The prospect of direct talks between U.S. president Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, leader of North Korea, appears to have temporarily reduced the threat of a nuclear stand-off between the two countries. In October, Trump criticized his now fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson via twitter for “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.” Now he seems prepared for such a meeting.
It would be the first meeting of a sitting U.S. president with a North Korean leader. And it would be Kim Jong Un’s first meeting with another head of state at all. The announcement of potential talks in May of Trump and Kim came after the first inter-Korean summit in a decade.
These developments are leading to rising hopes from many ordinary people, despite the perception that the world is depending on two erratic, uncontrollable men who brag about their nuclear buttons.
U.S. Provocations Continue
Yet at the same time, some of Trump’s actions point in a different direction. The new Secretary of State, former CIA director Mike Pompeo, is more hawkish toward Iran and North Korea. Pompeo insisted in March that the U.S. would not make any concessions to North Korea ahead of talks, but that Kim Jong Un must “continue to allow us to perform our militarily necessary exercises on the peninsula.”
The military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. are planned to go ahead in late March and April. And these military exercises in the past included “decapitation strikes”, where U.S. and South Korean forces simulated attacks to eliminate the leadership in the North. As recently as last August, tens of thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops conducted a sea, land and air drill.
These military maneuvers are not an invention by the Trump administration. These provocations and war preparations have been authorized by presidents from both parties, Democrats and Republicans. The aggressive approach goes back to World War II after which U.S. troops were positioned in Korea to defend the interests of U.S. capitalism. This led to open war from 1950 to 1953.
Niall Mulholland points out: “Appalling as North Korea’s weapon program is, it is nothing compared to the 7,000 nuclear warheads the U.S. superpower possesses. The U.S. is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, in 1945” (SocialistWorld.net, 9/9/2017).
Mulholland describes the regime in North Korea as “a particularly grotesque form of Stalinism but its development has been strongly influenced by the decades-long military threat from U.S. imperialism.” Without any doubt, the North Korean regime is brutal against any opposition and toward its own population. However, it might not be as irrational as it is presented in the U.S. media. Referring to the example of Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq who gave up their programs to develop nuclear weapons, Mulholland concludes: “Whatever sanctions might be brought to bear on North Korea – for which working people will suffer the most – the Pyongyang regime regards nuclear weapons as its only real bargaining chip and chance to survive.”
“The Democratic Party, as well as the Republican Party, has consistently supported imperialist military solutions in its foreign policy,” argues Joe Sonntag, a member of Socialist Alternative and an anti Vietnam War activist who supported the resistance of anti-war GI’s in the 1960’s and ’70’s in the U.S. and in Japan. Sonntag continues, “U.S. military actions throughout the world will continue to ruthlessly apply these military solutions to protect the corporations of capitalist imperialism.”
U.S. Troops Out of the Korean Peninsula!
At the same time, Trump is ramping up the tensions with China. New rounds of tariffs are more explicitly targeted against the rising economic powerhouse threatening to detonate a global trade war. While up until now, Trump had appeared to have a less aggressive approach towards China to gain more support from Beijing in dealing with North Korea, he now seems to be moving towards throwing such considerations over board.
The chances are still high that either the summit between Trump and Kim will never happen or is just a prelude to a failure and new escalations. While Trump initially accepted the proposals of talks submitted by the South Korean government, the White House later on backpedaled. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s press secretary, insisted that North Korea would need to take steps toward denuclearisation before any such meeting could go ahead.
Unfortunately, despite the talk about the Trump-Kim summit, the general direction still points in a very volatile and dangerous direction. A broader resistance must be built against Trump and the militarism that is ramped up not just by the Republicans, but Democrats as well. All U.S. troops must be immediately removed from the Korean peninsula. All sanctions, which only harm the working and poor people in North Korea, must be ended. Imperialist measures will not bring a lasting peace; they will only lead to new horrors. The only sustainable solution can be found in building a movement based on the common interests of the working people of the North Korea, South Korea, and the U.S.