Current US-China Relations

Henry C.K. Liu

Part VIII: GW Bush Policy on North Korea – a Path to War
Part VII: Clinton Policy on North Korea - A Belated Path to Peace
Part VI: Korea under Park Chung Hee
Part V: Kim Il Sung and China
Part IV: More Geopolitical Dynamics of the Korea Proliferation Crisis

Part III: Geopolitical Dynamics of the Korea Proliferation Crisis
Part II: US Unilateralism
Part I: A Lame Duck-Greenhorn Dance

Part IX: The North Korean Perspective

This article appeared in AToL on January 11, 2007


To North Korea, having been linked by Bush to Iraq and Iran as members of an “axis of evil” that did not merit bilateral negotiation, the implication from the stream-roller push toward the invasion of Iraq was imminent US invasion of North Korea as well.  The only responsible response to imminent threat to its national security would be to develop nuclear capability as quickly as possible as a deterrent against imminent US attack.

On May 12, 2003, the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) issued a Detailed Report on The history of the Denuclearization of the Korea Peninsula, pointing out that “Due to the US strong-arm policy of the nuclear crushing of the DPRK, a grave situation in which a nuclear war may break out is being created.”  The Report, predictably ignored in the US press, pointed to the January 20, 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula adopted between the North and the South and to the fact that the North had since unceasingly made affirmative efforts to implement it. The Report accused the US of frustrating North Korea’s aspirations and efforts for denuclearization, endlessly making nuclear threats against the DPRK, and rupturing the process of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The Report, largely ignored by the US press, outlined the background of the 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula which stipulates, as a basic provision, “that neither the South nor the North shall test, manufacture, produce, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons. The Joint Declaration, in essence, proceeded from the goal of fundamentally removing US nuclear weapons off the Korean Peninsula. The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is strictly a product of the US policy of turning South Korea into a US nuclear base.”

The Report accused the US of having first created a nuclear issue when it “deployed Honest John nuclear missiles for action in South Korea in the latter half of the 1950’s.  Moreover, The US introduced neutron shells, the evil weapon of the 20th century, in South Korea in the first half of the 1980’s, further highlighting the graveness of the nuclear issue.”

The Report further accused the US of having “pursued the so-called NCND (No Confirm; No Denial) policy … yet has not bothered to conceal the fact that it deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea but used it as a means to threaten us [the North].”

The Report traced the history of the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to May 14, 1957 when US Secretary of State John Forster Dulles during a news conference officially disclosed a plan to introduce nuclear weapons to South Korea, and on the same day, Defense Secretary Charles E. Wilson gave more detail to this plan and admitted that the types of nuclear weapons included “Honest John” nuclear missiles and various other types of nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, as reported by the Associated Press.

On July 15, 1957, US Army authorities officially announced that US forces in South Korea would start nuclear arming and that five combat units capable of waging atomic war would be deployed in South Korea, according to Tongyang News Agency reporting from Washington.

On February 3, 1958, US forces put on display two units of each of the 280mm atomic cannon and Honest John nuclear missile, which had been deployed in South Korea, in an airfield of the US First Corps near Uijongbu and made them public to reporters, acs reported by Tongyang, Reuters, and Haptong News Agency.

On December 16, 1958, the US announced through the UN Command that the UN forces in South Korea were equipped with Matador missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, according to Reuters from Seoul.

During a news conference on 20 June 1975, US Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger said: “I think you know that we have deployed tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea,” according to a report by Jiji press of Japan from Washington. According to a Haptong News Agency report filed from Washington in June 1975, during a House of Representative hearing to examine the US defense budget for 1976 held on 30 May 1975, it was officially revealed that approximately 1,000 nuclear weapons and 64 aircraft loaded with nuclear weapons had been deployed in South Korea. South Korea has been turned into “the biggest US nuclear [weapons] exhibition hall.”

The January 1981 edition of Defense Monitor, a magazine published by the US Defense Intelligence Center, notes that the nuclear shells introduced to South Korea included 80 warheads for Honest John missiles, 192 tactical nuclear bombs for fighter-bombers, 152 nuclear shells for 155 howitzers, and 56 nuclear shells for eight-inch howitzers. The US even deployed for action in South Korea 56 neutron bombs which countries in Europe and other regions had refused to allow deployment within their borders and introduced even a large number of field portable nuclear backpack devices.

A US Defense Department announcement reported by Hanguk Ilbo on July 15, 1985 that the US deployed a nuclear missile battalion in South Korea, becoming the first such overseas base outside of Europe.

In addition to listing the above US provocations, the Report also asserted that “turning South Korea into a [US] nuclear base has rendered it into a direct and crucial threat to peace not only on the Korean Peninsula, but to Asia and the rest of the world. The gravity of the nuclear threat to North Korea was further increased by the nuclear weapons development maneuvers of South Korea’s Yusin regime [of former ROK President Park Chung Hee’s ‘Revitalizing Reforms’].   In the early 1970s, the Yusin regime invited nuclear physicists from the US and promoted the purchase of atomic reactors from many countries. In 1976, [the Yusin regime] founded the Atomic Power Technology Corporation and the Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation.   It began to build a large-scale research facility for developing atomic power technology in the central region [of South Korea] starting from 1977, as reported in South Korean monthly Wolgan Choson’s 1983 October edition.”

The Report further asserted that in the beginning of 1978 when the Kori Atomic Power Plant launched operations, South Korea had already obtained the capability of annually extracting 139 to 167 Kilograms of plutonium 239. Such an amount is enough to manufacture 23 to 28, 20-kilo-ton nuclear bombs as reported in South Korean magazine International Affairs No. 2 in 1985. In a paper entitled: Nuclear Proliferation and US Diplomatic Policy, made public on November 9, 1980, the US Brookings Institute noted that South Korea and Japan could possess nuclear weapons within the next ten years.

The Report concluded that the aforementioned historical facts prove that the US has long deployed nuclear weapons in South Korea and incessantly posed a nuclear threat to North Korea by instigating South Korean bellicose elements.

The Report asserted that even “perceiving the elimination of nuclear threat which has long been posed to us [North Korea] as a crucial issue related to the survival of the nation, the government of the Republic [DPRK] has not suspended, for even a moment, the denuclearization and anti-nuclear struggle on the Korean peninsula.”

At the 12th session of the first DPRK Supreme People's Assembly [SPA] in November 1956, an official position was announced opposing the introduction of atomic weapons to South Korea.  When the US attempted to unilaterally scrap paragraph 13d of the Armistice Agreement and orchestrated to bring atomic weapons to South Korea, the government of the People’s Republic strongly called for suspending actions that aggravated tense situations on the Korean peninsula via its Foreign Ministry statement dated on May 30, 1957.

The first session of the second SPA in September 1957 reiterated that the articles of the Armistice Agreement would be honored and that armistice be transformed into solid peace, and demanded once again that South Korea not be allowed to become a US nuclear base.

At the Military Armistice Commission’s 91st and 100th meeting on December 19, 1958 and April 27, 1959, respectively, North Korea strongly protested the introduction by the US of nuclear missiles to South Korea, and asserted that all nuclear weapons such as illegally-brought-in nuclear missiles and atomic artillery be withdrawn and that US forces be withdrawn. Both in the 1960s and 1970s via meetings at the SPA, the North-South Coordinating Committee, the Military Armistice Commission, and via various other opportunities, North Korean reiterated its position against South Korea being turned into a nuclear base.

On December 20, 1974, North Korea Foreign Ministry warned against South Korean moves for nuclear weapons development. In the 1980s, the danger of thermonuclear war on the Korean Peninsula increased due to the annual Team Spirit joint military exercise involving nuclear war scenarios. On March 16, 1981, a joint statement with the Japanese Socialist Party was announced by the DRRK on establishing a denuclearized and peaceful Northeast Asian region.

On January 10, 1984, the Central People’s Committee and the SPA Standing Committee held a joint meeting and adopted official letters that were sent to the US administration and Congress and the South Korean authorities. The letters proposed a trilateral meeting including the South Korean authorities in the DPRK-US talks to discuss countermeasures for eradicating the danger of nuclear war and providing a turning point for peaceful resolution of DPRK-US hostility. At the third session of the seventh SPA on January 25, 1984, in order to stave off growing danger of nuclear war, an appeal was made to launch an international campaign to withdraw all nuclear weapons from South Korea and turn the Korean Peninsula into a denuclearized and peaceful region.

In a statement released on December 8, 1985, DPRK welcomed the US-Soviet agreement on issues regarding the reduction of nuclear weapons and the prevention of nuclear war.   The statement emphasized that if the US truly wants peace, it should withdraw its nuclear weapons from South Korea and respond by turning the Korean Peninsula into a nuclear-free, peace zone. Thus the nuclear issue involved not just nonproliferation in North Korea, but also denuclearization in South Korea and on a regional level, also in US bases in Japan.

The DPRK joined the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) in December of 1985 to facilitate denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the context of preserving national sovereignty. After becoming a signatory to the NPT, the DPRK government proposed additional initiatives for peace. In a June 23, 1986 statement, the DPRK declared it would not test, manufacture, store or bring in nuclear weapons and not allow any military bases, including nuclear bases, overseas. It also declared it would not allow foreign countries’ nuclear weapons to pass through its territory, territorial air, and territorial waters.

In the statement, the DPRK indicated that if the US and South Korea should request negotiations regarding DPRK proposal to turn the Korean Peninsula into a nuclear-free, peace zone, irrespective of form, it would respond to such demands promptly.

Through a July 13, 1987 Foreign Ministry statement, the DPRK again clarified its stand regarding practical measures to establish a nuclear-free, peace zone on the Korean Peninsula and to firmly secure its status. In the statement, the DPRK demanded US withdrawal of its nuclear weapons and promise of canceling operation plans regarding the use of nuclear weapons. Regarding Japan, the DPRK suggested that it “not make its territory into another country’s base to sally forth, relay, and supply nuclear weapons to threaten the Korean Peninsula.” The DPRK also asked all the states that possessed nuclear weapons to restrain themselves from engaging in any type of military actions that could stir up a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity.

North Korea
also appealed to South Korea to withdraw nuclear weapons, transport means, and all military bases, including nuclear bases, in its region and not bring in and store nuclear weapons from now on as well as not develop or possess nuclear weapons and to totally prohibit other countries' nuclear weapons from passing through its region.

A Joint Declaration on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was again reviewed and approved at the February 5, 1992 joint meeting of the DPRK Central People's Committee and the SPA Standing Committee. This was an epochal event that served as a milestone in turning the Korean Peninsula into a nuclear weapon-free, peace zone as well as in realizing the country's reunification. As an additional practical measure, a proposal to ratify the safety accords between the DPRK and the IAEA was considered, deliberated and approved at the 16th session of the delegates to the 9th SPA Standing Committee on 18 February 1992 as well as at the third session of the 9th SPA that was held in April 1992 and came into effect on April 10, 1992.

On June 3 1992, the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland disclosed and severely condemned US and South Korean authorities for aggravating tension on the Korean Peninsula and increasing the dangers of a nuclear threat while violating the basic spirit of the North-South Agreement and Joint Declaration on denuclearization.

In a memorandum issued on September 12, 1997, the DPRK exposed US and South Korean authorities maneuvering to reinforce nuclear weapons behind the screen of talks. Through the Foreign Ministry’s memoranda and the bills of indictments issued by the Korean Anti-Nuclear Peace Committee and the Korean Democratic Lawyers Association on March 15, 1993, April 20, 1994, January 7, 1999 and February 28 2003, the DPRK called attention to the danger of a nuclear war flaring up on the Korean Peninsula as a result of US and South Korean simulated nuclear war exercise and the biased behavior in some quarters of the IAEA Secretariat. The DPRK proposed constructive and substantial proposals to settle these matters.

The DPRK allowed the IAEA delegation to visit North Korea from May 11 to 16, 1992 to inspect all nuclear facilities that they demanded and objects that they suspected.  The DPRK submitted to the IAEA the initial inventory report on nuclear material and nuclear facility-designing information as required by Articles 42 and 62 of the nuclear safety accords between the DPRK and the IAEA on May 4, 1992. The DPRK actively cooperated in the work of the ad-hoc inspection team six times from May of 1992 to early February of 1993. The DPRK accepted US demand for an inspection of Kumch'ang-ni in 1998 under the pretext of a so-called intelligence data collection. As part of a program to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea froze the graphite-moderated reactors and relevant facilities, sacrificing a self-reliant nuclear power industry, and made a decision to switch the existing graphite-moderated reactor system to a light-water reactor system.

The DPRK-US Joint Statement was adopted between the DPRK and the US on June 11, 1993 and the DPRK-US Agreed Framework, which promised to essentially settle the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, was adopted on October 21, 1994. After the Bush administration came into office in January 2001, the DPRK repeatedly proposed holding direct talks between the DPRK and the US and firmly insisted on settling the nuclear issue by concluding a nonaggression treaty so as to by all means prevent the rupture of the process of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula even as US maneuvers to abrogate the DPRK-US Agreed Framework and scrap the North-South Joint Declaration on denuclearization intensified.

North Korean claims that the historical facts show that the DPRK has worked for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula for decades, while the US systematically to scrap the North-South Joint Declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and has hindered denuclearization since.

According to a May 5 2003 AFP report, the US in early 1994 prepared a surgical strike against DPRK peaceful nuclear facilities, a fact since confirmed by President Clinton and others in his administration. On top of nuclear weapons already stockpiled and deployed in South Korea, the US deployed internationally-banned depleted uranium bombs in Iraq in 1991, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003.

Bush Administration Nullified the Agreed Framework

Upon entering the White House, Bush served notice on nullifying the DPRK-US Agreed Framework, as report in New Korea Times on June 23, 2001.  The May 17, 2001 edition of Tong-a Ilbo reported that US National Security Advisor Rice submitted a strategic report entitled Global Trends 2015 in which she officially rejected the Joint Declaration of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by putting emphasis on raising tension against North Korea to bring South Korea into the proposed missile defense system.

On June 6, 2001 Bush announced a statement on North Korean policy, the main contents of which were improvements to the implementation of the Geneva Agreement with regard to nuclear activities, including those conducted in the past; regulations on verification of missile development projects, and reduction of conventional weapons.

The June 8, 2001 edition of Tong-a Ilbo assessed Bush’s Statement on North Korean Policy as the virtual declaration of confrontation policy against the DPRK, implying that force could be employed in the event that DPRK did not accept the US demands such as approval of nuclear inspections, suspension of missile launches and reduction of conventional weapons. The Bush administration’s extreme, hostile policy toward the DPRK became overtly manifested when he designated North Korea as part of the “axis of evil” in his State of the Union address on January 30 2002.

The Korea-Taiwan Link in US-China Relations

Related to this hostile policy on North Korea, US Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS] director Kurt Campbell, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and the Pacific, as a member of the National Security Council Staff, made vociferous remarks in an interview with Asahi Shimbun on 12 November 2002 that the ultimate goal of US policy toward the DPRK was destruction of its regime, not normalization of relations.

also went on record to interpret the Bush administration’s policy on China as a clear change from so-called “strategic ambiguity,” to a new policy of “dual clarity”, one of “no military coercion, no independence.” This means any Chinese military action against Taiwan will clearly encounter US force.  The Bush administration changed long-standing US policy on Taiwan as defined in the three US-China Joint Communiqués signed by three previous presidents in subtle ways silently and behind the scenes. The US operates with the unrealistic aim that a status quo on Taiwan would not deter improvement in US-China relations which the US needs for achieving its global objectives. From China’s perspective, until the US stop interfering on Taiwan, which China considers an internal affair, no sustainable improvement in US-China relations can be institutionalized, including the Korean problem on which the actively seeks Chinese help in solving.

US Policy of Regime Change for
North Korea

The Bush administration publicly asserted a policy of regime change for North Korea and characterized as “provocative” North Korea response to repeated provocation by the US to derail the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to “suffocate” North Korea with sanctions. The October 2002 edition of the South Korean magazine, T'ongil Hanguk, reported that the US has conducted a nuclear bombing exercise against a model of North Korean targets at a US Air Force base in North Carolina since 1998 and that this kind of exercise has been conducted on an extended scale after the Bush administration took office. According to a South Korean KBS broadcast on March 15, 2002, the Bush administration ordered that a nuclear attack plan be established against North Korea and the US Defense Department (DOD) prepared a report on nuclear posture against North Korea that was submitted to the US Congress that called for US use of nuclear weapons in case of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula and that small tactical nuclear weapons be used for destroying underground facilities and to this end the US should withdraw from the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The DOD Report claims that a US presidential special envoy who visited Pyanyang in early October 2002 told North Korean officials the Bush administration adopted a policy in March 2002 to mount a nuclear preemptive strike against seven countries including North Korea, in violation of the NPT principles in which nuclear weapon countries are not allowed to threaten other countries with the use of nuclear weapons or attack with nuclear weapons, or create a state of emergency that endangers the fundamental interests of non-nuclear states; and plan nuclear wars. The US abrogated the DPRK-US Joint Statement of 2000 and the DPRK-US Agreed Framework of 1994, contrary to the basic spirit of the NPT, threatened a nuclear preemptive attack on North Korea, a non-nuclear state. The policy ruptured the process of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would be a mere fantasy unless the US abandoned its hostile policy toward the DPRK.

The most crucial issue in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is to remove the dangers of a nuclear war.   However, the US has turned South Korea into the biggest forward nuclear base in the Far East and a strategic nuclear weapons depot; constantly conducted nuclear war exercises for northward aggression; and destroyed the basic spirit of the joint declaration of denuclearization. The US has mapped out and implemented detailed operation plans for northward aggression. The nine-day war plan, five-day war plan, Operation Plan 5027 of the 1980’s and Operation Plan 5027-98 of the 1990’s and the recently disclosed contingency plans were all nuclear war plans that involved nuclear attacks on North Korea. What the US aims for is not denuclearization in the Korea peninsula but the one-sided nuclear disarmament of North Korea.  The US mobilized a total of 16,000 military aircrafts in aerial war exercises of various codenames in South Korea for one month in January 1992, an average of approximately 500 military aircraft a day in war exercises, when the North-South joint declaration of denuclearization was adopted. Typical of the military exercises in the first half of the 1990's was the Team Spirit 93 joint military exercise, mobilizing 200,000 troops, B-1 strategic bombers, F-117 Stealth bombers, Patriot interceptor missiles, and aircraft carrier groups in provocative exercises for northward aggression aimed at preemptive nuclear strikes against North Korea. The US staged more than 10,000 war exercise for northward aggression from the ceasefire in 1953 to 1999, counting only large nuclear war exercise involving a total of 20 million troops.

In March 2002, the Bush team staged the largest-ever nuclear war exercise against North Korea, a combination of RSOI (Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration),  a ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) simulation-driven command post exercise (CPX) conducted annually, and Foal Eagle, one of a series of four major Combined Forces Command annual exercises, involving 700,000 troops, more than three times as many as the 200,000 involved in the Team Spirit joint military exercise staged annually between 1976-1993. Team Spirit continued to be scheduled after 1994 but was cancelled each year as an incentive for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. Ulchi Focus Lens, scheduled annually in August, is a computer-based war game exercise with field activities as a preparation for war with North Korea with tanks crossing the Han River and chemical weapon deployment. Foal Eagle, using real troops and actual assets in live training environment exercises usually follows RSOI in April simulating large movement of troops as war with North Korea becomes imminent, with Ulchi Focus Lens simulating the first days of engagement.

The Nimitz class nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson with 85 aircraft and an air wing crew of 2,480 and a ship crew of 3,200, and its Carrier Strike Group which had participated in the joint military exercise, remained in seas near the Korean peninsula after. In a news conference with foreign correspondents on April 7, 2002, the commander of Carrier Group Three in charge of the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson openly stated that forces under his command are watching North Korea. US nuclear war exercise aggravated the dangers of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula to rupture the process of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

US Military Strategy after the Cold War

After the end of the Cold War, the US as the sole remaining superpower shifted its foreign policy of containing communism to assume the role of world policeman for moral imperialism to enhance “democracy” in order to surround itself with a network of friendly states, by augmenting its already unmatched conventional military power superiority with the development of  regional and theater nuclear missile defense systems that would allow the US to launch first strikes against states it disapproves without fear of counter strikes.

After the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the US homeland, the US, far from acknowledging US belligerent unilateral foreign policy as the root of anti-US terrorism, divided the world into good and evil states on subjective ideological standards and self-centered geopolitical agenda to forced the rest of the world to yield to global US imperium.  In the name of combating global terrorism, it perpetrates aggression through a policy of regime change against governments that it does not approve on ideological grounds or that it views as unfriendly.

North Korea
accuses the US of state terrorism, citing as evidence US invasion of Afghanistan to expel the Taliban regime under the pretext of apprehending Osama bin Ladin in October, 2001. While bin Ladin is still at large, ten of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians have been killed and the country devastated by US weapons of mass destruction, such as BLU 82 fuel evaporator bombs which are the worst conventional bomb after the tactical nuclear bomb. On March 20, 2002, the US launched a war of aggression against the sovereign nation of Iraq to topple a legitimate regime headed by Saddam Hussein under the pretext of removing weapons of mass destruction which could not be found after the war. In both these wars, the US used cluster bombs and depleted uranium shells forbidden by the international treaty, and indiscriminately tested deadly new weapons that cause massive collateral damage. The imposition of democracy via militarism has so far wrought only unnecessary civilian deaths in a backward slide of nation dismantling.

North Korea
also accuses the US of cynically exploiting nuclear nonproliferation as pretext for waging wars against countries it unilaterally and arbitrarily deems evil.  The war in Iraq shows the world the danger of accepting disarmament through so-called inspections by international agencies, for it does not prevent US aggression but rather, it invites war by the US, notwithstanding world public opinion against the war, opposition form most other big powers, or the absence of UN mandate or approval.

To North Korea, the bloody lesson of the war in Iraq for the world is that only when a country has an effective nuclear deterrent force can it prevent aggressive war from the US and defend its independence and national security. To North Korea, the US is wholly responsible for the escalating confrontation between the DPRK and the US over the nuclear issue and for fostering a nuclear war crisis.

Next: The Changing South Korea Position