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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

US on the ropes...

A piece by Kim Ha-yong in the latest issue of Ta Hamkke says some similar things on the North Korea nuclear issue to a post I wrote a week or two ago. In other words: we all knew Rumsfeld could be funny, but his reaction to the North Korean announcement is taking comedy to a new level. She goes further though, arguing that what this whole charade demonstrates more than anything is the weakness of the American imperial project at the moment:

I want to bring up an important point that the social / citizen’s movements haven’t really paid much attention to. Actually, this point is the most interesting aspect of North Korea’s nuclear declaration.

That is, the extent to which the US, the “world’s only superpower,” has lost face over this and is experiencing a huge loss of authority.

In the light of the United States’ image as a superpower, one would expect them, at the very least, to issue a fiery denunciation of the North’s declaration and increase economic sanctions or even to make military threats. This would be particularly in line with the expectations of those in the citizens and social movement camp who talked exaggeratedly about a ‘Korean peninsula crisis” after Bush’s reelection.

However, the White House, directly confounding these expectations, attempted to minimise the significance of the situation, announcing that this was just “rhetoric that has been around for a long time” and that “there was no crisis.”

Kim Ha-yong points out that the nuclear announcement, far from being a reaction to US military threats to the North and the increasing threat of a war on the peninsula as many on the Korean left have claimed, was only possible precisely because the US is not in a position to attack North Korea:

By making use of the fact that the US is currently in a weak position, with its feet tied in the Middle East, and announcing its possession of nuclear weapons, North Korea is attempting to pressure the US into changing its negotiating position (so far the Americans have only been playing for time) and urge it to enter into direct talks.

Exactly how relations between the US and North Korea will develop in the future will not be decided wholly on the basis of the power relations between the two states. As the circumstances surrounding the North’s nuclear announcement have shown, the ability of US imperialism to enforce its rule everywhere in the world will largely be settled in Iraq and the Middle East.

So, as Kim rightly says, Iraq and the broader situation in the Middle East, is now key to what happens on the Korean peninsula. In fact, it seems that Iran is particularly crucial, hence Condi Rice’s desperate attempts to paint Iran’s “peaceful nuclear power programme” as more dangerous than North Korea’s “actual possession of nuclear weapons”. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has claimed that the orders for the bombing of Iran have already been signed by Bush and it will take place in June (let’s wait and see). But it does occur to me that one reason that Iran has suddenly become so important is that Iraq is rapidly becoming an Iranian possession rather than an American one (Shiite dominated government, intelligence assets in high places and so on).


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