By BARRY SHEPPARD
Trump made this unprecedented threat not in a tweet or off the cuff remark but in a written speech before the United Nations General Assembly. No other country in the U.N. has ever openly stated its intention to destroy another country.
Coupled with his 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 to be carried out, specifically that North Korea would threaten the U.S. or its allies. But he left vague what this means. He has repeatedly said that the U.S. 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 U.S., and it already has the capacity to hit Guam. North Korea has repeatedly said it will continue its nuclear and missile program unless the United States finally puts an end to the Korean War by signing a peace treaty with the North.
No U.S. politician, from Bernie Sanders on the left to the most extreme rightist Republican (take your pick), is ready to do anything that even moves in that direction. On the contrary, with bipartisan support the U.S. 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 U.S. occupying force.
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jai-in, was elected on the promise of seeking dialog with the North, and restricting the deployment of the U.S. Thaad anti-missile system. But Trump bullied Moon into reversing himself on both. Now the South is deploying a special commando with the avowed public goal of assassinating the North’s leadership.
One purpose of Trump’s threat to destroy North Korea is to force China to stop supplying oil to the North, which would devastate its economy, in the hopes that this would force the latter to abandon its nuclear program. In all likelihood, this will not come to pass.
China does not want the North to collapse, which would be the case with an oil embargo for any length of time. That would lead to a U.S. invasion resulting in a united Korea as a militarized client state of the U.S. on its borders. Even if Xi groveled before Trump and cut off the oil, a desperate North, facing collapse, is likely to strike back.
It should be recalled that when President Roosevelt imposed an oil embargo on Japan as part of the intensifying rivalry between the two powers at the time, Japan replied by striking at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, triggering WWII in the Pacific.
It is obvious that the increasing tensions between North Korea and the U.S. pose a very serious danger, and Trump has just upped the ante with his U.N. speech.
North Korea has solid reasons for fearing a U.S. attack, given Washington’s hostility going back to the end of WWII. After the defeat of Japan, which had been the colonial power in Korea, the U.S. tried to occupy the peninsula as the spoils of war. However, it was only able to occupy the southern part of Korea, since the USSR occupied the northern. This stalemate explains why there are two Koreas.
What became South Korea was ruled by the U.S. military directly from 1945 to 1948. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union withdrew its armed forces from the North. In 1948 Washington’s 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 U.S. also tried to occupy parts of China, much of which had been occupied by Japan. China was the big prize the U.S. coveted. However, this plan had to be scrapped because of a mass uprising in the U.S. armed forces called the “bring us home” movement, which balked at invading what was viewed as a U.S. ally. The U.S. had influence with the government run by the Nationalists.
Then in 1949 the Chinese Revolution completely tore the country out of the U.S. imperialist’s hands. China now became Washington’s enemy. The U.S., using hostilities between North and South Korea as the pretext, invaded Korea in 1950 and quickly moved deep into the North and threatened to continue into China. China countered by sending its army into Korea, blocking the U.S. advance.
At that point U.S. President Truman considered using atomic weapons against the Chinese and North Koreans. Nine nuclear bombs were transferred to the U.S.-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 cease-fire recognized that it had become a stalemate. The North and South were again divided along basically the same lines as before the U.S. invaded. An armistice was signed, but not a peace treaty. The U.S. 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 U.S. has maintained its occupation force in the South up to the present. Washington continued its hostile stance toward the North since, including its “war games” practices for invasion of the North.
In 1958, the U.S. 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 U.S. nuclear warheads in South Korea. The U.S. weapons were removed in 1991 as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction treaty. The U.S. threat against the North then resided in the atomic weapons in the U.S. 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 U.S., there is the gross hypocrisy of Washington. The U.S. was the first country to develop atomic weapons and tried at first to keep a monopoly on them. That began the nuclear arms race.
The U.S. 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 that the U.S. had the inhumanity and will to repeat such bombings of cities, first as a threat against the Soviet Union before the latter developed its own nuclear weapons, then also against China, which did likewise, but also against any potential enemy of the U.S.
The U.S. 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 U.N. aimed at the rest of the world included much more than the threat destroy North Korea. He made stepped-up threats against Iran, Cuba, Syria and Venezuela among others, but that is beyond the scope of this article.