On 6 January 2016, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced that it had successfully carried out its first ever H-bomb test, based on “indigenous wisdom, technology and efforts”. It also confirmed that the test had been carried out safely, with no adverse environmental effects.
Explaining the political context of this further augmentation of the DPRK’s military strength, a statement from the country’s government said: “This test is a measure for self-defence that the DPRK has taken to firmly protect the sovereignty of the country and the vital rights of the nation from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the US-led hostile forces and to reliably safeguard peace on the Korean peninsula and regional stability.”
It further linked the test to the US’s long-standing anti-DPRK policies of “political isolation, economic blockade and military pressure”, adding: “While kicking up all forms of economic sanctions and conspiratorial ‘human-rights’ rackets against the DPRK with the mobilisation of hostile forces, the US has made desperate efforts to block its building of a thriving nation and improvement of the people’s living standard and to ‘bring down its social system’.”
In this context, the DPRK government declared: “nothing is more foolish than dropping a hunting gun before herds of ferocious wolves”.
The statement affirmed that the DPRK is a “genuine peace-loving state, which has made all efforts to protect peace on the Korean peninsula and security in the region from the US’s vicious nuclear war scenario.
“The DPRK, a responsible nuclear weapons state, will neither be the first to use nuclear weapons nor transfer relevant means and technology under any circumstances, as already declared, as long as the hostile forces for aggression do not encroach upon its sovereignty.”
Following the H-bomb test, there has been a furious response from imperialism and its followers – especially the United States, Japan and south Korea – with growing pressure to impose yet tighter sanctions on the DPRK. Specifically, the US and its followers are presently mounting an intense campaign aimed at cajoling the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to agree to the aggressive implementation of a punitive sanctions regime on the DPRK.
Whilst this reflects a consistent imperialist desire to drive a wedge between two long-standing socialist allies, it especially proceeds from a realisation that, as the overwhelming majority of the DPRK’s foreign trade is conducted with the PRC, without the latter’s full participation, any sanctions regime imposed on the north Korean state will be of only limited effect.
The threat to Beijing that lies behind the imperialist cajoling is that if China fails to acquiesce, then the US will impose secondary sanctions on all those who are engaged in business with the DPRK – and the main impact of such aggressive measures would inevitably be felt by the PRC.
As the New York Times reported: “The United States and its allies will bolster sanctions and go on the defensive [sic – this is presumably a typographical error for offensive] against north Korea in ways that China may not like if Beijing fails to lend greater support to efforts to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions, a top American diplomat said here [Seoul, south Korea] on Wednesday.”
Speaking a day before he was due to meet Chinese officials in Beijing, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony J Blinken said: “I think what we will be talking to China about is that we will, both in terms of sanctions and in terms of our defence postures, have to take additional steps in order to use the leverage we have to defend ourselves and our allies if north Korea doesn’t change its behaviour.”
He added, disingenuously, that some of those steps “won’t be directed at China, but China probably won’t like them”. Whilst refusing to go into details, Blinken said that “everything is on the table”, including so-called secondary sanctions of the type that the US used to reinforce its sanctions against Iran, and whose target would be third parties doing business with the DPRK.
Hardly bothering to veil the threat implicit in his words, Blinken sounded remarkably like the archetypal mob boss or playground bully when he stated: “I think China has an incentive [!] to use its own leverage to achieve the result [a result desired by imperialism and not by China] and thus make it less necessary [!] for us and our partners to take steps that China may not like.”
In any event, Blinken said that the United States was working both unilaterally and with its allies to add other sanctions to any that may adopted by the UN Security Council.
As indicated by Blinken, pressure is being exerted in the military as well as the economic field. South Korean president Park Geun-hye has said that Seoul might consider agreeing to the US request to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) missile system on the peninsula. Whilst its deployment would ostensibly be in ‘response’ to the DPRK’s nuclear and missile capabilities, China is vehemently opposed to Thaad’s deployment in Korea, quite correctly seeing it as a threat to its own security.
China has responded to the scarcely-disguised US threats by pointing out that it is US policy that lies at the root of the Korean nuclear issue and that therefore it is primarily Washington’s responsibility to engage in dialogue with the DPRK. A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said: “both the symptoms and the root causes” of the problem needed to be addressed.
In contrast to the aggressive US approach, Hong Lei said that the DPRK, USA and others needed to “stay on the path of resolving the issue through dialogues and consultations, meet each other halfway, properly address each other’s concerns, and strive for enduring peace and stability of the region with concerted efforts”. (US weighs tighter sanctions on north Korea if China fails to act by Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, 20 January 2016)
The DPRK government has stressed in the days since the H-Bomb test that the root cause of the Korean nuclear issue lies in the US refusal to replace the armistice agreement it signed in 1953 with a peace treaty with the DPRK. Without this, the DPRK stresses, a solution to the nuclear issue is unthinkable.