By Carlton Joseph
As North Korea and the United States prepare for the first meeting to discuss the potential of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, I believe that all nations should be concerned about the outcome. If talks go forward, they would be the highest-level meetings between the two countries.
President Carter’s meeting with deceased North Korea’s President Kim led to what was called the Agreed Framework. Under that agreement, North Korea halted the construction of the two reactors that could be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons in exchange for oil and the promise of two light-water nuclear reactors that could produce energy but not weapons fuel.
President Clinton later agreed to the deal, but Congress often delayed the oil shipments, refused to lift sanctions, and the light-water reactors were never built. Basically, Washington reneged on the agreement, although in the US media all you hear is that the North Koreans are not adhering to the agreements.
The US claims that the only reason it retains nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack on this country or its allies—in other words, the United States would use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack. Why then does the US reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first? Why is our immediate response to any situation, even when addressing non-nuclear states, is that all options are on the table? Why do we believe that North Korea does not have the right to deter a nuclear attack?
History has taught me that every nation has a right to develop the necessary weapons to defend its sovereignty. The colonial powers used superior weapons to dominate populations and extract wealth from its colonies. The US used nuclear weapons in Japan to end WW11 and become the dominant power in the world. Why should any nation want to subject itself to serve in perpetuity to any other nation? The US possesses more nuclear weapons than any other nation: an estimated stockpile of 4,480 warheads. Russia has the second-largest nuclear arsenal: an estimated 4,300 warheads. Why should Kim give up the right to defend his country?
Some critics of Kim contend that he has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans and denied food and resources to his population to build them. I contend that the US and other nuclear powers have denied and are still denying their populations of resources in order to build and maintain their nuclear weapons.
As an African, I am particularly disturbed by the current state of the world. Only seven other countries have nuclear weapons- France has 300 warheads, followed by China with an estimated 260. Not one African country has nuclear weapons, South Africa, under the apartheid regime possessed nuclear weapons but gave it up before Mandela became President. How naïve are we? We have been enslaved and continue to be dominated by Europeans, and we still appear to love them more than we love ourselves.
President Kim has been making the correct strategic moves; he met with China and South Korea before deciding to meet with the US. History informs him that in 1945, a US-Soviet Joint Commission administered Korea. When that Joint Commission failed to make progress, the U.S. government decided to hold an election, under United Nations auspices, with the aim of creating an independent Korea. The Soviet authorities and the Korean Communists refused to co-operate on the grounds it would not be fair. Many South Korean politicians boycotted it and held their General Elections in 1948 and established the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
Kim knows that he cannot win a war with the US, but he acknowledges that North Korea and China have a special relationship because they had contributed to the Chinese Communist victory, and that China promised to support North Korea in the event of a war against South Korea. Kim’s meeting with President Xi Jinping was to ensure that this relationship was still secure.
This security was essential since President Trump has said he relishes the prospect of an arms race. Last December, he tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” During an appearance on the MSNBC show Morning Joe, Trump went further, saying he welcomed an arms race if it bolstered US superiority.
This is the policy position of the US since we developed the atom bomb. We are the only country who has used it, yet we demonize countries that believe they have to possess it because of the threat from the US, Russia and past colonial powers. Israel with a population of 6.6 million can possess nukes, but Iran with a population of 80.2 million cannot be allowed to possess nukes. About 100,000 Jews live in Iran, and I have not heard any reports about them being persecuted, but the Palestinians are being killed with impunity because they peacefully protest against the Israeli occupation.
Kim’s meeting with President Moon resulted in the Panmunjom Declaration. This declaration talks about complete denuclearization and a commitment to reconnecting the blood relations of the people, and determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord. They also set out very important steps for reconciliation, such as setting up a joint liaison office, reconnecting railroads and roads that have been cut off in the past, and moving towards a peace regime that involves the United States and China and settles the Korean War once and for all.
Meanwhile, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, told Fox News that Trump should be cautious about talks with the North Korean dictator. Former US army officer Ralph Peters claims that it would be “ludicrous” to launch a surgical strike on North Korea, insisting the US President must hit Kim so hard rendering him incapable of retaliation. This does not sound like a diplomatic solution to the situation. We will have to wait for the Trump- Kim meeting to see what happens.
As far as I am concerned, this is the problem with a one super power world. The super power and its allies want to determine what, why, when, and how the rest of the world must function. Unfortunately, they do not consider the needs and interests of the rest world, and believe that the US and its Allies “national interest” should be paramount, regardless of its negative impacts on other countries.
Despite Obama’s soaring rhetoric about a world without nuclear weapons, his administration put in place a plan to spend as much as $1 trillion over the next three decades on a new generation of nuclear warheads, bombers, submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The United State as one of the five nations actually possessing nuclear weapons among 191 signatories is legally obligated to pursue negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. All US administrations since the treaty was signed have only paid lip service to that goal. Does this impress you as a country that uses nukes as a deterrent? Or is it for dominance and control?
If any non-white world leaders believe that US nukes are for deterrence, he or she does not deserve to lead his/her country. You get what you negotiate; I hope Kim negotiates wisely and for the benefit of his people.
(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)