ANYONE wondering why the US and North Korea are threatening each other with nuclear devastation might contemplate Donald Trump’s latest Twitter comments.
“My first order as president was to renovate and modernise our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” he boasted.
One provision of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ratified in 1970 and renewed indefinitely in 1995 was that the five acknowledged nuclear powers “pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
This was the corollary to non-nuclear signatories not seeking such weapons and nuclear powers preventing proliferation. While certain categories of weapons and delivery systems have been eliminated, the US, in particular, has never ceased to, in Trump’s words, “renovate and modernise our nuclear arsenal.”
India, Pakistan and Israel are all believed to have developed nuclear status but never signed the NPT while North Korea ratified it in 1985 before withdrawing in 2003 after Washington accused it of starting an enriched uranium weapons programme banned under the treaty.
The year 2003 is significant, marking the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq just over a year after president George W Bush designated Iraq, Iran and North Korea an “axis of evil.”
The overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein, followed by wanton destruction of all functions of the Iraqi state, led inexorably to the establishment and rapid development of Islamic State (Isis), but hasn’t discouraged US imperialism from further overseas military meddling.
Politicians from both main US parties, echoed by Israel, have reiterated their “right” to attack Iran as a last resort to block Tehran’s non-existent nuclear weapons programme, but awareness of the regional bloodbath this would precipitate, plus wiser counsel emanating from Washington’s allies, has stayed this doomsday scenario so far.
North Korea has clearly concluded that only non-nuclear states are invaded by the US. It shares the British government’s contention that nukes are essential to defend national security.
Koreans have vivid memories of mass slaughter and destruction caused by US air power when Pyongyang was pounded to the ground and five million people died in the Korean War.
They rebuilt their country successfully to the extent that living standards in the North surpassed those of the South, but those days are long gone.
While US-backed authoritarian state capitalism hugely increased South Korea’s productive capacity and trading power, albeit with gross disparities in wealth, the most obvious growth sector in the North is of idolatrous effigies of Kim dynasty members while military spending has enjoyed top state priority.
Resistance to US threats against Pyongyang does not rest on esteem for its internal regime, no matter that its admirers portray it as Marxism-based.
North Korea has the same right as every other state to develop in the way of its own choosing and any changes to that direction are the province of its people and no-one else, but its actions, especially provocative rocket launches and military bombast, are similarly open to criticism and censure.
Key to ending such activity is for Washington to recognise in reciprocity North Korea’s national sovereignty and pledge to end annual war games with South Korea and Guam-based B-1 nuclear-armed bombers’ overflights of the Korean peninsula.
Such an understanding could usher in a too long delayed comprehensive peace and security treaty between both Korean states, the US and China.