Pyongyang (credit Wikipedia)
The history of American aggression on the Korean Peninsula and in the South Asian theater, filled with unspeakable War crimes, begins in the late ’40s and early ’50s when the new superpower, eager with its ascendance after WWII and its successful deployment of nuclear weapons, clashed with the other victor – and the party primarily responsible for the defeat of Germany – the Soviet Union. Growing tensions quickly developed between the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain about how to divide Europe
, the Middle East, South America, Africa and Asia
The United States, having originally agreed to split Japan in half with the Soviet Union, instead occupied it, forgiving Japanese officials for all of their war crimes
. The Korean Peninsula – a prior colony of conquered Japan – had already been split between the Soviet Union and the United States when they worked together to oust the Japanese Empire, with the presumed endgame that the powers would slowly meld the peninsula and its people back together as the two superpowers normalized relations. However, tensions in Asia quickly mounted: the US resistance to meeting its treaty obligations in Japan, two false and upset governments in the continued division of Korea, and instability in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – then all grouped together in a colony of France called French Indochina
– turned the Soviet Union and United States and their interests against one another.
In modern day Vietnam local people found that French weakness and poverty after its defeat in WWII gave them an opportunity to free themselves of forced military occupation and to establish their own national government. The Soviet Union, more famously anti-colonial than the United States (though similarly guilty itself of occupations), supported the dissolution of the brutal French military occupation and the formation of a self-autonomous democratic government under Ho Chi Minh
. For the United States, this would have meant a weaker ally in France, a stronger Soviet Union trade bloc, and limited influence and economic activity itself in Asia.
As a result, the United States supported the French military occupation of Vietnam (this eventually turned into the Vietnam war, in which the United States committed innumerable crimes against humanity), in Laos, and genocide in Cambodia
. The Korean theater was little different – seeing the United States unilaterally bombard civilian infrastructure to terrorize and starve the Koreans in the Soviet sphere after a ceasefire had been arranged. Ruthlessly, it ran propaganda campaigns to convince the world that the region was now starving not because its agriculture industry had been directly and deliberately crippled by the United States Air Force – but because it remained under the ‘ineffective and corrupt’ Soviet Sphere.
United States aggression during the Korean War deserves its own article. This author has chosen to account for the modern history – aggression on the peninsula and its continued warmongering, cyber rattling and state terrorism after the end of the Korean War in 1957 and into the modern relationship the United States has with North Korea.
Disclosed by a series of reports in the domestic press (at the time termed “Koreagate
“), US Congress members had been accepting bribes from South Korean officials to stall and reverse the presidential decisions to withdrawl US troop presence from the ROK. A document declassified in 2012
describes how eventually enormous pressure mounted from Congress and the senior military officials overturned Carters campaign promises and administrative objectives in the region.
Meanwhile on the peninsula a series of economic reforms, international loans, and trade with the Western world led to a surge in North Korean prosperity, including conventional military capability that by all accounts would have walked through the ROK – which had itself been experiencing student-led protests, civil unrest, military coups (including the military dictator General Park – father of current president Geun-hye) and international criticism for human rights violations. Kim Il Sung issued a statement about the South’s martial law, corruption and civil unrest in a thinly veiled promise to reunify the peninsula under North Korea leadership were the opportunity to arise:
If a revolution takes place in South Korea we, as one and the same nation, will not just look at it with folded arms but will strongly support the South Korean people. If the enemy ignites war recklessly, we shall resolutely answer it with war and completely destroy the aggressors.
The 1970’s were very nearly such a time. However the stalled military withdrawl and eventual reversal of US Foreign Policy in 1978 kept not only the full deployed US military presence in South Korea but also the nuclear weapons that had been scheduled for removal at the same time. Into the early 1980’s North Korea found that had misspent its economic acceleration on military modernization since it continued to be overpowered by the as-yet-reluctant-to-leave superpower.
Nuclear forces had now been on the peninsula for the better part of three decades, and each decade saw the DPRK deal with the asymmetry in destructive potential a different way. It modernized its conventional forces into a deterrent, build caverns that would withstand nuclear assault and sought alliances with great powers. However with the seventies seeing superpowers including the USSR shift their focus from Asia to the Middle East, North Korea increasingly lost one of its better strategic assurances and would need to navigate alone. Worse yet was that the United States had stayed to back the Southern neighbours.
In 1991 North Korea began to develop safeguard measures with the IAEA and had them ratified and implemented in 1992, insisting that South Korea follow suite. However, the IAEA inspection found that the amount of declared plutonium production did not match the amount of nuclear waste in the inspected facilities. North Korea was operating graphine-moderated nuclear facilities which are very difficult to inspect and prone to the sort of uncertainty expressed by the IAEA. The IAEA asked for a special inspections capability to inspect additional facilities, which North Korea denied. The ambiguity of whether this was a deliberate attempt to obfuscate a weapons program (the CIA estimated the amount of material would amount to at most a single warhead) led to further criticism and calls for inspections.
The next year saw North Korea struggle with the IAEA over the terms of its inspections agreement, insisting that the original agreement be binding. Continued disagreements and South Korea’s refusal to enter into an inspections program to prove American nukes had been removed led North Korea to exercise its right to exit the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1993. The new Clinton Administration scrambled diplomats to find a mutually agreeable scenario under which North Korea would choose to stay under treaty obligations.
Negotiation took 16 months. North Korea suspended its exit from the NPT for the duration of the negotiations. However, during the discussions Kim Il-Sung passed away and Kim Jong-Il succeeded him. The output of the negotiations was the “Agreed Framework“. Under the framework North Korea would transition from the proliferation unfriendly graphite-moderated reactors, which are difficult to monitor and produce ready-to-enrich fuel rods as a waste product, with the light-water nuclear reactors which are both easier to prove innocence and more difficult to use clandestinely.
North Korea would immediately turn off its reactors and in the intervening years (the United States promised to deliver light-water reactors by 2003) it would receive oil to replace its lost nuclear energy output (500,000 tons of heavy oil per year). In turn, North Korea would pay for the new reactors over the course of the following 20 years. The Agreed Framework was intended to do more than resolve the nuclear dispute. The US was required by the agreement to provide formal assurances that it would not threaten or use nuclear forces against the DPRK, and the two nations would seek to normalize relations.
For some time the new relationship seemed to take off. Despite hiccups over funding, ordering, and deadlines the relationship between the countries began to normalize. North Korea immediately froze its nuclear reactors. The United States lowered its crippling economic sanctions. The two Koreans met with continually thawing relationships. In 1997 Kim Dae Jung instituted what became known as the Sunshine Policy: a agreement that North Korea would not engage in any armed provocation, the South would not attempt to annex the North, and the two would engage in increasing mutually beneficial contact. The Sunshine Policy, and its successful implementation, earned the President Kim Dae Jung the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize.
Unfortunately, the United States had been under the impression that between the death of Kim Il-Sung and the economic calamity the country had experienced due to sanctions, the country was fated to collapse without outside intervention, and that this impression had proved incorrect. Senior Clinton Administration officials privately stated that the deal had only been struck because they did not anticipate the need to actually fulfil the obligations.
A Bush Administration mired in the Iraq war – a war for which it had falsified nuclear weapon charges to invade
– had neither desire nor the relationship to work online with the Kim Jong Il Administration on another treaty. The primary diplomatic effort to keep the North from becoming a nuclear state involved six nations: the so-called Six-Party Talks
. Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, North Korea and the United States – three nuclear states, two of the largest US security allies, and the regime – would meet 11 times over the next six years. The nations present bargained that North Korea abandon its pursuit of nuclear capabilities and rejoin the NPT
, while North Korea bargained for a security garuntees against United States invasion, right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the light water reactors it had expected from the Agreed Framework, and normalized economic and diplomatic relations
The next two talks, spanning nearly two years, were complicated by re-election in the United States. Kim Jong Il and Kim Kye-gwan
wanted to wait for the elections, and then for the second Bush Administration term to publish its foreign policy toward the region. Seeking to reaffirm talks, the United States announced that it recognized the sovereignty of North Korea and publicly committed that it would not seek to invade
. In 2005, in the fourth meeting, the two nations preliminarily agreed to pursue a lockstep implementation. It output a joint publication
with all parties enshrining a deproliferation of the peninsula on both the North and South side, Northern right to nuclear energy, future light-water reactor procurement, and instilled “the DPRK and the United States undertook to respect each other’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together, and take steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies.”
Normalized economic relations had been a North Korean priority. Challenge of this new regime of financial warfare, which had halted a large portion of the Foreign Exchange the country needed to run international trade, led North Korea to boycott not only the next scheduled Six Party talks, but stalled its progress on dismantling its nuclear program – indeed renewing efforts on it – on the condition that the United States meet its treaty commitments to disengage from economic warfare. A highly strained relationship continued into the next year. In October 2006
the People’s Republic performed its first successful nuclear test.
The response from Security Council
members was swift; passing Security Council Resolution 1718
took only a few days. The resolution condemned North Korea for the test, required it return to the Six Party talks, and in the interim instituted a world-wide ban on all trade with the DPRK excluding only necessity goods
This had been a general pattern of the United States. It’s sanctions of North Korea cover dual-use technologies
. North Korea’s school system is robbed of pencils containing graphite over paranoid fears that the graphite from those pencils could be extracted and processed into nuclear enrichment material. A ban on materials to produce syringes (because syringes can obsensively be used to research biological weapons – though even the US hasn’t accused North Korea of intending to do so) led to a lack of supply of syringes, which in turn have led to humanitarian crises
. It’s has not been allowed to trade any technologies, materials – even scraps and spare parts – to keep its industry alive. It’s economic and financial blockades, and refusal to onboard the nation into the global economy after the fall of the Soviet Bloc, have made an otherwise healthy economy falter. Constant military threats and regime change operations have required North Korea to spend substancial portions of its economy on deterrent programs.
The United States makes agreements with North Korea, but doesn’t come through with its obligations, or delays them when the peninsula starts to see progress. At the same time, the United States exercises new creative forms of financial strangulation within the letter of the agreements, but against their spirit. North Korea, who has made US economic sanctions an issue since the late 1950’s but increasingly since the fall of the Soviet Union and its trading bloc
, has sought continually to open its economy to the world. For the past decade, for example, North Korea has been trying to develop special economic zones for foreign direct investment
that would bypass the current list of economic blockages that prevent it from interacting with the global economy
. Furthermore, they have a good track record
in enhancing the prosperity of countries
. The United States of course has sought new policies that would deter possible investors. Counter strategy has been to cut off the investment to these economic zones, such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex
Rapidly through the rest of the year, the first year the Obama Administration had bilateral diplomatic interface with Pyongyang, tensions rose. In South Korea the former president Roh Moo-hyun
, who had embraced and continued the nobel peace prizing winning Sunshine Policy of Kim Dae-jung
, left office and was replaced by Lee Myung-bak
. The new South Korean president was quickly mired in “the South Korean Watergate
” in which he endorsed surveillance, covert police pressure and censorship of individuals critical of his administration and policies.
In the transition between 2011 and 2012 the former leader Kim Jong-Il passed and North Korea welcomed its new president Kim Jong Un
. The new head of state has made it his goal to legitimize North Korea as an equal peaceful nuclear power and to modernize the North Korean economy
. The patterns, though, have been the same. North Korea launched a commercial weather and crop surveillance satellite, the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 and subsequent Unit 2
, successfully registering it with the United Nations as a crop surveying instrument, as making it the 10th nation in the world to successfully deploy a satellite into orbit
(ahead of South Korea, which has not yet developed the technology). The United Nations Security Council responded with additional sanctions, citing that satellite launch technology – though entirely peaceful – could possibly be repurposed for military capabilities. Similar ballistic missile programs have not been condemned in the South. In April of 2014, South Korea demonstrated its capability to strike most population centers in the North
with missiles that could deliver 2,200 lb of explosive payload. When it tried and failed to launch a satellite in three subsequent orbital delivery attempts, it garnered neither the fear-mongering propaganda
, buffoonery propaganda
, or international sanctions of its Northern neighbor.