Read here full article by Iggy Kim in Centre for Research on Globalization
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On October 9, North Korea announced it had successfully carried out its first nuclear-weapons test, six days after announcing it intended to conduct such a test.
The test was the culmination of nearly TWO years of hostility and provocation by the United States.
US provocation in the region is most obviously directed against Pyongyang, but it also seeks to dampen Seoul's power of initiative in peninsular geopolitics and, in the process, revive the political fortunes of the anti-Pyongyang, pro-US wing of the South Korean ruling class in preparation for South Korea's December 2007 presidential election.
In exchange, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program and return to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it had left in 2003 in the face of a campaign of mounting hostility from Washington.
Under the NPT, North Korea was legally entitled to enrich uranium to provide fuel rods for its two small nuclear power plants at its Yongbyon nuclear research centre.
North Korea responded in January 2003 by announcing plans to reactivate the dormant Yongbyon reactors, to withdraw from the NPT and to extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods to create a “workable nuclear deterrent”.
Such dubious accusations of criminality are the latest in a long series of campaigns by the US and its allies to demonise North Korea.
On July 5, Pyongyang responded — conducting multiple missile launch tests. Several short-range missiles and a long-range Taepodong-2 rocket were test fired.
Pyongyang is playing the nuclear card to try to force Washington to engage in bilateral talks as a prelude to the resumption of the six-party talks.
With Beijing and Moscow backing this call following its October 3 announcement of its plan to conduct a nuclear test, Pyongyang undoubtedly felt it had nothing to lose and perhaps much to gain by demonstrating that it has some nuclear chips to bargain with.
But desperation is not limited to North Korea.
Northeast Asia is where the US imperialist rulers' only nuclear-armed rival military powers — China and Russia, which now regard each other as “strategic partners” — share a border. It is also the homeland of a major rival imperialist economic superpower, Japan.
A US military foothold on the Korean peninsula, which lies at the heart of this region, is also vital as a bridgehead into the eastern side of the vast Eurasian landmass.
However, recent geopolitical and economic developments in the region have put pressure on the US presence.
China's booming capitalist economy threatens to create a new economic axis for regional industrial growth, including for South Korea which has traditionally been dependent on access to the US market.
Over the past five years, this has deepened into a liberal makeover of politics and culture. Kim Dae-jung's “Sunshine Policy” towards North Korea was stubbed into the dust by Bush junior, but Kim's successor, current President Roh Moo-hyun, has persisted with a policy of dialogue and economic relations.
Last year, trade between the two Korean states topped the US$1 billion mark for the first time.
It is also reflected at the popular level. A February survey of 1000 South Koreans aged between 18 and 23 found nearly half believed Seoul should side with Pyongyang in the event of any US military attack on North Korea's nuclear facilities. Another 40% advocated neutrality.
However, it is a gambit that may backfire on the US rulers, as those living in the region better appreciate the relationship of forces each faces. In such a delicate geopolitical confluence, no single power can prevail untrammelled.
Northeast Asia is not a gigantic US petrol bowser, like the Middle East; nor is it economically powerless.
Indeed, it remains to be seen whether Beijing and Seoul can devise a counter-diplomacy that reduces the US role.
Ultimately, if Washington's influence in the region's diplomacy can be removed or at least neutralised, the other powers stand to gain from a peaceful reunification of Korea.
Pyongyang would like nothing more than to engage in the kind of controlled restoration of capitalism seen in neighbouring China.
According to the October 9 Australian, a report recently prepared by the US Citigroup, the world's biggest bank, argues that North Korea's “progress” in preparing for China-style “economic reforms has been way beyond our expectations”.
However, Korean reunification could also unleash a significant advance in the level of social struggle in Korea. A dramatic rise in social expectations in the north could combine with the decades-long accumulation of mass democratic and worker struggle experiences and victories in the south to produce peninsula-wide movements that reverberate around northeast Asia and the world.
In the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test, Washington, with Tokyo’s support, began trying to laying the basis for another, even more reckless, provocation against North Korea.
The UN Security Council’s July resolution bans international trade in ballistic missiles and nuclear technology with North Korea. However, it lacks any enforcement provision.
On October 10 Washington began pressing the Security Council to adopt a resolution authorising US-led “inspections” of ships entering and leaving North Korea’s ports.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006