Mmegi Blogs :: Truth about de-escalation in the Korean Peninsula
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Thursday 16 August 2018, 17:52 pm.
Truth about de-escalation in the Korean Peninsula

This week we were called for a radio interview at Gabz Fm with Dr Boga Manatsha, a History academic with University of Botswana, where we robustly engaged in spelling out untruths and shedding some truths as far as the North- South Korea nuclear issues are concerned.
By Solly Rakgomo Fri 04 May 2018, 13:39 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Truth about de-escalation in the Korean Peninsula

This piece is meant to shed some few highlights of our discussion. The agreement signed between Kim Jung-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in, which by a stroke of the pen ends the Korean War, is of incalculable significance.

It represents, amongst other things, a joint effort by the two Koreas to deny an unhinged US president threatening to “annihilate” North Korea any pretext to do so. CNN talking heads are saying that Trump deserves some credit for the agreement.

What they mean is that his threats last year in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests forced Kim to make concessions and so represent the good Trump, presidential, responsible, willing to use horrific violence to “defend national security” or “maintain regional stability”.

The Western media has cheered Trump when he dropped the MOAB on Afghanistan or twice ordered missile strikes on Syria. Now it wrongly cheers him as the virtual author of the Korean agreement. Their sense of historical causality is confused.

In the 1990s, the Clinton administration engaged in talks with North Korea concerning its nuclear programme. Then Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright met Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang; a high-level Korean delegation visited Washington. An agreement was signed for the North Koreans to shut down their existing reactors and accept light-water reactors to be built and financed by the US and South Korea. Congress resisted the agreement and then the Bush/Cheney administration scuttled it entirely. George W. Bush stupidly included North Korea in an imaginary “Axis of Evil” along with Iraq and Iran. While the State Department openly advocated regime change in Pyongyang, North Korea reacted by expanding its programme and leaving the Non-proliferation pact in 2003.

The goal of North Korea has always been to protect the country from regime change. One can interpret this narrowly as the Kim clan’s instinct for self-preservation. But this interpretation ignores the larger issue of the North Korean people’s instinct for self-preservation.

Truth is, one-fifth of all North Koreans were killed during the 1950-1953 war. The country was levelled. It however recovered, quite remarkably, and enjoyed a higher standard of living in the 1960s and 70s than the south. Natural disasters in the 1990s, following the withdrawal of Soviet aid, produced widespread hardships and hundreds of thousands of deaths from starvation. But the regime proceeded with its nuclear weapons programme as its best defence from attack or deterrence.

The US invasion of Iraq, based on lies, intended to impose regime change in 2003, and the US-led destruction of Libya in 2011, after Gaddafi had surrendered his weapons of mass destruction, surely lent the North Korean effort an extra degree of urgency. In 2017, no fewer than 16 missile tests were conducted, each producing Western consternation and threats.

So while Trump engaged in saber-rattling, Kim got on the phone and arranged


for North Korean involvement in the PyongChang Olympics. Then a visit of over 100 musical performers from the South to the North. Then a high level visit of South Korean officials to Pyongyang, resulting in their delivery to Trump Kim’s personal invitation for a summit, which Trump spontaneously accepted, to the South Koreans’ relief and delight.

Now this surprise summit at the DMZ, and the signing of a statement declaring the state of war between the two countries over and declaring the goal of the denuclearisation of the Peninsula through negotiation with China and the US.

This really shows that not only the North Koreans, but the Koreans in general are saying to Trump: back off and let us handle this. We are a family here. We fear you and your threats of annihilation. 

Some  skewed political commentator says “this is legacy-building for Trump” as though these events are mainly driven by Trump’s wild expressions of belligerence, whose efficacy we only now realise in the wake of the Koreans’ summit.

Trump, they ignorantly and shamelessly say, deserves a Nobel Peace Prize if all goes well. That’s a horrible the spin. I and Dr Manatsha strongly feel that Kim and Moon- Jae might deserve the prize for deftly managing the crisis produced by the election of an unpredictable US president who has expressed before the UN General Assembly his criminal willingness to “annihilate” North Korea.

Trump now says he’s succeeded while his predecessors have all failed to resolve the Korea issue.

We seriously doubt whether he understands the first thing about Korean history, or that his State Department has crafted a plan on Korea. The point is, the mounting sanctions on Pyongyang as applied by China in consultation with Washington, plus the crazy threats of the president, plus the fear of South Koreans that Trump might do something nuts, led to this juncture. In particular, the successful North Korean nuclear weapons programme led to this juncture.

To credit the president with some sort of unprecedented wisdom and attributing this breakthrough to him is to validate his crude menacing rhetoric, which should in fact be no more admired than his misogynistic or racist pronouncements, as the impetus for a positive historical change. But it is not Trump who accomplished this. It was accomplished by Koreans united in fear to the threat he poses to all of them.

May it presage the overdue withdrawal of US troops in South Korea (such as planned by Jimmy Carter but sabotaged by the Pentagon in 1977), formation of a loose confederation of two states, mutually beneficial trade and investment ties, and coordinated Korean engagement with the surrounding powers as Trump’s influence in the world in fact shrivels, and US policy meanders, and a multipolar world mercifully takes shape due to or despite this clown.

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