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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2307

Lalins Column: Korea's beware. Asia - Turn out the Guard

By Major General (Retd.) Lalin Fernando

The upcoming re scheduled summit between US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore could prevent the threat of a holocaust that Trump casually tosses around. Trump admits that the Korean situation is a ‘world problem’. A lot however will depend on how far North Korea is ready to denuclearize, and how far each side is willing to trust the other for any gains to be made.

It is irresistible not to see the hand of China behind the initiatives taken by Trump. It was the Chinese who told Trump who wanted to know what Kim was like, to speak to him. 2,500 years of civilization v 250 years. Will the USA’s combative Kissinger/ Holbrooke style diplomacy succeed?

South Korea has with magnanimity shown it would like a peace treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice that is only a truce that technically prevents a resumption of war. Trump has expressed surprise recently (2018) that this is what the Armistice means! Both Koreas have shown welcome and strong signs of wanting to have a peace treaty, lessen the tensions between the two and seek reunification. This may have pressured ‘America First’ Trump to suggest a summit with Kim Jong-un, along with Trump’s desire not to lose face after making a slew of bellicose threats.

Japan for historical and strategic reasons will be wary of a union and lasting peace between the 2 Koreas. It may obstinately prove to be a dampener by advising the USA to consider Japan’s interests first.

However, the USA can afford to be conciliatory as much as it can offer veiled threats both to Kim Jong and also to the North. North Korea should prove its sincerity by offering to reduce its nuclear options especially those that threaten the USA. It can also begin to reduce the strength of its over one million armed forces.

“I wish to see the USA the dominant power on the shores of the Pacific” (Theodore Roosevelt - 28 0ct 1900)

North Korea is severely impoverished. A combination of harsh sanctions promoted by the USA, poor climatic and soil conditions for agriculture, a shrinking population and Trumps irrationality may have persuaded Kim to agree to a summit especially as Trump has disingenuously professed he is willing to go to the North too. He even fantasizes seeing Kim at the White House. Was Kim tickled?

The South especially under its President Mon Jac – in, very much desires peace. North Korea however needs to prosper for any peace to be durable. If this is to happen the USA/UN must at least lift sanctions on the North.

The USA needs a foothold in both South Korea and Japan to be able to dominate the Pacific and the Indian Ocean and keep the inexorable power and influence of China at bay. US leaders have had a xenophobic fear of China ever since the West plundered it over 100 years ago. During the Korean War, the USA having seen the devastating effect they had on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, considered dropping nuclear bombs on both North Korea and China. Only the strong objections of Britain especially and its other allies in Korea prevented their use.

The USA also considered its use in Vietnam. It appears that the USA has few moral scruples when considering a nuclear strike on non ‘white eyes’ countries that do not kow tow with them. Under a disturbed US President, the chances of a nuclear release cannot be ruled out. It is very worrying mainly for Asians from Syria, Iraq and Iran, through the Indian sub continent, to the Far East.

Trump is possibly a firm believer in the American ‘heritage’ that ‘was one of directly engaging the enemy with maximum force and battering it into submission’ (William O Neill). In just over 220 years since Independence the USA has been engaged in as many wars. He must also believe as US President Theodore Roosevelt (1905) said “Our future will be more determined on the Pacific by facing China than by our position on the Atlantic facing Europe”. That is the danger to Asia, even if India that plays ‘white’ ball with the USA cannot be unaware.

Trump after praising North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un about an year ago as ‘a young man with great promise’, then threatening nuclear annihilation as the ‘young man’, not overly impressed by Trumps condescension but hurt by crippling US/UN sanctions, fired missile after missile in a wanton if erratic show of deliberate contempt and awesome force. Trump blinked. He has apparently about faced and suggested on, off and on, one to one talks, with Kim in Singapore. Kim probably realizing that impetuous and reckless reactions by Trump are always a possibility, has reciprocated by suspending nuclear weapon testing and ballistic missile flights. One must hope that the USA will not try something undiplomatic and suddenly nasty in Singapore. It has happened in many places when the USA was rebuffed.

The North’s ace is its 20 nuclear headed missiles that can hit an American city or two. Its land area is slightly less than double the size of SL with about the same population. It has over one million troops and 3 times the artillery of the South. The South that is a bit smaller but has double the population is backed forcibly by the might of the USA that has 28,500 troops in country. The North could in about an hour over run Seoul that accounts for half the South’s population and is just about 50 kms from the border. The North has 75 submarines to 15 in the South and a bigger but not as effective air force. Even without the acquisition of nuclear weapons it has already deterred an attack on it for 57 years because of the size of its armed forces. The cost however is prohibitive as it affects the provision of basic needs of the people, vitally in food security as well as health, education and most social needs. The disparity in population between the 2 Koreas is significant.

It is fit to recall how the USA betrayed an impoverished and insanitary Korea about 135 years ago. Korean Emperor Gojong asked for US protection from Japan’s intention of occupying Korea and signed a treaty with the USA in 1882. The Emperor called the USA ‘elder brother’. Having assured Korea of its support, the USA secretly connived with Japan to allow it to conquer Korea and make it ‘a part of Japan’ so that Japan could help the West exploit China. Japan ruled Korea with a cruel, brutal, devilish and bloody hand, not only conscripting Koreans for its wars but also abusing its women by supplying them to their soldiers as ‘comfort women’ in WW2.

The Japanese, deeply conscious of history too cannot be under any delusions about the sincerity of the USA although it is provided a nuclear shield just now. The Americans in 1858 signed the treaty of Amity and Commerce with Japan. The Japanese were granted honorary ‘Aryan’ status. Japan was to be the main ‘stepping stone’ to China although the Americans knew little about China.

The betrayal by the denial of reparations after the battle of Tsushima against the Russians (1905) followed. The USA did not want Japan to be considered a ‘civilized’ nation on par with a white nation (Russia). Next, having participated as a victorious Allied state in WW1, its western allies limited the size of Japan’s Navy after WW1. Full of hate, Japan, just as it did when attacking the Russian fleet at Port Arthur (1904), paid the same compliment to the USA by attacking Pearl Harbour in December 1941 - without a declaration of war. It forced the USA into WW2 and ended with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cities of honorary ‘Aryans’ causing about 200,000 Japanese deaths in a flash.

It would also be pertinent to recall that the USA bought the Philippines, America’s Cuba, for $ 20 million from the Spanish. It was to be a ‘launching pad’ to China. The USA began ‘water boarding’ captives and killed tens of thousands of Filipinos to end the prevailing insurgency. It did not spare even babies. One rebel group ‘Abu Saif’ still battles on - in its 500th year!

The outcome of the impending talks will matter a lot to Asia. An over 60-year-old conflict has been allowed to fester without a declaration of peace between the 2 Koreas obviously to serve America’s interests. The Koreans know it. The possibility of a nuclear conflagration has hung fire over Asia for as long.

The North must assure the world that it will suspend nuclear weapon testing and ballistic missile flights. Maybe it could reduce the size of its armed forces in return for a peace pact with the South; backed by the USA. There should be some progress in uniting the 2 countries which appears to be the desire of its leaders and certainly the majority of Koreans.

The world will be watching as there has never been a President like untutored Trump with his capricious application of an ‘America First’ agenda. It threatens Americans most. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau speaking about the US’s latest tariffs policies said ‘we have nothing against the American people who have been our longest and closest allies but we cannot accept its unacceptable and insulting policies’. He also said that there was no sign that common sense will prevail in the present US administration.

What will it be this time and this is not about trade wars but a possible nuclear standoff. The Chinese say the world needs leaders not showmen (Western models). How many will be there in Singapore this June? A complete failure of the summit could signal an approaching Armageddon. North Korea desires security, prosperity and respect. Asia can only pray hard it all works out well for the Koreas, Asia and the Americans whether they curse or praise Trump.

- Asian Tribune -

Lalins Column:   Korea's beware. Asia - Turn out the Guard
Lalins Column:   Korea's beware. Asia - Turn out the Guard
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