US Interventionism Stokes North Korea Flames

US Air Force conducting military exercises in South Korea. Credit: Defense Dept.
US Air Force conducting military exercises in South Korea. Credit: Defense Dept.

This AP story says that North Korea may be gearing up for an attack on South Korea, if history is any guide. Apparently, past North Korean assaults have been preceded by explicit threats followed by a stretch of quiet.

…Pyongyang, angry over perceived slights, took its time before exacting revenge on rival South Korea. Vows of retaliation after naval clashes with South Korea in 1999 and 2009, for example, were followed by more bloodshed, including attacks blamed on North Korea that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.

What’s wrong with the analysis is that North Korea is again portrayed as the sole offender, a rogue villain that is obsessed with aggression regardless of the context.

But let’s not forget what North Korea’s recent bluster is about. Kim Jong Un’s belligerent rhetoric is a reaction to two US-led policies – namely, harsh economic sanctions and provocative military exercises with the South.

The sanctions are useless. They accomplish nothing except to increase the deprivation of the North Korean people. Years of sanctions and diplomatic isolation have only pushed Pyongyang deeper into its own insular, authoritarian hawkishness.

And the military exercises Washington insists on performing with South Korea are equally egregious. The US says their purpose is to support our ally and promote stability, despite the fact that the drills have the predictable consequence of infuriating the North and increasing instability, as we’ve seen.

In reality, the military exercises – like other such operations the US performs around the world – are a wanton show of force meant to project power in a region Washington seeks to dominate militarily, economically, and politically. In some ways, this has never been clearer in the age of Obama’s Asia-Pivot.

As Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers wrote here at last week, the US is far more deserving of being portrayed as the aggressor:

The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea. In November 2012 the US upgraded its weapons systems and announced an agreement with Japan that would allow South Korea to bomb anywhere in North Korea.  In June 2012 the Pentagon announced that Gen.l Neil H. Tolley would be removed as commander of US Special Operations in South Korea after he revealed to a Japanese foreign affairs publication that American and South Korean troops had been parachuting into North Korea on spy missions.

…South Korea and the US regularly hold military exercises off the Korean coast, which North Korea describes as planning for an invasion. The United States claims these exercises are defensive in nature to assure preparedness.  Prior to the recent nuclear test, Seoul and Washington conducted a joint naval exercise with a US nuclear submarine off South Korea’s east coast, followed by a joint air force drill as well as live weapon exercises near a disputed sea boundary between North and South Korea. These drills have gotten more aggressive during the Obama administration and since the death of Kim Jong-il, as outlined by geopolitical analyst Jen Alic

…North Korea has shown anger at these drills.  In response to the announcement of the  largest annual joint exercises for US and South Korean troops scheduled for March and April of this year, in a rare direct message to US Gen. James Thurman, North Korea warned the top American commander in South Korea on Feb. 23 of “miserable destruction” if the US military presses ahead with the joint drills with South Korea set to begin next month.

Like I said, the predictable consequences of US militarism are brushed aside. So if North Korea does engage in some sort of small scale attack soon, it will be in no small part because the US deliberately provoked it – choosing interventionism over stability.