Who's Threatening Who?

History of U.S. Nuclear Threats in the Korean Peninsula

Revolutionary Worker #1198, May 11, 2003, posted at rwor.org

Since September 11, 2001 the U.S. government and military have adopted the doctrine of "pre- emptive war"--claiming for themselves the right to strike first at any state or armed group around the world that the U.S. labels a potential "threat." The invasion of Iraq showed this nakedly imperialist doctrine in action. And others are being threatened with the same fate as Saddam Hussein and his regime if they come in the way of U.S. power and hegemony.

One of those now in the U.S. crosshairs is North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK)--yet another small and impoverished third world country that the U.S. has labeled a "rogue state."

The standard U.S. line on North Korea goes something like this: "The erratic and dangerous North Korean government has chosen, inexplicably, to defy the U.S. and to threaten its neighbors and the world. The North Korean regime ignores the welfare of its people while building up a huge military. And now it has injected nuclear tensions into East Asia by tearing up agreements, kicking out inspectors, and stepping up its nuclear weapons development. One way or another, this nuclear threat must be stopped."

The U.S. accusations against North Korea turn reality on its head. As history shows, for over 50 years it has been the U.S. that has repeatedly made nuclear threats in East Asia, specifically against North Korea.

From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the Korean War

In 1945 the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--killing hundreds of thousands of people. This calculated act of mass murder was meant to warn and intimidate anyone that might challenge U.S. intentions to control the Far East.

At the end of World War 2, northern Korea was liberated from the Japanese occupiers and an independent government was formed. But the U.S. refused to withdraw its forces from southern Korea or to allow the Korean people to have a united country. In the following decades, the U.S. set up a series of fascistic regimes to rule brutally over the people of South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea). Close to 40,000 U.S. troops are still in South Korea today.

In 1950 a war was launched from northern Korea to expel the U.S. occupiers. The U.S. forces (flying the UN flag) advanced through northern Korea right up to the border with China--directly threatening the Maoist revolution that had won victory there in 1949.

Mao Tsetung and the Chinese people came to the defense of the Korean resistance. Tens of thousands of revolutionary fighters from China joined Korean fighters in the battlefield against the U.S./UN invaders.

Throughout the Korean War, the U.S. had military plans for the possible use of atomic bombs against North Korea and China. According to an article by Bruce Cumings in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ("Spring Thaw for Korea's Cold War," March 1992), the commander of the U.S. forces, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, requested the "discretion" to use atomic bombs in December 1950 and submitted a list of 26 targets.

Cumings wrote, "On March 10, 1951, MacArthur asked for something he called a `D-Day atomic capability' to retain air superiority in the Korean theater (meaning he would hit Manchurian airfields [in northern China] with atomic weapons). At the end of March, Air Force Gen. George Stratemeyer reported that atomic bomb loading pits at Kadena air base on Okinawa [in Japan] were operational; the bombs were carried there unassembled and put together at the base. On April 5, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered immediate atomic retaliation against Manchurian bases if large numbers of new troops came into the fighting or, it appears, if bombers were launched against U.S. forces from there. On April 6, Truman issued an order approving the Joint Chiefs' request and the transfer of a limited number of complete atomic weapons `from Atomic Energy Commission to military custody.' "

MacArthur was relieved of his command soon after this. But his successor, Matthew Ridgway, also requested to have the option of using atomic bombs in May 1951. According to Cumings, "In the fall of 1951, Operation Hudson Harbor sought to establish the capability to use atomic weapons on the battlefield, and in pursuit of this goal, in September and October, lone B-29 bombers flew from Okinawa to North Korea conducting simulated atomic runs, dropping `dummy' A-bombs or heavy TNT bombs. The project called for `actual functioning of all activities which would be involved in an atomic strike, including weapons assembly and testing, leading, ground control of bomb aiming,' and the like. The bombers took off from Okinawa, but everything was commanded from Yakaota air base in Japan."

From the End of Korean War to the Present

Together the Chinese and Korean fighters stopped the U.S./UN invaders and pushed them back to the 38th parallel--which is now the line between North and South Korea.

The U.S. nuclear bullying of North Korea did not stop with the end of the war. The U.S. violated the armistice provisions at the conclusion of the Korean War by bringing nuclear-tipped Matador missiles into South Korea in 1957. In 1975, as the U.S. was withdrawing its last forces from Saigon after the defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese liberation forces, U.S. Defense Secretary James Schlesinger openly threatened the DPRK with nuclear retaliation if it tried to take advantage of the U.S. setback.

By the 1980s, the ROK had become the most nuclear-wired place on the planet. North Korea was threatened with a whole array of U.S. nukes--from strategic and short-range missiles to neutron bombs to "tactical" weapons like nuclear land mines and artillery.

According to Cumings, U.S. strategy in Korea in the 1980s involved several levels of nuclear warfare. First, the U.S. planned to use tactical nukes against large concentrations of DPRK troops in the early stages of a war. Second, the "AirLand Battle" strategy developed by NATO in the 1970s for war against the Soviet Union was also applied to Korea. This strategy "called for early, quick, deep strikes into enemy territory, again with the likely use of nuclear weapons, especially against hardened underground facilities (of which there are many in North Korea)."

The third part of the U.S. war plan included the use of neutron bombs--also known as "enhanced radiation" weapons --which deliver deadly doses of radiation that kill people without causing extensive structural destruction. The U.S. envisioned using this weapon if DPRK forces took Seoul or other cities in the south--in order to decimate North Korean troops while preserving property and infrastructure. (Of course, the use of neutron bombs would also have caused huge casualties among the South Korean population.)

According to Cumings, "This harrowing scenario became standard operating procedure in the 1980s, the kind written into military field manuals; the annual `Team Spirit' U.S.-South Korean military exercises, largest in the world with around 200,000 troops mobilized, played out AirLand Battle games."

The U.S. claims that it withdrew its tactical nuclear weapons from southern Korea in the early 1990s. But this is not verified--since the U.S. refuses international inspections of its own weapons (while attacking others for refusing such inspections).

Even if the U.S. has actually withdrawn its tactical nukes from the Korean peninsula, the DPRK continues to be surrounded and threatened by the U.S.'s vast nuclear armed forces. U.S. ships and submarines armed with nuclear and conventional missiles prowl the nearby seas. The U.S. military--in violation of international treaties--is now installing 20 new interceptor missiles in Alaska, including on a base only several hundred miles from North Korea. These missiles (if they work) will enable the U.S. to threaten a nuclear first strike against both North Korea and China.

Earlier this year, as the Bush administration was heading toward war with Iraq, the U.S. further beefed up its forces targeted at the DPRK by sending stealth fighters to bases in South Korea and 24 long- range bombers to Guam.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on Feb. 28 that secret plans are being developed within the Pentagon for possible military strikes against North Korea. According to Kristof, those plans include "a range of military options from surgical cruise missile strikes to sledgehammer bombing, and there is even talk of using tactical nuclear weapons to neutralize hardened artillery positions."

North Korea is currently alleged to have at most one or two primitive nuclear weapons (and there is no real evidence that they even have that). North Korean missiles can reach only a few hundred miles beyond its borders.

The U.S. imperialists have occupied southern Korea for more than half a century and prevented reunification of the country. They have imposed capitalist sweatshops and harsh repressive governments. U.S. occupation troops have raped Korean women, seized Korean land, turned the country into a permanent war zone, and generally run amok. The U.S. has repeatedly threatened North Korea, China, and others with nuclear weapons.

Who has "injected" the nuclear threat into East Asia? Who has developed insane war scenarios worthy of Dr. Strangelove? Who is the real "rogue state"?

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