The causes of the long conflict between North Korea and the United States

Tension has continued to grow in Eastern Asia. The North Korean government would have detonated an alleged nuclear bomb underground (3 September 2017), Trump’s response was not long in coming. He threatened new economic sanctions that are already being dealt with at the UN. He did not rule out a military response. The arms race does not relent. After 25 years, South Korea reintroduces a nuclear arsenal of American origin. It had been withdrawn in the 1990s by an agreement between the two Koreas. What is the root of the conflict? Can a war actually start in Eastern Asia?

By Miguel Sorans

Similar scenes have been recurring for almost 20 years. Is this the straw that breaks the camel’s back and a new war breaks out? With the serious danger of them acting with nuclear weapons?

There are few who believe that it may come to a total war, beyond any of the many skirmishes that have been taking place in recent years. But neither could a war be completely ruled out because of the irresponsible and criminal nature of the opponents. On the one hand, a dictatorial regime of the old Stalinist stamp, hated by its people. On the other hand, Donald Trump and Yankee imperialism wanting to keep its role as world cop at all costs and to favour the American armament industry. Trump, as if to leave no doubts, announced on Twitter: “I will allow Japan and South Korea to buy substantially more sophisticated military equipment from the United States” (Clarin, Argentina, 6 September 2017).

What is the origin of this conflict?

Korea was occupied by Japan until the end of World War II. At the 1945 Yalta and Potsdam conferences, the allies, including the USSR, agreed to split Korea into two: The north for Soviet influence and the south for the Yankees. In June 1950 a war broke out supported by the Korean people. China supported the North Koreans. After three years of war, the South Koreans and the American troops, under the command of the Gen. Douglas MacArthur, were defeated. Nevertheless, in 1953, a UN agreement was signed between the United States and the USSR, forcing to ratify the split of Korea, through the 38th parallel. Since then, the conflict has been left open.

Now Trump aims to put the onus of the danger of a war on the North Korean government, taking advantage of its dictatorial and unpredictable character. But in reality, it is imperialism that for years has been questioning the sovereign right of North Korea to develop nuclear energy.

The UN Security Council, with support from Russia and China, has already imposed some initial sanctions on North Korea. Despite our political repudiation of the dictatorial regime of the Kim family, we reject those sanctions and others that may be adopted. The most aggressive country in the world, the United States, has thousands of atomic missiles. Israel has 200 nuclear bombs. And nobody sanctioned the United States or Israel.

The revolutionary socialists who are members of the International Workers’ Unity–Fourth International (IWU-FI) do not recognize any right to imperialism and their lackeys to question anyone for their sovereign decisions. They are the first aggressors in the world and promoters of all kind of mass destruction nuclear and atomic weapons. Therefore, if military aggression eventually occurs, we will be on the side of the North Korean people.

A capitalist “communist” dictatorship

This does not mean giving any support to the dictatorship of the so-called Workers’ Party of Korea, a one-party dictatorship that has ruled with an iron fist for more than 60 years. This regime continues to venerate Stalin, and has reached the extreme of having transformed itself into a “communist dynasty”. This dynasty was initiated by Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current president, young Kim Jong-un, who inherited the position from his father, the dictator Kim Jong -il. It is the task of the North Korean people to end this Stalinist-style capitalist dictatorship.

The collapse of the former USSR in 1989-91 and the process of capitalist restoration there and in China left North Korea politically and economically isolated. This, coupled with two consecutive years of catastrophic flooding in 1995 and 1996 and a bureaucratic and corrupt administration, led to a severe food shortage in 1997. The outcome was a famine that left nearly three million people dead in a country of more than 25 million people (South Korea registers slightly over 50 million).

While this was happening, the ruling civic-military and restorationist bureaucracy continued with its high wages and privileges, creating the madness of a “nuclear industry”. At the same time, the country was collapsing, with shortages of food, permanent power cuts and almost without transportation because of the continuous shortage of fuel.

In reality, this dictatorship has nothing of communist or socialist, except the name. Since the 1990s it has begun a course of capitalist restoration following the example of its neighbor and adviser, the Communist Party of China. With salaries of US$60-80, no trade unions and no right to strike, direct foreign investment has been allowed since 1999. Thus, in the north of the country, Chinese capitalist enterprises were set up. In the south, a complex agreed with Hyundai, a South Korean multinational, was created. In the rest of the country, there are already investments by Fiat, Siemens and Russian, Pakistani, Singaporean, and Thai capitals. They invest in the mining sector, oil, nuclear energy, appliances, railways, etc., with “difficulties” for capitalists due to power cuts and poor infrastructure (there is less than 10 percent of paved roads).

Millions are wondering: why has the North Korean dictatorship continued for years with its missile “launches” and its threats to the US? Do they really want a war that could surely devastate the country? What are they seeking?

In fact, the background of this absurdity is the chronic social-economic crisis to which the dictatorship has led North Korea. The dictator and the privileged and corrupt ones surrounding him are looking, in a deranged way, for a negotiation to subsist as a regime with foreign aid.

The entry of capitalism has only deepened the exploitation and misery of the North Korean masses and the social-economic crisis. This is why the dictatorship lives using the “blackmail” of its “nuclear industry” and its “tests” to seek a negotiation with Yankee imperialism. They seek to gain concessions such as the delivery of massive food (it happened several times, under the Clinton administration) and seeking to agree on a capitalist and commercial status like China or Vietnam. Russia and China encourage this negotiation with a regime they consider an ally.

Trump uses North Korea to strengthen its military presence in the region and to promote the armament business

Ever since 1953, the United States has had a permanent military presence, with nearly 40,000 troops stationed in South Korea, its beachhead in Eastern Asia. And long ago it has declared the North Korean regime as one of the “axes of evil”, as a “terrorist” state. It refuses, since the George W. Bush era, to close an economic-political agreement, as it has done with China and Vietnam.

In fact, imperialism exaggerates the supposed North Korean power to have the justification for its friends to continue to increase business and profits and to keep strengthening its military presence in South Korea and in the whole region. Each North Korean “threat” has helped to increase its presence in troops, aircraft, and ships in a key region. There is a serious suspicion that North Korea does not have the nuclear and missile power it declares and that, if it were to use it, it would end quickly because it is a very backward country in infrastructure and industrial technology.

Trump retakes George W. Bush’s “doctrine” of the “axes of evil” and having North Korea as one of his favorite scapegoats to keep using them in his arms race.

The revolutionary Socialists, providing no political support for the grim North Korean dictatorship, we demand the end of the UN’s economic sanctions against North Korea, reject any imperialist military aggression on that country, and demand the immediate withdrawal of the imperialist military presence in South Korea and throughout Eastern Asia.


Miguel Sorans is a leader of the Izquierda Socialista [Socialist Left] (Argentina)