The outstanding presentation “Putting Korea in Context,” given by Jon Letman and Mark Ombrello at KCC, was an opportunity to understand the situation between the USA and North Korea. Ombrello provided a history of Korea to help us understand that it is one country with people from the same family living in the North and the South. Letman discussed the number of troops the U.S. has stationed in Korea now and the strong opposition that many South Koreans have to those troops.
Letman also exposed the huge number of “war games” that the USA conducts in Korea every year, a constant reminder to the North that the USA may invade at any time for any reason (even one that is a lie), just as it did in Iraq (just where are those “weapons of mass destruction”?).
North Korea has every reason to fear the USA. Americans committed war crimes during the Korean War, nearly destroying the entire peninsula but totally devastating the North. In 1994, the Clinton administration (some say cynically) negotiated an “Agreed Framework” with the North where the USA would provide fuel oil and technology for a nuclear power plant that could not breed weapons-grade material (mostly paid for by South Korea); in return, the North would discontinue development of nuclear weapons.
When the Republicans came to power in Congress soon after the framework was signed, they refused to support it. In 2002, President George W. Bush named North Korea one of the nations that formed an “Axis of Evil,” thus killing the framework. The North resumed weapons development.
Some blame the Democrats for allowing the North to “build the bomb.” Some blame the Republicans. In truth, it is the threat posed by America itself that has convinced the North that the only way to ensure their safety is to achieve MAD (mutually assured destruction) with the USA. (Consider that Libya gave up nukes only to have its government overthrown.)
Sadly, American leadership is not unhappy with the North’s choice, since both Democrats and Republicans can use the threat of a North Korean nuke to scare the average American. Once scared, Americans tend to forget about the rise of the American oligarchy (the wealth of America being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer) and will call for a build-up of the American military to “protect us” but which is actually used to expand the American empire, not to protect Americans, but to enrich the billionaire owners of the military-industrial complex.
John Zwiebel is a resident of Kalaheo.