Giving Peace a Chance in Korea

Vice President Mike Pence has declared that “all options are on the table” regarding North Korea and “the era of strategic patience is over.” But peaceful negotiations may be the only option that makes sense, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

As the Trump administration rattles the sabers over North Korea and its nuclear-weapons program, peace advocates are countering with warnings about the grave dangers if war breaks out on the peninsula and expressions of hope if fresh thinking about peace and reconciliation can prevail.

“If we are ever going to build the critical mass of an anti-war movement with a U.S. social movement,” said Christine Ahn, the former executive director of the Korea Policy Institute and currently the International Coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, “we have to fight together now, to put an end to this saber rattling, and potential first strike that the U.S. may conduct on North Korea.”

Women Cross DMZ walk in Pyongyang, North Korea at the Monument of Reunification in 2015 (Photo by Niana Liu)

I spoke recently with Ahn about the critical nature of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. In 2015, her group organized a historic crossing of the demilitarized zone by 30 women from 15 countries, including many countries that had participated and fought in the Korean War. It included Gloria Steinem, two Nobel Peace laureates, renowned peace activists from Guam, from the Philippines and from Okinawa, Japan.

Dennis Bernstein: In a moment I want to talk to you about one of the struggles that has to do with this, the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD. But first, I’d like you to speak to what you see as the multiple dangers facing Koreans. Do you think we are at a critical moment? Give us your response there please.

Christine Ahn: Well, Dennis, I do think that we are in a critical moment. First and foremost, my concern is that the only communication that we have with North Korea is one of military posturing and aggression. And we see that on both sides. North Korea is conducting missile tests, nuclear tests. They’re building up their arsenal and their capacity to launch the ICBM with a nuclear warhead that could hit the United States.

I don’t think they’re wanting to do it, to be an aggressor or to truly kill Americans. They’re doing it out of self-defense. And as you mentioned earlier, when President Trump was having dinner with President Xi Jinping from China, and over chocolate cake he explains that the U.S. has bombed, sent 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to Syria that he was sending a message to China. That if they don’t put pressure on North Korea that the U.S. will unilaterally act.

And they have said that all options are on the table, which includes military action which is absolutely insane, to even use that kind of saber rattling. I mean, even the Obama administration, which had a terrible policy, the so-called “strategic patience,” which is ultimately more sanctions, more isolation, more aggressive military exercises, in the hopes of regime collapse in North Korea. Well, that didn’t happen. And what you see, actually, is images from North Korea of economic development of their [country]… in fact North Korea’s GDP [Gross Domestic Product], it grew by more than the EU [European Union]. I mean, it doesn’t say a whole lot, but it just shows that despite the international sanctions, and the kind of pressure and isolation that they experience, that they are doing what they can to survive. And they are.

And I just think that, my hope in this dangerous hour, and why I think it’s so dangerous, is that there is a political vacuum in South Korea. As your listeners may or may not know, for weeks, starting in last October, the South Korean people took to the streets, to hold candlelight vigils on a weekly basis. They were holding these candlelight vigils to bring light to a deeply corrupt government … calling for a different kind of government that respected the rights of labor, of working people, of farmers. […] For the tragic … deaths of hundreds of high school students that were killed in a ferry accident, while the president [Park Geun-hye] was, who knows what, like, getting her hair done or something. And the massive corruption of the Tragos, the transnational corporations, the Samsungs, the Hyundais. How it has just completely corrupted the political system. And so, the people took to the streets. And they led ultimately to her impeachment. And so, she’s now, actually, in prison because of the extraordinary work of people fighting for democracy.

But what we have right now is a very dangerous political vacuum. And so there is going to be a snap election on May 9th. And by all indications the front runner is a guy named Moon Jae-in. He’s a former human rights lawyer. He was the chief of staff under Roh Moo-hyun, who was the last progressive president. And he has since been going to visit Pyongyang before going to Washington, D.C.

DB: So he decided to go to North Korea. So he is inclined to be with that people’s’ movement that you were just describing?

CA: Absolutely. He says that engagement and diplomacy with North Korea is the best guarantee for our security, in South Korea. That is sensibility. And I think that the people in South Korea… you know, Tim Shorrock, a really fabulous journalist, who writes often for the Nation, who is now in South Korea. He wrote a great piece and he said it’s like the complete contrast in what we’re seeing in South Korea as people… I mean here in the United States, so many of us, especially the Korean-American community, is completely on edge. We’re thinking, “Oh, my God, is the Trump administration going to want to first strike against North Korea?” Because they are so unpredictable, and we have no sense of what their policy is. They said we’ve done this review, and it ranges from military aggression or coercive diplomacy, to engagement, so it’s so schizophrenic and we have no idea. And what we have seen is them sending cruise missiles to Syria and to Afghanistan. And so … what can we expect?

DB: And it’s not only what can you expect, in fact, it was stated today by the Vice President that that was actually not a coincidence, that was a message. That was… those were double messages. The big bomb, the attack on Syria.. that Trump will go after the North.

Now, I need to ask you to, just for a moment, I’ve heard generals bandying this about on the corporate networks that, really, if the U.S. forces decided they could take out Korea without nuclear weapons, the initial thing would take, you know, maybe it would take several months, to do it. But it could be done. What would happen? What might that look like?

CA: Oh, it’s just sheer fantasy. It’s just sheer fantasy. And successive administrations from the Bush administration, the Clinton administration before it, and the Obama administration, trust me, they have all thought this through. And, on one hand, you have intelligence think tanks that say that, actually, U.S. intelligence is murky at best. We have no idea where all the nuclear sites are. It’s all underground. Our intelligence is very murky.

So, and even based on the intelligence we have in the 1990s, when the Clinton administration almost did conduct a first strike on Pyongyang, the nuclear reactors in North Korea. The Defense Department came back and said “You know what?”… and this was even before North Korea possessed nuclear weapons. They said, “If there was a first strike by the United States, we would have a counter reaction not with nuclear weapons but North Korea’s conventional weaponry, that would lead ultimately within the first 24 hours to up to a million people killed.”

A map of the Korean Peninsula showing the 38th Parallel where the DMZ was established in 1953. (Wikipedia)

And so, unfortunately, the military option is not really an option for the United States, unless it’s some reckless, mad, insane person that wants to kill innocent civilians. And Seoul, South Korea is just like 40 miles away from the DMZ [demilitarized zone]. And so, for a U.S. president to do something so reckless like that would spell the death, basically, of the U.S./South Korea alliance. And I think the U.S. needs to be very careful in this moment, especially when you have a citizenry, in South Korea, that wants more justice. They want greater equality. They want more transparency. They want good government. And they want a different kind of policy, inter-Korea policy. They don’t want to maintain the hard-line, isolationist stance. […] By all means, I’m not trying to romanticize how South Koreans are viewing North Koreans. They see a tremendous cost in the process of reunification, but they don’t want to ultimately lead to their own mutual destruction.

And so, that’s my hope, is that on May 9th that we have a progressive president in South Korea, and they can talk some sense into Washington, D.C. And, who knows where the wind will turn, but I do have a sense that we can’t continue the way that we have. We can’t do it because it’s too costly for the U.S. to maintain the massive 800 military bases around the world. You know this economy cannot withstand the amount of pressures, and especially in the Trump budget, where he’s advocating for a $54 billion increase in the already $600 billion bloated military budget. You know, this is the moment when progressives and… when all of us, women, veterans, the Black Lives Matter, the immigrants rights movement, we have to come together, and especially put our focus… I mean the climate march is happening this weekend. The EPA is going to be cut, and so we have to have a true discussion, in this country, about our security, our human security.

DB: Let me just jump in here. One of the terribly interesting things here is that the United States would not have to declare war because they never ended the Korean War. And that’s, of course, something that you all have been working on for a long time. But, I would like you to say a little bit more about the hope. You’re talking about a candidate on the ground who will actually represent the people after many years of terrible repression and in a right-wing government that was moving from authoritarian to worse. So, it must be an extraordinarily mixed bag on the one hand, you’ve got this movement, this grassroots movement, that has been fighting for so long, on the verge of electing somebody that might actually represent them. And it’s the brink of their version of World War III.

CA: Uhmm, I know, isn’t it absolutely nuts? Yes, I mean it is the light at the end of the tunnel, I feel. And I think that you bring up the really good point. People say “Oh, the ‘mother of all bombs’ that the U.S. unleashed on Afghanistan”…

DB: And I meant to say that you mentioned that all those other presidents you mentioned didn’t go to war against the North. Well, all those other presidents also didn’t drop “the mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan but this guy came in, and in 100 days he’s dropping it.

CA: I know. I know. Well, and that’s the point that I make, which is, North Korea doesn’t need to see what the brutality that the U.S. military can unleash. They already have their own experience, and their own history. There’s a photo that a Getty Images photographer took in 1951, and I think K.J. Noh sent this really heartbreaking passage of a quote from General MacArthur, who is not a kind-hearted person, who’s a brutal military man. Even he said that he almost vomited by seeing the carnage, and the massive destruction that the U.S. military bombing campaign unleashed on both North and South Korea. I mean, 80% of North Korean cities were bombed to bits…

DB: …80% of the North Korean cities were bombed in this fake Korean, not a fake war, but the way it was conceived…

CA: …as a police action is how I think Truman sold it to the Congress! And got, you know, this like rogue United Nations command that brought in 20 countries to fight under… it’s the first coalition of the willing. And so, the Korean War, I think bringing it back home, and to the cost to our security here at home, is that it was the Korean War that inaugurated the massive military spending. It wasn’t Vietnam. It was the Korean War. And I think it would have huge significance if we could formerly end the Korean War.

And so, that’s the point that I’ve been trying to teach, is in 1953, three years into the war, after 4 million people were killed, including up to 40,000 U.S. soldiers, we signed an armistice agreement. It’s not something “over there.” This is our problem, here, because it was our U.S. military commander, [Gen. William] Harrison, that signed the armistice, the cease fire, with the North Korean commander. And they promised on July 27, 1953, that within 90 days, this is article 4, paragraph 6, of this armistice agreement, where they said “We will return to negotiate a peace settlement.”

That was a promise, and it’s been 64 years now. And it’s not just North Korea that is calling for a peace treaty. I was just on a webinar with one of the leading South Korean women peace activist, Ahn Shin Shanya, she said “We see the massive militarization of South Korea, and the ongoing… the longest foreign military occupation by the United States in Korea’s entire history, as a result of this armistice, the cease fire, that has maintained the Korean peninsula in a state of war.”

So, I think it’s crucial that Americans understand that we… it’s not about them, it’s about us. It’s about our responsibility, because we have 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. It is our aggressive posturing, our military exercises, where we simulate an invasion of North Korea, the decapitation of its leader. And it’s odd that we’re the signatories of that cease fire, with a commitment to signing a peace treaty.

If we could just get that straight I think we could set a lot in motion [because] ultimately there is no other option. The only option that the Trump administration, and the United States, has with North Korea is diplomatic. Which is a resolution of this conflict. We can freeze North Korea’s nuclear program, we can sign a non-aggression pact that begins a mutual peace building process. It is possible. We did it with Iran, we did it with Cuba.

It’s going to take political will, and I think for the listeners in the [San Francisco] Bay Area, [U.S. Representative] Barbara Lee, she must be a champion. And I think one thing that I found so significant about Barbara Lee, not only was she one of the only lone and sane voices in trying to stop the war in Iraq, there was a radio interview that she did with somebody, where she said that she actually had a long conversation with her father who was a veteran of the Korean War, before she made that courageous vote in Congress, the vote against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And he explained to her, “that war was a brutal war, we cannot afford to go to war.”

And so, I think Barbara Lee, in her own personal connection to Korea, by way of her father, who is a veteran of the war…. We have to call on Barbara Lee, she should try to push Trump about this War Powers Act. She’s been a big champion on challenging the U.S. military aggression in Syria, and Afghanistan. We have to call on her to do the same for North Korea.

I really hope that listeners in the Bay Area will pick up the phone and call Barbara Lee’s office, and say, “We need you to be a champion. We’re here on the West Coast and if North Korea conducts a strike as a counter-strike to our first strike, you know, there is a possibility it could hit the coast of California.” We don’t need to go there.

DB: Yeah, and speaking of that, we must mention in the final minutes that we have that standing against this hope that you’re outlining, is the fact that we’ve got this deployment, this speeded up deployment, of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, THAAD. And this is a forward fighting tool that makes everybody in the freaking region nervous. And China is on the edge on this one, as well.

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test by the US Army, September 10, 2013. (Wikipedia)

CA: Absolutely. Well, first of all, it’s a missile defense system that everybody is questioning its feasibility. And so, this is a Lockheed Martin product that I think costs $15 million to produce. And that’s our tax dollars, yours and mine and everybody else listening. And so many experts, from South Korea to MIT here in the United States, have said, “This will do nothing to deter low-range North Korean missiles.” And that’s what South Korea would need some kind of defense from. And so it’s just been sold, and forced down the throat of the South Korean people. And [former South Korean president] Park Geun-hye, at the time last summer, she just agreed to it without any public debate, without any presidential approval. And so the leading contenders in the South Korean presidential race have said “Let’s wait for the next president, to try to determine whether this is beneficial for the people of South Korea.”

But instead, in this political vacuum, the U.S… when General Mattis went to South Korea, that was like top on his list, “We’re deploying THAAD.” And so, the South Korean people, unfortunately, have been caught in this growing stand-off between the U.S. and China.

And so, China has basically punished South Korea through a number of economic boycotts. They have not allowed K-pop stars to go to concerts. And they have really boycotted the Lotte department stores, as has the South Korean groups that are living in this area, this Seongju, which is a farm land, which is where they are going to put this missile defense site, next to schools where children will be exposed to all kinds of radiation, and other damaging impacts, of having this high radar.

And it’s just putting Korea, you know, we interviewed a bunch of South Korean women who have been organizing against this THAAD missile defense system. And they say “They are taking us so far away from building trust, and rapport, and reconciliation with North Korea. We don’t want this.” And, unfortunately, who’s benefitting? And it’s the military contractors. And so, we have to push back. We want a genuine alliance, I think, for the people. We can do that. It doesn’t have to be a military alliance that just sends its military contractors. We have to think a different way. And, unfortunately, we have our big fight here against the Trump administration, but hopefully the silver lining is there is a progressive president in South Korea that’s going to have to shift.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at

31 comments for “Giving Peace a Chance in Korea

  1. Zachary Smith
    April 30, 2017 at 12:35

    Here is an example of some sharper-than-average propaganda from North Korea:

    Pyongyang slams Israel as ‘disturber of peace armed with illegal nukes under US patronage’

    Being the truth doesn’t hurt, either.

  2. Zachary Smith
    April 27, 2017 at 20:35

    No doubt I’ve established that I’m not a great fan of North Korea, but there is one issue on which that nation and China also have a very real gripe with regard to the US.

    “How Bio-Weapons Led To Torture … And North Korean Nukes”

    In Why North Korea Needs Nukes – And How To End That we pointed to the utter destruction the U.S. and its allies waged in the war on Korea on all parts of the country. That North Korea seeks “weapons of mass destruction” is quite understandable when one takes into account the hundreds of thousands tons of napalm used against it. But even Napalm and the criminal destruction of North Korean dams were not the worst depravation the U.S. applied. Biological warfare agents, primarily anthrax, were dropped over North Korea and China and killed civilians. The U.S./UN command denied such use and covered it up. One consequence of that cover up was the development of torture methods in the U.S. SERE pilot training programs and their later proliferation into criminal abuses in Guantanamo, Abu Graibh and elsewhere. An important piece of evidence of this trail was recently and for the first time re-published on the web.

    I was and continue to be infuriated that Obama didn’t prosecute a single thieving banker, but what “they” did after WW2 makes that outrage almost “chump change” by comparison. Japan had a very large bio-war establishment, and the experiments their bio-war & chemical people did with civilian captives in China as well as Allied POWs are stomach-turning to read. In order to get hold of the Japanese data, MacArthur did what Obama did later with the bankers, let them all walk free.

    It doesn’t take much imagination to conclude that anybody with that kind of lizard-navel morality would want to play with their new toys in a brand new war against a brand new set of enemies – China and North Korea.

  3. John Doe II
    April 27, 2017 at 14:01

    Asia’s American menace

    By Brahma Chellaney
    APRIL 27, 2017

    US President Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy – based on tactics and transactions, rather than strategic vision – has produced a series of dazzling flip-flops. Lacking any guiding convictions, much less clear priorities, Trump has confounded America’s allies and strategic partners, particularly in Asia – jeopardizing regional security in the process.

    To be sure, some of Trump’s reversals have brought him closer to traditional US positions. In particular, he has declared that Nato is “no longer obsolete,” as it supposedly was during his campaign. That change has eased some of the strain on the US relationship with Europe.

    But in Asia – which faces serious security, political, and economic challenges – Trump’s reversals have only exacerbated regional volatility. With so many political flashpoints threatening to trigger violent conflict, the last thing Asia’s leaders need is another strategic wild card.

    Yet, in Trump, that is precisely what they have. The US president has shown himself to be more mercurial than the foul-mouthed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte or the autocratic Chinese President Xi Jinping. Even the famously impulsive North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un seems almost predictable, by comparison.

      • John Doe II
        April 27, 2017 at 14:14

        Trump believes that “lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away,” owing to his relationship with the “terrific” Xi. In fact, his promise to “Make America Great Again” is antithetical to Xi’s “Chinese dream” of “rejuvenating the Chinese nation.”

        Xi’s idea, which Trump is unwittingly endorsing, is that their countries should band together in a “new model of great power relations.” But it is hard to imagine how two countries with such opposing worldviews – not to mention what Harvard University’s Graham Allison has called “extreme superiority complexes” – can oversee world affairs effectively.

        It is conceivable that Trump could flip again on China (or North Korea). Indeed, Trump’s policy reversals may well turn out to be more dangerous than his actual policies. The need for constant adjustment will only stoke greater anxiety among America’s allies and partners, who now run the risk that their core interests will be used as bargaining chips. If those anxieties prompt some countries to build up their militaries, Asia’s strategic landscape will be fundamentally altered.

        Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, is the author of nine books, including Asian Juggernaut, Water: Asia’s New Battleground, and Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis.


  4. Bill Goldman
    April 27, 2017 at 11:55

    The only measure that will calm North Korea down is for the US to put an end to the provocative and inflammatory “Key Resolve-Foal Eagle” exercises that have been going on for decades.

  5. David Hart
    April 26, 2017 at 17:50

    I submit two articles for the readers to digest concerning the history of the Korean nation, up until 2000, and the current situation that Korea faces today in response to the world powers who hold all the cards. These two articles are, in my estimation the best two articles on the US — Korean situation happening today:

    The Long History–from S. Brian Willson:

    Contemporary History, from Dr. Tim Beal, analyst on Asia affairs and prolific writer on Korea: from the Asia-Pacific Journal, November 2016:

  6. Richard DeBacher
    April 26, 2017 at 16:49

    It’s time to move toward a final end to the Korean War and the only way to get that process started is to get China fully engaged in the effort. To do that, the United States needs to put everything peaceful on the table — including its willingness to withdraw all military forces from the Korean peninsula once Pyongyang agrees to a phased extension of the demilitarized zone another twenty miles on both sides to be followed by four-party peace talks.

    China has been reluctant to put real pressure on the North — they don’t want the regime to collapse and find themselves with a U.S. ally, backed by American forces on the peninsula, on their borders any more than we were willing to accept Russian missiles on Cuban soil. If we set forth the goal of a unified, neutral, largely demilitarized Korea, China will have no excuse for not participating in the peace talks. We’ll need to put pressure on South Korea to accept the possibility of huge costs and difficult challenges if the possibility of reunification should become a reality. One of those challenges will be to give up hopes of prosecuting Kim Jong-il, his family and other high-ranking officials of the Kim regime. China will have to guarantee safe refuge for these thugs, and we’ll all have to accept their taking out of the country huge sums of money they’ve stolen from the North Korean people over the years. This is a small price to pay for the slim chance of a lasting peace and a reunified Korea.

    The U.S. made its first bad move when it negotiated peace between Japan and Russia with the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth which granted Japan colonial control of Korea as if Korea had anything to do with the Russo-Japanese War and as if the U.S. had the right to grant control of Korea to anyone. We bungled affairs on the peninsula after the Japanese surrender and our bungling contributed to the march toward war. MacArthur’s reckless advance toward the Yalu River ensured Chinese involvement and the stalemate that’s divided Korea ever since.

    If there’s ever going to be peace on the Korean peninsula, it will be when there are no American forces to threaten the Chinese. There is a path to peace in Korea. It will only be found when the U.S. and China pledge to work toward the goal of a unified, peaceful, neutral, and largely demilitarized Korea. Pray for peace.

  7. Zachary Smith
    April 26, 2017 at 00:39

    Perhaps Trump is running a bluff in Korea, but what if he isn’t? WHAT IF him and the Chinese leader have cooked up a scheme for a “regime change” in North Korea? I’ve read of Chinese military movements towards the border of North Korea. Trump is sending more military assets to the area as well.

    So head-on-the-block time: How about the notion China and the US are getting set to do to North Korea some version of what Nazi Germany and the USSR did to Poland in WW2? The tricky part would be to quickly take out the thousands of artillery pieces dug into the mountains north of Seoul. But if the two nations combined their information and moved quickly, that might be done without the deaths of too many South Koreans.

    The ideal outcome for China would have North Korea becoming a puppet state which no longer rocked the boat for either itself or the US. The US would presumably be ok with this because NK nukes and ICBMs wouldn’t be a problem any more, and I’d expect Trump to be baying at the moon in triumph. And most everybody in the region except possibly South Korea would be happy that unification was no longer possible. The neocons could hope that some such joint adventure would serve to pry the Chinese away from the Russians.

    For the sake of the civilians in Seoul, I hope this is just hot air, but I’ve got a feeling something is about to happen.

    • David Smith
      April 26, 2017 at 17:29

      Absolutely zero chance of China attacking North Korea. The United States finds North Korea very usefull and would be vewy, vewy sad if there was no North Korea.

  8. CitizenOne
    April 25, 2017 at 22:25

    Well I guess this is going to be a rather dark and ominous assessment of the chances for peace with North Korea. Sorry for the Debbie downer post. I would like to be more optimistic but unfortunately the situation is far dimmer for prospects for peace than we might wish for.

    Neville Chamberlains announcement that we had achieved peace in our time after fake negotiations with the Nazis should serve as fair warning that wishful thinking that we can negotiate with tyrants and dictators should school us in the folly of diplomacy with a regime which holds its people hostages of the State, routinely exports the citizens of their country to forced labor camps for the slightest infractions where they will surely perish, is still living the Korean War as though it happened yesterday, holds onto the idea that the US are still the Imperialist Running Dogs which seek the destruction of their Nation in a conflict between the Supreme Leader and the US Imperialists and has built up a military force to wage war against the West threatening their neighbor nations with threats of nuclear annihilation. North Korea is not a nation state we can deal with effectively through diplomacy.

    Diplomacy has failed over and over again in dealing with North Korea. For a glimpse into the Hermit Kingdom I would suggest some documentaries which shed light on what life is like in North Korea. These documentaries are eye openers on the conditions and life inside the Hermit Kingdom.

    It is clear that North Korea is a nation which places every ounce of its economic power to build its military and places no value on the life or health of its citizens.

    We cannot shut our eyes to the horrific conditions North Koreans face from their dictatorial nation. North Korea is not a nation which can be dealt with through diplomacy.

    The Chinese government must be compelled to deal with their protectorate. The Chinese hold the key to forcing change. If they do not do this, the North Korean government will continue on a path to once again go to war with America, their avowed enemy.

    Negotiation and diplomacy have proven futile and there is no way to deal with them. They are not afraid of Nuclear War based on their philosophy of shunning the rest of the World and believing that their destiny is to defy the rest of the World even if it means the destruction of their traumatized nation.

    They will never listen to foreign appeals for peace. They will never listen to the rest of the World. They will resist all efforts to change their policies and they will continue to use concentration camps to instill fear into the people and create a credible threat to squash dissidents by rounding up entire families and sending them to concentration camps to die.

    There is no dealing with a nation which has such a dark and menacing view for the rest of the World and their own citizens.

    There is no dealing with a nation which sends hundreds of thousands of their citizens to concentration camps to die.

    There is no dealing with a nation which views any question of its authority as punishable by death including the innocent inhabitants of neighboring countries.

    The threat of North Korea will only grow and negotiations will only provide more time for North Korea to develop more capabilities to defend their horrible government..

    Watch the documentaries and see what a horror show is North Korea. There is no freedom there. There is only the hope of survival from complete obedience.

    It is up to the rest of the World to end the regime in North Korea whatever the cost. The humanitarian crisis there should be enough cause to fight them just as the ransacking and destruction of Europe in WWII was a reason to fight the Nazis. The Nazis had extermination camps and so to do the North Koreans. They routinely exterminate their own population.

    China should join the fight to end the disastrous regime in North Korea.

    There is not a more horrible or dangerous regime on Planet Earth. Fear is our only enemy.

    The hope that like Neville Chamberlain we will find a peaceful solution to the threat of North Korea is nil.

    Sorry to lay down this heavy news. War is inevitable.

    • David Smith
      April 26, 2017 at 16:56

      What has North Korea ever done to you?

      • CitizenOne
        April 26, 2017 at 20:04
        • CitizenOne
          April 26, 2017 at 21:29

          Antimissile defenses being rapidly installed in the South.
          Air Force tests Minuteman III aerial launch command capability today

          Also,Trump held a closed briefing today which was called sobering:
          Navy Admiral Harry Harris said speaking ahead of the classified briefing the advanced missile defense system would be ready within the coming days. He said he believed that North Korea would try to attack the US as soon as it had the military capabilities. “With every test Kim grows closer to his goal, which is using nuclear weapons on US cities,” he told the House armed services committee in Washington DC. “As [US President Donald] Trump and [Defense Secretary James] Mattis have said, all options are on the table,” he added. President Trump invited all 100 senators to the briefing, which took place in a building next to the White House.

          I would conclude from the information being put out in the press releases that the US is displaying and acting in a way which would signal North Korea that the US perceives the threat from North Korea as an imminent danger to the USA and that the USA is preparing to deal with North Korea through military engagement.

          North Korea has been provoking the US by firing missiles against objections by the US and has displayed no intentions other than their declared position that any attack would mean nuclear annihilation of the USA and other nations. The intensified military displays by both nations have not had any effect to start diplomatic talks and the US has declared that the period of tolerance has ended. Also, the US has stated that all options are on the table.

          Installing antimissile defenses in the South will only be viewed by the North as a provocation for a preemptive strike.

          The scenario is serious. The US sees North Korea on an unstoppable march to develop missiles which can reach the United States and North Korea sees the installation of antimissile defenses to the South as a first step of a preemptive strike on the USA. The classified briefing which was called sobering no doubt outlined a strategy for a two option strategy. The first option would be that North Korea agrees to abandon its Nuclear program and the second option is to deal with North Korea with military force.

          We have entered uncharted territory. The two nations have never faced a nuclear showdown. There is a high probability that North Korea which has an entrenched philosophy of never surrendering or giving in a single iota to international demands for disarmament will choose to fight rather than backing down. It may be the fight they have been waiting for. It probably is. Their entire nation and culture have been preparing for this fight for generations and there is undoubtedly strong support for war rather than be invaded by the Imperialist Running Dogs of America.

          Former administrations have shied away from this scenario as an unacceptable outcome but not this time.

          We have reached an historic moment. Never before has the USA stood up to foreign aggressors with such military might before they made the first move and started a war. The West has always relied on diplomacy sometimes as in the case of WWII to their detriment. We waited until the Nazis had devoured Europe before we entered the war. We barely saved England as the last land base to launch effective operations against the Germans and if the allies had lost the Battle of Britain and the planned invasion of England by the Germans was successful, the war would have been lost and Europe would have become a Third Reich. It was close to the end for Europe. It is inconceivable that a naval force based across the Atlantic would have been able to defeat the Germans. Everything rode on defending England and amassing an assault force there, Operation Overlord, which would be able to take back Europe. It worked. But millions died and the World was at war.

          If we had taken a hard line with Germany earlier perhaps the war could have been avoided. Nobody has a crystal ball and hindsight is 20 20 but what is clear is diplomacy failed, war ensued and we won by the skin of our noses and the blood of our nation.

          No doubt these history lessons are being discussed today as the US decides a course against a nation which has openly vowed to annihilate the USA in a nuclear fire and reduce us to flaming ashes as they continue to develop weapons of mass destruction and the delivery vehicles necessary to accomplish that mission.

          North Korea is the real deal. They are an existential threat to the West. They have openly stated their intent to destroy us. It is not a veiled threat but an open statement of intent to wipe the USA off the face of the Earth. They have also been on an unstoppable course to achieve a means to that end.

          I am not sure why we might think that there may be a peace strategy with North Korea. Perhaps wishful thinking. But wishful thinking is not a plan for success. It is a plan for failure.

          Recent developments and actions by North Korea have demonstrated an increasing incitement to war with nuclear tests and missile launches. Perhaps they are posturing to deter the USA but it is not working for them with this administration. Instead it is provoking us to respond in kind with displays of military preparedness to engage the threat posed by North Korea.

          China would be wise at this time to step in and realize that there is nothing to be gained by defending North Korea and everything to lose. If they choose to decide to back away from support for North Korea, that might be enough of a signal to cause North Korea to pause.

          The clock is ticking. Sanctions are over. China needs to do something now to defuse the coming war.

    • David Smith
      April 27, 2017 at 11:16

      C.O. , you do not understand Koreans, if you did you would know the key is to LEAVE THEM THE F***K ALONE!!!!! All Korea’s problems have been caused by foreigners, and they know it. Koreans are the most ethnocentric nation on earth and have maintained their language, culture, and racial purity despite thousands of years next door to the Chinese Empire, and that should tell you something if you have a brain. You comments are a slurry of National Review level geopolitical Newspeak, and hence utterly worthless. Show some respect for Korea, Koreans, Korean culture, and Korean history.

  9. Realist
    April 25, 2017 at 15:58

    This crisis is simply a contest of wills. America, believing itself to be the world hegemon which must be obeyed by everyone, makes demands of North Korea that, if met, would cause its leader and government to lose face. North Korea and its leaders feel that they are an independent autonomous entity that can do as they please as long as they are not invading or damaging the interests of any other country. North Korea has been threatened with violence by America and its allies for the past 67 years. They feel entitled to develop whatever weaponry might dissuade the American alliance from attacking them. America, in contrast, has long believed it has the right to determine which other countries be allowed to defend themselves and by what means.

    You see, long ago the Americans, who reserve the right to decide everything on the planet, decreed that the two Korea’s really should be only one, just as they were before Japan colonised them and World War II ensued creating a lot of carnage and changing a lot of political realities. Of course, the government of a reunited Korea would by necessity be a puppet of the United States. It’s just the natural order of things, which the North Koreans will have to accept, either the easy way or the hard way. Or so Washington fervently believes.

    And so, for nearly seven decades subsequent to a scorched earth war that claimed millions of lives on the Korean peninsula, America has kept a sizable military garrison within the borders of South Korea with which to endlessly intimidate and threaten North Korea. If only NK would see the light and capitulate to the wishes of Uncle Sam. I mean they act like nothing more than a petulant child, Amirite? Not only will North Korea not cry “uncle,” they have displayed the chutzpah to talk trash with the biggest of America’s long line of loud-mouthed presidents. Whenever Sam deploys a weapon and makes a threat, the latest personage in the Kim dynasty feels honor-bound to do the same.

    And, so, here we are, 67 years down the road of conflict with North Korea, a shot never having been fired (well, maybe a few for effect) since 1953. Are we to believe that North Korea and its young new leader have suddenly gone all suicidal and are ready to finally initiate the ultimate war which they cannot win and will terminate their existence? Or are we to believe that the United States and its brand new septuagenarian leader are now ready to finally initiate the ultimate war which will probably exterminate the people of South Korea and probably kill a lot of folks in Japan as well? Think about the costs and think about the benefits involved here. Remember that both Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump love the good things in life, never having lived a second in privation during their entire existences. Both undoubtedly view their accomplishments as monuments to themselves. Does either seem likely to throw it all away and cause history to condemn them for what seems no more than a juvenile pissing contest? Yes, whichever of them may shoot first will receive a response in kind which will set off a chain of events ending all human life on the Korea peninsula and surrounds, but what does it benefit either of them to pull the trigger? The proper end game for this is for both men to just STFU, speak no more about the matter, and pretend all is just fine. If asked, each can say they deterred the other and take a bow. Someone should also pass the word on to the inflammatory American MSM to stop beating the war drums. Life will go on.

    • Zachary Smith
      April 25, 2017 at 16:12

      Only a few inconsequential shots being fired? You ought to catch up a bit on the history over there.


      and specifically:

      “An Early North Korean Provocation Remembered

      TOKYO – A North Korean provocation, a U.S. President new to the job and untested, a show of force by a naval armada: a date pregnant with meaning. All point to a half-forgotten but seminal episode of the Cold War more than 40 years go that still resonates.

      I was referring to the ambush and downing of a U.S. Navy EC-121 reconnaissance aircraft by two North Korean MiG-21s over the Sea of Japan on April 15, 1969. All 31 members of the crew perished in the attack, the largest aircrew lost during the Cold War.

      The shoot down took place about 90 miles off the coast of North Korea well outside North Korea’s 12 nautical miles territorial waters. There was no warning, no effort to force the aircraft, a multi-engine military version of the Lockheed Constellation, to land at a Korean base.

      It was nothing more than a cold-blooded ambush.

      Because they hold a strong hand on account of Seoul being within artillery range of the north, the North Koreans have behaved like heavily armed spoiled brats. That’s not to say they don’t have legitimate issues themselves, but on the whole that little nation has hardly been a shining light to the rest of the world.


      • Realist
        April 25, 2017 at 20:25

        Yes, yes, and then there was the capture of the Pueblo and its entire crew, which I’m surprised you didn’t mention to make your point of how remiss I am to leave out so much history while trying to keep a statement brief enough for anyone to want to read. I remember these incidents from when they happened. But, the point is neither side intended to escalate to a full-blown war over these incidents, just like when China forced down and impounded an American spy plane early in Dubya’s presidency. Both sides provoke and sometimes respond with action. Usually the incidents get papered over because no one really wants war. The Bush administration even got their plane back… at least the disassembled pieces.

  10. mike k
    April 25, 2017 at 15:08

    You have to wonder if the possible new peace oriented administration in S. Korea is worrying the Trumpies, hence the desperate threats. Peace is the enemy of Empire. The only peace the US craves is for every nation to submit totally to the US and it’s infinite greed for their resources.

  11. Zachary Smith
    April 25, 2017 at 13:57

    At the Naked Capitalism site this morning was a useful overview of the Korean situation.

    Our policy toward North Korea is not what most people think it is. We don’t want the North Koreans to go away. In fact, we like them doing what they’re doing; we just want less of it than they’ve been doing lately. If this sounds confusing, it’s because this policy is unlike what the public has been led to assume. Thanks to something uncovered by WikiLeaks, the American public has a chance to be unconfused about what’s really going on with respect to our policies in Korea.

    The piece goes on to say China feels much the same way. In my opinion a strong and united Korea would also be a death-blow to Japan’s dreams of an Imperial comeback.


  12. Zachary Smith
    April 25, 2017 at 13:49

    And got, you know, this like rogue United Nations command that brought in 20 countries to fight under…

    When I got to this I realized I was reading some kind of “alternate history”. Probably both Bernstein and Ahn know South Korea was invaded by North Korea, but I’ve seen no indication that either of them care. Indeed, this remark suggests that allowing Stalin to take over the entire peninsula would have been just swell with them.

    In my opinion this amounts to spitting on the graves of over 200,000 South Korean soldiers as well as the 54,000 American war dead.

    • Miranda Keefe
      April 25, 2017 at 22:45

      I guess you don’t know that the Communists in both the North and the South were the resistance to the Japanese and that they were very popular in both the North and the South and that Kim Il -sung, the leader, was extremely popular in the south.

      I guess you don’t know that it was Russia that liberated Korea from the Japanese and instead of being the occupying force for all of it, invited the US into share the military occupation until general elections would establish a new government. I guess you don’t know that the UN promised full elections throughout both occupation zones to establish that government but that the US and their Korean occupation leaders, who were the same folk as had cooperated with the Japanese, decided to not participate out of fear that Kim would win.

      I guess you don’t know that the South Korean puppet government then started purging (read murdering) the community organizations throughout the south that had identified as communist and had been the resistance and functioning local governments.

      I guess you don’t know that the US and the South put a boycott and embargo on the North, basically starving them to death.

      Only then did the North invade the South. You could look at it as one country invading another, starting a war. Or you could look at it as the same anti-colonialists who’d resisted occupation in the past seeking to finish the resistance and finally rid themselves of foreign imperialists occupying them.

      • Zachary Smith
        April 26, 2017 at 00:20

        I guess you don’t know that the Communists in both the North and the South were the resistance to the Japanese and that they were very popular in both the North and the South and that Kim Il -sung, the leader, was extremely popular in the south

        Nobody but the Communists resisted the Japanese, huh? I doubt it. And the “popularity business doesn’t right true, either.

        I guess you don’t know that it was Russia that liberated Korea from the Japanese and instead of being the occupying force for all of it, invited the US into share the military occupation until general elections would establish a new government.

        That one I didn’t “know” because there is not the tiniest speck of truth to it.


        I guess you don’t know that the US and the South put a boycott and embargo on the North, basically starving them to death.

        Yes, that’s a brand new one to me, and since I couldn’t locate references on the internet, how about links to this and your other claims. I’ll also settle for quotes from named textbooks and journal articles.

        You could look at it as one country invading another, starting a war.

        That’s precisely the way I look at the matter, and I couldn’t even decipher the bafflegab following that sentence – unless you suppose Stalin was neither a “foreigner” nor an “imperialist”.

        • Miranda Keefe
          April 26, 2017 at 14:41

          The source for my assertions is from Paul Atwood in an article on Counterpunch:

          I did get one thing wrong. The US didn’t stop the elections but controlled them so much that the north opted out.

          • Zachary Smith
            April 26, 2017 at 18:47

            Your author doesn’t believe in sources either, so I had to go a little further afield and make an examination of him. He has a PhD in some field, and has written a book. From the first review at Amazon of “War and Empire: The American Way of Life I found this from the 4 star rating.

            Also, I would have preferred if the author had made his case more fully in some spots rather than simply assert motivations. While I know he is correct from more in depth coverage of these subjects that I’ve seen elsewhere, critical readers not familiar with these subjects will have trouble simply taking his word for it.

            I’m going to take the same approach as this reviewer – that Mr. Atwood gets a lot of things right, but expects readers to “take his word” for whatever it is he is saying. Hey, the man is a PhD, and how do you get to be one of them unless you know everything worth knowing?

            Mr. Atwood is simply wrong about some of his claims in the link essay. I looked up other essays and found a similar pattern. From another Counterpunch essay:

            In 1944 the czar of war production, Charles Wilson, former CEO of General Electric, one of the largest recipients of war contracts, worried about what would happen when the 16 million G.I’s returned home. Would they find unemployment again and more breadlines, especially since government contracts had kept factories running? His solution? The United States, he declared, needed a “permanent war economy.”

            The problem with this is that there is no evidence Charles Edward Wilson said this. His wiki says it needs verification, and my own search turned up zilch. Did this stop Mr. Atwood from presenting the internet rumor as truth? No – the tale fit his narrative so he grabbed it and ran with it.

            From another Atwood Counterpunch essay:

            The American public was propagandized to believe that either Germany or Japan would invade the U.S. but elites knew that wasn’t the threat.

            The Hollywood “documentary,” Why We Fight, even employed trick photography to depict Japanese troops marching down Constitution Avenue in D.C. But under no circumstances could either Japan or Germany accomplish an invasion.

            I’ve no explanation for this nonsense except to speculate that PhD Atwood is so full of himself that he doesn’t think he needs to do any actual reading or thinking about World War 2.

            Hitler needed a large blue-water Navy, and had only the start of one. He – or some other person – recognized that aircraft carriers were the wave of the future, and in 1938 Germany launched the nearly finished Graf Zeppelin with another one in the same class scheduled to be built. He had a chance to snatch France’s navy, but Britain prevented that with the Mers-el-Kébir attack. After finishing off the USSR, Hitler would truly invade Britain, and a big part of Churchill’s bargaining power with the US was the final disposition of the large British navy. It was nightmare time to even imagine that Hitler might simply take it over as part of a easier surrender deal. When Pearl Harbor happened, Hitler finally saw his chance for Instant Naval Power (the superb Japanese Navy!) and declared war on the US. Now quoting Albert Speer:

            In his later years, Speer, talking with his biographer-to-be Gitta Sereny, explained how he felt in 1939: “Of course I was perfectly aware that [Hitler] sought world domination …[A]t that time I asked for nothing better. That was the whole point of my buildings. They would have looked grotesque if Hitler had sat still in Germany. All I wanted was for this great man to dominate the globe.”[50]

            Mr. Atwood is not a bad guy. He’s merely woefully ignorant in some ways, and more than a little gullible. That he believes Japan and Germany weren’t deadly dangers in WW2, that Stalin was innocently reacting to Horrible America – gullibility is the only way I can explain what I’ve been reading.

        • David Hart
          April 26, 2017 at 17:39

          Having lived in Korea for 6 years, and having read extensively on the Korean situation from all sides, suffice it to say that the United States had its hand in the tragedy of Korea long before Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel divided the country along the 38th parallel. When the US first attempted its forays into Korea, sending the USS General Sherman up the Taedong River in 1866 (in order to a) open up trade and b) “Christianize the heathen Korean people), they were met with hostility and force–all the crew members, including the Roman Catholic missionary on board, were killed. The US sent a reprisal force of several thousand troops in 1871, just to show the Koreans who was boss. The United States signed a treaty with Korea in 1882, :guaranteeing Korean independence. Turns out, the Koreans should have studied the “guaranteed” treaties that the US made with the indigenous peoples of the North American continent who had populated their land for centuries. In order to get Japanese approval of our land grab in the Philippine Islands, Teddy “Big Stick” Roosevelt reneged on the treaty (he even bragged about it in his autobiography, throwing it in the face of the Koreans whom he had betrayed), and with the Taft (William Howard, he of the 335 pounds of War Secretary)-Katsuma agreement, allowed Japan to “colonize” Korea, which they promptly completed in 1910. There were those who collaborated with the Japanese (generally in the south, which had always been viewed in the north as the seat of pro-foreign collaborators) and those, such as Kim Il-sung who fought the Japanese occupation. The Koreans naively thought that the defeat of Japan in WWII would allow them to take possession of their country and chart their destiny. Silly Korea!! You’re dealing with the United States! Russia had agreed to enter the war three months from the May 8th surrender of Germany, which they did to the day, declaring war on Japan on August 8th, 1945. Rusk and Bonesteel hurriedly came up with the division at the 38th parallel, hoping that the Soviet Union would agree to the division line, but not convinced that they would. After all, the US had no troops in Korea at the time, and the Soviet army had advanced throughout the north. The Americans were actually surprised when Stalin did not object to the division of the Korean peninsula. And although the North Koreans did “officially” begin the war to unify what they felt was their country, there is a long history about why and how that happened, and, as usual, a total misreading of the history of the times and the situation by the American government–much the same as we did in Vietnam. The US has a history of marginalizing, demonizing and threatening North Korea for the past 72 years, actually placing nuclear weapons in South Korea as early as 1958 (a total abrogation of the terms of the armistice of 1953–surprise!) and continue to threaten them with nuclear themed and regime-change scenario’d “war games” for the past several decades. We have failed to deliver on numerous promises to the North Koreans, most notably those made in the Agreed Framework of 1994 by the Clinton administration. The North Korean government is oppressive and brutal, and I do not condone their practices or advocate their repressive measures. But, as in Cuba, we certainly have not made life easy for the North Korean people. Now is the time for engagement, a peace treaty to end the Korean war once and for all, and the admission that our policy on North Korea (which has changed often during the past 7 decades) has been an abject failure, and that the Korean people together have the right and the responsibility to work out their ideas of reconciliation and reunification together, without the interference of the major world powers: China, Russia, Japan and the US. We don’t NEED to create more tension and heartache on the Korean peninsula–instead we should focus on the huge opportunity we have to bring the North Koreans into the 21st century, diffuse the tensions and create a system that can eventually–even if years down the road–bring the Korean nation together to be whole again. Certainly this is better that the possiblity of another 3+ million Koreans being slaughtered by outside forces.

          • Zachary Smith
            April 27, 2017 at 13:58

            In order to get Japanese approval of our land grab in the Philippine Islands, Teddy “Big Stick” Roosevelt reneged on the treaty (he even bragged about it in his autobiography, throwing it in the face of the Koreans whom he had betrayed), and with the Taft (William Howard, he of the 335 pounds of War Secretary)-Katsuma agreement, allowed Japan to “colonize” Korea, which they promptly completed in 1910

            It has been only a couple of years since I learned of Roosevelt’s betrayal of the Koreans. That man has as much business being on Mt. Rushmore as George “codpiece commander” Bush.

            After all, the US had no troops in Korea at the time, and the Soviet army had advanced throughout the north.

            According to Mark Barry the reason the US didn’t have any troops in Korea was the oversized ego of Douglas MacArthur. He had to be the center of attention, and all other events were cancelled until he had his glory time on the deck of the USS Missouri.


          • Zachary Smith
            April 27, 2017 at 14:14

            Turns out, the Koreans should have studied the “guaranteed” treaties that the US made with the indigenous peoples of the North American continent who had populated their land for centuries.

            The US is, as you say, extremely flexible when it comes to treaties it doesn’t like. At the end of WW2 there is the example of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact. The US involvement was that we desperately wanted the Soviets in the war with Japan so as to “share” with the blood being spilled. The nature of the problem from the Wiki:

            However, the text of the treaty clearly stated that the pact remained in force until April 1946.

            The story goes that the US was instrumental in talking Stalin into a “face-saving” way out. Stalin was every kind of bastard it’s possible to be, but even he didn’t want to get to be known as a routine treaty-breaker. The language in the USSR’s declaration of war tells how it was managed.

            The demand of the three powers, the United States, Great Britain and China, on July 26 for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces was rejected by Japan, and thus the proposal of the Japanese Government to the Soviet Union on mediation in the war in the Far East loses all basis.

            Taking into consideration the refusal of Japan to capitulate, the Allies submitted to the Soviet Government a proposal to join the war against Japanese aggression and thus shorten the duration of the war, reduce the number of victims and facilitate the speedy restoration of universal peace.

            One of the nastiest dictators of all time suddenly got an interest in “victims” and “peace”? Not bloody likely. But with this language he was able to Take The High Road and do what he really wanted to do anyhow, grab a big chunk of East Asia. Having the full blessing of the US while doing that wasn’t likely to happen again, so he did it.

        • David Hart
          April 26, 2017 at 17:53

          For a true understanding of the US-North Korea relationship–going back to the mid-1800’s, here is the well-researched essay by activist S. Brian Willson:

  13. MaDarby
    April 25, 2017 at 13:29

    Is anyone else out there sick and tired of the phrase “all options are on the table” — for cry’in out loud – the US destroyed two cities full of innocent civilians with nuclear weapons at a point in time when Japanese surrender had already been assured.

    From that moment on the US has ALWAYS maintained a first strike policy regarding the use of these weapons again.

    The phrase is nothing less than a restatement of the first strike doctrine. By definition all options are always on the table. That is why the US president is always looked upon with awe – he always has his finger on the button.

  14. Sally Snyder
    April 25, 2017 at 12:51

    As shown in this article, the collapse of North Korea is not without significant risks:

    The Korean War which took three years and the lives of 2.5 million people, including more than a million combat casualties, ended up being a less than satisfying 60 year stalemate.

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