Imperialist warmongering against North Korea threatened to bring the region to the brink of nuclear war last week.
US president Barack Obama has been presiding over a systematic escalation of tensions in the region.
George W Bush had put North Korea on his “Axis of evil”. Obama has a different strategy.
His misnamed plan of “strategic patience” consists of tightening sanctions on North Korea and pursuing “war games” in the region.
These claim to be defensive but are barely-disguised aggressive threats of attack.
North Korea’s nuclear test in February was a dangerous warning of how the regime might respond.
But the test has been used as justification for yet more military build-up by the US and its allies in the South.
And Japanese officials admitted last Tuesday that Japan had deployed sophisticated Patriot missile interceptors at three different sites around Tokyo.
The US claims it does not want to intensify tensions. Yet it has started moving a missile defence shield to the island of Guam, a US territory in the Pacific, earlier than planned.
This stand-off is a sign that North Korea wants greater concessions from the US to remain a player in the region.
In a sign of the deteriorating of relations between North and South Korea, North Korea is pulling its workers from the joint Kaesong industrial zone.
It is says it will suspend operations there, at least temporarily. This is the only joint industrial project that exists between the two countries. It is based on territory controlled by the North and is a source of much-needed capital.
The Western involvement in the region is not a result of the North Korea’s nuclear test.
It is a part of the US’s strategic shift in focus for its imperialist project to South East Asia.
This has been coined the “Pacific pivot”. It has seen the US military reviving old bases in Australia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.
The US Navy is now shifting to a 60-40 division of forces in favour of the Pacific Ocean, away from its Cold War-era focus on the Atlantic.
The US has 28,000 troops already based in South Korea. It also has the right to take command of 500,000 South Korean troops in the case of war.
All these are ingredients for a dangerous stand off and the potential for accidental flare ups with monumental implications. The impact of any sort of nuclear conflict would be devastating.
In 1994, under the then president Bill Clinton, the Pentagon did a simulation exercise of an attack on North Korea.
They projected that one million people would die across North and South.