Jake's View

Kim Jong-un a tyrant, but what about provocative S Korea-US war games and the blood on Washington’s hands?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 5:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 April, 2016, 5:43pm

China and the United States have... agreed to work together to foil North Korea’s nuclear ambitions by “fully”, “strictly” and “vigilantly” carrying out a UN resolution on sanctions.

SCMP, April 2

Every year for more than 60 years the Korean peninsula just south of the North Korean border has been host to a spectacular military show – several armoured divisions with tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops, all with their toes on the start line.

At the word “Go!” they jump off, generally in the direction of North Korea and go barrelling along at top speed until someone calls out, “Stop!” Then they all climb out of their tanks and gunships and say, “Ha-ha, just pretending.”

They do this repeatedly over a month or longer every year. They are doing it right at this moment with 17,000 American and 300,000 South Korean troops in the biggest war games they have ever held. It started on March 7 and it is not scheduled to end until April 30.

Now I am not an apologist for the tyrannical regime of Kim Jong-un. I think he is a nasty piece of work, who continues, like his father and grandfather, to make life a misery for all of North Korea in the cause of personal megalomania.

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But I think some understanding is required here and it is not provided by a tame American media that uncritically swallows the State Department line on all happenings outside US borders. It has given scant attention, as usual, to these inflammatory war games but trumpets the North Korea nuclear threat.

The fact is that at the end of the Korean War, Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, had been so devastated that further bombing, in Winston Churchill’s famous words, would only make the rubble bounce.

Fleets of giant B-29 bombers that had inflicted possibly the worst civilian massacre of human history in the fire storm raid on Tokyo in March, 1945, ranged where they could unhindered across Korea.

Their commander, general Curtis Le May, knew no mercy. He had deliberately staged the Tokyo massacre in cold blood and is further known for his warm support of the racist war cry, “Let’s nuke the chinks before they nuke us.” In the Cuban missile crisis, he terrified President John F Kennedy who thought him deranged.

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Yes, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather started the Korean War but it could have been stopped within a few months when his forces were pushed back across their border. Calmer, wiser heads in Washington prevailed just this way in calling off the first Iraq War in 1991 after the Iraqi forces had been thrown out of Kuwait.

But in Korea in 1950, Washington had put itself into the hands of a conceited blowhard, Douglas MacArthur, who hoped to restore the Nationalists to power in China. Despite repeated warnings from Beijing and orders from Washington, he kept his troops on the road to the Chinese border until the People’s Liberation Army successfully intervened.

MacArthur was fired for his presumption but too late. The war dragged on for almost three more years of widespread death and misery across North Korea.

And do we now really expect China to abandon North Korea? Do we really think that people who suffered so much from Curtis Lemay’s gory attentions can, for generations to come, say, “Oh, I guess we got it wrong. Let’s sign up with America instead”?

Kim Jong-un watches artillery drill simulating attack on Seoul and South Korean president

We need perspective here. Every state of the United States, barring perhaps Vermont, has a bigger economy than North Korea’s. California’s economy is 60 times as great.

Yes, I know it is not economic clout at issue here but nuclear weapons. Even assuming, however, that North Korea has usable ones, and I am a profound sceptic of official Washington pronouncements in such matters, sabre rattling is never a good way to stop bombs – nuclear or conventional.

These people need to be left alone to let their wounds heal, not baited on a yearly basis. If Kim Jong-un talks nuclear bomb talk just now, he has been provoked into it this year as never before.

It is these war games that are at the heart of the trouble right now and the best way for United States and South Korea to ease the tension is to call them off.