US-Korean war games return for another year despite mass protests

Joint US-South Korean (RoK) military drills have kicked off this week, despite large protests seen over the weekend.

Four days of ‘crisis management’ drills are underway, running from Tuesday (16 August) until Friday. Such drills are a preliminary to the Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises, which commence on Monday (22 August).

The upcoming drills will see US and RoK military forces engage in joint naval, air, and land exercises that simulate conflict in the Korean peninsula.

Such war games are presented as defensive by US and RoK officials, as security measures against an ‘untrustworthy’ and ‘dangerous’ DPRK.

Of course such framing is nonsense, serving to justify exercises that are far more provocative than anything the DPRK has done.

The real purpose is not to defend the south but to threaten the north, undermining DPRK attempts at diplomacy. This helps ensure that conditions in Korea continue to develop on US-led terms, such that the interests of the imperialists, not the Korean masses, take priority.

Such an approach from RoK authorities and their US allies is very risky. Not only do they undermine diplomatic efforts, but the DPRK can not be entirely sure that these war games are simply practice and not the cover for a true military action.

Though military action against a nuclear power would be very unlikely, one cannot expect northern officials, or civilians, to trust the US – the same country, let us not forget, that murdered 20% of Koreans in the north and left every town and city there destroyed.

The same country also, that wages economic warfare on the DPRK to this day, through the tightest set of sanctions in the world next to the US embargo on Cuba.

These provocative exercises come only a week after joint US, RoK, and Japanese naval drills off the coast of US-occupied Hawai’i. According to the US Department of Defence, the navies practiced for missile warning scenarios, and undertook ballistic missile search and tracking exercises.

In the environment of all this imperialist warmongering, it is no surprise that last weekend saw thousands of citizens take to the streets of Seoul in protest. Some held placards denouncing Ulchi Freedom Shield, and chants included “dissolve Korea-US alliance” and “this land is not a US war base”.

The leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Yang Kyung-Soo, was present at these demonstrations, where they decried the idea of military exercises in preparation for war, as synonymous with intent to wage an actual war.

To avoid catastrophe in Korea, continued military provocations by the south and its US allies must come to an end.

As Communists we oppose warmongering such as this, and remember the importance of class in all issues.

The liberation of the Korean working masses will certainly not come from an invasion by southern forces — nor northern of course, not that that is anywhere near as likely as the mainstream press tries to convince us.

Only a peaceful, democratic reunification will serve the interests of the Korean working class, meaning no longer people of the same class, and even the same Korean nation, are pitted against each other.

This will only be possible if the US ceases to use the south as a military base, and allows the masses to determine their own path.

Mia English, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

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