Keeping in mind that today the US and Japan are working overtime to create further tensions with North Korea, threatening to attack any satellite launch they might do in coming days, it is important to put present events in the larger historical context of the region.
Often in the US we just blindly follow our governments foreign policy pronouncements as gospel because we are simply ignorant about history.
So with that in mind I thought I’d share a few items that seemed particularly relevant to me.
Japan’s long brutal occupation of Korea was supported by the often-held notion of all colonizers - manifest destiny. In a memorandum, kept secret until 1924, Washington recognized Korea as a Japanese protectorate and Tokyo recognized US sovereignty in the Philippines.
After Japan was defeated in WW II, the US appointed pro-Japanese collaborators in Korea as the core of the new governing power structure between 1945-48.
A reporter for the Chicago Sun wrote in 1946 that the US military set up in Korea, “a government by [pro-Japanese] collaborators representing a conspiracy of insufferable corruption,” and “a police state so savage in its suppression of man’s elementary liberties that it was difficult to find a parallel for it.”
When the Republic of Korea was established in 1948, this right-wing state apparatus was handed by the US to Syngman Rhee.
According to Kyungmo Chung, “Syngman Rhee’s government was incapable of redressing popular grievances. Yet he pushed through one illegal constitutional amendment after another in order to perpetuate his corrupt power. The abuse of his presidential power reached its zenith when he ran for a fourth term at the age of 85 in 1960 and rigged the election to a degree unprecedented in Korea. The accumulated haan (hard knot formed from accumulated frustration and resentment due to grievous wrongs done) developed into the April 1960 Student Revolution that toppled Rhee’s regime and led to a new government…but it was short lived as Park Chung Hee seized power at gunpoint in 1961 and ruled brutally.”
Bruce Cumings, author of Origins of the Korean War, wrote, “The division of Korea [into North and South] occurred in the last five months of 1945. The first occurred during a nightlong session of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee in Washington, DC, August 10-11, 1945. Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, a figure of maximal importance in postwar US diplomacy, later to be designated by New Yorker political correspondent Richard Rovere as the ‘chairman’ of the eastern establishment, asked two colonels, Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel, to withdraw to an adjoining room and find a place to draw a line across Korea; they were given thirty minutes. Rusk, of course, went on to become a key figure in US Asian diplomacy in the 1950s and later Secretary of State during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Bonesteel later commanded US forces in Korea.
“The decision on the 38th parallel, although made in thirty minutes, was based on years of planning, as were other decisions at the time. Within a year of Pearl Harbor, planners in the State Department had begun to worry about Soviet involvement in or control of Korea, viewing this as a threat to Pacific security. They thus began the decisive reversal of the traditional US policy toward Korea, one of non-involvement and acquiescence in or support for Japanese designs on the peninsula.”
During the Korean War (1950-1953) the US bombed 99% of all above-ground structures in North Korea. Even though a ceasefire was agreed to on July 27, 1953 the Korean War is not officially over.
In 1952 Robert Oliver, a US political adviser to Syngman Rhee, said, “Its [Korea's] primary role has been that of a buffer state. Never strong militarily and never ambitious for expansion, Korea has not in itself been a threat to anyone. Its significance lies now (as it has in the past) in the fact that it occupies the strategic heartland of north Asia, surrounded by China, Japan and Siberian Russia.”
Russians have long maintained that the US-South Korea-Japan military alliance would inevitably perpetuate military tensions in the region rather than promote peace on the Korean peninsula. They were right. Today the US uses the “threat” of North Korea to set up a massive offensive military machine in the region that is really being used to help surround Russia and China.
The Korean people in North and South do not want another war or a permanent division of their country. They aspire to peaceful reunification without negative interference by foreign powers.
North Korea is not a significant threat to anyone. They can't even properly feed their own people. They are not going to fire a missile unprovoked at Japan or the US. The US is once again playing mind games.