US rhetoric and sanctions ramp up dangerous tension with North Korea

North Korea recently issued a “No.1 combat readiness alert” announcing that the “North and South are at war”. Leader Kim Jong-un also put his strategic missile units on standby for launch. South Korea’s mainstream media and politicians say North Korea is “making intentional provocations, ramping up tension”. Socialists should not support such actions by North Korean rulers. But their actions and rhetoric are the result—not the cause—of tensions ramped up by the US.

The US is the world’s greatest military power. South Korea spends more than North Korea’s entire GDP on defence. Barack Obama has been ignoring North Korea’s calls for dialogue. Treating North Korea as a rogue state is a convenient pretext for the US to encircle China and strengthen ties with its regional allies. The latest phase of tension began with the US-led United Nations sanctions and joint military exercises between South Korea and the US.

They began in March and are the world’s largest military drills involving over 20,000 US troops. It is an open secret that these exercises simulate an invasion into North Korea. Nuclear-armed submarines and strategic bombers have been deployed this time. Outbreak of war in the Korean peninsula is not likely in the immediate future. After a while, tensions may yet again ease temporarily. But rulers of the US, Japan and South Korea have adopted measures aimed at bringing North Korea to heel. So the likelihood of an accidental clash between North and South Korea has risen.

Inter-imperialist rivalry in the region is likely to further destabilise the situation.

Kim Young-ik in South Korea is a member of All Together,