Korea - George W Bush's attempts to arrest the reunification process widely condemned
[Reproduced from the spring 2001 issue of the Korea Bulletin, published by the Society for Friendship with Korea, with thanks].
The newly-'elected’ President of the United States, George W Bush, is openly engaged in trying to put a stop to the process of reunification of Korea. He issued instructions to this effect to South Korean president Kim Dae Jung when he visited Washington on 7 March 2001, and treated his guest with crude contempt, as described by Mary McGrory writing in the Washington Post of 15 March 2001:
"Not only did Bush withhold his endorsement of Kim Dae Jung’s risky but promising ‘sunshine’ policy to bring the two Koreas together, he also made it painfully clear that he was bored and irritated by his guest ... President Bush also contradicted his secretary of state, Colin Powell, who said he expected to pick up where the Clinton administration left off..."
The South Korean newspaper, the Choson Ilbo, on its website on 14 March 2001 gave more details:
"The key word in the talks between Presidents George W Bush and Kim Dae-jung was ‘scepticism’. The word was used by Bush to describe his views on Kim Jong Il’s character ...
"It is reported that the style of dialogue at the summit was different than expected. The Korean side had recommended to the US side that the two presidents discuss topics rather than sign off on working level agreements, possibly because they thought Kim would be more persuasive. However, Bush cut in twice, questioning Kim and putting him in the position of defending his North Korean policy rather than selling it. President Kim sensed a less than friendly atmosphere in Washington and so had to change his orientation while he was there. According to an accompanying official the atmosphere had changed significantly from the previous administration. After the talks, Kim made a speech which was far less substantive than the one he had intended to deliver. The ‘scepticism’ was not only directed to Kim Jong-Il, but also towards President Kim himself. Some people raised issue with Kim’s nationalistic past and critical statements he had made against the US."
Why US imperialism opposes Korean reunification
The reason for Bush’s stance, which only reflects the hostility of US imperialism as a whole towards the the reunification of Korea, was correctly identified by The Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese daily newspaper, when it said on 13 March:
"... the Bush administration was concerned that a peaceful atmosphere created by a peace declaration might lead to calls for an early withdrawal of US troops from South Korea."
US imperialism’s garrison in South Korea, which US imperialism needs to maintain in perpetuity in position, should the need arise, to move against Russia and/or China, requires the division of Korea to provide it with a spurious legitimacy. Moreover, Korea has also become a pawn in US imperialism’s aggressive plans to create a Nuclear Missile Defence system that will make it impossible for any country in the world to strike back against US imperialist aggression. To ‘justify’ this system that will put the whole world at US imperialism’s mercy, US imperialism has invented the concept of ‘rogue nations’ supposedly threatening the world with nuclear holocaust. Its Nuclear Missile Defence system would supposedly only be directed against these ‘lunatics’ and not against its trade rivals or the countries from which it obtains its supplies - oh no! As the Guardian of 12 March 2001 noted:
"Even though Mr Kim [Dae Jung], a key US ally, is desperate to advance the dialogue begun at last year’s historic summit with Kim Jong-il ... Mr Bush said bluntly he did not trust North Korea and effectively pulled the plug on détente. Pyongyang now warns that it may be forced to resume building nukes and missiles. To which Mr Bush and his hawkish advisers smilingly reply: all the more reason to build NMD!"
Kim Dae Jung must choose
It is clear that Kim Dae Jung is not going to be able to ride two horses. Either he is a patriot who wishes to restore the integrity of Korea, or he is a puppet of US imperialism, who must sacrifice national interests to those of the master. He had been hoping that US imperialism would go along with his ‘sunshine policy’ in the expectation that it would lead to South Korea being able to influence the North in favour of US interests, and in particular in the hope and expectation that greater contact with the South would lead to the North abandoning communism as people of power and influence in the North could be encouraged by the prospect of personal wealth to back the introduction of market reforms. This is a scenario that would please US and Japanese imperialism alike, but neither is sure that it can be achieved. And even if it could be achieved, US imperialism still needs a divided to Korea to ‘justify’ its armed presence in the area.
Kim Dae Jung’s initial response to the insults meted out to him in Washington has been apparent capitulation to US demands: "The South Korean president was ... at pains to assure Washington that Seoul was not pursuing an independent policy towards North Korea that conflicted with US aims. He dropped any mention of signing a symbolic ‘peace declaration’ with Pyongyang during the proposed visit of the North Korean leader to Seoul later this year...
"South Korea also backtracked from apparent support for Russian opposition to the US national missile defence that was contained in a joint statement issued during the visit of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to Seoul last month." (Financial Times, 14 March, 2001).
Moreover, the Yomiuri Shinbun felt that "Kim showed a degree of understanding on Bush’s plan to develop a national missile defence system (NMD)" (9 March 2001).
Although these concessions do indicate the fact that Kim Dae Jung, like other south Korean presidents, is in the habit of acceding to all US imperialism's demands, however unreasonable, it should not be assumed that the reunification process will come to an end just because US imperialism opposes it. US imperialism has always opposed it, even if that opposition was slightly veiled in the Clinton era.
This initial weak response from Kim Dae Jung does not mean he will necessarily be in a position to capitulate to US imperialism in the longer term. In addition to the voices of the masses of South Korea (who have always wanted reunification) we now hear the voices of many of South Korea’s national bourgeoisie, bankrupted in the recent Far East financial crisis, no longer, therefore, seeing much future in hanging on to the coat-tails of US imperialism. The Korean people will never forgive Kim Dae Jung if he does not stand up to US imperialism and, upholding the independence and dignity of the Korean nation, persevere towards reunification.