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Defending right of self-defense

North Koreans resist U.S., Japan bullying

Published Jul 12, 2006 11:22 PM

In the week before the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea tested seven missiles on July 4, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was in Washington to meet with President George W. Bush. The media made much of the prime minister’s upcoming visit to Graceland, Elvis’s Memphis mansion.

However, at a June 29 White House press conference, the real purpose of the visit was made clear. Bush warned North Korea that Japan “cannot afford to be held hostage to rockets” and said it would be “unacceptable” for the North to test a long-range missile. At the joint news conference, Koizumi said the two leaders had agreed to “apply various pressures” on North Korea should it proceed with a test launching.

Now, in the days following the DPRK’s missile launch, Japan for the first time since its defeat in World War II is taking the lead in a confrontation on the Korean peninsula. Its draft resolution, submitted to the UN Security Council on July 7, calls the DPRK’s missile tests a threat to international peace and mandates economic sanctions against North Korea. The draft invokes Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would make the sanctions mandatory and pave the way for military action.

Prime Minister Koizumi, a close ally of the Bush administration, has been taking a more aggressive stance towards Japan’s neighbors and has been pushing to revise the Japanese Constitution, which currently prohibits military action except for self-defense.

The hawkish head of Japan’s defense agency, Fukushiro Nukaga, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, widely viewed as Koizumi’s likely successor, argue that Japan should prepare for “preemptive” strikes against the DPRK. Japan does not currently have the capability to strike North Korea, but Abe has suggested that they work to develop the necessary systems. The July 11 Washington Post says that experts “believe Japan could develop the technology relatively quickly or perhaps buy it from the United States.”

Koizumi’s willingness to take a belligerent stand may come at an opportune time for Washington, which is bogged down in the failed three-year campaign to conquer Iraq. Japan’s threat of a first strike against North Korea allows Bush to cynically call for a “diplomatic solution” while pushing for economic sanctions as part of the agenda of “regime change.”

Reaction in South Korea

However, Japan’s threats have provoked anger in South Korea, where the government remains hostage to U.S. occupying troops but where the memory of Japanese colonial rule is still strong. On July 10, presidential spokesperson Jung Tae-ho said, “We can’t help but watch intensely as Japan has exposed the nature of its aggressive policy.”

The South Korean statement denounced Japan’s call to consider military action against the DPRK, accusing the Koizumi administration of “arrogance and outrageous rhetoric that further intensifies the crisis on the Korean Peninsula with dangerous and provocative rhetoric such as ‘preemptive strike.’ In light of the painful historical records that Japan justified its invasion of Korea in the past … we cannot but conclude that these grave and threatening statements are to endanger peace in Northeast Asia. They reveal the military nature of Japan, which warrants our intense vigilance.”

All of Korea suffered under a brutal Japanese occupation that lasted from 1910 to 1945.

South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun said about the missile tests, “There’s no reason to fuss over this from the break of dawn like Japan, but every reason to do the opposite. There is nothing good in heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula and worsening inter-Korean relations. This will not help at all to settle the nuclear issue or the missile issue. … The possible launch of a Daepodong missile had been widely publicized in advance. It was aimed at nobody and did not lead to a state of emergency in either our country or other countries.”

A top South Korean government official told the Korea Herald, “Unfortunately—and I believe our regional neighbors feel the same way—one of the worst side effects of the North Korean missiles was that it has paved the road for Japan to build its military.”

China opposes
sanctions resolution

The U.S.-Japanese resolution has drawn opposition from the People’s Republic of China, whose people also suffered under Japanese occupation. On July 11, China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling the resolution an “overreaction,” saying, “If approved, it will aggravate contradictions and increase tension. It will hurt efforts to resume six-party talks as well as lead to the UN Security Council splitting.” This was an allusion to the fact that, if pressed, China might have to exercise its right, as a permanent member of the Security Council, to veto the resolution.

Chinese President Hu Jintao met with the vice president of the Presidium of the DPRK’s Supreme People’s Assembly that same day. He said that China opposes any action that may increase tension on the Korean peninsula.

Wang Guangya, China’s UN Ambas sador, told Voice of America that China would categorically reject any resolution unless three things were removed: “The determination that this is a threat to international peace and security, because for China, we can’t accept negative implications for regional peace and stability. Secondly, remove Chapter Seven. Thirdly, there are no mandatory sanctions.”

Seeking to negotiate a diplomatic settlement to the crisis, a Chinese delegation, including Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, arrived in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, also on July 11. The UN Security Council has been forced to postpone a vote on the proposed sanctions against North Korea until the six-day visit is over.

DPRK’s right to self-defense

Despite pressure and threats from the U.S. and Japan, the DPRK remains defiant, calling the U.S. the biggest threat to world peace. On the same day as the diplomatic moves mentioned above, the Korean Central News Agency said, “In crying over ‘missile threat,’ the U.S. seeks to conceal its sinister intention and, behind the curtain, create a favorable climate for implementing its strategy of world supremacy.”

It’s important to point out, amidst all the corporate media hype, that North Korea’s missile tests did not break any international law or violate any agreement. Even the New York Times, which is quick to demonize the DPRK, had to admit in a July 5 editorial: “Since the test poses no direct security threat, and violates no international treaty, there is no justification for any military response, by the United States or anyone else.”

These sorts of missile tests are not unusual. Many countries test missiles and other weapon systems every day. In fact, on July 10, India tested a new Agni-3 long-range missile, capable of hitting targets deep within China. This test was followed by the launch of its INSAT-4C rocket. Bush issued no condemnation of India’s launches.

The development of the Taepodong-2 missile, or of any other weapon system, is completely within the sovereign rights of the DPRK, particularly in light of its history of being invaded by Japan and the U.S. and the hostility of the current Bush administration. In 2002, Bush labeled North Korea as one third of his “axis of evil,” along with Iran and Iraq. Now that everyone has seen the murder, torture and rape that U.S. “regime change” has brought to Iraq, it should be clear that the people of the DPRK are fully justified in developing whatever weapons they need to defend themselves.

The July 5 Al Jazeera quotes a “Western diplomat familiar with the Iranian and North Korean programs” as saying, “If those countries didn’t have much incentive before, they certainly did after the Axis of Evil statement.”

The DPRK continues to defy the U.S. agenda, and the people of North Korea deserve the support and solidarity of antiwar activists everywhere.