News Release

The Koreas: Lurching Towards War

Reuters is reporting: “The United States said on Wednesday it would soon send a missile defense system to Guam to defend it from North Korea, as the U.S. military adjusts to what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called a ‘real and clear danger’ from Pyongyang.”

Hong is a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Lee is a member of the Working Group on Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific as well as the National Campaign to End the Korean War. She also co-hosts Asia Pacific Forum, a weekly radio show on culture and politics of Asia and the Asian diaspora.

Hong and Lee recently co-wrote “Lurching Towards War: A Post-Mortem on Strategic Patience.”

Today they said: “The escalation of military threats and tensions on and around the Korean peninsula point to a resurgence of war as a plausible scenario involving the same national actors and international alliances central to the Korean War—the United States and South Korea, on the one hand, and North Korea and China, on the other.

“What has gone underreported in U.S. media is China’s readiness posture. China has placed its military on high alert in the event of an outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula. In a move reminiscent of its entry into the Korean War, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has increased troop presence, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and air patrols along its border with North Korea. In a show of support for North Korea, China has been holding live-firing naval exercises in the West Sea, a site of recurring tensions between the two Koreas.

“Yesterday, General James Thurman, commander of U.S. military forces in South Korea, conceded that, in these circumstances, miscalculation could trigger ‘a kinetic provocation.’ Yet, in U.S. media, all blame has gone to North Korea, which U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel describes as ‘a clear and present danger.’ During a press briefing last Thursday, when asked whether U.S. deployment of B-2 stealth bombers to the Korean peninsula for a practice sortie was provocative, Hagel stated that “we, the United States and South Korea, have not been involved in provocating [sic]” North Korea.

“The facts suggest otherwise. In addition to the bombers, the ships, and the stealth fighters that it has recently deployed to the region, the United States, in the wake of the death of Kim Jong Il and President Barack Obama’s announcement of a U.S. ‘pivot’ to Asia and the Pacific, has quietly intensified the danger of war on the Korean peninsula. Jointly with South Korea, it has openly exercised OPLAN 5029, a U.S. war plan that simulates regime collapse in and U.S. occupation of North Korea. It transferred mine-resistant armored vehicles used in Afghanistan and Iraq to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and announced the completion of super nuclear bunker busters for use against North Korea. It also increased South Korea’s ballistic missile range to enable its ally to strike North Korea.

“In response to these developments, Kim Jong Un, in a speech before the central committee of the Workers’ Party on Sunday, described nuclear weapons as ‘a guarantee to protect [North Korea’s] sovereignty.’ North Korea has routinely pointed to Iraq, Libya, and Syria as case studies in U.S. regime change policy. Describing its own actions as self-defense, North Korea nullified the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement that brought active fighting to a halt but did not end the war. It pointed to the agreement’s centrality to a permanent war system that has forced North Korea ‘to divert large human and material resources to bolstering up the armed forces though they should have been directed to the economic development and improvement of people’s living standard.’””