The Berlin Wall of the East

9 Jul

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

As a patriotic American, I really don’t like to be critical of my country’s foreign policy. I am doing so here, and I regret the necessity to do so. Yet one of the common themes of my writing is that policies and practices which worked in the twentieth century don’t necessarily remain useful in the ongoing progress of the twenty-first century. The Berlin Wall of the East is one such ancient policy which needs to be seriously re-examined to find a more productive and effective way of dealing with our important international relations.

The Korean War ended in in 1953 in a truce, not a peace treaty, and left the Korean Peninsula divided by a heavily fortified border along the 38th Parallel, which divides North Korea and South Korea. This “Berlin Wall of the East” is monitored by the U.N. Command. Washington also stations 28,500 American troops in South Korea to protect its ally against “North Korean aggression.”

The armed border between the Koreas is one of the last remnants of the twentieth-century cold war. It does not belong in the twenty-first century, and the barrier should be torn down. US and UN troops should go home and leave the two Koreas to work out their future together.

The United States was always so angry and upset about the Berlin Wall, built by the Soviet Union to keep the border between East and West Germany fully defended. “Tear down this wall!” was the challenge issued by United States President Ronald Reagan to the Soviet Union, in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall in 1987.

Not long after this speech the wall was torn down. There was no cataclysm. Now Germans in the east and west parts of the country work together for common goals. The ravaged eastern part of the country was easily absorbed by the more wealthy western part of Germany.

Yet it is we, the United States, who are so insistent about maintaining the 38th Parallel wall between the two Koreas: predicting catastrophe and chaos if there is any interchange between North and South. We are acting just like the Soviets did in Germany during the European part of the cold war. It’s time to end the mentality that keeps a “war” going even when there is no war.

The United States always seemed to care more about the Europeans, with whom we share a common culture. Our moral outrage was directed toward the Berlin Wall which kept all these Europeans from mixing with one another. When Asians are involved, though, there’s a cultural barrier we can’t see here in the US. We can’t even comprehend the moral outrage of maintaining a “38th Parallel” wall of our own making: keeping a war going that was over by the middle of the twentieth century.

Is it any wonder that the North Koreans sees the United States as a war-like people who only want to keep them from joining the world community? After all, we’re the ones who are keeping up all the barriers. We’re the ones who’ve kept a choke-hold on North Korea for almost sixty years, without any let-up and without any sign of remorse. We claim that they are the “hermit kingdom,” yet we are the ones who keep them isolated, by brute force and major economic sanctions.

Can no one see that dear leader Kim Jong Un wants to be free of the choke-hold of the twentieth century cold war imposed relentlessly by the United States against North Korea? Sure, Kim rattles sabers. He knows as well as we do, though, that the North Korean Army is like blades of grass, easily cut down by the giant lawnmower of the US and South Korea if they attack.

North Korea in land area is about the size of the US state of Mississippi, which has the lowest per capita income of any state in the US. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Mississippi in 2012 was $98 billion dollars.

The total GDP of North Korea during this same period was $28 billion dollars. This almost unimaginable lack of economic activity in North Korea is the best way to understand the inability of North Korea to be a credible military threat to any country. Another way to look at it is to note that the GDP of North Korea is less than 3 per cent of the GDP of South Korea. North Korea at the present time has virtually no financial capacity at all. How can such a nation be such a feared enemy of the United States?

So, everyone knows North Korea does not have even the slightest potential to defeat the US and South Korea in a “war.” It wouldn’t even be a war if the North Koreans took it on themselves to invade South Korea. It would be a one-sided slaughter. The United States knows this, and Kim Jong Un knows this. Why, then, are we keeping up this tawdry twentieth century cold war façade?

The leaders of North Korea have been asking for an end to the cold war 38th Parallel wall for some time. Sin Son Ho, Permanent Representative for North Korea to the U.N., spoke during a press conference on Friday, June 21, 2013 at U.N. headquarters in New York. See http://news.yahoo.com/nkorea-demands-dissolution-un-command-skorea-160628448.html

Ambassador Sin said U.S.-North Korea talks should include replacing the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. One of the “prerequisite requirements” for establishing “a peace mechanism” to replace the armistice, he said, is the dissolution of the U.S.-led U.N. Command [and by inference dismantling the wall between north and south].

The ambassador said the talks can include “a world without nuclear weapons,” which the United States has already proposed.

But he warned that North Korea will not give up its nuclear “self-defense deterrent” unless the United States “fundamentally and irreversibly abandons its hostile policy and nuclear threat” toward the North and dissolves the U.N. Command [and tears down the wall], “and as long as there are nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.”

I’m aware that South Korea currently has no nuclear weapons. It’s possible that the United States maintains one or more nuclear missile launch sites in South Korea. If there are any, they should be removed immediately, without even waiting for any reciprocity. The US has enough deterrent power in reserve, so that keeping nuclear weapons anywhere on the Korean Peninsula is a dangerously stupid and provocative thing for us to do.

In 1962 we gave the same message as Ambassador Sin is giving to us now, to the Soviets when they tried to move missiles into Cuba. Even though the North Koreans don’t have the same “bully pulpit” that John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan had, it’s clear that in this ideological battle they have the moral high ground, and we are in the same position as the Soviets were back then.

When you get past the angry rhetoric, it’s as if the new “dear leader” Kim Jong Un really does want to reunite the two Koreas. It’s abundantly clear that he has no idea how to govern North Korea. It’s probable that he feels a great weight of responsibility for the welfare of the 25 million people who are suffering under an almost nonexistent government, while their South Korean brethren are living good and prosperous lives. If the 38th Parallel wall is removed it’s likely that the dear leader and his top lieutenants will leave the country and retire in Switzerland or Hong Kong or even in Beijing.

If the wall at the 38th Parallel is taken down, the least likely scenario is that hordes of fierce soldiers will invade from the north. This scenario may have been likely in 1953, or even in 1983. It will not happen now, in the twenty-first century. The Korean peninsula has changed. The rest of the world has changed.

China will not feel threatened by having capitalists moving up the peninsula right to their border. They have the same ability to repel cross-border Korean invaders at this time as we have to repel any invasion of North Korea into South Korea. This was not always so. During much of the late twentieth century they needed a buffer zone between South Korea and their national border.

China has been a full participant in the international configuration which has maintained the isolation of North Korea. With their desire for a buffer zone, they can claim no moral superiority over the United States in the matter of the isolation of North Korea. China is much stronger and more confident at this time in history, and no longer needs such a buffer zone.

It is up to the United States to make the first moves to end the isolation of North Korea. We are the strong man in the area, the one the others fear. Our strength is what gives us the ability to act without trepidation at this time in history. China, now also strong, will support us in ending the isolation of North Korea. Now is the time. Let’s tear down the Berlin Wall of the East, and at last end the cold war and move into the twenty-first century.

2 Responses to “The Berlin Wall of the East”

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Some National Borders May Not Mean Much | mcgeehome - March 7, 2014

    […] We aren’t going to belabor the point about the need for the two Koreas to erase their recent and only “mythical” border. This is because we’ve already written a long discussion of this issue, which can be found at:  https://mcgeepost.com/2013/07/09/the-berlin-wall-of-the-east/ […]

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