Monday, May 15, 2017

Korea: A History of Living Under Nuclear Terror

Korean War map, showing relative position of
Manchuria (Northeast China), Yellow Sea, and
Sea of Japan. (Source: Encycl. Britannica)
A few days ago, I wrote about the new president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, and wondered: will South Korea join negotiations on a global nuclear ban when they resume in New York at the United Nations on June 15?

I wrote a post several years ago about nuclear weapons in Korea, emphasizing the ways in which the US (not North Korea) has been the one making threats with nuclear weapons for decades. (See: The Cynical American Scapegoating of Korea as a Cover for Nuclear Terror.)

After I wrote the post about President Moon's election, I began to go back and study the history of Korea again. Prof. Bruce Cumings has documented US plans to use nuclear weapons in Korea, and you can read some of his research online: "Nuclear Threats Against North Korea: Consequences of the 'forgotten' war." Here is an excerpt:

In interviews published posthumously, [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur said he had a plan that would have won the war in 10 days: "I would have dropped 30 or so atomic bombs . . . strung across the neck of Manchuria." Then he would have introduced half a million Chinese Nationalist troops at the Yalu and then "spread behind us -- from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea -- a belt of radioactive cobalt . . . it has an active life of between 60 and 120 years. For at least 60 years there could have been no land invasion of Korea from the North."

From the Korean War onward, nuclear weapons were part of US military planning for Korea. It's well worth reading Cumings' book, Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History, to get a perspective on Korea across the decades since 1945 - including nuclear politics throughout the period. (It's a perspective that most people in the US currently lack.)

Vietnam, another country that has been on the receiving end of nuclear threats by the US, is a co-sponsor of the resolution for global nuclear ban negotiations at the UN. (See VIETNAM and the NUCLEAR BAN: Out From Under the Shadow of US Nuclear Terror.) One wonders if there isn't similar broad sentiment in Korea about putting an end once and for all to nuclear weapons. As I mentioned in my post last week, North Korea voted in favor of holding the nuclear ban negotiations. South Korea voted against holding negotiations -- but that was under a conservative government that was disinclined to say "no" to the US.

Things are changing fast in Korea.

Let's see what President Moon does next.


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