Monday, 22 February 2016

The Role of North Korea in the US Pivot to Asia Strategy and Containment of China

The US would have been better off still engaging in peace talks with North Korea instead of rejecting them because of its 'nuclearisation' process. The Korean War needs to be officially  brought to an end despite North Korea's nuclear tests because there is no alternative to engagement and diplomacy anyhow.
A peace treaty linked to withdrawing US troops from the Korean Peninsula would help to de-escalate tensions without affecting the ability of the ROK or the US to defend Seoul should Kim Jong Un's regime be insane enough to try using its primitive atomic weapon systems as a threat.
However, the US is more interested in profiting from the North Korean threat to sell patriot missile systems in East Asia and as part of a pretext to project power and contain China as it gets embroiled in disputes over rocks around which copious supplies of oil and gas are located.

 So the lack of interest in diplomacy with North Korea is interconnected to the increased role the US wants to play as a counter force in East Asia, Obama's 2010-11 Pivot to Asia strategy.One of the foremost historians of Korea and the Korean War, Bruce Cumings wrote in The Nation 

'The truth is that Pyongyang ought to be paid by Pentagon hard-liners and military contractors for its provocations; the North Koreans are the perfect stalking horse for America’s stealth containment of China—and for keeping military spending high' 

Of course,, China is itself responsible for some provocative moves in the South china Sea and in East Asia but even South Korea and Japan are often at loggerheads over uninhabited islands and the reason is the maritime waters are unclearly demarcated as sovereign territory and, of course, contain oil and gas.
The military industrial complex and the global role of the US as a world power with bases across the globe during the Cold war was essentially initiated by the Korean War. Of course, the Soviet threat , a genuine one, played its part, though Stalin actually backed off from involvement in the Korean War.
The obvious reason was Truman made US nuclear capabilities very clear at the time. Only Mao was prepared to shore up Kim Il Sung who, despite the image, was no Kremlin stooge and had been fighting the Japanese occupation of Korea for decades ( between 1910 and 1945 )
China needs to be engaged by the US in diplomacy to end the Korean War and not subjected to threatening B 52 flights screeching over Korea as a signal of US resolve, as if China was North Korea's 'ally'. The last thing Beijing wants is North Korean tests to lead to South Korea and Japan developing nuclear weapons too.
Events to the north east of Asia are interconnected with US moves in the South China sea. Chinese island building is an attempt to ensure it can get the prime stake in the oil under the sea, a secure supply given the increased instability in the Greater Middle east to the west of its growing partner in Iran.
The Iran nuclear deal between Tehran and Washington shows that sabre rattling and subtle diplomacy could work well: part of the reason was to get the Iranians to shore up Shi'ite dominated Iraq but also to remove sanctions so that western firms could gain secure access to oil and gas in competition with China.
The Pivot to Asia represents the US reprising its role in the Asia-Pacific region once more as the centre of global economic gravity shifts towards that region away from a declining Europe. But it also represents, from that pivotal year of 2011, a US desire to withdraw its military focus from the Middle East.
Even more of a continuity is with US policy before 1914 as in the post-Cold War age, Great Power politics and geopolitical struggles over resources have made a stronger reappearance. In Asia, China is seen as some sort of new version of Imperial Germany, fearing encirclement by hostile powers.
The US, on the other hand, always intended in the Theodore Roosevelt era to be primarily a Pacific power. It could also could be regarded in 2016 as a balancing power and counter force ensuring the security of its regional Asian allies at their request and even Vietnam wants stronger bilateral military tiles.
China is using its economic superpower to build up its missile and air forces enough to deny the U.S. Navy access to the seas around China. The reason the US Navy wants control of the seas is to block oil tanker routes from the Middle East and threaten China's economy should it grow too assertive.
One thing is certain: Asian nations are no longer going to regard themselves traditionally as 'tributary nations' of the Middle kingdom: China's arrogance in this regard is both counter productive and dangerous, though the insistence on the nine dash line in the South China Sea is motivated by energy interests.
China would need to recognise the US is going to be valued by smaller Asian powers as an esteemed ally. Likewise, to avoid conflict, the US need to try to rein in the arms race, cooperate with China and make its policies in Asia more transparent: demanding 'regime change' in China should be dropped too.
China's economic success came precisely because it rejected the IMF and 'shock therapy': it has raised Chinese living standards immeasurably and constant lectures from US diplomats should be dropped, though human rights concerns should be communicated subtlety to avoid the Chinese 'losing face'.
As for North Korea, the US should stop the arrogant and belligerent manoeuvres with B 52 bombers that make Pyongyang even more crazy and paranoid: the collective trauma of the USAF razing of North Korean cities remains in the North Korean psyche and alienates China, a power needed to bring it to heel.

A Short Note on the Korean War 

North Korean aggression was an important part of the outbreak of the Korean War but it was more than matched by the regime of Syngman Ree and those collaborators with the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. There were skirmishes across the 38th parallel throughout 1949 to 1950. Statistically the majority of atrocities were carried out by the ROK against internal rebels in places like Cholla against the landlords and Korean elites who had done welll from collaborating with the Japanese. The US simply accepted that any opposition even in the ROK against the regime was 'communist'. Bruce Cumings emphasises that the US waded in on the one side in what was after 1945 a brutal civil war across the Korean Peninsula as part of a geopolitical design to create a new co prosperity sphere and bulwark against the communists to the north in Mao's China and the USSR. While that did have beneficial dividends after the Korean War ended, though they were much delayed in the ROK until the 1980s, the price of the victory through using excessive air power helped create the paranoid hermit state in north Korea that endures to this day. Not only were dams blitzed, causing huge flooding and loss of life, the US dropped 635, 000 tons of bombs on Korea and 32, 557 tons of chemical napalm that sticks to human skin and fries humans to death in agonising pain. The tonnage of bombs exceeded that dropped in the entire Pacific theatre during World War Two. The 'turkey shoot' was demonstrated as USAF pilots machine gunned down peasants working in the fields and left most North korean cities smouldering ruins. Pyongyang was 75% destroyed, Sinanju 1000% and Hungnam 85%. Such lethal use of air power could be described as dispropotional in the extreme. Despite the obsessive, corny and absurd propaganda of North Korea and its resemblance to Orwell's 1984, these salient facts about the US involvement in the Korean War, which later set the tone for US crimes in Vietnam, should not be put down the Orwellian memory hole: the North Koreans have not forgotten.

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