rhetoric has caused to their careful and sincere process of engagement and reconciliation.

The term 'Rogue State', it appears, is being used indiscriminately to describe all
states which do not form part of the support structure of the global
US hegemony in the post Soviet world order. In such a way, the US is poised to rationalise the removal of all resistance to its global hegemony – either through direct application of military force, or through covert action, or diplomatic pressure, including sanctions and/or the withdrawal of vital humanitarian aid.
It is very convenient for the US - in this a period of its unchallenged economic, political and military dominance, that it has been able to construct this ideology that legitimises its role as 'world policeman' for a world order it is constructing in its own image.

Certainly, North Korean trade and production has collapsed since the
fall of the USSR. The country has few significant trading partners, and few means of securing hard currency except from arms exports. Clearly it is in the country’s interests to pursue a policy of engagement and rapproachment - as opposed to one of confrontation.

Since the fall of the USSR, North Korea has faced the task of adapting. It has faced the difficult task of building diplomatic and trade ties, and of engaging with the global market economy. In the short term, due to the ongoing threat of famine, the provision of food aid remains essential.

What the Korean peninsula needs now is a renewal of dialogue aimed towards a negotiated settlement – whereby a new nation might be built including elements of the old political systems. (ie: including representative and economic democracy, the constitutional guarantee of social rights and civil liberties, as well as a mixed economy including a significant socialized sector)

This means economic, political and diplomatic ENGAGEMENT. It does NOT
mean stirring up talk of war or the indirect inference of possible 'nuclear first strikes'.

Despite popular wisdom, the regime is not simply 'irrational'. It is, however, increasingly desperate. The present nuclear gambit is evidence of this desperation to deepen economic and political engagement, lest the North face possible humanitarian catastrophe, terminal stagnation, and probable collapse.

The North’s willingness – indeed, desperation – to adapt, was further evidenced by the decision, in September, to establish a free-trade zone its northwest border with China, and to solicit foreign investment. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107686.html

Now is not the time for warlike rhetoric. And now, of all times, we ought be critical of attempts to soften public opinion to the prospect of confrontation with North Korea, with the possible final consequence of war and human tragedy.

Despite the deficiencies of the Communist regime, it ought be remembered that, from its current position of weakness, it may well be willing to give concessions - most notably in the crucial field of human rights. Indeed, further engagement and nurturing of the crucial ‘Sunshine Policy’ may yet, one day, lead to a negotiated re-unification, which finally ends decades of tension and confrontation in the Korean peninsula. The stationing of human rights monitors, for instance, could possibly be traded for the non-aggression treaty P'yongyang so dearly desires. Compromise, however, is the fruit of negotiation and détente: not that of exponentially escalating tension and confrontation. Should the US continue to eschew compromise and engagement, however, the mood on the
South Korean street will likely grow ever more resentful of the US military presence, and the perceived US obstruction of engagement, détente and reconciliation. Many South Koreans, noting their modern and impressive armed forces, already question the need for the continued presence of U.S forces.

In the current war of nerves, it is the Korean people who, as always, stand to suffer most of all. For the interests of all Koreans, it is time to press on with engagement and compromise. It is time to press on with negotiations aimed at ending the current nuclear tensions, fostering conditions conducive to mutual disarmament, and of further political, cultural and economic engagement. The world has had enough of the ‘winner takes all’ approach of the U.S Bush administration.

It is time to ‘give peace a chance’.


Tristan Ewins


The author resides in Melbourne, Australia, and is a writer, long time member of the ‘Socialist Left’ grouping of the Australian Labor Party, and former member of the Victorian ALP’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee.



See also:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/broadleft/
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