Forget Pueblo, remember the 52,246 dead Americans of the Korean War

In mid April, when the English protestors were celebrating the death of Margret Thatcher, singing, “Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is Dead” – the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Beijing, humming, ‘Pyongyang, Pyongyang! Kim Jong Un’ is damned’ – discussing with the top Chinese leadership ways to halt North Korea’s nuclear march.

Diplomatic negotiations have been stepped up to lower nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is visiting China from April 24 to 25, and Beijing’s special envoy to North Korea is marking his presence in Washington this week.

The South Korean foreign minister is also in China to offer his formula for peace in the peninsula. Alongside, the initiatives to maintain peace, the preparations for war are also in full swing. The United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey is stopping over at Seoul and Beijing to discuss Pyongyang’s military posturing with his counterparts in both the capitals.

For people born in the 21st century or towards the end of 20th century this flurry of diplomatic activity may give the impression that war is imminent.  But for those tracking the developments in the Korean region it’s nothing but some déjà vu.

NKThe entire drama of demonizing North Korea started immediately after the fall of Soviet Union in early 1990. Much before the world started believing in the American propaganda about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; North Korea had already been branded as an evil nuclear power by the publicity gurus in Bush administration.

In 1992, the IAEA started inspecting North Korean nuclear installations with a fine tooth comb. In 1993, “the CIA and three other intelligence agencies gave their assessment in a secret report leaked to the New York Times warning President Bill Clinton that North Korea probably has one or two nuclear bombs” (Guardian).

Twenty years later, the Economist tells us that North Korea’s “warning of “thermonuclear war” rings hollow because it has no hydrogen bombs.” North Korea too has added to the confusion by hopping in and out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and brandishing it’s nukes-in-being.

Both North Korea and America are refusing to let go the nuclear card, the Economist as usual, leads the Western media-army of scaremongers and suggests that the North Korean nuclear weapons are no longer political tools used “as bargaining chips” but as military weapons that may reach the American shores one day.

Apart from nukes, the Western media has some basic problems with the North Korean way of life and their nationalism. Americans consider North Korean to be robots, completely devoid of the ability to think or question – “just a mass of quivering Kim Il Sung devotees”.

Most of the journalists find the absence of discontent in Pyongyang hard to understand. These questions are not as intriguing as they appear to be. If American liberals can continue to bear the burden of crony capitalism without revolting against the glaring inequalities in their society, then how does one expect the poor North Korean to raise the banner of protest against their dynastic ruler?

If the politically aware citizens of world’s most vibrant democracy can do nothing about the more than 900 US overseas military bases, then isn’t it foolhardy to expect people living under an authoritarian rule to question the military spending of their nation?

The American think tanks need to ponder over the question of vacating the Asia Pacific region and reconciling to the fact that nobody wants a war in their backyard. They need to ask as to why their government hell-bent on aggravating tensions in the region?

Unlike the American military that is continuously engaged in some or the other conflict across the globe, the North Korea army has been living peacefully, contended with training and testing its systems on home ground. China is not interested in seeing war coming to its doorstep. Beijing does not want North Korea to disappear as a buffer between Western forces and the Chinese PLA.  South Korea would not like its sporty ‘Gangnam style’ to be replaced by martial music. According to South Korean Finance Minister Hyun Oh Seok, who seems to be tired of the war rhetoric, “Compared to the North Korea risk, a sliding yen is having a considerable impact on the real economy of South Korea… Depreciation of the yen has caused the spillover-effect phenomenon so this is worth discussing.”

USS Pueblo (AGER-2) was captured by North Korean forces in 1968
USS Pueblo (AGER-2) was captured by North Korean forces in 1968

It is to be appreciated that sovereignty and independence is more important to the North Korean leadership than their nuclear weapons. It is perhaps for this reason that North Korea has demanded,  “ If the United States and the puppet South have the slightest desire to avoid the sledge-hammer blow of our army and the people, and truly wish dialogue and negotiations, they must make the resolute decision…The denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula can begin with the removal of the nuclear war tools dragged in by the US and it can lead to global nuclear disarmament.”

Nobody, in his right frame of mind would like to see massive destruction due to a nuclear war. The 1950s Korean War resulted in a loss of 54,246 American and 1.26 million Korean lives. Would America provoke another war in the region to preserve its hegemony? Or to recover USS Pueblo, an American navy vessel that was captured by North Korean Navy on 23 January 1968, just a week prior to the commencement of Tet Offensive in Vietnam?

The writer is a researcher at School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, and Delhi. He is an alumnus of King’s College, London He can be contacted at atul.beret@gmail.com  Visit him at:  http://purpleberets.blogspot.in/

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