The criminal game of brinkmanship being played between the rulers of the big capitalist powers and the Stalinist monarchy of North Korea continues to menace millions of innocent people with the threat of nuclear war.
On 28 August, North Korea’s rulers fired a missile over Japan; a week later, they tested what they said was a hydrogen bomb, proving that they are now well on the way to developing a nuclear arsenal capable of hitting the mainland United States.
The increased tensions are a result of two destabilising factors: a string of technical successes for North Korea’s engineers (or possibly lucky purchases of foreign kit); and the Trump administration’s strategy of disruptive, aggressive diplomacy.
Trump’s blustering sabre-rattling, his talk of bringing “fire and fury” to North Korea, is widely regarded as a piece of theatre for domestic consumption; an American version of the ludicrously overblown North Korean state rhetoric on the conflict.
Boris Johnson and Steve Bannon have both summed up the conventional view of Western bourgeois leaders commenting respectively that “the military options are not good” and that there is “no military solution… Forget it”. After all, any war with North Korea would likely entail the immediate destruction of Seoul in South Korea by North Korean artillery.
This view is also that taken by a senior Asia researcher for the big Dutch bank ING, who this week told the Telegraph: “Unless this is the precursor to US military action, which we doubt, then in a little over a day or two, tensions will calm again, making this a good buying opportunity for investors with a strong enough nerve.”
At the 4 September meeting of the UN Security Council, Japan, France and Britain have all pressed for a more conventional way of punishing North Korea and allowing the US to save face, short of war: harsh economic sanctions (to which China and Russia are unlikely to agree).
But there are voices close to the Trump administration who are more in favour of war with North Korea than previous American administrations. In a recent television interview, Senator Lindsey Graham summed up that view: “If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong Un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And [Trump’s] told me that to my face”.
This sentiment has been repeated by senior advisors to Trump. In April 2017 National Security Advisor H R McMaster responded to a question from Fox News about whether the administration would be willing to risk “humanitarian catastrophe” on the Korean peninsula, by saying “What the president has first and foremost on his mind is to protect the American people. And I don't think anyone thinks that it would be acceptable to have this kind of regime with nuclear weapons that can target, that can range the United States.”
Joseph Dunford, Trump’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has made similar remarks. Whether Trump wants war or not, the ratcheting up of tensions and the choreographed provocations of repeated military drills, live-fire exercises and missile launches could easily lead to an accidental incident that triggers war.
None of the players in this conflict are friends of the freedom of Korean workers.
China and Russia prefer to keep North Korea in place as a bulwark against American power in the Pacific.
China and South Korea fear the fall of the North Korean regime as the bringer of expensive unification and mass migration.
America’s conventional policy of containment aims not to remove the North Korean regime but to reduce its efficacy as a threat to the US-led Pacific power bloc: Trump threatens to change that policy to one of mass slaughter of North Koreans.
International solidarity with North Korean workers against the Kim regime, and against the blood-curdling game of nuclear poker that the great powers are playing with their lives, is the best way for socialists to help.
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