Although we never considered President Obama to be anything other than a representative of US imperialism, we had thought that at least he might bring some thought to, and deploy some intelligence and creativity in, carrying out his functions. However, the US regime’s response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) 5 April satellite launch really made us wonder whether this assessment is correct.
The US regime is currently behaving in an even more bone-headed, bullying way towards the DPRK than was characteristic of the Bush regime, which leads us to think that either:
(a)President Obama is in no position to influence the US regime’s behaviour towards the DPRK; or
(b)he has never turned his mind to the question of the US’s relations with the DPRK, and has acted spontaneously without serious thought; or
(c)he is not as intelligent as his PR men make him appear.
The stupid aggression shown by US imperialism since Obama took over as president of the US has, apart from all else, succeeded in driving the DPRK away, apparently for good, from the six-party talks, at which the US regime had been hoping to persuade the DPRK to abandon its military deterrents against attack. On the contrary, the US’s frenzied hostility has confirmed the wisdom of the DPRK leadership, which has long understood that, without a nuclear deterrent, the DPRK would be at high risk of being attacked by imperialist forces intent on bringing about regime change.
The bourgeois media throughout the capitalist world never tire of denigrating the north Korean regime, preparing the ideological ground among the working-class masses in the imperialist countries and elsewhere in support of imperialist interference and armed intervention against the DPRK. The country’s leader, Comrade Kim Jong Il is never mentioned without being targeted by pejorative adjectives. The regime is always described as ‘tyrannical’; any difficulties that the country may be facing (because of natural disaster, for instance, or imperialist economic blockade) are always attributed to incompetence – an incompetence which is presented as being inherent to communism; and all this slander is repeated so often and from so many different directions that all too many people are led to believe, or half believe, that it must be true.
Repetition, however, does not turn falsehood into truth. Anyone who has actually been to the DPRK will have witnessed for themselves that people there are happy. They have a far greater degree of control over their own lives and many more opportunities to influence their communities than people have in bourgeois ‘democratic’ countries. The average educational level is much higher. People’s musical and artistic abilities are developed to a far greater extent than is the case in capitalist countries, and there are far greater opportunities for participation in sport (as opposed to just watching it on television), as all facilities for the above purposes are plentiful and free.
Everybody in the DPRK enjoys free housing, medical care, nurseries and education at every level. Unemployment is nil. These are the reasons why people are loyal to the regime in the DPRK despite having had to bear certain temporary periods of hardship (greatly exaggerated, incidentally, in the bourgeois media). If such a fundamentally satisfying and rewarding existence were available to the masses of workers in Britain, then they too would not relish having regime change imposed on them by foreign powers claiming to act in their best interests!
Yet the Economist, which has managed to print the most obscenely slanderous article of any we have seen on the question of the DPRK’s April satellite launch, had the gall to say: “the best outcome for most North Koreans must presumably be for the Kim regime to crumble, despite the risks that might follow, including huge refugee flows, civil war and quantities of weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands”. Unbelievable! (‘Calling Kim Jong Il’s bluff’, 23 April 2009)
All this is because the DPRK did what several other countries around the world have done, without a murmur of protest from anyone, and that is to launch a satellite into space to be used for the same kind of purposes as the various other countries that have launched satellites. Clearly it was a shock to the US administration that the DPRK, a tiny, mountainous country the size of Wales, should quite independently have been able to develop the technology to build a rocket capable of delivering a satellite into space, notwithstanding all the sanctions imperialism has put in place precisely to prevent the DPRK’s technological advance.
The DPRK’s satellite launch really did demonstrate the superiority of the socialist system by showing how socialism frees the vast creative reserves of the masses of workers, who are thus able to overcome the most formidable of obstacles to advance the productive forces. The imperialist media were forced to scream that the launch was a failure – but then they did the same thing when the USSR put the first Sputnik into space on 4 October 1957. How this success stuck in the throat of the imperialist slavemasters!
Although the DPRK’s rocket was launched for the entirely peaceful purpose of putting a civilian-use satellite into orbit, it is undoubtedly true that it provided evidence that the DPRK has upgraded its defence capabilities. While vigorously insisting that the satellite launch was a failure, the bourgeois hacks still could not avoid admitting that the DPRK’s technological progress was nothing short of astonishing, as Demetri Sevastapulo remarked in the Financial Times.
“Mike Ellison, chairman and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said North Korea had demonstrated a capability to fire a long-range ballistic missile at least 2,000km [twice as far as in previous tests]. ‘The technology it developed is going to help them tremendously with where they are going with longer-range capabilities’, said Mr Ellison …”
And, obviously struggling with the self-contradictory point he was called upon to make, Mr Sevastopulo continued: “David Wright, an expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said it was too early to tell whether the launch should be characterised as a failed satellite launch or [u]successful missile test[/u].” (‘Launch failure could boost weapons capability’, 6 April 2009 – our emphasis)
At the same time, these quotations also indicate that there was absolutely no truth whatsoever in the chorus of claims from imperialist quarters that the DPRK, in firing its rocket, was acting contrary to the (unjust, oppressive and discriminatory) UN Security Council Resolution 1718, passed in 2006 after the DPRK’s first nuclear test, banning the DPRK from conducting any nuclear or ballistic missile tests. The above quotations from no less a bourgeois authority than the Financial Times frankly admit that the launch merely demonstrated the DPRK’s capability to do so. Even Pentagon officials admitted that there was never any evidence that the launch was a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, as alleged by US imperialism.
“A US defence official said the Pentagon was still poring over data from the rocket launch …
“The official told the Financial Times it was too early to determine whether North Korea had attempted a genuine satellite launch, or a veiled long-range missile test.
“‘You could make a conclusion that [u]it might have been a space launch, but not having any information from them beyond the announcement in advance of the launch[/u], and not having done all the analyses yet on the data [why not?], [u]I just can’t say one way or another[/u]’…”
What more blatant admission could there be that the US marched off to the UN Security Council to demand sanctions against the DPRK when it had no evidence whatever that the DPRK had flouted the UNSC’s resolution 1718? Of course, since the US has plenty of ICBMs and has tested plenty of them, we cannot for the life of us understand why it should be considered a crime for the DPRK to do so. The fact remains, however, that the hue and cry against the DPRK was raised in spite of a complete lack of evidence.
At the instigation of US imperialism, the UN Security Council then went ahead to issue a unanimous statement denouncing the DPRK’s legitimate rocket launch and ordered a freeze on the assets of three major Korean companies (the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, Korea Ryonbong General Corporation and Tanchon Commercial Bank), at a time when there was no evidence of its iniquitous resolution 1718 having been ignored. It thus became clear that there was absolutely no point in the DPRK trying to live by the unjust rules imposed on it by imperialism.
The sheer stupidity of the US in driving the DPRK away from the six-party talks bore real fruit for the DPRK, since it was now absolutely free to do the things that the US has for so long been trying to stifle.
Having reopened the Yongbyon nuclear reactor (which under the six-party talks had had to be closed), the DPRK expelled the US’s spies on the ground (ie, the nuclear inspectors on the one hand, and the US aid workers on the other). On 29 April, the DPRK announced that it would immediately start a uranium enrichment programme and would build a light-water reactor power plant for ensuring self-production of nuclear fuel.
In addition, “A Foreign Ministry spokesman told … KCNA, that the country ‘would take additional self defensive measures’ unless the Security Council apologised immediately, specifying nuclear tests and test-firings of inter-ballistic missiles.” (‘N Korea issues threat on uranium’ by Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, 30 April 2009)
Having given the UNSC more than ample time to reconsider its rash actions, the DPRK on 25 May conducted a second underground nuclear test and subsequently further tests of defence equipment, just as it had warned it would do. Enraged by this, US imperialism announced its intention to stop and search any DPRK vessels it chose under the pretext of searching for ‘weapons of mass destruction’, an endeavour in which the puppet regime in South Korea eagerly enrolled itself. This seriously lunatic move by US imperialism merely led the DPRK to declare the 1953 Armistice Agreement – which has in any event been flouted time after time by the US with absolute impunity – to be at an end.
Time and time again, the imperialist bullies rush in to provide still further proof of the truth of Comrade Mao Zedong’s famous dictum that reactionaries lift a rock only to drop it on their own feet. US imperialism has been left gnashing its teeth and issuing threats of violent retaliation.
“Over the weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Washington would not be ‘blackmailed’ by the North. The United States and its allies will ‘tighten the band around North Korea’, she said.” (Ibid)
Sometimes, bloodthirsty threats of this kind cause the dearest friends and supporters of the Korean people and the Korean revolution to worry that the DPRK may have acted unwisely in angering imperialism unnecessarily. The fact is, however, that the very existence of the DPRK goads imperialism beyond endurance – it hardly matters what the DPRK leadership says or does from that point of view.
As for “tightening the band around North Korea”, the imperialist powers have already tightened it as far as it will go, and all to no effect. Yes, it does cause suffering, but no, it does not lead the Korean people even to contemplate surrender, let alone actually to do so.
As Andrei Lankov said in the Financial Times: “The US and its allies have almost no leverage when it comes to dealing with North Korea. There is much talk about sanctions, but, to be effective, they must be upheld by all major states and this is not going to happen. China and Russia, driven by their own agendas, have already made clear that they would not support a tougher approach …
“What else can be done? Military actions are unthinkable. Unilateral economic pressure will not work since neither the US nor its major allies have significant trade with North Korea. Financial sanctions, imposed on the foreign banks serving the regime, would probably deliver a blow, but it is unlikely that this would lead to a serious crisis in Pyongyang …
“This means that diplomatic condemnation will have no consequences and North Korean dictators understand this. If anything, the excessive noise is harmful: the sharp contrast between bellicose statements and lack of real action will again demonstrate to North Korean leaders that their opponents are powerless.” (This correct analysis, however, does not prevent Lankov, an associate professor in Seoul, from advocating … sanctions!) (‘Sanctions will have no effect on North Korea, 13 April 2009)
Lankov’s analysis (if not necessarily his vocabulary) would appear to be vindicated by events in the weeks following the satellite launch. Nevertheless, we have clearly entered into a period of renewed tension and heightened danger on the Korean peninsula, which carries grave risks for both the Korean people and other peoples in the region, as US imperialism is unlikely to simply sit back and do nothing in response to the DPRK’s bold moves to heighten its defences.
Faced with this situation, all anti-imperialists, basing themselves on the Korean people’s right to self-determination, and conscious of US imperialism’s long history of nuclear threats in the region, must defend the DPRK’s right to adopt any measures it deems necessary for its self-defence and actively seek to win wider support for that just position within the working-class and anti-war movements.
In doing so, we must point out that the DPRK is simply responding to the relentless bullying tactics of the US administration, which has consistently sabotaged negotiations around the weapons issue and which has continued to renege on its promises of aid and goodwill. The DPRK’s right to self-defence is inalienable, and its weapons programme is the one thing that stops it from becoming the next Iraq. As Seamus Milne wrote recently:
“In April 2003, North Korea drew the obvious conclusion from the US and British aggression against Iraq. The war showed, it commented at the time, ‘that to allow disarmament through inspections does not help avert a war, but rather sparks it’. Only ‘a tremendous military deterrent force’, it stated with unavoidable logic, could prevent attacks on states the world’s only superpower was determined to bring to heel.” (‘After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb’, The Guardian, 27 May 2009)
We won’t fall for the phoney outrage of the world’s most militarised country crying foul play over the DPRK’s weapons programme. We wish the north Korean people and state success in defending Korean socialism and bringing about Korean reunification.
> CPGB-ML party statement on the DPRK s nuclear test
> DPRK sets economic and military priorities for 2009 – February 2009
> DPRK faces down imperialism at six-party talks – August 2007