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Why South Korea and the United States Will not Fire the First Shot in the Present Korean Crisis

Updated on November 28, 2014

Let North Korea fire the first shot

South Korea and the United States will not fire the first shot in the present Korean crisis. Why?

The present crisis in the Korean peninsula exacerbated on March 30,2013 when North Korea declared a “state of war” on South Korea. Apparently, this declaration was triggered by the military exercise the US and South Korea were having that was perceived by North Korea as a way to strengthen the military capability and built up the arsenal of South Korea.

Actually North Korea and South Korea have been in a state of civil war since June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. The shooting war went into a stalemate in 1953 when neither side could annihilate the other. The United Nations and the United States supported South Korea. The US was the caretaker of the United Nations army, the South Korean army was subsumed under the US army. An American was the commander of the United Nations army, Gen. Douglas MacArthur having been the first. (I have a Hub “A History of the Development of the Korea Problem).

Onus of moral responsibility

The US and South Korea would not risk the ire of the community of nations for being the aggressors.

A lesson had been learned from the American Civil War in 1961-65. The South, Confederate States of America, fired the first shot by bombarding Fort Sumter of the North. That provoked the shooting war resulting in the defeat and utter destruction of the South.

A first shot first fired by South Korea or United States may provoke a nuclear attack by North Korea. This nation is not a member of the covenant that controls the use of nuclear weapons.

Cold war is over

The Cold War could have started in 1945 yet. In the Teheran conference, Russian Premier Joseph Stalin got three votes for Russia in the United Nations yet to be organized. Other nations including US, France, Great Britain, Canada and the rest within the orbit of the US and Great Britain got one vote each. The proxy shooting war of the Cold War began in the Korean peninsula in 1950. The war was fought along ideological line: democracy versus communism. That is, the US and allies were defending democracy against communism lead by Russia with the support of China.

Now the communist bugaboo is gone. The Cold War is over, except in the Korean peninsula that has taken on a different color. USSR broke up in 1990, China no longer supports Russia, and the US and China have become allies since 1972. Russia has come over to the capitalist camp.

So the excuse of defending democracy against communism can no longer be used to fire the first shot on North Korea.

Two war fronts in Asia

The US had just disengaged from the war in Iraq. The US is now engaged in a war in Afghanistan. Can it afford two war fronts in Asia? Besides, the American public is clamoring for a stop on the war in Afghanistan. It is similar to the Vietnam war where the American public played a big role in the withdrawal of the US from that war.

Memories of the 1950-53 Korean war. Several American soldiers lost their lives in this war. So were South Koreans, North Koreans and Chinese. The Americans inflicted damage on South Korea much as it did on North Korea. Every durable building that could be used as shelter by North Korean soldiers in the North and in the South was bombed by the Americans (Kolko, J. and G. Kolko. Limits of Power. 1972). The US incurred one of its worst inflations due to the Korean war.

Lack of spark

Presently, there is no prospect of a spark in the US that can excite the American public to approve American aggression against North Korea. The American public needs such spark to go to war. In the Spanish-American war in late 1800s, the sinking of the ship Main was the trigger. In the Philippines, the shooting between the American forces and the Filipino revolutionaries started by an American soldier cajoled American Congress to approve the taking of the Philippines as a new territory in the American empire. In the early part of WWII, the sinking of the passenger ship Luisitania (whose naval escorts were deliberately withdrawn) served as the spark to allow Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt to give aid to Great Britain through the lend-lease. The sneak attack allowed on the US navy ships docked in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by Japanese warplanes in 1941 pushed the Americans to approved the joining of the US in WWII. We say “allowed” because the lone scrambler in Hawaii was switched off when the Japanese attackers were on their way. Beforehand, the Japanese code had been broken by the Americans. The spark in the Korean war was, to repeat, the defense of democracy against communism.

There was one attempt at providing a spark not too long ago. This was the fatal missile strike on a passenger jumbo jet carrying Americans over North Korea after the term of Pres. Jimmy Carter. The specific target was actually the president of the Birch Tree Society, which is not a milk maker but a rival of the internationalist group in the US. North Korea protested that it had nothing to do with it. Former Pres. Carter was sent over to mollify the North Koreans.

The American public approved of the invasion of Iraq owing to the arsenal of biological weapons trotted about by Pres. George W. Bush. The ruse proved to be false. The possession of nuclear weapons on the part of North Korea cannot be used as a ploy either. The US, Russia, India, and China have nuclear weapons themselves.

The latest attempt at providing a spark of condemnation of North Korea took place some six months ago. An American helicopter was shot down in South Korea. However, there was no casualty. In the news reports it was not clear who fired upon the helicopter. It appears that no one puts the blame on North Korea.

No use of nuclear weapons

During the Cold War, the US would not use the atomic bomb against Russia. Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser to Pres. Richard Nixon, gave this assurance to Mao Tse-Tung, former Chairman of China, in their talks towards the US-China rapprochement in 1972. That means conventional war would be waged as in the war on Iraq and now on Afghanistan. The US will use interceptors against nuclear weapons as it used the patriots that intercepted the scud missiles launched by Saddam during the Desert Storm. One missile went past the patriots and landed in Israel though.

The US would not care less

The US would not care less if South Korea were destroyed by North Korea. However, South Korea is emboldened by US support. The South Korean ambassador in the Philippines said on television on April 4,2013 that North Korea will not attack because of US presence. He said there is nothing new in the declaration of war by North Korea. (I have a Hub "How would you solve the Korea problem?)

The US is out to protect Americans in South Korea who are working in the American subsidiaries there. Of course, the US is out to protect American multinationals in South Korea.

US-China alliance

China would raise an eyebrow if the US attacked North Korea. That would sour their present alliance. American businessmen cannot afford a souring of relations with China now that they have taken a foothold on the Chinese mainland. They have coveted the great Chinese market since early 1900s.

What about the United Nations?

The UN was manipulated by the US in 1948 to hold the first election in the Korean peninsula that saw the installation of Syngman Rhee as president of South Korea. The UN did not play the role of referee but was a protagonist in the shooting war in 1950-53. The UN could not mediate in the invasion of Iraq led by the US; it was a coalition's decision to invade Iraq and capture Saddam. The Philippines, early on, joined the coalition but later on withdrew from it. What could we expect from the UN that has a South Korean as secretary-general?

Chain of decision

What then is the chain of decision-making on the side of the UN, US, and South Korean side? Answer: Internationalist business group, US, UN, South Korea in that order of power.

The main reason why the US supports South Korea is the presence of American multinationals in South Korea. In the shooting war in 1950-53 the US did more damage on South Korea and North Korea than did North Korea, China and USSR. The Cold War was raging then. Now the Cold War is over.

A multinational in South Korea is now controlling 45% of the global market of flash memory that is being used in latest breeds of cellphones and laptops. No other chip maker could overtake that market share. A rival set up in Japan cannot shift from its technology of making random access memory (RAM); in fact it has declared bankruptcy. Of course, the market for RAM has dramatically shrank. Where would KIA, Hyundai and other automakers in South Korea relocate and how fast could they set up shop? They would have to haul thousands of skilled South Korean workers to the new locations or train new skilled workers or import American labor. Or relocate to the US territory. However, that would be losing the pool of labor that is paid 10% of what is paid to American labor.

Hubs related to Korea written by conradofontanilla


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