The most large-scale war “games” or “exercises” conducted by the U.S. and South Korean military forces in the last four years are underway. The annual exercises, “Ulchi Freedom Shield,” include live-fire practice attacks against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — North Korea — from the air, land, sea and space. It involves the simulated invasion of North Korea to “remove” “weapons of mass destruction” along with a significant cyberwar component.
Until the end of the exercises on Sept. 1, the Combined Forces Command, United States Forces of Korea, the United Nations Command, and civilian and other representatives will engage in this remarkably provocative threat against the DPRK.
These war games, which the DPRK government correctly labels as dress rehearsals for an invasion and regime change operation in the North, are the largest since they were scaled down several years ago. That was first a consequence of North-South dialogue and several summits between former South Korean President Moon Jae-in and DPRK President Kim Jong Un — as well as between President Kim and former President Donald Trump — and later a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United States was supposed to cease all such aggressive acts according to the Joint Statement issued after the 2018 U.S.-DPRK Summit in Singapore. But the Pentagon never made good on their promise.
Unfortunately, the U.S. political establishment did everything it could to prevent any progress in the U.S.-DPRK efforts at rapprochement. For example, on Aug. 10, 2018, just months after the Singapore Summit, the U.S. Senate passed a military budget that prevented reducing the number of active U.S. military personnel in Korea below 22,000 — something that is, from the DPRK’s perspective, not negotiable. Between then and now, war games have continued, although some were canceled and others were scaled back in favor of more computer-simulated exercises.
While the U.S. government didn’t live up to its commitments to the North, the DPRK did by returning the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 U.S.-led war against Korea and ceasing missile development and testing. However, the DPRK’s good-faith measures were not reciprocated by the United States. In response, North Korea resumed missile testing, which they have the legal right to do as a sovereign country.
In another clear signal that the Biden administration wants to completely jettison any hope of resuming peace talks to finally sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War, on August 24, the U.S. government extended the Trump administration’s travel ban preventing U.S. citizens from visiting North Korea. First implemented by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, for the last five years the so-called leader of the free world has deprived its citizens of the freedom to travel to North Korea. For its part, North Korea has not implemented measures preventing U.S. citizens from visiting their country.
The travel ban is not only meant to deprive the North of desperately needed money from the tourism industry, but is also intended to prevent any solidarity and people-to-people contact between civil society groups in the United States and the DPRK.
New right-wing administration — a loyal servant of the United States
The increasing belligerence of the United States against China and North Korea are bolstered by the new administration that recently took power in South Korea. Earlier this year, anti-DPRK hardliner and unapologetically pro-U.S. Yoon Suk-yeol from the conservative People Power Party was elected, defeating Moon’s Democratic Party.
Immediately, Yoon announced he would relocate the Presidential Office from the “Blue House” to the offices of a former Defense Ministry compound in Yongsan. By doing so, he signaled a greater willingness to collaborate with U.S. imperialism and to move from the civilian government South Koreans struggled so hard to achieve after decades of military rule. Yoon has made favorable comments about right-wing military dictator Chun Doo-hwan, who came to power in a 1980 military coup and was later, after a militant student-led movement, sentenced to death for participating in the repression of the Gwangju Uprising in 1980.
Yoon’s approval ratings have slipped as a result of his hostile policies and internal struggles within his party. They are also manifestations of the divisions within South Korea over South-North relations. The Kim-Moon summits were increasingly popular in South Korea, although Moon’s approval ratings slipped because the United States prevented the South from implementing any measures toward independent reunification, such as the badly-needed reconstruction of the railway linking South Korea to China through the DPRK. By preventing such a measure, the United States is working to ensure that it keeps South Korea firmly within its anti-China and anti-DPRK “sphere of influence” in East Asia.
Politicians and their media spokespeople routinely tell the U.S. public that the U.S.-South Korean alliance and war exercises are meant to maintain “peace and stability” in the region. But nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the United States is the primary obstacle to the Korean peninsula achieving independent reunification.
While the DPRK has strongly condemned these latest war exercises, in sum their retaliatory measures are remarkably restrained. After giving the United States multiple years to show any good faith peace-building measures, the DPRK returned to missile development and testing. Unlike the U.S.-led war exercises, for example, the DPRK is not conducting their own war exercises to practice the invasion of the South and the decapitation of the South Korean military and political leadership.
The DPRK has also reaffirmed its strategic alliance with Russia and its political alliance with China.
As usual, the mainstream media and corporate politicians are delivering a completely inverted message to workers in the United States. All the crucial information is concealed from the public — how the U.S. government is responsible for the division of Korea and the immense suffering for people on both sides of the 38th parallel. The U.S. government should immediately sign a peace treaty with the DPRK, remove all foreign troops from the South and refrain from interfering in the sovereignty of both states.