US moves to threaten China as Cheonan farce collapses at UN

Having failed to build a consensus for anti-DPRK moves, the US has moved on to targeting China directly.

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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With June 2010 marking the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of US imperialism’s bestial war against the Korean people, which, over the ensuing three years, claimed some four million lives, tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula, involving not simply a confrontation between the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north on the one hand and the United States and its south Korean ally on the other, but also sharply increased tensions between the USA and China.

When the south Korean warship, the Cheonan, sank on 26 March, costing the lives of 46 conscript sailors, the south Korean authorities, instigated and supported by their imperialist patrons in Washington and Tokyo, lost no time in concocting a false claim that the DPRK military had somehow been responsible for this disaster.

Despite the fact that the south Korean case was threadbare, lacking in credibility and in many respects scientifically risible (see ‘Hands off Korea!’, Proletarian, June 2010 for a detailed refutation), the United States has, over the years since the demise of the Soviet Union, grown used to finally getting its way in the United Nations Security Council, even if with only grudging acquiescence from some major, veto-wielding permanent members, by means of a cocktail of lies, threats, blandishments and deception.

It was therefore doubtless with similar expectations that, on 4 June, south Korea formally requested the United Nations Security Council to consider its allegation that the DPRK had sunk the Cheonan and to take punitive measures against the country. The aim of the United States, wire-pulling the Seoul regime, was to isolate the DPRK, intensify a murderous blockade against the country aimed at starving its people into submission, and, especially, to break the friendship and cooperation between the DPRK and the People’s Republic of China.

But to barely disguised imperialist consternation, this time it was not to be. Neither China nor Russia was prepared to endorse a supposedly ‘international’ enquiry set up by the south Korean government, from which they were excluded and the findings of which have been widely refuted and discredited, not to say ridiculed. Quite simply, China and Russia were not prepared to blame the DPRK for something they did not believe it had done.

As the days went on, with no agreement at the Security Council, despite south Korea and the USA progressively lowering their demands with a view to salvaging something from the diplomatic debacle into which they had walked themselves, the United States grew more and more openly frustrated.

Obama’s outburst

This frustration boiled over on 27 June at the G20 summit in the Canadian city of Toronto, when, in his own words, Barack Obama had a “blunt” conversation (this being the standard diplomatic parlance for a stand-up, blazing row) on the subject with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao.

Obama accused President Hu and his nation of displaying “wilful blindness” in relation to what he termed the DPRK’s “belligerent behaviour”. Continuing his tirade, Obama upbraided the Chinese and sought to ridicule their consistent calls for calm and restraint, stating: “I think there’s a difference between restraint and wilful blindness to consistent problems.”

In stark contrast, Obama praised his south Korean stooge, Lee Myung Bak, under whose administration relations between the two parts of the partitioned Korean nation have degenerated from their best ever back to the most frozen days of the Cold War, for his “extraordinary restraint”.

If Obama thought that his extraordinary display of seeking to publicly lecture and belittle the Chinese president as though he were a recalcitrant school boy would secure his desired outcome, he was sorely mistaken. Apart from confirming the Chinese in their long-held view that Obama is a naïve, inexperienced, and hence dangerous, politician, it also reinforced China’s well-founded suspicion that the US belligerence in the region is by no means limited to the DPRK alone but is above all aimed at China itself.

DPRK triumphs at the UN

Finally, on 8 July, the Security Council adopted by consensus a presidential statement on the sinking of the Cheonan. Far from imposing new sanctions on the DPRK, the statement declined to even ascribe any blame for the incident, noting merely that both south and north Korea had informed the Security Council of their view regarding the incident. The presidential statement specifically took note of the response from the DPRK, “which has stated that it has nothing to do with the incident”.

In an implicit but clear rebuke to those seeking to inflame tensions on the Korean peninsula, the UN said it “encourages the settlement of outstanding issues on the Korean peninsula by peaceful means to resume direct dialogue and negotiation through appropriate channels as early as possible, with a view to avoiding conflicts and averting escalation”.

Responding, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang almost dismissively called on the US to “flip over the page” of this incident, stating:

“We hope the involved parties continue to maintain calm and restraint and take this opportunity to flip over the page of the Cheonan incident as soon as possible. We call for an early resumption of the six-party talks and joint efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

Sin Son Ho, the DPRK’s UN ambassador, told a New York press conference that the UN presidential statement was “our great diplomatic victory”. And the DPRK joined China in calling for the resumption of six-party talks between the two Koreas, the USA, China, Russia and Japan. The spokesman of the DPRK foreign ministry was quoted by the country’s KCNA news agency as stating:

“The recent development in which the overall situation on the Korean peninsula reached a point of explosion in a moment due to a conspiratorial farce once again reminds us of the danger of the present cease-fire and the urgency to establish a peace-keeping regime.

“The DPRK will make consistent efforts for the conclusion of a peace-treaty and for denuclearisation through the six-party talks conducted on an equal footing.”

However, whilst the DPRK, China and Russia are all now calling for the resumption of the six-party talks, they are presently refused by the USA, Japan and south Korea, who are placing a series of ridiculous preconditions to their resumption, such as that the DPRK should apologise for sinking the Cheonan and should commit to unilaterally disarming. Needless to say, neither of these things is going to happen!

Lost somewhere in this US refusal to resume the six-party talks is the fact that it was the DPRK that responded to imperialist pressure by walking out and the United States and its allies that have spent the best part of two years cajoling and demanding that the DPRK return! The fact that it is now the DPRK which feels confident enough to call for their resumption, while the US and its allies seek to avoid them, speaks volumes for the diplomatic skills of the DPRK, but above all for its resolute anti-imperialist stand.

US to send nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

With the DPRK and China calling for a return to dialogue, the United States is responding with a considerably enhanced level of military threats and bellicosity, most notably advertising its imminent intention to bring the nuclear-powered carrier George Washington to the seas off Korea for naval exercises, and possibly to then deploy it in the region on an ongoing basis.

This, in turn, is considered by the Chinese to be not only a threat to the DPRK but also to themselves, and as a result tensions are mounting between Washington and Beijing.

The Chinese government has already expressed its concern at these upcoming naval drills on numerous occasions. For example, on 6 July, spokesman Qin Gang said: “We have expressed our serious concern to the relevant parties and will closely follow the development of the matter.”

The relevant parties, he added, should “refrain from doing things that might escalate tensions and harm the security interests of the countries in the region”.

These measured words were amplified in the Chinese media. An editorial in the 8 July edition of Global Times took south Korea’s Lee Myung Bak to task for his unfriendly attitude to the Chinese people, stating:

Beijing sees the joint exercise not only as being aimed at Pyongyang, but also as a direct threat to its territorial waters and coastline,” and blamed President Lee for worsening relations between the two states:

It is not known whether Lee had thought of China’s reaction when he announced … the drill with the US.

Did he foresee Chinese people’s anger? Or, did he intend to provoke the country on the other side of the Yellow Sea?

It is a shame and a provocation on China’s doorstep. If a US aircraft carrier enters the Yellow Sea, it will mean a major setback to Seoul’s diplomacy, as hostility between … China and south Korea will probably escalate, which Beijing and Seoul have been working for years to avoid.

A leading Chinese academic, Shen Dingli, from the Centre for American Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University sounded a sombre note in the Global Times of 14 July:

The US and south Korea are implementing joint military exercises this month in the Yellow Sea, with the possibility of deploying the US aircraft carrier George Washington.

The holding of such exercises so close to China’s waters has left China strongly, and rightfully, dissatisfied.

The US and south Korea may argue that the exercise is not in China’s territorial waters, so China has no right to comment.

However, even if the joint exercises are not in Chinese sovereign waters, they may take place in the waters of China’s interests as the international waters [in the] Yellow Sea near China’s exclusive economic zone are extremely important to China’s interests.

Given the sophisticated equipment it carries, the George Washington poses a real potential threat to Chinese territory.

Even if the US-south Korea military exercises are outside China’s territory, the striking power of the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier also poses a serious threat to neighbouring countries.

The US and south Korea have said the military exercises are being held in order to deter north Korea because of the sinking of the south Korean Cheonan corvette and the death of 46 South Korean sailors.

But the case for the possible north Korean sinking of the Cheonan has not been thoroughly established.

South Korea refused to let north Korean officials present their case against the evidence for their supposed complicity in the sinking.

When south Korea launched the so-called international survey, it refused the participation of China and other countries, which did not increase the credibility of the so-called findings.

These exercises are needlessly provocative, and will eventually backfire on the US and south Korea.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the Soviet Union established nuclear missile bases on the island, the US objected to the close proximity of the Soviet weaponry even though they travelled only through international waters to reach Cuba, and the US set up a blockade to stop them being deployed.

When the US ponders the idea of deploying its nuclear aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea, very close to China, shouldn’t China have the same feeling as the US did when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba?

China may not have the military strength to forcibly prevent such exercises now, but it may do so in response to such provocative actions in the future.

On 6 July, Global Times had written that “the anxiety on the Chinese side will be huge if a US aircraft carrier enters the sea connecting the Korean peninsula and China – it would mean that major cities like Dalian, Qingdao, Tianjin and even Beijing are within US attack range.

At this stage, China may not react through a show of force to the US fleet cruising into the international waters of the Yellow Sea. But it does not mean that the Chinese people will tolerate it. Whatever harm the US military manoeuvre may inflict upon the mind of the Chinese, the United States will have to pay for it, sooner or later.

And on 12 July, the same paper wrote:

In their recent responses, several high-ranking Chinese navy officials have made it plain that China will not stay in ‘hands-off’ mode as the drill gets underway. For that will make the US believe that China’s defence circle on the sea is small, and, therefore, US fleets will be able to freely cruise over the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and South China Sea in the future.

Military experts have warned that if the joint drill really takes place off the western coast of south Korea, Chinese airplanes and warships will very likely go all the way out to closely watch the war game manoeuvres. Within such proximity on not-so-clearly-marked international waters, any move that is considered hostile to the other side can willy-nilly trigger a rash reaction, which might escalate into the unexpected or the unforeseen.

One false move, one wrong interpretation is all it would take for the best-planned exercises to go awry … The impact of a crisis on that scale would be tremendous, making any dispute over trade or the yuan’s value between the two in recent years pale in comparison … Tension is mounting over the US-south Korean joint exercise. Beijing and Washington still have time, and leeway, to desist from moving toward a possible conflict on the Yellow Sea.” (Global Times is a publication of the People’s Daily, the official organ of the Communist Party of China.)

The same day, China Daily, China’s leading English-language newspaper, added its voice as follows:

Today’s China is no longer the China of a century ago that had no choice but to bend to imperialist aggression. After decades of development … China has become the world’s third largest economy and possesses a modern military capable of any self-defence missions.

The anti-war movement in Britain needs to pay greater attention to the dangerous situation developing in the Far East as a result of the bellicosity of the Obama administration and its satellites and needs to demand:

Hands off China!

Hands off Korea!

US imperialism has never come off the winner in any confrontation with the forces of communism in Asia. We are confident that, should they foolishly persist in their present reckless course, the outcome will be even more disastrous for them than was their defeat in China in 1949, their defeat in Korea in 1953, and their defeat in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in 1975, and that the blood-soaked forces of US-led imperialism will find themselves staring into the abyss.

> Hands off Korea. The sinking of the Cheonan – June 2010