Revolution #67, October 29, 2006


U.S. Response to North Korea’s Claim of Nuclear Test: Hypocrisy and Threats

On October 9, North Korea exploded what they claimed was a nuclear weapons device. If this claim is true, North Korea may have the capacity to produce a very small number of nuclear weapons at some point in the future.

What Is North Korea

The Korean war (June 1950–July 1953) was a clash between the U.S. (acting under the signboard of the United Nations) on the one hand, and nationalist Korean forces backed by socialist China. That war, which lasted 3 years, resulted in massive devastation of the northern half of Korea. The U.S. invaders, and the Chinese backed Korean forces fought to a standstill. Korea was divided, with a brutal, repressive pro-U.S. regime in the south (the Republic of Korea), and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) in the north.

While never a socialist society, North Korea was briefly aligned with what was the world socialist camp. With the restoration of capitalism in the mid 1950s in the Soviet Union, North Korea developed as a country dependent on Soviet social-imperialism.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea has been in a deep economic crisis, and in search of a big power patron—a role filled somewhat now by China—where capitalism was restored after the death of Mao Tsetung in 1976.

Today, North Korea maintains a thin coating of “socialist” symbolism, over what is essentially a feudal monarchy (the current ruler is the son of the original ruler of the country). North Korea is economically chained to world imperialism. And North Korea is the opposite of a real socialist country, where the masses of people increasingly become masters of society in an atmosphere of creative and lively struggle.


If you’re worried about a huge arsenal of powerfully destructive nuclear weapons, in the hands of a ruler who is hell-bent on dominating the world, and who might well use his nuclear weapons in the near future, look closer to home. Newsweek magazine reported in 2001 that “The U.S. nuclear arsenal today includes 5,400 warheads loaded on intercontinental ballistic missiles at land and sea; an additional 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and B-52 bombers; a further 1,670 nuclear weapons classified as ‘tactical.’ And just in case, an additional 10,000 or so nuclear warheads held in bunkers around the United States as a ‘hedge’ against future surprises.”

The U.S. is the only country in the world that has actually used atomic bombs—carrying out the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of World War 2. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed as a result of those attacks, overwhelmingly civilians.

And it is the U.S., right now, who according to information revealed in articles by Seymour Hersh, has developed plans for an attack on Iran that include options for using nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Condemns Nuclear Weapons—But Not Their Own

The picture being painted in the U.S. media is that rogue North Korea and its ruler Kim Jong Il have defied the “international community” in going ahead with this reported nuclear test. A quick look at the background of these events reveals the hypocrisy of this.

During the Korean war (see sidebar, “What Is North Korea”) the top U.S. general Douglas MacArthur proposed dropping dozens of atomic bombs on revolutionary China and creating “a belt of radioactive cobalt” across the whole northern border of Korea. (“Korea: forgotten nuclear threats,” Bruce Cumings, Le Monde Diplomatique)

After the Korean war, the U.S. packed South Korea with troops, bases and nuclear weapons. At least 150 nuclear weapons were deployed by the U.S. in South Korea in 1985. (“U.S. nuclear weapon locations, 1995,” Robert S. Norris and William M. Arkin, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nov/Dec. 1995)

The U.S. government claimed that by 1991 it had removed all of its tactical nuclear weapons from Korean soil. This has not been independently confirmed, since the U.S. does not allow the kinds of “international inspections” that they demand other countries submit to. And the U.S. still maintained the capability of hitting North Korea with long-range weapons based outside of Korea. The Pentagon’s 2002 “Nuclear Policy Review” described how the U.S. was pretargeting nuclear weapons for “preemptive” strikes on specific countries, including North Korea. (Washington Post, March 23, 2002)

But there is more. In 1994, the U.S. made an agreement with North Korea where the North Koreans would discontinue use of nuclear power plants that had the capacity to produce weapons-grade plutonium. North Korea relied on these plants for electricity for the country, which has limited power sources. In exchange the U.S. agreed to a number of things, including ending sanctions on North Korea and providing assistance in constructing two light-water reactor plants to replace North Korea’s existing nuclear power plants. They also promised to provide oil for energy. In return North Korea agreed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and to supervised disposal of their spent nuclear fuel stocks.

Professor of U.S. and Korea Relations Bruce Cumings explained on Democracy Now that North Korea “froze their entire plutonium facility at Yongbyon” to comply with the agreement, and that there were sealed doors and UN inspectors on the premises at all times. But Cumings explained that “The U.S. didn’t hold up its side of the bargain to go ahead and normalize relations with North Korea, to provide light-water reactors as a substitute for the plutonium reactors, and eventually the North Koreans decided that we weren’t upholding the agreement, and they started their second enriched uranium program.”

In 2002, the Bush administration announced that this uranium program violated the agreement and suspended oil shipments. Backed into a corner, North Korea expelled international inspectors and restarted their nuclear reactors.

The U.S. is also accusing North Korea of “violating international treaties” because it withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is set up with different rules and guidelines for countries that have nuclear weapons (Nuclear Weapons States, or NWS), and other rules for countries who do not have them (Non-Nuclear Weapons States, or NNWS). NNWS have agreed not to produce or seek to acquire nuclear weapons. The NWS did not officially acknowledge that they would not attack NNWS until a 1995 resolution, but this is not legally binding. So countries that already have nuclear weapons have the right to use and produce them, and countries without nuclear weapons are forbidden to acquire them, supposedly in exchange for assurances that they won’t be attacked. North Korea signed this agreement, which they remained part of until 2003. Shortly after Bush included North Korea in the “Axis of Evil” and declared a policy of pre-emptive war, North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003. Withdrawal from the treaty is specifically allowed under such circumstances.

In short, the U.S. has maintained a nuclear threat against North Korea (and the rest of the planet, but with particular focus on North Korea) for decades. They made, and then tore up, an agreement to provide North Korea with oil in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear capacity. And now they point the finger at North Korea and yell “nuclear threat!”

U.S. accusations and threats are laying the groundwork to justify U.S. military action in Korea, and in the region around it. On October 17, Bush announced that “If we get intelligence that they [North Korea] are about to transfer a nuclear weapon, we would stop the transfer, and we would deal with the ships that were taking the—or the airplane that was dealing with taking the material to somebody.” Bush added that the North Korean leadership would be “held accountable” and they would face “grave consequences”—which is a threat of war.

There are echoes of the “WMD” hoax here. Bush is (once again!) giving himself the right to launch a new “preemptive” war—on the basis of claims to have “intelligence” about the transfer of nuclear materials. Those claims would be coming from a proven liar.

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