By Kim Young-ik in South Korea
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Imperialist tensions lie behind North and South Korean peace negotiations

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Issue 2591
US vice president Mike Pence at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea
US vice president Mike Pence at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea (Pic: D Myles Cullen)

Many Koreans were delighted to see North and South Korean athletes marching as part of one delegation at the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony last Friday.

Relations between North and South appear to be improving. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un sent his sister Kim Yo-jong as special envoy to South Korea and invited its president Moon Jae-in for summit meeting.

Many Koreans were worried last year when Donald Trump threatened war.

Yet it seems unlikely that peace will be sustainable because the Korean Peninsula is in the middle of an imperialist power game.

The tension between the US and China has been increasing.

Donald Trump’s defence secretary James Mattis last month said, “Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security.”

The US judges its approach to North Korea as part of its broader strategy to contain China’s rise.

The US has expressed its discomfort that talks have begun between the two Koreas.

In his address to US Congress at the end of last month, Trump stressed “maximum pressure” toward North Korea.


The US wants to strengthen sanctions and military pressure toward North Korea.

People close to the Trump administration have openly talked about giving North Korea a “bloody nose.”

The US is urging South Korea to restart US-South Korean military exercises—postponed due to the Olympics—as soon as the games are finished.

Imperialist rivalries limit the Moon government’s room for manoeuvre.

Moon wants to carry on the current talks between North and South Korea, but is also keen to rule out any option that may harm the South’s relationship with the US.

So Moon agreed with US vice president Mike Pence on the “maximum sanctions and pressure” approach.

The US-South Korean military exercise could take place right after the Olympics, as originally proposed by the US.

The right wing in South Korea has been boosted by the US maintaining its approach toward North Korea.

A spokesperson for the right wing party said that by accepting the summit invitation Moon has effectively committed “an act benefiting the enemy.”

It is likely that further political polarisation will take place.

The Olympics peace is likely to be temporary and limited. The prospects for the Korean Peninsula are still unclear. We in Workers Solidarity are calling for a peace movement against Trump’s war threat so that we can fight back when it’s needed.

Kim Young-Ik is a member of Workers Solidarity, the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation in South Korea

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