War averted in Korea

by our Asian Affairs correspondent

SOUTH Korea has pulled back from the brink of war following marathon talks in Panmunjom this week. High-level negotiators from the north and south of Korea met in the blue buildings — which straddle the armistice line that has divided the Korean peninsula since the end of the Korean war in 1953 — for 43 hours of talks that ended with the puppet regime agreeing to halt its provocations in the Demilitarised Zone and offering to resume talks to lift economic sanctions on Democratic Korea.

On Tuesday a six-point agreement was reached stipulating measures to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula following last week’s exchanges of artillery fire that was provoked by south Korea’s resumption of anti- DPRK broadcasting propaganda along the demilitarised zone.

Tension was already running high on the peninsula because the Americans and their south Korean puppets were carrying out their annual military exercises which simulate an invasion of the DPRK. But it took an even more dangerous turn when two south Korean soldiers were seriously wounded on 4th August when they triggered land-mines during a patrol on their own side of the buffer zone that divides north and south Korea.

Though this initially appeared to be an accidental “own goal” the Seoul regime rapidly held the north responsible demanding an apology and vowing to make north Korea “pay a harsh price proportionate for the provocation it made”.

Reactionary south Korean leader Park Geun Hye, the daughter of former dictator General Park, who was shot dead by the head of his own intelligence service in 1979, is a willing tool of US imperialism and has recently ordered a new wave of repression to crush the rising militancy of the independent unions in the south.

A week later Park ordered her troops to resume blasting the entire demilitarised zone with high-decibel loud-speaker propaganda broadcasts that both sides had agreed to halt in 2004. Many believe that this was a diversion designed to boost domestic support for her Grand National Party with another anti-communist war-scare. If so it immediately back-fired on her.

The Democratic Korean government, which is a nuclear power, responded firmly to Park’s bluster and threats. Leader Kim Jong Un put his front-line troops on high alert to back up an ultimatum to south Korea to halt all propaganda broadcasts across the border by Saturday afternoon or face imminent military action.

Asian stock market indices tumbled. Russian and Chinese diplomats were mobilised to defuse the situation amid reports that the Americans were preparing to send more war-planes to the south to beef up the south Korean regime’s defences. But in the end the Park regime backed down agreeing to emergency talks this weekend.

The DPRK side, which has always denied any responsibility for the mine incident, did not apologise but merely expressed “regret” at the injuries suffered by the south Korean soldiers. The propaganda broadcasts have stopped. The DPRK has ordered its troops to stand down and the south Koreans now say they are ready to talk about improving north-south relations.

Korean People’s Army Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong So, a member of the Presidium of the Politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea, led the DPRK side’s team at Panmunjom. He indicated that, despite the expression of regret, Pyongyang had no intention of taking responsibility for the land mine explosions.

Talking on DPRK TV Marshal Hwang said the south had learned a “serious lesson” that it should not provoke the DPRK by “creating a groundless incident” that raised tension and increased the possibility of a military clash. But he ended his short TV appearance by expressing hope that the accord would provide an opportunity for improved ties.

Both sides agreed to hold a reunion of separated families and relatives on the occasion of the upcoming Harvest Moon Day and keep holding the event in the future, with a Red Cross working-level contact due to be held in early September.

Both sides are to boost civilian exchange in a range of fields and the south Koreans are hinting that they are ready to lift the sanctions imposed in 2010 following the sinking of one of their warships, which they also falsely blamed on the northern government.