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A Club for the US in Chinese Hands

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WASHINGTON, DC – March 21, 2019

Failure of DPRK-US Hanoi talks should be no surprise

As is obvious from US internal politics, true democracy is the power of the Democrats. And since Trump isn’t in their club, any of his foreign policy moves are a priori condemned. There are no exceptions for events around North Korea. Meanwhile, relations between the US and North Korea go far beyond the framework of bilateral “cooperation” and are a reflection not only of US internal politics but also of the prospects for America’s relations with competitive China.

Trump's party traditionally presents any situation around Korea as a solid success, no matter what specific meetings or decisions we are talking about. So far, nuclear tests were stopped, the procedure for returning "hostages" (previously arrested US citizens) was initiated, the transfer of the graves of American soldiers for the first time in 65 years was accomplished, and so on. However, this does not reveal all the problems.

The opposite side expectedly presents everything the opposite way. From their point of view, whatever Trump does is done poorly. He hates democracy and holds all such meetings solely out of love for authoritarian regimes. He destroys the authority of the US on any issues, and while Congress is protecting the US from Trump’s destructive meetings with Putin, Trump meets with Kim Jong-Un.

The third side -- the non-mainstream media describes anything but the essence of things. They talk about what Trump was wearing, or how members of the delegations carried themselves, and so on.

None of the official standpoints clarify reality.

The more actively the process of the multipolar world is implemented, the more clearly world politics falls into the “world of backyards.” The three leading world powers, Russia, China, and the United States, are gradually lining the planet up into spheres of influence, and the combined power of the first two already limits America to actions at border areas. Washington can no longer work rudely on the territory of China and Russia, so Ukraine has become a headache for Moscow, and the DPRK should play a similar role against China.

At the same time, China’s position on North Korea is rather contradictory. On the one hand, Beijing wishes to unite the two Koreas under its own auspices. On the other hand, with the change of elites in the US and the victory of the aggressive course against China, Beijing needs a “stick.” And only the DPRK can play such a regional function against the US. And preferably it should be armed to the teeth and apparently unpredictable.

For the US, however, constant North Korean tensions are needed since, as long as it is there, the backyard of China can be filled with Western troops. From this point of view, the threat of North Korea makes it possible to surround China as well, as the ridiculous threat of an Iranian attack at one time was given as the reason for the deployment of US missile defense systems near the borders of Russia.

For this reason, China pushed Pyongyang to formal gestures designed to show the world that the country does not represent such threats that Americans attribute to it, while non-publicly reminding that in case of the US attempt to radically resolve the issue in the first 10 minutes, 10 million South Koreans will die, together with the aura of a policeman around Washington. And within 24 hours, more than 20,000 American soldiers will die in South Korea and probably in Okinawa, not to mention the regional allies, taking into account the detonation of nuclear power plants.

The recipe for the demilitarization of the entire peninsula to which the US allegedly aspires, the leader of the DPRK announced a long time ago: The DPRK is ready to disarm and put its nuclear weapons in storage, but only if the American army leaves South Korea with all its bases. Then both Koreas will carry out the process of reducing armed forces and demilitarization, as a result of which even ships with nuclear weapons from third countries will not be able to enter the South and North Korean ports.

The Americans expressed their readiness to discuss this issue. The first summit meeting between US president Donald Trump and North Korean president Kim Jong-Un was held in Singapore in June 2018.

The summit ended with a Joint Statement, setting out a sequenced four-stage agreement. For its part, the United States promised to lift some sanctions and to end the state of war that technically still existed since the ceasefire that ended the hostilities of the Korean War in 1953.

North Korea for its part committed itself to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and to repatriate the remains of US personnel killed during the Korean War.

These were small steps but welcomed as a better alternative than the overt hostility and threats of the previous year. There was some optimism that the second summit between the two leaders, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, in late February might advance further down the road toward a resolution of what had become an increasingly dangerous standoff.

When the talks broke down without any agreement the only surprise was that people were surprised by that fact. The false optimism ignored the history of the relationship between the two countries, and why that history helps explain the different expectations that each party brought to the Hanoi conference.

American interference in Korean affairs began in the 19th century when they forcibly sought to open Korea to the outside world, and specifically to US trade and investment.

That began a long and difficult relationship between the two nations, not assisted by an agreement between the US and Japan that Japan could have a free hand in Korea in exchange for not interfering with US ambitions to colonize the Philippines. Korea was a brutally treated colony of Japan from 1910 to 1945.

Korea was hardly “liberated” at the end of World War II. The American administration unilaterally decided on a partition of the country into two parts at the 38th parallel north, with the United States occupying the southern portion and the Soviet Union the north. The Soviet Union withdrew from the north in 1948 but the United States remained, and to this day South Korea is militarily occupied by 40,000+ US troops.

The US also stationed nuclear weapons in South Korea, but claim these have now been removed. More recently, the US installed the THAAD missile system in South Korea, which unsurprisingly is perceived as a threat by not only North Korea but also Russia and China.

No reunification was to be permitted by the United States. Instead, they imported their pet dictator Syngman Rhee from his exile in the United States and appointed him as the head of the provisional South Korean Government, where he ruled with the assistance of people who had been collaborators with the Japanese occupiers. Both the North and the South were guilty of armed incursions into the other’s territory. This eventually resulted in a full-scale invasion of the South. It was an ill-considered move by the North Korea leader, grandfather of the present President Kim.

UN Security Council Resolution 82 of 25 June 1950 demanded the withdrawal of the North Korean forces. This was passed 9-0l, with one abstention and one absentee (the Soviet Union). North Korea ignored the vote and a further vote, UNSC Resolution 83 was passed on 27 June 1950 authorizing military action “to restore international peace and security in the area.”

The American-led coalition forces were able to rapidly drive the North Koreans out of the southern sector. The status quo had thus been restored, and arguably the terms of resolutions 82 and 83 had been met. The United States was not interested in restoring the status quo. Instead, they drove northward, reaching the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. China was by this time governed by Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, although absurdly, China’s position on the United Nations Security Council was filled by the nationalist rump government of Chiang Kai-Shek who had fled to Formosa after defeat in the Chinese civil war, where he remained, protected by the United States Navy.

It was this overreaching by the US-led coalition that inevitably brought China into the war, with devastating consequences for the coalition troops. The US and its allies were driven back to the 38th parallel, with heavy losses. Negotiations on an armistice began in July 1951 but dragged on until the war ended on July 27, 1953. It is what happened in those intervening two years that are crucial to an understanding of North Korea’s current stance.

An air war was waged on the North. More bombs were dropped during those two years than during the entire Pacific Theatre phase of World War II, including 32,000 tons of napalm. Civilian targets were major victims, including housing, dams essential for rice production, and other infrastructure including hospitals, schools, and churches. There was widespread famine. The war killed a quarter of North Korea’s civilian population.

According to a report published in 1952 by a committee of international lawyers under the chairmanship of Professor Heinrich Brandweiner of the University of Graz, Austria, the US-led coalition waged bacteriological and chemical warfare on the north, which was a massive war crime even by the standards of the early 1950s.

It was, ironically, exactly what Trump had threatened in his September 2017 UN speech -- the total destruction of North Korea.

With this background, and the history of the intervening 65 years, including breaches of previous agreements, notably the Agreed Framework negotiated by former president Jimmy Carter on behalf of the Clinton administration, it is completely unsurprising that the North Koreans were distrustful of US intentions.

The North Koreans would also have had fresh in their minds the unilateral abrogation of international agreements that the Americans had entered into, including in very recent times the intermediate range nuclear weapons Treaty and the JCPOA Agreement with Iran, the latter being particularly relevant to the circumstances of North Korea.

With this background, the fact that any meeting between US president Donald Trump and North Korean president Kim Jong-Un was held at all was a minor miracle.

However, instead of an honest, open discussion, Trump demanded that North Korea complete disarmament without providing any security guarantees in return, which is equivalent to signing the act of complete and unconditional surrender. Kim well remembered the fate of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein or Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi, both of whom were falsely accused of having weapons of mass destruction. If they had, in fact, had such weapons they might still be alive and well today. Instead, their countries were destroyed on the altar of US geopolitical ambitions. They are precedents that President Kim would have noted and learned from.

These Trump demands were not only well beyond the agreed provisional framework of the Singapore Summit, but it is also a set of demands that no sovereign government could remotely consider agreeing to without inviting their complete destruction, which in the North Korean case would be a repeat of history.

The failure of the Hanoi Summit would also have been a great disappointment to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In. Mr. Moon had been proactive in promoting better relations with the north, not least because it is only via North Korea that the South can participate by road and rail links in China’s enormous Belt and Road Initiative.

It is unlikely at this stage that there will be a third summit, at least not before a fundamental change in US foreign policy, and that seems highly unlikely. The big difference for North Korea in the future, however, is that Russia and China are no longer willing to cooperate with the Americans in upholding existing sanctions, let alone the further sanctions the Americans are threatening.

Neither China nor Russia threatens North Korea and South Korea, only the US contributes imbalance. It is they who, threatening North Korea with their presence, provoke North Korea to threaten South Korea. By removing Washington from that equation, it would have been possible to change a lot a long time ago, but in the present realities, the US needs North Korea as a pretext for pressure against China (including blocking the New Silk Road lines), and Pyongyang is useful for China as a “nuclear stick,” and at the same time as a guarantee that the Union (whenever it happens) will be held under the auspices of China.

Author: USA Really