By ZoominKorea in collaboration with Hyejin Shim
September 15 — Poll Says Americans Back Military Action against North Korea
Gallup released poll results indicating that most Americans support military action against North Korea. 1,022 people were surveyed for this poll, 58% of whom favored military action “if economic and diplomatic efforts fail.”
The last time Gallup conducted a poll on support for U.S. military action against North Korea was in 2003. At the time, 47% of those surveyed favored military option. The 11% increase was mostly made up of Republicans and independents, according to Gallup.
September 16 — White House considering military options on North Korea
The White House announced that it is considering “military options” on North Korea. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster addressed questions about U.S. options: “For those who have said, and been commenting about a lack of a military option, there is a military option.”
September 17 — UN Ambassador threatens destruction of North Korea; Japan quietly supports more pressure
U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley “warned North Korea would be destroyed if it continues its ‘reckless behaviour’ and forces the United States and its allies to defend themselves against any attack.” Haley told reporters that the UN has “exhausted” all options to stop North Korea’s nuclear program. She did not mention that the United States has yet to make a genuine attempt at direct talks with North Korea.
As Ted Snider recently wrote, “Contrary to the claims made by Nikki Haley at the UN and by Donald Trump everywhere, that ‘time after time’ diplomacy has not worked with North Korea, time after time, diplomacy with North Korea has proven very effective.”
History, in fact, shows that North Korea has been cooperative in negotiations with the United States. It was the U.S. government that failed to keep its promises.
The Agreed Framework of 1994 led to North Korea freezing and committing to abandon its nuclear development program. In return, the U.S. had agreed to provide two light-water reactors and heavy fuel oil for North Korea’s energy needs. But the U.S. failed to deliver its end of the bargain, and George W Bush, after calling North Korea a part of the ‘axis of evil,’ listed the country as one of seven potential targets for a U.S. preemptive strike. This prompted North Korea to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and restart its nuclear program in 2003.
In 2014, North Korea proposed to freeze its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a freeze of the U.S.’ joint military exercises with South Korea. The Obama administration rejected this option. North Korea made the same offer in January, 2015. Again, the U.S. rejected the offer the very next day.
Trump is joined by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the creation of a false narrative of the past to justify military action over peaceful dialogue. On September 17, Abe published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for more international pressure against North Korea. He wrote — “[P]rioritizing diplomacy and emphasizing the importance of dialogue will not work with North Korea. History shows that concerted pressure by the entire international community is essential.”
September 18 — Defense Secretary claims U.S. attack on North Korea will not put Seoul in danger
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis claimed the U.S. has military options that “do not put Seoul at risk.” Mattis offered no additional details on what those options look like. Back in August, when asked about the potential human toll of a military conflict with North Korea, Mattis had responded by saying, “It would be catastrophic.”
Korean Americans warn about the human cost of military action in any part of the Korean Peninsula. Hyejin Shim of HOBAK, a Bay Area Korean American organization, commented on Mattis’ statement:
It seems like the city of Seoul is the only consideration people have for thinking about the death toll [and] human cost of war… Perhaps it should be said again that Seoul is 35 miles south of the border. There is no military option that will hit the North and not the South. All Koreans deserve to live and not be bombed, not just Seoul residents. Considering how many families remain separated, the distinction is meaningless and purely political.
Shim discussed the need for more Americans to “refuse the routine dehumanization that the media and the Trump administration are ramping up so they can justify starting yet another war.” She added, “At the end of the day, the lives of North Koreans are just as important as ours, but lately we have politicians and media literally saying things like, ‘Better a million dead North Koreans than a thousand dead Americans.’”
There are diplomatic options that have not been pursued by the United States. The U.S. can stop its military threats and propose talks without the precondition that North Korea first abandon its nuclear program.
As Gregory Elich pointed out in a recent article published on September 19:
North Korea observed the fate of Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, and concluded that only a nuclear deterrent could stop the United States from attacking. It is the ‘threat’ of North Korea being able to defend itself that has aroused U.S. ire on a spectacular scale.
September 18 — Senate votes to funnel $700 billion more into the military
On September 18, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would provide the military with an additional $700 billion. 89 senators voted in favor, and only eight voted against the bill. The bill is said to include an $8.5 billion dedicated to bolstering missile defense systems.
September 19 — Trump threatens total annihilation of North Korea and its people
Trump made his UN debut this week and spoke before international leaders and diplomats. A main feature of this speech was another threat to “completely destroy North Korea.” The comment was not an instance of Trump going off script, as he is prone to do, but a part of his formal speech, which was presumably vetted by others in his administration who share the same view.
K.J. Noh pointed out in an interview on Dennis Bernstein’s Flashpoints:
In the past, people have spoken of extinction and annihilation — namely Mattis and John McCain. But this is unusual in that this is an actual threat to wipe out the entire country and its 25 million inhabitants. That is quite unprecedented. Usually the threats have been directed towards the regime. So that is a very significant escalation.
Following Trump’s speech, U.S. peace organizations — Credo Action, Win Without War, and MoveOn — responded with a joint statement:
It’s time for this charade to end: We need to stop this slow roll toward a catastrophic war, and work towards defusing the North Korean crisis diplomatically…
War on the Korean peninsula would likely kill millions of Koreans, Japanese, and American troops stationed in the region, wreak havoc on the world economy, inflict a humanitarian crisis not seen since World War II…
Diplomacy has worked with the North Koreans before, and it can work again. The United States and its allies and partners must immediately move toward easing tensions on the Korean peninsula diplomatically, and work toward ending this conflict peacefully.
September 21 — U.S., Japan, South Korea agree on more pressure on North Korea
Prior to meeting with Shinzo Abe of Japan and Moon Jae-in of South Korea to discuss a shared approach to the rising tension with North Korea, Trump announced a new executive order to block “individuals, companies, financial institutions that finance trade with North Korea.”
Both Moon and Abe expressed their support of the United States’ plans to impose more sanctions on North Korea. Moon, who spoke after Trump, expressed his “appreciation” to Trump for imposing more sanctions on North Korea — “I am very confident that such moves will contribute to complete denuclearization of DPRK. In this, I’d like to extend my appreciation to President Trump, and I’d like to say that Korea will closely coordinate with the United States on this matter.”
Moon and Trump agreed to expand U.S. military assets in South Korea. A Blue House spokesperson reported that the two leaders discussed the prospect of developing “cutting-edge military assets” including nuclear-powered submarines.
Following the U.S.-South Korea bilateral summit, Trump hosted a lunch meeting with Abe and Moon to discuss the implementation of the latest UN sanctions. The White House released a statement summarizing their discussion:
The leaders committed to the fast and full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2375, and they resolved to work with all other countries to achieve that goal. They agreed to mobilize all available means to maximize pressure on North Korea and call on other nations to do the same.
The latest UN resolution will further prevent North Korea from engaging in international trade. It will ban the supply of natural gas liquids to the country as well as block textile exports. This latest sanction comes only a month after resolution 2371, which blocks North Korea from exporting coal, iron, ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood. As Gregory Elich points out, “the sanctions eliminate 90 percent of the DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s] export earnings.”
The U.S. and Japan characterize sanctions as a diplomatic solution. But others, like Elich, say the United States is waging war on North Korea through sanctions:
It is doing so through non-military means, with the aim of inducing economic collapse…
In effect, by blocking North Korea’s ability to engage in international trade, the United States has succeeded in weaponizing food by denying North Korea the means of providing an adequate supply to its people.
September 22 — Global women leaders demand diplomacy
Women Cross DMZ released a letter to the UN Secretary General calling for international efforts to engage in dialogue with North Korea. Women leaders and peace advocates from over 45 countries signed on to this letter. The letter urged the UN to appoint a Special Envoy, whose role would be to “encourage dialogue, compromise and the peaceful resolution of tensions.” It also urged the UN to hold the U.S. accountable for threatening war on a sovereign country during a UN General Assembly session. In referring to Trump’s speech last week, the letter pointed to the fact that the U.S. “violated Article 2, Paragraph 4 of the UN Charter: ‘All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.’”
Finally, the letter called on the UN to support a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a halt in U.S.’ military exercises with South Korea. The letter referred to the military exercises as “the world’s largest, which rehearse surgical strikes on North Korea, ‘decapitation,’ and regime change.”
September 23 — U.S. deploys bombers to DMZ as a show of force to North Korea
The U.S. Air Force sent B-1B Lancers and F-15C fighter jets to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) area in the late hours of September 23. The U.S. bombers made it to the most northern part of the DMZ before returning to their base in Guam. No U.S. fighters had made it this far in history.
Normally, U.S. jets fly in formation with South Korean and Japanese aircraft. This time, however, the U.S. bombers flew a solo mission. South Korea’s Blue House officials said that Moon and Trump agreed to deploy the bombers when they met at the UN General Assembly. Some were skeptical about South Korea’s willingness to go along with the latest show of force, as it was unprecedentedly provocative.