On November 23, during a major military exercise conducted off the waters of the Korean peninsula, the South Korean and US forces fired live artillery into the disputed territorial waters in the direction of North Korea. North Korea immediately responded with artillery fire that hit Yonphyong island which houses a South Korean military base along with some civilian population.
With the resulting four casualties on Yonphyong island, this latest incident was immediately broadcast throughout the world by the imperialist-dominated media as being an example of North Korean adventurism and “irresponsible” aggression. The US at once used this as an opportunity to escalate the dangerous military games maneuvers that resulted in the firings in the first place. It sent its aircraft carrier steaming into the Korean waters, and together with the South Korean forces staged another war dance in the form of military exercises, right in the middle of the highly charged situation, from November 28 to December 1. It has been stepping up pressure on the UN and various countries, including China, to take steps to censure and pressure North Korea.
The long history of US provocations against North Korea
This latest incident must be seen in the light of the whole history of relentless US aggression and interference on the Korean peninsula. When the Korean people fought and won their freedom from Japanese colonialism at the end of World War II, it was the US which violated all agreements to entrench itself in the southern part of the Korean peninsula with the help of local collaborators headed by Syngman Rhee, and to build up a huge military force there. All this was done openly by the then US President Truman in the name of “rolling back communism”, in the context of the victory of the Chinese people’s revolution next door in 1949 and the great strength and prestige of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc after the end of World War II.
From 1950 to 1953, the US imperialists waged one of the most bloody and ruthless wars ever against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with its headquarters in Pyongyang in the North. It followed a scorched earth policy that left the country totally devastated. However, it was unable to defeat the DPRK, and had to sign an armistice (a temporary truce) in 1953. At the same time, over the last 60 years, it has refused to sign a formal peace treaty with the DPRK, has maintained a permanent US military presence in the South (currently about 30,000 troops), and has regularly engaged in provocative air, land and water military exercises directed against the North which have involved tens of thousands more troops, warships, tanks, fighter jets, and so on. North Korea has always maintained its right to defend itself in the face of these provocations – certainly not an “irrational” stand when it is still officially in a state of war with the US, and when the US government still refuses to talk directly to the government of the DPRK.
Even while the US continued with its refusal to sign a peace treaty and kept up its military presence in South Korea, in the 1990s some progress was made towards negotiations to ease tensions. However, under the government of George Bush, the US unilaterally and abruptly ended this process of negotiation and reversed some of the agreements. Bush even shockingly termed North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” and as a potential nuclear target. With North Korea refusing to be cowed down and the US imperialists mired in difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US had to once again agree to resume negotiations. This took the form of the six-party talks (involving North and South Korea, the US, Japan, Russia and China), as the US still refused to agree to the DPRK’s demand for direct bilateral talks. However, mainly due to US intransigence the talks have not progressed much, leaving the situation still dangerously unresolved.
In the meantime, a strong movement developed in Korea in favour of peace and unification. It became increasingly clear that the Korean people still have deep feelings for each other and want to resolve their differences peacefully and one day come together as one nation. It is no secret that the US has never been enthusiastic about this trend, because its justification for maintaining its military presence in this strategic peninsula will then no longer be valid. The coming to power of the current hawkish government in South Korea, which has stepped up its aggressive posturing against the North and its strategic collaboration with the US, has clearly delighted the US. The Obama government in the US, far from easing tensions, has further heightened it by making the giving up by North Korea of its nuclear program a pre-condition for any talks.
Hands off North Korea!
It is important that the government and people of India not swallow the lie that it is North Korea that is responsible for the current grave inflammation of tensions, which is threatening the peace and security of the whole region and the world. The efforts of the US imperialists and their South Korean and other allies to heighten the already great pressure on and isolation of North Korea must be resisted.
It is imperative that the long list of unresolved issues on the Korean peninsula, many going back for more than 60 years be resolved peacefully and with full dignity and respect for the people on both sides of the line of partition. It is essential that negotiations must also lead to the long overdue formal peace treaty between the DPRK and the US, as well as to the eventual elimination of the US military presence on the Korean peninsula. The Korean people must be left in peace to work out their differences and to arrive at the settlement of their affairs on their own terms.