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As DPRK disables its nuclear reactor

Will Washington live up to its agreement?

Published Jul 3, 2008 9:06 PM

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took a dramatic step on June 27 to prove conclusively to the world that it was disabling its technology for making nuclear weapons. As representatives of the international media recorded the event, it blew up the cooling tower at its Yongbyon reactor. The reactor had been shut down and sealed since July 15 of last year.

This now puts the ball in the U.S. court. Washington can no longer claim that the DPRK is secretly producing nuclear material. Such claims in the past have been used to delay implementing an agreement arrived at last year in six-party talks held in Beijing.

Under the agreement, the U.S. is supposed to lift sanctions it had unilaterally imposed on the socialist north of Korea and help provide the country with fuel oil. The sanctions were imposed after George W. Bush placed the DPRK within his imagined “axis of evil,” along with Iran and Iraq, and declared it a “terrorist” nation.

The Bush administration has never called Israel, Pakistan or India “terrorist” for developing nuclear weapons. Nor have any leaders of U.S. imperialism ever applied the label to themselves, even though the U.S. is the only country to have ever dropped atomic bombs on civilians, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 with just two bombs.

The corporate mass media in the U.S., following the lead of the foreign policy establishment, have treated the DPRK’s decision to construct a nuclear shield, even a small one, as irrational and “paranoid.” They seldom bring up the fact that the DPRK is under constant threat from the Pentagon.

According to an assessment entitled “U.S. nuclear forces, 2008” in the March/April Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the Pentagon last year “restarted small-scale production of nuclear weapons for the first time in 15 years,” even though it still had in its stockpiles more than 5,400 nuclear warheads left over from the Cold War.

The majority of these weapons are strategic—that is, they are for offensive purposes and can be delivered to targets around the world by missiles, submarines and long-range bombers.

The Pentagon’s operational plans, explained the article, include “executable, scenario-based strike operations against regional states, including North Korea and Iran.” In other words, the DPRK was and continues to be an explicit target of the world’s most powerful military, which today is carrying out brutal, aggressive wars of occupation in several countries.

The U.S. Navy has been moving nuclear-powered, ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) into the Pacific.

“Since 2002,” says the Bulletin article, “the Navy has transferred five SSBNs from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a reorientation of the sea-based deterrent force’s focus to increase coverage of targets in China, according to Navy officials. (The SSBNs also target Russia and North Korea.)

“More than 60 percent of all U.S. SSBN deterrent patrols now take place in the Pacific, compared to an average of only 15 percent during the 1980s.”

Yet Washington had the gall to impose heavy economic sanctions on the DPRK when, after years of U.S. threats, it announced it had developed nuclear weapons. According to a declaration it filed with the head of the six-party talks, the DPRK, before dismantling its reactor, had produced about 90 pounds of plutonium, which is “enough to construct at least a half-dozen nuclear bombs and is in line with U.S. intelligence estimates.” (AP, June 27) Six bombs—when the U.S. has 5,400!

After the DPRK’s decisive dismantling of its Yongyon reactor, Bush announced he was removing the country from his “terrorist” list and dropping some of the sanctions. That brought a barrage from John Bolton, an unabashed warmonger who until recently was Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations. He called the action “shameful,” declaring, “This represents the final collapse of Bush’s foreign policy.” The rightwinger Bush, trying to placate the even more rabid right, stressed that his action was largely “symbolic” and would have little impact, since many other sanctions have long been in place against the DPRK.

Congress has mandated that the White House wait 45 days before living up to its end of the agreement by removing the DPRK from Bush’s “terrorist” list. In that period, progressives must be vigilant against new excuses and provocations from Washington.