North Korea’s state-controlled news agency, Korean Central, says that the country’s recent nuclear test was conducted to strengthen North Korea’s overall nuclear capabilities.
North Korea’s nuclear test has nothing to do with anti-imperialism or socialism. Its nuclear programme—pursued at the expense of its people’s livelihoods—will only increase tension in the region. As socialists who oppose any form of nuclear programme, we do not support North Korea’s nuclear test.
However, it is clear that North Korea’s third nuclear test was a direct result of bullying by South Korea, the US and Japan.
In January this year, the United Nations security council passed a resolution to tighten sanctions on North Korea in response to its long-range Unha-3 rocket launch. North Korea is the only country that the security council has deprived of the right to launch a satellite.
The South Korean and US governments threatened North Korea, warning that a pre-emptive attack on its nuclear facilities was an “option”. Early this month, the two countries held a nuclear strike exercise targeting North Korea in the East Sea, between Korea and Japan.
That is why Jung Sae-hyun, a former South Korean minister of unification, pointed out that the US “practically forced [North Korea] to launch a nuclear test”.
The US and its allies have condemned the nuclear test. Yet the US has the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal and it is the only country that has ever used a nuclear weapon in an actual battlefield. So far Barack Obama’s administration has carried out at least six rounds of nuclear tests.
Unsurprisingly North Korean rulers have denounced the world powers’ double standards.
North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006 came after George W Bush’s administration had denounced it as one of the “outposts of tyranny”. The US imposed strict financial sanctions.
Obama’s administration has denied North Korea’s demands for dialogue, and imposed a variety of sanctions and pressures under the banner of “strategic patience.”
North Korea’s nuclear weapons and rockets are “monsters” created by US imperialism. The US demonisation of North Korea is part of its strategy to maintain hegemony in East Asia.
It also uses North Korea’s threat as a bogeyman to keep its East Asian allies on a tight leash. The rulers of South Korea, the US and Japan are ready to respond to North Korea’s nuclear test with even more severe sanctions.
There is even talk of supporting regime change in North Korea.
The situation is ripe with the possibility of flare-ups, not least in the upcoming annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the US.
The US considers North Korea’s third nuclear test as a golden opportunity to build up its missile defence system. It will pressure South Korea to officially participate.
Such belligerent response will only amplify the instability in the region. It is also likely that North Korea will respond with another nuclear test or rocket launch.
This fuels the neighbouring nations’ nuclear ambitions. Shinzo Abe’s administration in Japan has begun a discussion over the introduction of the right of collective self-defence.
It has decided to resume plutonium production, halted after the accident in the Fukushima nuclear plant, and build new uranium enrichment facilities.
Amid the confrontation there has also been some dialogue. The US rulers feel the need for “risk management”, so there has been under-the-table negotiation between the two countries.
But even if dialogue begins, any chance of real progress will be very slim.
The pattern of the dialogue between North Korea and the US over the last 20 years has been of agreements broken due to the US breach of its promises, resulting in renewed tension in the region.
Young-Ik Kim is from the South Korean socialist group All Together. Translated by Yesong Lee alltogether.or.kr