Hands off North Korea
Opinion piece by Ken Stone,
January 15, 2018
Re: Editorial, Dec. 26, “Vancouver Summit Gives Us Hope”
Yes, “a negotiated, rather than military, solution” between the U.S.A. and DPRK is desirable. However, the Trudeau government and Hamilton Spectator can’t facilitate this process, operating under false stereotypes about North Korea.
One is that the “isolated Hermit Kingdom” is the most dangerous regime on the planet. Actually, North Korea hasn’t been involved in war for 65 years. During that time, the U.S.A. has intervened militarily in over 50 countries. Clearly, the U.S.A. is far more dangerous.
Another is that North Korea’s a rogue state. Actually, North Korea has committed few, if any, violations of international law. On the other hand, the U.S.A. wantonly disregards international consensus, for example, by unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and by attacking many states, in contravention of international law and its own constitution.
A third is that North Korea can’t be allowed to have nuclear ambitions. However, any sovereign state may possess nuclear weapons. The U.S.A. has thousands, ranging from “tactical” (one-to-12 times the explosive power released at Hiroshima) to “strategic” (up to 1,000 times Hiroshima). The U.S.A. is also the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in wartime, killing over 200,000 Japanese civilians in 1945, after the Japanese government offered unsuccessfully to surrender. Today, even tiny countries, such as Belgium and Holland have about 50 nuclear weapons each. Turkey, Pakistan, India, and Israel also have nuclear weapons. Why not North Korea?
North Korea observed that, when Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi disposed of their weapons of mass destruction, their countries were targeted by the U.S.A. On the other hand, when the 2016 United Nations vote took place on the treaty banning nuclear weapons, North Korea was the only nuclear state voting for negotiating the treaty; 122 countries supported the treaty. Canada opposed it.
North Korea is nervous about the U.S.A. for several valid reasons. First, during the Korean War, U.S. forces laid waste to the country, carpet-bombing its cities, killing 30 per cent of its population. Secondly, the U.S.A. has steadfastly refused to sign a peace treaty to end that war. All that’s existed since 1953 is an armistice. Instead, it maintains a permanent occupation force of 30,000 troops just kilometres away in South Korea and conducts huge, regular, and deliberately provocative military exercises close to the demilitarized zone and along North Korea’s coasts, containing a “decapitation” component, specifically designed to assassinate the DPRK leadership. In the event of war, U.S. Central Command automatically takes control of South Korea’s military. So, essentially, a hostile power resides along North Korea’s southern border.
So far, Canada hasn’t contributed to a solution. Instead, Canada sponsored the most recent UN resolution levelling further economic sanctions against the DPRK. Your readers should recognize that such sanctions are often deadlier than bombs. A half-million Iraqi children died due to 10 years of U.S. sanctions. Four million Syrians were turned into refugees largely due to a Canadian-led economic sanctions regime. Economic sanctions will also severely impact North Korean civilians. No good will come of that.
The Jan. 16 Vancouver summit, of former Western belligerents in the Korean War, could become a dangerous gathering with subliminal war messages, initiated, as it was in part, by Trump who threatened North Korea’s “total destruction.” However, Canada could play a helpful role by pushing for a peace treaty finally to end the Korean War. It could mentor an agreement between the DPRK and U.S.A. to freeze North Korea’s nuclear program at existing levels in return for the U.S.A. removing its troops from South Korea and stopping provocative military exercises. The Trudeau government could set an example in NATO by joining the Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons.
Not finding a peaceful solution could be catastrophic. Since 2002, the U.S.A. has classed “tactical” nuclear weapons as conventional weapons to be used, at its discretion, in first strike pre-emptive attacks. Today, fingers on those “tactical” buttons belong to three-star U.S. generals in the field. If war broke out in Korea, and nukes were used, the scenario of a radioactive nuclear winter covering the entire planet would be likely.
The guiding principle at Vancouver should be that countries, which took part in the Korean War, should not repeat the same mistake. They need to keep their hands off North Korea. A diplomatic solution is necessary at any cost.
Ken Stone is treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War.