Monday, April 8, 2013

Castro Speaks about Cuba; US threatens war with North Korea, demands China cut off support




Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro called Friday for long-time ally North Korea and the United States to avoid hostilities on the Korean Peninsula.

“If war breaks out there, the people of both parts of the peninsula will be terribly sacrificed, without benefit to all or either of them,” he said in a column published in Cuban state media.

“Now that (North Korea) has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70 per cent of the population of the planet.” Mr. Castro, 86, reminded the United States of its duty to avoid a clash, amid mounting tensions this year between North and South Korea.

“If a conflict of that nature should break out there, the government of Barack Obama in his second mandate would be buried in a deluge of images which would present him as the most sinister character in the history of the United States,” Mr. Castro said. “The duty of avoiding war is also his and that of the people of the United States.” Cuba is one of the last remaining allies of the communist government in Pyongyang.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba has always been and will continue to be with her,” Mr. Castro wrote. “I had the honour of meeting Kim Il-sung, a historic figure, notably courageous and revolutionary.” Kim Il-sung was the founder of North Korea and grandfather of Kim Jong Un, the new leader of the reclusive Pyongyang regime.

Tension ratcheted up this week on the peninsula, as North Korea has threatened nuclear strikes and moved missiles, with the South and the U.S. positioning missile defences in response.


The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly called North Korea, is a country in East Asia, in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital is Pyongyang, the country's largest city by both land area and population.



US threatens war with North Korea, demands China cut off support
 By Alex Lantier , 8 April 2013

Over the weekend, US officials continued to threaten North Korea with war, demanding that China cut off its support to the regime in Pyongyang.

This comes after weeks of US threats aimed at Pyongyang’s nuclear program, during which Washington flew nuclear-capable bombers to Korea to demonstrate its capacity to wage nuclear war against the North. Last week, US officials revealed that these moves were part of a laid-out “playbook” of US escalations—aimed to terrorize North Korea’s government and population.

General Walter Sharp, the former US military commander in South Korea, told America’s National Public Radio (NPR): “there’s been a lot of effort over the past two and a half years now to build this counter-provocation plan. Because that’s a hard balance of a strong response: don’t escalate, but be prepared to go to war.”

Sharp said that US and South Korean forces would rapidly respond to any firing along the border by the North Korean and prepare for an overwhelming response. He explained, “There are options that people have worked and thought through that could very quickly be brought to President Park [Geun-hye of South Korea] and President Obama.”

NPR commented, “That’s the escalation scenario, and it leads to all-out war.”

Yesterday, amid intelligence reports that North Korea may be preparing a test missile launch for April 10, South Korea dispatched Aegis guided-missile warships to waters on both sides of the Korean peninsula.

Japan indicated that it was also considering deploying its own warships to the area. Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo is preparing for a “worst-case” scenario and demanded that China and Russia play “significant roles” to resolve the stand-off.

There are unconfirmed reports that Washington has begun deploying groups of B-1 heavy bombers from the United States to the Western Pacific.

US officials speaking Sunday demanded that China force the North Korean regime to give in to US demands. Pyongyang relies on China for critical food and fuel supplies.

On CBS, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said, “China can cut off their [i.e., North Korea’s] economy if they want to. Chinese behavior has been very disappointing, whether it be on cyber security, whether it be on confrontation in the South China Sea, or whether it be their failure to rein in what could be a catastrophic situation.”

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York added, “The Chinese hold a lot of cards here. They’re by nature cautious, but they’re carrying it to an extreme. It’s about time they stepped up to the plate and put a little pressure on the North Korean regime.”

The Chinese regime in Beijing, which is in the midst of a leadership transition in both the state and the Chinese Communist Party, is divided on how to respond to the Korean crisis.

At Sunday’s regional business summit in Boao, China, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain.” This carefully worded remark voices the alarm in Beijing over the possible outbreak of military conflict, without directly indicting either North Korea or the United States as the party responsible.

One the one hand, Beijing has given several indications of increasing hostility to Pyongyang. It has already voted for UN sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program earlier this year.

At the Boao summit, Xi also agreed to an extensive series of military exercises and exchanges with Australia’s armed forces. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government is closely aligned on US imperialist interests in the region, having agreed to install a US base in Australia as part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” aiming to contain China.

Sections of the Chinese army and bureaucracy have openly questioned Beijing’s attempts to accommodate US policy, however.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Colonel Dai Xu of the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defense University protested moves to develop closer ties to Australia: “Australia is one of the links in America’s encirclement of China. The first step of [America’s] strategic eastward move was to send troops to Australia. The Sino-Australian relationship has been good always, very good—[Gillard] can of course say that, but in China we say, ‘Listen to what they say, watch what they do.’ The US is taking Australia as a base, and who is that aimed against?”

The Western press is speculating that Zhou Yongkang, a member of Beijing’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee, is an influential supporter of the North Korean regime. A CCP official who has had responsibility for oil and security policy, he reportedly backed the coming to power of Kim Jong Un in North Korea in 2011.

Washington is placing enormous pressure on Beijing. Sections of the US press and foreign policy establishment are now mooting the possibility that Washington will go to war and kill the North Korean leadership—as it murdered Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi when it took over their countries. This was the theme of a recent Foreign Affairs article by academics Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, titled “The Next Korean War.”

If war started, they write, given Pyongyang’s military weakness, “North Korea’s inner circle would face a grave decision: how to avoid the terrible fates of such defeated leaders as Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gaddafi.” Lieber and Press see two possibilities for Pyongyang’s leaders to avoid murder at the hands of US and South Korean forces: a deal for them to flee to Beijing, or an attempt to deter US military action by using North Korea’s nuclear bombs.

On this basis, they argue for a policy of pressuring Beijing to help Washington organize the demise of the Pyongyang regime and the flight of its leaders to China: “American and South Korean leaders should urge China to develop ‘golden parachute’ plans for the North Korean leadership and their families… In the past, China has been understandably reluctant to hold official talks with the United States about facilitating the demise of an ally. But the prospect of nuclear war next door could induce Beijing to take more direct steps.”

These lines bluntly spell out the nuclear blackmail with which Washington is threatening Beijing: China can either face nuclear war, or acquiesce to regime change in Pyongyang and a shift of Chinese foreign policy more favorable to US imperialism. In seeking to intimidate Beijing, US imperialism is playing for the highest stakes—not only geo-strategic dominance in East Asia, but in the Middle East and the entire world economy.

As it moves against Pyongyang, Washington is also threatening Iran with war if it does not abandon its own nuclear program. It aims to prevent Pyongyang from keeping its nuclear weapons and thus serving as a model for Iran’s nuclear program, and from blocking China from protecting Iran against US war threats. This would give Washington greater leverage to continue fighting wars in the Middle East.

Washington is also trying to deter any economic pressure from China. According to US Treasury statistics, China held $1.6 trillion in US public debt in September 2012. Any significant upward spike in interest rates or decision by East Asian countries to stop lending to the US government would have potentially catastrophic economic consequences.

Writing in Foreign Affairs on US trade and budget deficits during Obama’s first term, economist Fred Bergsten noted that “foreign investors might at some point refuse to finance these deficits on terms compatible with US prosperity. Any sudden stop in lending to the United States would drive the dollar down, push inflation and interest rates up, and perhaps bring on a hard landing for the United States—and the world economy at large.”

In response to these Washington is ruthlessly plunging ahead, aiming to push through its policies and avoid economic collapse through war threats and nuclear intimidation.


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Dempsey: North Korea’s Activities Follow Familiar Pattern


By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

STUTTGART, Germany, April 5, 2013 – Although they have generated tension in the United States, North Korea’s recent activities are part of a cycle, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

"There's been a pattern throughout the last 25 or 30 years of provocation to accommodation to provocation back to accommodation,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters who traveled here with him for today’s U.S. Africa Command change of command.

The chairman said he hasn't seen anything yet to suggest that this time is different, “but we're all concerned that it could be something different because of the presence of a new and much younger leader and our inability to understand who influences him.”

North Korea has long been a bit opaque, the general said.

“But in the past, we've understood their leadership and the influencers a little better than we do today,” he said.

Though the United States has little information about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he is carrying out a pattern similar to the one his predecessors followed, Dempsey noted. What is new, he said, is the bellicosity from North Korea’s leadership, especially in response to the annual Foal Eagle field training exercise involving U.S. and South Korean forces.

“There's been some speculation that our activities have been provocative,” Dempsey said, “but our activities have been largely defensive and exclusively intended to reassure our allies." North Korea's rhetoric, on the other hand, has been reckless, he added.

"We've been deliberate and measured, and the rhetoric, … that's been pretty reckless,” the chairman said, particularly given North Korea’s ballistic missile capability.

“And we believe they have nuclear capability,” Dempsey added. “We don't know whether they've been able to weaponize it, but the combination of that makes it a very reckless statement.”

The United States is trying to be deliberate and measured and to assure its allies that, despite spending cuts, “we'll live up to our alliance obligations and protect our national interest,” Dempsey said.

“That's not being bellicose,” he added. “That's being very matter-of-fact.”

Dempsey will travel to China later this month, and he recently spoke by phone with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui.

"We both agreed in that telephone conversation that we did need to speak about North Korea," the chairman said.

A number of challenges surround North Korea, Dempsey told reporters. He noted that the upcoming trip provides an opening to learn face-to-face the implications for China and to explain the implications for the United States and its allies.

"Looking at these issues in isolation is a guarantee that we'll fail to understand them. What I'm not going to do is go over there and deliver the traditional talking point about, 'Can't you get your southern neighbor under control?'” the chairman said.

“I know the answer to that question," he continued. "I would rather take the opportunity to gain a little deeper understanding of … their issues. … I think that's kind of the basis of understanding."

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