By Laksiri Fernando –
“Donald Trump warns United State will ‘Totally Destroy’ North Korea if thretened.” – ABC
American President Donald Trump’s first address to the UN General Assembly is quite appalling for a leader of a democratic country. It is completely one sided to say the least. In his fifteenth sentence of the address, he has attacked the “Rogue regimes represented in this body [UNGA] not only support terrorists, but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.” He was perhaps pointing his finger to himself, when he was saying that.
Although not the main supporter, America has a reputation of supporting different types of terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere. Therefore, the first part of the accusation is not at all a balanced statement, but showing his disrespect, anger and contempt to other nations, and members of the UN. Of course, in extreme cases, the UN can suspend or expel countries from the member status. However, the purpose of keeping them all together, whatever the differences, is to continue a dialogue and building some understanding in resolving contentious issues peacefully, avoiding armed confrontations or war. The war that threatens the world today is a nuclear one.
If there is a failure in this dialogue, of course there is, the UN undoubtedly is responsible, but the blame should go squarely to all countries, and particularly to the big five of the Security Council, where America is a key member. Criticizing the past Presidents or administrations, as he usually does, is not an excuse for America from responsibility. The Security Council is unfortunately dominated by the West (America, Britain and France), and China is the only Asian country in it. India and Indonesia, with large populations, are not permanent members.
The second part of the statement is particularly aimed at North Korea, rightly so, when he says, these regimes “threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.” However, what he must keep in mind is that it is the United States that first invented the atomic bomb and then dropped two of them in Hiroshima and Nagasaki without any justification when Japan was about to surrender. That is where all nuclear proliferation started.
There is no question that what North Korea doing at present is dangerous gambling. However, it might be too late now to prevent that ‘rogue regime’ becoming a nuclear power. Through sanctions, it is too late to close the stable as the horse has bolted already. America or even Australia could blame China. However, what could China do to prevent North Korea becoming a nuclear power? It is a different country, although a close ally in the past. It is not clear how much influence she could exert on the present regime. China may have a different opinion on the matter, although she has agreed with the Security Council sanctions to prevail upon North Korea to stop continuous missile tests.
It is not exactly nuclear tests that North Korea has launched this year. It has launched six nuclear weapon tests so far since 2006, but only one this year, recently on 3 September. Two tests were conducted last year, even without much world notice or opposition. North Korea’s nuclear ambition precedes well before Kim Jong-un period, who came to power only in 2011, after his father’s death. However, he has tested 5 missile launches last year and 15 so far, this year, some consisting more than one weapon. That is why he has earned the name ‘Rocket Man’ from Donald Trump! Name calling is typical of Trump’s leadership, often through his tweets. What North Korea attempting dangerously is to test long range ballistic missiles with nuclear war heads that can threaten America, Australia and other countries. It has that capability already to attack South Korea, Japan and China.
There is no question about Kim Jong-un’s brutal character. He goes as the Supreme Leader following his father and grandfather. Three incidents are testimony to his nature, without referring to many others. After his ascendancy, he ordered the execution of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in 2013 on the pretext of treachery. He is also allegedly behind the killing of his half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, in Malaysia early this year. Again, it was this year that a visiting American student, Otto Warmbier, was arrested for a minor mischief and his prison treatment led finally to his death. Without his knowledge and approval, the whole tragedy could not have happened.
Relating these incidents and brutality of the regime is necessary for a Sri Lankan audience, because still there are some political leaders in Sri Lanka who follow the legacy of Kim Il-sung, if not Kim Jong-un. They come particularly from the generation of 1960s, reading the Selected Works of Kim Il Sung in Sinhala. The Workers Party of North Korea or Marxism in its ideology is a complete misnomer.
However, the ‘Western’ world and particularly America, are also responsible for North Korea’s deformed situation. The division of Korea into North and South, arming South Korea against the North, and perpetuating North Korea’s closed and isolated position are largely responsible for the present situation. What is unravelling today is a dangerous challenge of the American might by this ‘rogue regime.’ Japan is also embroiled in this situation, because of its dependence on America for defence and its unfortunate legacy as a colonial master over Korea. If North Korea is open and democratic, it might forgive Japan for its colonial past. However, it is not the case under the present circumstances.
Historical past should not always be a guide for present policies or relations of any country. Unless the present generations forgive and forget the past, countries and people might be in perpetual conflict and war.
Reports and news about the internal economic conditions in North Korea are also not completely correct. Most of the journalists in the ‘Western’ media are unfortunately prisoners of their own beliefs and values. This is the case mong many human rights activists. There is no question that Kim Jon-un and the ruling bureaucracy lives a luxurious life. However, the country cannot completely be an impoverished nation. Most of the pictures shown to depict poverty are the same, and most are allegedly of the ‘convicted’ people in ‘open labour camps’ and not the ordinary peasants.
The conditions in these camps are of course despicable. They are however about the polity and not the economy. More reliable information say that North Korea has gained much economic momentum during the last decade, and unless this is the situation, the technological and scientific development capable of nuclear armament cannot proceed. However, if such resources for nuclear testing and armaments are diverted to the economy, the conditions of the people might be far better. This is the case in many countries.
Korea, as a whole, is a rich country. Before the division, North was prominent for agriculture and natural resources, while South being famous for industries and businesses. Therefore, the division was/is an international crime. This is the situation which was perpetuated by the UN and super powers including America, the Soviet Union (now Russia) and even China. That is the situation that has given rise to the ‘Rocket Man.’
The “authority and authoritarian powers” that Trump talked about at the UN address equally apply to America and to him. As a ritual he has also referred to the noble goals on which the UN was founded 72 years ago; they being peace, sovereignty, security and prosperity. What he has forgotten or opted not to mention were cooperation and diplomacy. He has put forward a sectarian and a dangerous approach emphasizing “a coalition of strong and independent nations.”
There is no question about him talking about the ‘greatness of America, its constitution, people or values,’ as this was his maiden speech, and it was in the American soil. However, it was not polite for him to threaten other nations and countries on that basis. It was at this world forum that he bluntly said, “As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.”
His speech was belligerent, as if speaking at a ‘war council.’ Of course, he mentioned about the allies, whoever they are. He said, “America’s devotion is measured on the battlefields where our young men and women have fought and sacrificed alongside our allies, from the beaches of Europe, to the deserts of the Middle East, to the jungles of Asia.” It was a war speech and not a peace one. There was some reason for his anger, because of similarly belligerent announcements by Kim Jong-un, the other ‘Mad Man,’ in the opposite continent. Trump directly and indirectly attacked Russia and China when he said, “We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.” These are matters that America should sort out in the Security Council and not at the General Assembly.
He was seeking allies when he said, “We must work together and confront together those who threaten us with chaos, turmoil and terror.” He was not only referring to North Korea, however, when he said, “The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes.” He was looking for ‘Axis Powers,’ when he was talking about ‘group of rogue regimes.’
His main target soon was on North Korea, saying the following.
“No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing and oppression of countless more.”
‘Contempt for other nations’ also applies to America, if not equally, judging from its behaviour in the Korean war, Vietnam war and in the Middle East. Unless it is as a justification for pre-emptive action, there is no verifiable evidence about ‘starvation and deaths of millions’ in North Korea, as of now. Otherwise, at least thousands should have fled to China or South Korea. Exaggeration of any situation is dangerous, particularly when two countries or more are poised to attack each other, in this case with nuclear weapons.
Apart from alleged American encirclement of China and East Asia, it is this type of war rhetoric that might give justification for North Korea to arm itself with nuclear weapons. ‘The Coming War on China’ is not Chinese or North Korean propaganda, but by an independent and reputed Australian born journalist John Pilger.
Nuclear War Threat
Of course, the initial war threat came from Kim Jong-un when he declared that he could ‘sink Japan’ and ‘turn America to ashes,’ a few weeks back. That is from a ‘Rogue Leader.’ However, the President of the United States should have more finesse and sophistication, when he was addressing the United Nations. He not only attacked North Korea but opted also to attack Russia and China, in the following words,
“It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.”
It is not only North Korea that pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at present. There are at least 9 states which hold nuclear weapons (16,300!) which can completely destroy life in planets of three times of our size. Trump himself declared spending of $ 700 billion for American rearmament and military in the same speech.
It is immediately after attacking, indirectly of course, Russia and China, that he said the following in plural sense first, and then on North Korea singularly.
“No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
He was not talking about destroying the ‘Rogue Regime’ or Kim Jong-un. He was talking about ‘totally destroying North Korea’!
It is not only the pursuit of nuclear arms and ballistic missiles by North Korea that threatens the world today. But the holding of nuclear arms and ballistic missiles by all countries and threatening each other without any constraint. With Donald Trump at the helm, America constitutes unfortunately the greatest threat at present. Unless, people, civil society organizations, and truly democratic countries agitate for complete nuclear disarmament, the present threat might not disappear. Total ban of nuclear weapons is necessary.