Reunification Is Driving Force of Politics on Korean Peninsula

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John Studer

The partition of Korea remains the only unresolved national division imposed by Washington and its imperialist allies coming out of World War II. Sixty years since the July 1953 cease-fire—marking U.S. imperialism’s first military defeat—the desire by working people for reunification remains the driving force in politics on the peninsula.

The North Korean government responded to ongoing provocations by Washington by reiterating Jan. 1 Pyongyang’s long-standing call to unify Korea.

“A key to ending the divide of the nation and achieving reunification is to end the situation of confrontation between the North and the South,” said Kim Jong Un, head of the North Korean government, in a New Year’s address.

“All the members of the Korean nation in the north, south and abroad, should subordinate and orientate everything to the great national cause of reunifying the country,” Kim said. “The entire nation should vehemently reject any moves for domination, intervention, aggression and war by outside forces, and never tolerate any acts hindering the country’s reunification.”

In recent years, Washington has been carrying out a “pivot” toward Asia, seeking to reinforce U.S. naval domination and economic interests in the region. This includes stepping up military deployments, war games and shoring up alliances in the region.

These moves are aimed at countering China’s growing influence, as well as reinforcing Washington’s 67-year military presence on the Korean Peninsula and its squeeze on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the North.

“In the present international arena, the moves of the imperialists to interfere in the internal affairs of other sovereign states and their acts of military aggression pose a serious threat to peace and security of mankind,” said Kim in his Jan. 1 speech. “The Asia-Pacific region, the Korean Peninsula in particular, has become the hottest spot in the world in which constant tension persists.”

The U.S. rulers imposed a capitalist regime on the South in the course of the 1950-53 Korean War. After the imperialists army was defeated in the North, Washington refused to sign a peace treaty and remains officially at war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to this day.

Washington maintains more than 28,000 troops in the South, some 32,000 across the Korea Strait in Japan, and still retains “wartime control” over the South Korean military.

Washington, Seoul military exercises

The U.S. and South Korea have conducted a series of provocative military drills over the past year aimed at intimidating the DPRK. In June, 2,000 South Korean and U.S. forces conducted operations at Poncheon near the North Korean border. One of the drills had a North Korean flag as its target.

At the end of October, U.S. troops joined 240,000 South Korean troops in military maneuvers to “prepare for provocations by North Korea.”

“We will continue working shoulder to shoulder to demonstrate our combined resolve,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin on the day before the exercises began.

The drill came a week after Seoul announced a new pact with Washington that will triple the range of South Korean ballistic missiles, enabling them to reach anywhere in the North.

In December, the Barack Obama administration announced it will provide South Korea with four Global Hawk aerial drones to expand spying on the DPRK. While the drones are designed for intelligence, the Dec. 29 New York Times reported, they could be modified to carry a weapon.

New South Korean president

Park Geun-hye was elected as the new president of South Korea Dec. 20 in a close and hotly contested race, the first woman in the country’s history to become president. Park is the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea with a iron fist, jailing and torturing thousands, before being assassinated by his chief spy in 1979.

Relations with North Korea were among the central issues in the election. Park’s opponent, Moon Jae-in, who had been imprisoned under his opponent’s father, won two-thirds of the vote among Koreans in their 20s and 30s. Moon campaigned for a return of the “sunshine policy,” which refers to 10 years of improving relations between the governments of the North and South that included summits, South Korean investments in the North, and reunions of separated families. The policy was reversed under outgoing President Lee Myung-bak, who was elected in 2008.

Park vowed to keep a “promise of a new era of strong national security.” But widespread working-class sentiment for reunification was reflected when she said she hoped to meet with the North’s Kim Jong Un and improve economic and political relations.

North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket bearing a weather satellite into space Dec. 12, the week before the election in the South. The North, Fox News reported, is “one of the few countries to have successfully launched a working satellite into space from its own soil; bitter rival South Korea is not on the list, though it has tried.”

The United Nations Security Council condemned the achievement, saying it violated a 2009 council resolution banning “any launch using ballistic missile technology.” The resolution had been adopted under U.S. pressure after North Korea conducted a nuclear detonation test.

The White House called it a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security.”

Meanwhile, in the midst of U.S.-led moves to further isolate North Korea, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, led a humanitarian visit to the country. U.S. authorities have bitterly denounced the trip, arguing it will “boost Pyongyang’s profile,” reported the Associated Press.

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