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EDITORIAL

ALERT: U.S. warships off Korea

While the attention of the anti-war movement continues to be riveted on the violence of the U.S. colonial occupation in Iraq, the danger of a military confrontation in north Asia involving the Pentagon has suddenly increased.

Ships of the U.S. 7th Fleet were to arrive in the waters east of the Demo cratic People's Republic of Korea--North Korea--on Oct. 1 in a provocative threat to that country's very existence. The flotilla includes destroyers equipped with Aegis missiles and the equipment to "monitor and track any ballistic missile launches from 'roguenations.'" (navytimes.com)

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, despite its name, is part of a new offensive system begun after the Bush administration withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001. That treaty, signed by the Nixon administration and the USSR in 1972, viewed a missile defense system as essentially offensive, since it could lead to a situation where a country possessing such a shield would feel invulnerable enough to launch a missile attack with impunity.

At the time that Bush withdrew from the treaty, Tom Daschle, Democratic leader in the Senate, said he was concerned it could "rupture relations with key countries around the world" and raise serious questions about future arms races involving other countries. But he has since been silent on this issue.

This is the first time since Washington scuttled the treaty that U.S. Navy ships have been deployed for "missile defense."

The Aegis missiles are just one project of the recently created Missile Defense Agency, whose budget has doubled in the past four years. Next year's appropriation for the agency is $10 billion, almost twice that of the U.S. Coast Guard. The MDA estimates its program will cost $53 billion through 2009, "but it has underestimated costs in the past." (The New Yorker, Oct. 4)

Lucrative contracts have gone to Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Orbital Sciences Corp., Northrop Grumman and EADS Space Transportation, among other favored corporations.

This huge outlay of money and resources by the U.S. government is supposed to be in response to the "nuclear threat" posed by North Korea and Iran, primarily. But that is a total fraud.

There is no military threat to the United States. Quite the opposite. Most of humanity sees the threat of war as coming from the U.S., which has such a huge killing machine that its destructive capacity is greater than the military strength of most of the rest of the world combined.

North Korea--the DPRK--in particular has reason to fear U.S. aggression. Millions of Koreans were killed after the U.S. invaded the peninsula in the early 1950s. Korea remains divided because over 30,000 U.S. troops occupy the south.

The U.S. has never signed a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. That means there is a constant threat that the White House could order an attack on the DPRK. It wouldn't even require any special legislation. And the Bush administration has declared the DPRK to be a "terrorist nation," a "rogue state" and part of an "axis of evil." All of this is war propaganda to prepare the population for an act of aggression against the DPRK.

The Democratic Party is, if anything, even more belligerent than the Bush administration on Korea. Again and again in his election campaign, John Kerry has criticized Bush for being too preoccupied with Iraq and not tough enough on North Korea.

Furthermore, the Bush administration has declared its right to take "preemptive action" if it deems there is a threat. It used just such an excuse for launching a war against Iraq, supposedly over weapons of mass destruction that everyone now knows did not exist. It could do so again over what it calls the "nuclear threat" from Korea.

Does the DPRK have nuclear weapons? Possibly. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon, in New York to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations, told reporters on Sept. 27 that the DPRK had "reprocessed 8,000 wasted fuel rods and transformed them into arms," according to the Associated Press. He said these weapons were to "serve as a deterrent against a possible nuclear strike by the United States."

Choe said "the ever-intensifying U.S. hostile policy and the clandestine nuclear-related experiments recently revealed in South Korea are constituting big stumbling blocks" and make it impossible for North Korea to participate in the continuation of six-nation talks on its nuclear program.

This statement by a high-ranking official of the DPRK got very little attention in the media, which seems to be waiting to see what the Bush administration is going to do. Will it pull an October Surprise by hitting out at the DPRK in order to look strong before the election? Anything is possible, and the DPRK must know that.

Thus it seems that the DPRK has become one more developing nation that has had to divert a significant portion of its scarce resources to building nuclear weapons because of the constant threat of a U.S. attack. When U.S. allies like Israel or South Africa--when it was under apartheid--develop these weapons, there is no hue and cry. But when a country that the U.S. has been trying to crush for decades takes similar action, it is presented as a grave threat to humanity by the corporate media.

The anti-globalization movement has popularized the slogan "Another world is possible." A world where cooperation replaces confrontation, where all the nations can sit down together, discuss and solve the tremendous problems caused by modern technology on the basis of equality and mutual respect. It is the only hope. But the first step to changing the world is realizing where the problem lies.

It does not lie with those who have been oppressed, invaded, colonized and exploited. The problem is the imperialist ruling classes that are willing to unleash the dogs of war to protect their grip on the world's wealth.

Progressives need to stand up and resist the demonization of Iraqis today, Koreans tomorrow, Iranians the day after that. We say no to imperialist war and aggression and extend a hand of friendship to all who are under attack.

Reprinted from the Oct. 7, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper

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