Contributed by Jim Hayes
Most of the world sees growing cooperation between the two parts of Korea as a positive development. But Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull follows Donald trump, in being obviously displeased with this. For them, gunboat diplomacy is preferable diplomatic solutions.
Being in Japan, Turnbull was pandering to the increasingly aggressive posture of the Japanese government. At the same time, it dos fall in line with his own position.
The Australian Prime Minister failed to embrace the agreement, where athletes form the Korean Peninsula will march together under one banner in the coming Winter Olympics. He turned a blind eyes to the fact that the Koreans are one people and that across the board there is an aspiration to end the divide that has been in place for more than half a century. He ignored the real history and more recent events behind the existing tension and filled it with misrepresentation.
First a little real history is called for. The conflict goes back to the end of World War Two. The Koreans had no wish to return to colonial status. They had been under the Japanese heal. An election process began and this was put an end to by an American backed plan to have elections in the south), with only one side taking part. Naturally This led to conflict and the Korean War (1950-53).
Given that Korea was single country, there was no invasion form the north, but there was a military response to the coup from those who opposed it.
It must be remembered that at this time the United Nations was overwhelmingly under the dominance of the United States. Europe and many other countries were still heavily dependent on American financial backing through the Marshall Plan for their own post war reconstruction. The Marshall Plan had political conditions and the beginning of the Cold War was embedded in it.
The hot war was waged in Korea, but not won. A stalemate was the result and this remains today. The wound has had a long time to fester. During the war, the north had more bombs dropped on it than fell through the whole of the Second World War. The devastation and suffering were horrific. Even so, they refused to give in. The legacy has been that North Korea has been on a decades long and permanent war footing and a war economy, saddled by sanctions. The burden that this has put on the North Korean population is immense.
Malcolm Turnbull ignores all this and therefore does not admit that the lessening of tension requires steps towards shifting from military posturing, to diplomatic channels that will secure the peace, lead to the eventual reunification of the divided Korea and bring the conditions under which, a shift can be made away from a war economy. This requires building trust. Coming together for the winter Olympics is one small step that can work towards building trust.
But instead of welcoming it, Turnbull retorts with the following. “History teaches us a very bitter lesson. [North Korea] has a long habit of ratcheting up their militarisation, and then going into as lull, trying to persuade people that they are changing their ways, changing nothing, and then ratcheting up again”.
This is fiction of course. North Korea has all along been choked with a formidable military collar around it, which includes a massive nuclear arsenal. This has prompted North Korea’s own nuclear program. Demanding that under these circumstances that North Korea does away with its nuclear program, while surrounding the country worse, is taking the form of a colonial power, demanding unconditional surrender. It’s not going to happen.
For the record. North Korea has been calling for the demilitarisation of the Korean Peninsula and the removal of nuclear weapons by both sides. It is the United States that has refused on both counts, and Australia has tagged along as the usual obedient puppy.
North Korea has worked for steps towards the normalisation of relations. The United States is against this. The record has been that when some progress is made, there is a provocation, a new threat that is met with a North Korean response. There are also a series of broken agreements that had come out of previous talks. Agreements have been broken over economic aid to assist the transition from a war economy; assistance in achieving energy sufficiency without reliance on nuclear technology; and replacing military deployment with diplomatic discussion.
The latest round of North Korean missile tests took place because of a major build up in the American led naval presence and war games in the waters around the Korean Peninsula. Associated with this, there has been an escalation of rhetoric and stepped up military activity by Japan.
It is clear that the Korean War is still being waged. It needs to end. Continuing it is a major global risk. All out war is likely to pull in many other countries and threaten nuclear devastation. It will also bring down an already fragile global economy.
Pulling out all stops to build trust and lower tension is what is needed and what is in our collective interest. Any action that might contribute to this should be welcomed. There should also be a call, for both sides to take decisive steps towards demilitarisation together.
North Korea should not be made to feel that its sovereignty is threatened. Assistance should be provided to put into place alternative means of generating energy and economic assistance given to ease the building of a peace era economy.
Malcolm Turnbull should championing these needs and we should not be subjected to a Prime Minister moving his lips, but using someone else’s voice, especially when it happens to be Donald Trump.