One of the latest U.S. Navy submarine USS Montana (SSN-794). Wikipedia.

US Submarine Provokes Renewed Tensions in the Korean Peninsula

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS. 2 August 2023 (IDN) — The United States, which has long accused North Korea of nuclear saber-rattling, is now at the receiving end of the same charges.

The accusations have been prompted by the arrival in South Korea on July 18 of a US submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles.

According to a report in the New York Times on July 19, “it was the first time in four decades, the latest effort by Washington to raise South Koreans’ trust in its commitment to defending the country against North Korea.”

The North Koreans have accused Washington and Seoul of raising tensions by “openly discussing the use of nuclear weapons”.

Dr. Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, told IDN that on the surface, the escalating danger was marked by the port call of the USS Michigan, a US nuclear-armed U.S. submarine, to Busan in South Korea.

“It was the first U.S. introduction of U.S. nuclear weapons to the ROK since 1981 at the height of the Cold War.”

The port call came amidst the not decreasing pace of massive US-South Korean-Japanese joint military operations, termed “exercises,” which are designed to demonstrate the allies’ ability to destroy North Korea and its political leadership, including the Kim Dynasty, said Dr Gerson, who recently participated in Common Security and 70th Anniversary of the Korean Armistice conferences and events in South Korea.

“And, with its frequent missile tests, including intercontinental ballistic missiles thought to be able to reach the United States, and its history of nuclear weapons tests, North Korea is demonstrating that even a lowly porcupine can inflict devastating wounds and defeat an intimidating tiger,” he declared.

Meanwhile, facing insurmountable barriers, the US is on the verge of virtually giving up on its attempts to either curb or punish North Korea for its continued nuclear threats and its violations of Security Council resolutions.

The two major stumbling blocks are two of the veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely Russia and China, which have thrown their protective arms around the North Koreans.

In an interview on July 18, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “first and foremost, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) has broken numerous Security Council resolutions”.

There have been over 20 tests in 2023 alone, she pointed out.

“And, we have made an effort to engage diplomatically with this government. President Biden made that offer on day one, and that offer is still on the table that we’re willing to engage with them at the diplomatic table. They’ve not accepted, but it’s not for lack of trying on our side.

Asked about the lines of communication between the US and North Korea, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on national TV, “Well, we have channels of communication. We’ve used them. And we made clear going back to early in this administration that we were prepared to have negotiations with North Korea on the nuclear program with no preconditions”.

Blinken said the US sent that message several times. “Here’s the response we got: one missile launch after another.”

“Now, we have not stood still. The partnership, the alliance that we have with Japan and with South Korea has grown even stronger, even deeper, and we’ve taken further steps to make sure that we could defend ourselves, defend our allies and partners, deter any aggression coming from North Korea”.

“So, in effect, the response that North Korea has elicited with these repeated provocations has only been to solidify the work that the United States, Korea, and Japan are doing together to make sure we can defend ourselves,” Blinken declared.

Unfortunately, said Dr Gerson, the growing danger is rooted in history and powerful structural forces. Peace can only be built on mutual trust, and that is totally lacking in Northeast Asia. Why?

Because the offer was not accompanied by not decreasing the pace of threatening US, ROK and Japanese military operations and not with even a symbolic reduction in “hostile” military actions.

In the North, its leaders and people were traumatized by the almost complete destruction of the nation. 90% of its buildings were estimated to have been destroyed.

“And the Trump-Bolton reverse course at the 2018 Hanoi summit, in which the U.S. abandoned pursuit of step-by-step denuclearization and demanded total immediate North Korean nuclear disarmament, left Pyongyang believing that a negotiating path with the U.S. cannot be trusted.”

And on the US side, the North’s history of secretly creating an HEU (highly enriched uranium) path to develop nuclear weapons rings across the years, said Dr Gerson.

“There is more. As part of its campaign to reinforce U.S. Asia-Pacific hegemony in the face of China’s rise and its implicit threat to U.S. regional hegemony, the U.S. has deepened and expanded a trilateral alliance with the right-wing Yoon government in South Korea and the Kishida government in Tokyo, which is doubling its already massive military budget as it reasserts Japanese status and role as a major military power.”

And on the continent, he pointed out, China, Russia and North Korea are deepening their military cooperation, as illustrated this week with the joint Chinese-Russian delegation to the DPRK’s victory celebration marking the Armistice anniversary.

Matthew Miller, State Department Spokesperson said July 19 that all of the members of the UN Security Council, except Russia and China, voted to condemn the DPRK’s continued violation of UN Security Council resolutions, expressing concern about continued launches, and calling for progress for dialogue.

“We hope the UN Security Council will continue to come together to address the DPRK’s actions.”

Asked about the latest test, Miller said “I will say that we condemn the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches, as we have condemned their previous ballistic missile launches. They are in violation of multiple UNSC resolutions.”

“They pose a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community.  We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK, call on them to engage in dialogue, and our commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad,” Miller declared.

Meanwhile, on July 13, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the US, plus the High Representative of the European Union, condemned “in the strongest terms North Korea’s brazen launch of another Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) conducted on 12 July 2023, following the launch using ballistic missile technology conducted on 31 March 2023 along with the launches of two ballistic missiles on June 15, 2023.”

North Korea continues to expand its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities and to escalate its destabilizing activities, the ministers said.

“These launches pose a grave threat to regional and international peace and stability and undermine the global non-proliferation regime. They are a flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), which prohibit North Korea from conducting any further launches that use ballistic missile technology. We once again call on North Korea to refrain from any other provocative actions”.

“We reiterate our demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons, existing nuclear programs, and any other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner and fully comply with all obligations under the relevant UNSCRs. North Korea cannot and will never have the status of a nuclear-weapon State under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),” the G7 ministers declared. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: One of the latest U.S. Navy submarine USS Montana (SSN-794). Wikipedia.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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