Only days after South Korea and the United States destabilized the Korean peninsula by holding military exercises in the Yellow Sea (and for the first time ever, in North KoreaÂs territorial waters) and soon after South Korea further destabilized the region by touching off a firefight between the two Koreas after lobbing artillery shells into waters Pyongyang claims as it own, the North Koreans began their own military drills.
South KoreaÂwhose defense budget towers over that of the NorthÂregularly holds drills by itself, and also with contingents drawn from the 28,000 US soldiers stationed on its soil and 40,000 stationed in nearby Japan. By contrast, there are no foreign troops in North Korea, and the North conducts its exercises alone.
To be sure, the NorthÂs military drills do nothing to bring down the temperature, but they hardly compare in their destabilizing impact to the US and South Korean provocations of the last two weeks. A flyweight stepping up his sparring practice is hardly a threat to the middleweight who only goes into the ring with his super-heavyweight ally. And itÂs clear that Washington and South KoreaÂs Lee government arenÂt particularly interested in temperature-reduction anyway.
And yet, this headline appeared today in The Guardian:
North Korea military drills are destabilizing region, says US
It takes a lot of chutzpah to pick someoneÂs pocket and shout, ÂStop thief!Â but Washington has chutzpah aplenty, and in the Western mediaÂs recounting of world events, WashingtonÂs chutzpah is carefully concealed. And so it really does seem like North Korea is destabilizing South Korea, rather than the other way around.
What puts WashingtonÂs complaint about North KoreaÂs military drills completely over the top is this: ÂSouth Korea is holding a nationwide set of artillery drills this week. And the United States and Japan are currently staging their largest-ever war games, including, for the the first time, South Korean observers.Â And thatÂs not destabilizing?
Had I come across anything like the following headlines last weekÂwhich would have been a fair description of the situation from the North Korean sideÂI wouldnÂt complain as bitterly.
Joint US-South Korea military drills are destabilizing region, says North Korea
US-South Korea wargames rehearsal for invasion, Pyongyang says
But I didnÂt. Instead, I was bombarded by headlines about North Korean aggression.
And I still am.
It seems that no matter what the North Koreans doÂor how destabilizing the actions of its southern neighbor and the United States areÂthe North Koreans will always be portrayed as the aggressors, the South Koreans as the victims, and the United States as the tough but fair peace-keeper.
If the ganging up on North Korea by the United States and South KoreaÂto say nothing of the Western mediaÂwerenÂt enough, Washington has reminded KoreaÂs former colonial master, Japan, that it too has Âa stakeÂ. ÂWe have to get to a place where thereÂs much more trilateral cooperation (among the US, South Korea and Japan against North Korea) than there has been in the past,Â says chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who is in Japan for discussions on creating Âa truly historic trilateralÂ allianceÂa kind of anti-North Korea three-power axis.
I guess Malcolm X was right. If you substitute ÂdestabilizeÂ for his original ÂoppressÂ, the following epigram pretty well sums up the dangers of newspaper reading: ÂIf youÂre not careful the newspapers will have you hating the people who are destabilized, and loving the people who are doing the destabilizing.Â
It could also be pointed out that whether military drills are destabilizing or a way of containing Âa rapidly evolving threatÂ depends on whose side youÂre on: the side of the freedom of independent peoples to pursue their own peaceful development or the side of a military behemoth seeking to bring down another independent state.
December 8, 2010