Located in East Asia, the Korean Peninsula (called Choson bando or Han bando by the Koreans) extends southward for about 1,100 kilometers from northeast China and southeast Russia into the Pacific Ocean. It is surrounded by the Sea of Japan on the east, the East China Sea to the south, and the Yellow Sea to the west, the Korean Strait connecting the first two bodies of water. The peninsula is highly strategic: From the Pacific it is the door to mainland Asia particularly the world’s two largest countries, China and Russia. It is also a staging point in reaching Japan and beyond it, the region of Southeast Asia and Oceania. Seventy percent of oil imports by China and Japan pass through East China Sea which, by the way, is being contested by both countries because of its large deposits of natural gas.
North Korea, the only remaining socialist country in the Far East today, has been the target of acts of war, provocative actions and isolationist measures by the U.S. following World War II, first with the Korean War in which its major cities were carpet-bombed by the U.S. airforce that also had an aborted mission to drop 30 atomic bombs. Since then, North Korea had been in the Pentagon’s war map marked by provocative actions including nuclear-armed warships in waters surrounding the peninsula and the deployment of tens of thousands of forces based in Okinawa, South Korea and elsewhere. The U.S. has also imposed embargoes and other harsh economic sanctions against North Korea often with the backing of the United Nations, Japan and other capitalist allies. Without the tenacity of the North Korean people, their country would have collapsed.
The presence of a socialist country in East Asia was a threat to U.S. economic hegemony in the region although it also served as a magnet that would justify U.S. military presence to protect its long-term trade and commercial interests in the region in the guise of “preserving democracy.”
At the height of the Cold War, U.S. military supremacy had been justified as a deterrent to the two socialist camps – China and the USSR – in the Far East. It has been more than 25 years since China, under Deng Xiao-peng, turned into a market economy followed later by the fall of the revisionist Soviet Union – two former socialist camps that were the intended targets of the U.S.’ military containment – yet the U.S. forces have stuck it out in this region, way past the Cold War era.
Now U.S. officials have repeatedly emphasized that strong military presence in the Korean Peninsula is a key component in the U.S.’ strategy of “forward military deployment” to project its influence throughout Asia. Today, the U.S. maintains 37,000 troops in South Korea and another 45,000 troops are stationed in Japan. Altogether, over 100,000 U.S. troops are permanently based in Asia Pacific while U.S. naval forces prowl the seas.
The continued U.S. military presence in the Far East and the rest of Asia and the Pacific is of course again justified by the “borderless war against terrorism” with North Korea now tagged as a “rogue regime” and a “terrorist”. How North Korea, a country with 23 million population suffering, so the Pentagon says, from frequent famines and food shortages and with only about six nuclear-capable missiles none of which can even hit the U.S. territory, can harm America simply escapes us. Bulatlat