Saturday, January 22, 2011

Talking but playing war drums softy in the background

The US wants a stable and denuclearised Korean peninsula. So do China, North Korea, and South Korea. This common 'desire' is an indication of how out of control US and South Korean policy towards North Korea looks right now.
Forced by the backfire of its policy to militarily intimidate North Korea, South Korea, with the bad grace of a sore loser, agreed to talks with senior North Korean officials to quiet tensions on the divided peninsula.
The toasting and expressions of 'peaceful coexistence' between China and America during Hu Jintao's red carpet visit to the US last week, Barack Obama, in private, continued to push a policy of 'rolling back' the DPRK unless China took control of its ally in Pyongyang. Yet, China continued to urge diplomacy to defang the fearful tiger of war. Obama, on the other hand, stuck to a policy which is propped up by the belief that Beijing can throw its weight around in Pyongyang.
The American president made no bones about his policy with Hu. If Beijing won't keep Kim Jong il & co. in check, he is willing to redeploy troops to Korea and heighten military pressure with its client South Korea on the North.
Behind the polite words, the US gives no ground in a mad policy of playing chicken. In other words, do our bidding or else. And in the background the drums of war continue to beat.
China is not impressed. It is, if past behaviour holds true, patient to a point.
North Korea, too, in spite of moments of braggadocio, prefer negotiations, no matter how many times signals to Washington for talks remain unanswered. However, one thing is clear, it will brook no foreign military to abuse its territorial integrity. The world has seen a clear example of its 'defence of the fatherland' in late November 2010 when it reacted to South Korea's shelling along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] in the Yellow Sea on the edge of its territorial waters. And the world held its breath lest renewed warfare breaks out for the first time in 47 years.
Two months later the expressed desire for stability [read peace] and denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula are the watchwords of the day.
It is hoped that the stalled six party talks will resume on North Korea's nuclear programme. No timetable, however, is set. And the continued low grade 'propaganda' warfare against the North by the US and ROK, has stirred the rumour pot that the North will test a third nuclear device.
The Obama administration has not lessened the weight of its intention to inflict 'pain' military, economically, or politically on the DPRK.
The media chorus and the US North Korean clerisy continue to sing the same old pious hymns of the present and imminent danger the North represents unless the US remains vigiliant and decisive in policy and action.
One way to think about how 'wired' is Washington's looney policy is to consider the following two examples: the reporting from South Korea by the PBS [Public Broadcasting Systems] NewsHour's recent reports on the danger Seoul faces from Pyongyang by its senior correspondent Margaret Warner. Warner has seen done her due diligence and spoken to the American ambassadrix and military and high South and ordinary Koreans. She has dutifully transmitted the message of the danger prosperous South Korea faces from the North. Her reporting is, more or less, an undigested account which the eye can find in US broadsheets and tabloids and in government press releases. When you try to peel the onion of propaganda down to its core, she alerts us to what we already know: things are not all that well on the divided Korean peninsula and we do not have to search further than our nose in order to sniff out the culprit--the North. Warner has not bothered to set the story in context nor look at the 'brave' Lee Myung bak's vindictive policy towards the North which almost exploded into war again in Korea.
Consider, too, the 'preaching' of Lee Song yoon, an adjunct assistant professor of international politics at Tufts' Fletcher school of law and diplomacy. A South Korean who has lectured at the department of state and West Point, and whose opinion is widely sought in print, on the radio and television. In an October speech at the ultra conservative Hillsdale College, he put his audience on alert that Kim Jong il & co. is still out to 'communise' the Korean peninsula. It's an old chestnut which has its occasional use albeit in reality hardly realisable.
Lee harped on the significance of 27 July 1953 - the date the Armistice Agreement was signed by the US, China, and North Korea. [South Korea refused to put its name to that document which froze the boundaries of North and South Korea]. For the North, that day is celebrated as 'victory in the war of liberation of the fatherland'. For him, that day is proof positive that the North has not given up its desire to impose its will on the South. [Today, North and South Korea express the long aching desire of reunification, more likely in spirit than in reality.]
You have to hand it to Lee, he throws out history and politics. It is significant to remember that during the Korean War, owing to the US' command of the air, the North had been reduced to ruin and rubble. And, in spite of the US UN led troops, the North Korean army with the help of Chinese volunteers 'rolled back' General Macarthur's forces to where they remain today at the 38 parallel. With this brief resume of events, it is very understandable why North Korea celebrates 27 July 1953: for the North Koreans, they 'liberated' their homeland. Lee may read into that moment what he will, but he misses the point completely. GuamDiary has more than once suggested to its readers Bruce Cumings' 'the Korean war: a history' [Random House]. His book provides an excellent brief history of the war and the utter destruction that it visited on the North.
For Lee and his fellow clercs, the Korean war is a mark of shame, for it failed to overthrow the regime of Kim Il Sung. It remains, to them, a badge of dishonour that Kim's son and soon his grandson will govern the North. For them, the war will never be over till the failed policy of 'rollback' will be completed.
And so we come back to our point that in spite of the promise of talks and restoring stability and it is hoped denuclearising the Korean peninsula, the dreams of a military solution remain ever alive among US policy makers and elite.
It seems the time has come for the US and ROK to put toys of war away, and get down to difficult job of negotiating with the North, in order to officially end the Korean war with a peace treaty and denuclearising the peninsula which the North has kept promising and saying should Washington recognise it as an equal.
As long as visions of 'rollback' [which is at heart the 'officious' policy of the Obama administration], nourish US policy, no peace is possible.

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