North Korea and the US: Who’s Really Provoking Whom?

The following is a transcript of an interview that took place on Sputnik International’s Radio Trendstorm programme on 15 July 2017. Kindly follow this link for the original interview. For more information on the US THAAD system, read this article from The Duran.

ANDREW: In response to North Korea’s latest missile test, the US and South Korea conducted live-fire bombing exercises along the DMZ, making one wonder who’s really provoking whom? The Pentagon, as it’s always wont to do, intended for the drills to be a show of force in deterring what they believe to be Pyongyang’s aggression, though North Korea understandably interpreted this as an unprecedented escalation of the crisis intended to intimidate it into concessions. What makes this latest episode even more interesting is that the US conducted the drills under the pretense that North Korea had tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, which its Mainstream Media outlets fear mongered could hit Hawaii and Alaska, though Russia and even South Korea both claim for different reasons that this isn’t exactly the case.

Moscow alleges to have evidence that the missile which North Korea just tested is an intermediate range one and not an ICBM, while Seoul came out earlier this week and said that it doesn’t believe that Pyongyang has ICBM re-entry technology. In other words, the US is overhyping the extent of the supposed threat posed by North Korea, possibly in order to justify its controversial THAAD deployment in South Korea. This anti-missile system has become an inseparable part of the Korean Crisis since it’s directly linked to the North’s missile tests, though it’s thought by some to be more directed towards neutralizing Russia and China’s nuclear second-strike capabilities than North Kore’s first-strike ones.

It’s partially because of THAAD that both Eurasian Great Powers suggested a joint course of action in resolving this problem during President Xi’s visit to Moscow last week, proposing that North Korea halt its technology tests in exchange for the US and South Korea freezing their large-scale and provocative military drills. That still doesn’t directly deal with the threat that Moscow and Beijing feel is being posed by THAAD, though it could create the conditions for Seoul’s new pragmatic president to argue that the installations are no longer needed. In any case, an objective overview of the situation leads one to question the Mainstream Media narrative that North Korea is the only provocative actor in Northeast Asia, since there are more than enough grounds to solidly argue that the US is playing a similarly destabilizing role as well.

Haneul Na’avi, contributing writer on political economy and geopolitics for The Duran, and Edwin Chen, Activist focusing on the Asian Holocaust of World War II commented on the issue.

ANDREW: How proportionate of a response was it that the US and South Korea commenced live-fire military exercises close to the DMZ following North Korea’s latest missile test?

HANEUL: The exercises that you’re talking about are related to the Foal Eagle exercises, which have taken place since 1997 and normally occur around March to late-April. It was actually the same size as last year’s exercises in 2016, and this had occurred under Obama as he was leaving office, not necessarily under Trump.

It’s more important to understand why [the US administration believes] these drills are necessary, and it is because Washington is losing power in the Asia-Pacific, which is due to the rejection of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, which has been scrapped by [current South Korean President] Moon Jae-In.

ANDREW: Russia says that North Korea didn’t test an ICBM, and South Korea claims that the North doesn’t have ICBM re-entry technology, though many voices in the Mainstream Media say that North Korea can now directly threaten Alaska, Hawaii, and maybe even soon California too, so what’s behind this narrative disconnect and what do you think North Korea’s missile capabilities truly are?

HANEUL: The Russians are right. They didn’t use an ICBM, and again, this is to justify the US’s deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in South Korea. Firstly, America is in the business of selling arms [and] maintaining regional control of resources, so they want to use things like THAAD, F-35s, Abrams tanks, Howitzers, and this is a kind of advertising they use to maintain a constant flow of arms sales.

Going into the logistics of the matter, we can look at why it wasn’t an ICBM. It was reported that it was a KN-17, which is a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), possibly a Hwaseong-12, which is an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

When we look at some of the analysis that has come out of the media, we have the London Guardian, who reported that, “analysts from Japan and South Korea supported the account given by North Korea’s Academy of Defence Sciences, which said that the missiles travelled at an altitude of 1,741 miles and flew 580 miles,” but, in order to qualify as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), you have to travel 3,500 miles. So, it doesn’t have the capability to actually reach the shores of the United States on the Pacific end.

Reuters analyst Yi Wang-Yang also explained that North Korea doesn’t have any testing facilities for re-entry technology and that it’s almost improbable, if not impossible, that they would be able to secure that kind of technology.

ANDREW: How do you assess the overall significance of the joint Russian-Chinese position on North Korea, and what do you think is the likelihood that their de-escalation proposal will be listened to by either side?

HANEUL: As far as North Korea goes, they have been doing provocations since the 1953 armistice, so essentially, it has been a perpetual state of warfare. [North and South Korea] haven’t event signed a peace treaty, but have agreed to stop fighting. As far as Russia and China’s role, it’s in their backyard [and] China especially doesn’t want an influx of [refugees] streaming into the Liangning province, which is in the northeast near Shenyang.

In the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), they’ve got pragmatic priorities at this moment, and the United States is trying to focus on the Asia-Pacific region after losing its front in Syria… It is trying to shift it’s priorities there.

Currently, China and Russia want to focus on the One Belt, One Road [Initiative], which is going to involve all of the Asian continent, including Europe and the Middle East, and the United States is doing its best to destabilise the region by keeping its footing in the South China Sea and constantly focusing on North Korea’s actions, which have not really changed over the last few years.

The most provocative [escalation] that had occurred in recent years was the shelling of Yeongpyeong Island in 2010, and that was about as bad as it got, but as far as “testing nukes and missiles”, that’s just to justify the 1.25 bln. USD spent on one THAAD system, and that is going to cost them a lot.

Moon Jae-In doesn’t want it, the Chinese don’t want it, and neither do the Russians.

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