Monday, July 28, 2003 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Castro Criticizes EU in Speech Marking 50th Anniversary...
2003-07-28

North Korea Threatens to Conduct its First Underground Nuclear Test as Veterans Mark the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice

download:   Video Get CD/DVD More Formats
DONATE →
This is viewer supported news

Veterans from 16 nations attended a ceremony in Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea to mark the 50th anniversary of the armistice. We hear from activist Seung Hye Suh and author Martin Hart-Landsberg.

Veterans from 16 nations stood on Cold War’s last frontier on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement.

The ceremony took place at Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, set up under the 1953 armistice.

Some 37,000 US and 700,000 South Korean troops face off against North Korea’s 1.1 million strong army over a border that remains a dangerous flashpoint.

The armistice was essentially a ceasefire between rival armies and was never replaced by a peace treaty. North Korea has described the ceremony as "a very dangerous act" at a time when the risk of a far more destructive war is rising.

More than 5 million people were killed or wounded or disappeared during the three year-war.

President Bush stopped by the Korean War Memorial in Washington DC for just seven minutes Friday to remember the over 33,000 US soldiers killed.

Meanwhile, North Korea has raised the stakes dramatically in its confrontation with the US by privately threatening to conduct its first underground nuclear test.

This comes after President Bush named North Korea as one of the three members of the axis of evil alongside Iraq and Iran.

The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported on Saturday that the warning had been conveyed to U.S. envoy Jack Pritchard by a North Korean official in a meeting in New York earlier this month.

Diplomatic sources in Tokyo told Reuters earlier this week that the North is set to announce that it has become the world’s ninth nuclear power. This would open the way for tests and increased production of weapons, unless the nuclear crisis is resolved by Sept. 9, the anniversary of North Korea’s founding.

  • Martin Hart-Landsberg, author of Korea: Division, Reunification and U.S. Foreign Policy. He teaches economics at Lewis and Clark College.
  • Seung Hye Suh, an organizer with Nodutdol for Korean Community Development. They recently organized Commemoration for Change: a weekend of action to stop war on the Korean Peninsula

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: Veterans from 16 nations stood on Cold War’s last frontier on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement.

The ceremony took place at Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, set up under the 1953 armistice.

Some 37,000 US and 700,000 South Korean troops face off against North Korea’s 1.1 million strong army over a border that remains a dangerous flashpoint.

The armistice was essentially a ceasefire between rival armies and was never replaced by a peace treaty. North Korea has described the ceremony as "a very dangerous act" at a time when the risk of a far more destructive war is rising.

More than 5 million people were killed or wounded or disappeared during the three year-war.

President Bush stopped by the Korean War Memorial in Washington DC for just seven minutes Friday to remember the over 33,000 US soldiers killed.

Meanwhile, North Korea has raised the stakes dramatically in its confrontation with the US by privately threatening to conduct its first underground nuclear test.

This comes after President Bush made the statement that North Korea is part of an "axis of evil."

The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported on Saturday that the warning had been conveyed to U.S. envoy Jack Pritchard by a North Korean official in a meeting in New York earlier this month.

Diplomatic sources in Tokyo told Reuters earlier this week that the North is set to announce it has become the world’s ninth nuclear power. This would open the way for tests and increased production of weapons, unless the nuclear crisis is resolved by Sept. 9, the anniversary of North Korea’s founding.

We’re joined on the phone right now by Martin Hart-Landsberg, author of Korea: Division, Reunification and U.S. Foreign pPolicy. He teaches Economics at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. We’re also joined in our studio by Seung Hye Suh, who is an organizer with Nodutdol for Korean community development. She helped organize this weekend’s "Commemoration for Change," a weekend of action to stop war on the Korean peninsula. They protested in front of the White House yesterday, hundreds of people. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Seung Hye Suh, can you start off by describing what the situation is today and what this 50th anniversary of the armistice actually means?

SEUNG HYE SUH: Sure. I think in order to understand the current nuclear crisis we have to really place it within the context of the Korean war. There was an armistice signed on July 27, 1953. But a peace treaty was never signed. And this means that because the U.S. and North Korea are still technically at war, these conflicts can continue to arise again and again. We can talk more about this, the particular conflict, but the really important thing is that we need a peace treaty as a first step to lasting peace on the Korean peninsula and unification of the two Koreas.

AMY GOODMAN: What does the armistice mean then?

SEUNG HYE SUH: The armistice right now means that U.S. and North Korea are technically still at war, there’s technically still beligerence in a war that has not ended for 50 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Martin Hart-Landsberg, what was the understanding at the time, 50 years ago this weekend?

MARTIN HART-LANDSBERG: Well, the understanding was that there would be a peace treaty following a conference in Geneva, that would follow the armistice. The US insisted on only formally ending the fighting and not in fact signing a peace treaty with North Korea at the time. And one of the little known facts of history, is that shortly — about half a year after the armistice was signed, there was a conference in Geneva that was supposed to settle the issue of Korea, help promote a peaceful reunification of Korea, and the U.S. single handedly undermined that conference. If you read the memos of the representatives from England, from Canada, from Belgium, they’re all quite clear. The North Koreans proposed country-wide elections, North and South, to elect a new Korean government. And the U.S. having just fought a war essentially to hold onto the South, was not interested in that, and basically brought the conference to a close, and has been content really ever since, to maintain a state of hostilities in Korea.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, the news coming out, this is from the Washington Times: "Nuclear testing said to be imminent. North Korea’s prepared to conduct a nuclear test unless the United States agrees to hold nuclear talks with North Korea," according to a Japanese newspaper. It says the warning was conveyed by U.S. envoy Jack Pritchard by a North Korean official in a meeting last month between the two countries here in New York. Your response to that?

MARTIN HART-LANDSBERG: I think one of the problems here is that the U.S. has sort of successfully constructed this whole issue as the problem of the North Korean nuclear weapons program. And the North Koreans have been trying, not always successfully to I think more accurately construct the issue as a problem of U.S.-North Korean relations. And that is the fact that the U.S. has refused to normalize relations with North Korea. The US has refused to sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War, and the U.S. has refused to drop its embargo, which has also — the U.S. has also put pressure on Japan essentially not to normalize relations, not to drop its economic embargo. So the North has been trying very hard to say, look, this is an unnatural state and given the situation in our economy, we need investment, we need normalization. We need the U.S. to agree to sit down with us and change this situation and the U.S. has basically refused. So the North Koreans have been saying, look, we need to sit down, U.S.-North Korea resolve these things. Everything is on the table. As recently as April of this year they said, you have your concerns, we have our concerns. Let’s settle this and we’re willing to open up our whole nuclear program. We’re willing to even halt missile exports if you would do these few simple things: Normalize relations, sign a peace treaty, drop your economic embargo. The U.S. has refused.

And I think it’s very important when people talk about North Korea having generated the nuclear crisis bringing nuclear threats to the peninsula, to get some history. And that history is that the U.S. during the Korean war, threatened to drop nuclear weapons on Korea. The U.S. in 1957 violated the terms of the armistice by bringing nuclear weapons to South Korea. Continued over the decade of the 60’s and '70s to increase the nuclear weaponry, and through the ’80's and into the early 90’s through their team spirit war games, the U.S. practiced simulated nuclear and biological and chemical attacks on North Korea. So the North Koreans have a long history of having been forced to deal with in fact the nuclear threat that the U.S. has brought. And North Korea’s reactions and responses have really all been conditioned by the fact that they have been under threat of nuclear attack, and now with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and given their economic hard times, are forced to put a tremendous amount of resources into the military to try and maintain their independence, they want out. They want to resolve the problem with direct talks. And this seems to me, while those talks may be difficult it’s a perfectly reasonable response. Let’s normalize relations, let’s end the Korean war, let’s create a context for peace on the Korean peninsula. But the U.S. has refused to see that wider historical context for reasons that we talk about in a minute if you want.

AMY GOODMAN: Seung Hye Suh?

SEUNG HYE SUH: And I would add to that that in the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review which was released in December 2001, that the U.S. identified North Korea as a possible target of nuclear first strike. So when we look at what the D.P.R.K is doing in this context, we have to understand that it’s in response to 50 years of war, as well as the recent escalation from the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re gonna break for 60 seconds. When we come back then I’d like to ask your own personal history, where your family comes from. You are listening to Democracy Now! Seung Hye Suh is an organizer with Nodutdol for Korean community development. There was rally this weekend and a protest outside of the White House on this 50th anniversary of the signing of the armistice. Then we’re going to talk about another 50th anniversary and that is the 50th anniversary of the launching of the Cuban revolution. We’ll go to Cuba and also speak with a professor here. And then it’s the 100th anniversary of the March of the Mill Children led by Mother Jones to Sagamore Hill, the home of Teddy Roosevelt. And we’ll hear that story in a minute.

MUSIC BREAK

AMY GOODMAN: In a minute we to go Cuba for the 50th anniversary of the launch of the revolution. But right now we remain in Korea. Seung Hye Suh, talk about your own background. Where your family is from?

SEUNG HYE SUH: Sure. Well I have family from both sides of the DMZ.— my father was born in what’s now the D.P.R.K., my mother in, what’s now the Republic of Korea. But for us, there’s really only one country. They were born prior to the division of the country and so when people say well, which is your home, I feel like the entire Korean peninsula is my home.

AMY GOODMAN: Though you were born here in the United States?

SEUNG HYE SUH: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And the feeling of South Koreans right now. The U.S. has amped up the pressure on North Korea. Presumably the ones who would feel most threatened are the South Koreans. Who do they feel most threatened by?

SEUNG HYE SUH: The South Korean people recognize that any war that breaks out is going to be disastrous for the entire peninsula. It’s about a 30 minute plane ride between Seoul and Pyongyung. About a 45 minute drive from Seoul to the DMZ. And anything that happens on the Korean peninsula will result in millions of deaths. And right now it looks like the United States is threatening the D.P.R.K. with a nuclear first strike.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Martin Hart-Landsberg, do you think that the U.S. would attack North Korea?

MARTIN HART-LANDSBERG: Well, I think it can’t be ruled out. And I think that is why it’s so important we talking about the armistice and the lack of a peace treaty. We have come very close in 1994 and 2002 to launching an attack. And I think right now the Bush government is pushing very hard to provoke North Korea, and at least to keep it under a very weak situation which could trigger things, which could lead to a war. So whether it’s intended or not, the dangers are very real.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s its interest in provoking that kind of conflict?

MARTIN HART-LANDSBERG: Well, I think the first thing is that the U.S. has interest in maintaining hostilities on the Korean peninsula. And that has been both to support conservative governments in the South, to have a reason to maintain troops in the Asian peninsula. After the Soviet Union collapsed, it was to maintain military spending, support for a missile defense program and part of the "axis of evil"—the war on terror. I think once you have that situation where the U.S. has wanted to maintain hostilities, when there is no more Soviet Union as a counter weight, you have a situation that’s very uncontrolled. Pushing hostilities can trigger war.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does this mean for countries like China and Japan? In Japan—I don’t know if there is any relation to what happened on Friday—a brawl on the floor of the Japanese parliament, over the call by the leader in the parliament to support sending of troops to Iraq.

MARTIN HART-LANDSBERG: Well, I think there’s no doubt that a — this U.S. policy which has raised hostilities in the Korean peninsula, is having very negative effects everywhere. It’s definitely strengthening militarism in Japan. It’s definitely strengthening the war on terror with its effects here at well. It’s definitely causing the Chinese and South Koreans to think about, you know, militarizing. So in essence anything that adds to this hostility has given an excuse and cover for militarists in the United States, in Japan, China, everywhere. So the costs are very high. What’s important is that the American people need to see the costs of this policy for us as well in the militarism, in the war on terror and in the possible fact that we may well have a war.

AMY GOODMAN: And Seung Hye Suh, how are you organizing? As a Korean-American here? This weekend you had the protests in Washington.

SEUNG HYE SUH: Right. The protest this weekend is just part of our ongoing campaign to ask for an end to the Korean war. To say that we need to bring peace to the Korean peninsula and unification to Korea. We’re also organizing within Korean communities across the country, as well as educating and organizing in the broader American society, and we’re really trying to link this issue to things that are going on around the world. If you look at what the United States has done in Iraq and the message that that sends to the D.P.R.K. which is, if you disarm we can attack you. We have to really see all these struggles as linked.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, on the issue of organizing here, have you made any links, bridges to Korean war veterans, U.S./Korean war veterans?

SEUNG HYE SUH: Well, actually there are some U.S. Korean war veterans who are entirely in support of our movement. And I don’t think any of them were at our demonstration yesterday. But we are in conversation with Korean war veterans in South Korea, as well as in the U.S. armed forces, who understand that what a horror war isand that we need to do everything we can to avoid it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Seung Hye Suh is an organizer with "Nodutdol" for Korean community development. Your website?

SEUNG HYE SUH: It’s www.nodutdol.org.

AMY GOODMAN: And Martin Hart-Landsberg, author of Korea: Division, Reunification and U.S. Foreign Policy. He teaches Economics at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Recent Shows More

Full News Hour

Stories

    2014-0730_siegman1
    "A Slaughter of Innocents": Henry Siegman, a Venerable Jewish Voice for Peace, on Gaza
    Today, a special with Henry Siegman, the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, long described as one of the nation’s "big three" Jewish organizations along with the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. Henry Siegman was born in 1930 in Frankfurt, Germany. Three years later, the Nazis came to power. After fleeing Nazi troops in Belgium, his family eventually moved to the United States. His father was a leader of the European Zionist movement, pushing for the creation of a Jewish state. In...

Headlines

    There are no headlines for this date.


Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.