July 27 marked the 70th anniversary of the 1953 ceasefire to the Korean War. In the three years leading up to the anniversary, South Korean peace movements organized the international Korea Peace Appeal campaign to replace the armistice agreement with a peace treaty to conclude the 70-plus-year Korean War. The anniversary has come and gone, but, instead of peace, the Joe Biden, Yoon Suk Yeol, and Fumio Kishida administrations are stoking tensions in the Korean Peninsula as a smokescreen to build a NATO-level US-Japan-South Korea trilateral alliance against China. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has played his supporting role well.
Most people could be forgiven for thinking the 73-year-old Korean War — a conflict in which millions of people were killed — is completely over. But it’s not—at least not in the way you would think a war would be completely over — and the current conditions surrounding the U.S. armisticewith North Korea are having the opposite effect of what they’re intended to do. They’re not creating the conditions for sustained peace, they’re creating the conditions for what could be truly devastating violence. For the most part, Americans have no idea how dangerous the situation is on the Korean Peninsula. In just the last 12 months alone, North Korea has tested multiple long-range missiles and displayed enough intercontinental ballistic missiles to potentially overwhelm the U.S.’s long-range missile defense system.
New York City — It is far beyond hypocrisy for the US and its allies to condemn North Korea for testing a long-range missile when the US boasts about its Air Force Global Strike Command of more than 33,700 Airmen and civilians responsible for the nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile wings capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Indeed, a US Minute Man Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (IBM) was tested this past February, with another scheduled for this August. The 1950-1953 Korean War is the longest-standing US conflict. It has never actually ended. It was only suspended by a truce and armistice between North Korea, representing the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers and the United States, representing the multinational UN Command.
The U.S. military encirclement of China threatens to escalate into an Asia-Pacific war, with the Korean Peninsula at the focal point of this dangerous path. Garrisoned with nearly 30,000 combat-ready U.S. forces manning the astonishing 73 U.S. military bases dotting its tiny landmass, South Korea is the most critical frontline component of U.S. military escalation in northeast Asia. Since the Obama administration’s 2012 “pivot to Asia,” Washington has intensified tensions with Beijing, doubling down on a “full-scale multi-pronged new Cold War” through the Indo-Pacific Strategy pursued by both the Trump and Biden administrations.
The United States and South Korea have been stirring up the situation on the Korean peninsula to an “extremely dangerous level,” with threatening rhetoric and a military demonstration targeting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), DPRK’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Son-gyong said. In a statement published on the website of the national media aggregator KCNA, the senior official drew attention to the aerial exercises carried out by Washington and Seoul in the Yellow Sea on March 3, which included equipment such as the B-1B strategic bomber and the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned attack aircraft.
An increasingly tense standoff has been simmering on the Korean Peninsula for months, and is now escalating to a potentially “uncontrollable phase,” North Korean officials warn. Since August, the US and South Korea have conducted five major joint military exercises and numerous smaller ones—the most recent of which, Vigilant Storm, just concluded on Nov. 5 and involved over 240 military aircraft in the largest ever aerial drills the countries have conducted together. In the same time frame, North Korea has conducted several rounds of weapons tests involving dozens of ballistic missiles. The largest of these occurred on Nov. 2 in response to the impending Vigilant Storm exercises and reportedly involved 23 missiles, two of which landed off the east coast of South Korea, and one of which landed in waters south of the Northern Limit line, a maritime buffer zone in the Yellow Sea. This is the first time North Korean missiles have landed in waters delineated as South Korean.
On October 4, in response to ongoing U.S. military buildup in the Pacific, North Korea fired missiles that flew over Japanese airspace — putting an end to five years of relative stability on the Korean peninsula. The United States responded by firing four missiles off the east coast of the peninsula. At the time of this writing, tensions will likely continue to escalate, but it’s unclear by how much. The U.S. action was taken in close coordination with the militaries of Japan and South Korea. In September the United States and South Korea began their first large-scale joint military exercises since 2017. Large South Korean anti-war protests in opposition to these war games were ignored by corporate media outlets, which are now fearmongering over North Korea’s actions.
Between August 22 and September 1, the United States and South Korea concluded their largest joint military drills in the Korean Peninsula since 2017, under the name ‘Ulchi Freedom Shield’. Over the last four years, the scope of the annual exercises had been scaled back, first because of Donald Trump’s attempts at diplomacy with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and later because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With these drills, however, the US and South Korea seem to be attempting to send a clear message to both North Korea and China of their united military posture in the region, and come at a time when the US’ encirclement of China continues rapidly.
The western corporate media described the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s launch of two missiles Aug. 17 as threatening, aggressive and paranoid. What most media failed to report was the prior U.S. military exercises with Japan and South Korea off Hawai’i, in preparation for extensive war exercises off Korea, that provoked the DPRK’s two warning shots. An Aug. 19 article in the Daily Beast, an online news website, headlined a longer and upcoming military land, sea and air exercise this way: “U.S. to Enrage Kim Jong Un With Assassination Dry Run.” The article then reads: “For the first time in years, joint exercises between the U.S. and South Korea this month will culminate in a trial run of decapitating the North Korean leadership.
In a major development in the Korean peace process, South Korea, North Korea, China and the United States have agreed to declare an end to the Korean War. The announcement was made by South Korean president Moon Jae-in on Monday, December 13, who said the four parties to the Korean War agreed “in-principle” to formally declare its end, 71 years after it broke out in 1950. Speaking from Canberra, Australia, during his four-day visit to the country, president Moon Jae-in also pointed out that US hostility towards North Korea was among the reasons why peace talks were held back. North Korea has demanded an end to the “hostile policy” of the US, including sweeping sanctions and a virtual US-led blockade, as a precondition for the continuation of talks.
Since 2018, hundreds of new sanctions targeting the civilian economy have been imposed on the people of North Korea. In 2018 alone, new and existing sanctions caused almost 4,000 preventable civilian deaths. Around 11 million North Koreans are deprived of sufficient access to basic foodstuffs, clean drinking water or essential medical services. Subjected to ever-increasing sanctions, North Korea is projected to suffer a food deficit of 1.3. million tons this year, worsening the already dire condition endured by a broad swath of the population. More than 40 percent of North Korea’s 25 million people are considered chronically food insecure, and one out of every five children under the age of 5 is impacted by stunted growth.
Choe Son Hui, First Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave a statement to media on the 17th. The statement said: The United States has tried to make contact with us through several channels including that in New York since mid February. Recently, it requested the contact with us by e-mail and telephone message through different channels and, at the night just before the start of the joint military exercises, sent us through a third country another message for our affirmative response to the contact. However, we deem it not necessary to consent the US attempt to get time again. We declared already our stand that any DPRK-US contact and dialogue cannot be made unless the US hostile policy is withdrawn and, accordingly, will ignore such US attempt in the future.
One of the thorniest foreign policy challenges the Biden administration will need to face is a nuclear-armed North Korea. Talks between the U.S. and North Korea have been stalled since 2019, and North Korea has continued to develop its weapons arsenal, recently unveiling what appears to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile. As a retired U.S. Army Colonel and U.S. diplomat with 40 years of experience, I know all too well how actions by the U.S. military can exacerbate tensions that lead to war. That’s why the organization I am a member of, Veterans for Peace, is one of several hundred civil society organizations in the U.S. and South Korea urging the Biden administration to suspend the upcoming combined U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
An alarming report published Monday in the Washington Post claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could fire an intercontinental ballistic missile right as Joe Biden is inaugurated. “North Korea appears to be taking steps toward a new test of a powerful submarine-launched missile, U.S. weapons experts said, as it steadily dials up the pressure on President-elect Joe Biden,” it wrote, suggesting that the Supreme Leader is, “planning a very different fireworks display to greet the incoming U.S. president.” One of the weapons experts the story relies upon is Michael Elleman, a director at the hawkish and secretive think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), who told the Post that the Korean missiles might have a range of around 1,900 miles and have the ability to hit U.S. targets in the Pacific.
In the United States today, North Korea is the standard reference point for modern-day totalitarianism: a land of darkness that is considered a dangerous security threat because of the development of nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. A.B. Abrams’ new book, Immovable Object: North Korea’s 70 Years at War with American Power (Clarity Press, 2020), shows that the common perceptions in the U.S. of North Korea are mostly wrong. Though the Kim dynasty has ruled through autocratic methods, it has also adopted rational and at times intelligent policies, which have enabled North Korea to weather unprecedented outside hostility and develop into something of a military powerhouse.