A person in a suit walking in front of military vehicles

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South Korean President Yoon Seok Yeol, center, looks around military vehicles following South Korea-U.S. joint military drill at Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon, South Korea, on June 15, 2023. [Source: wsws.org]

Exemplifies serious war crisis whose roots are being twisted in the U.S. media

In early April, the United States and South Korea conducted joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan near the coast of Pohang, 262 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

The exercise—in which the U.S. dispatched an expeditionary sea base along with two other naval ships and MH-52 helicopters—was designed to counter maritime security threats and involved practicing mine counter-measures against North Korea.

The US and South Korea conducted exercises in the Sea of Japan (photo: Getty Images)
U.S.-South Korea maritime drills in the Sea of Japan in April 2024. [Source: msn.com]

The Sea of Japan exercise was followed up by a joint U.S.-South Korea naval exercise off the coast of Jeju Island, site of a major massacre during the Korean War, in which the U.S. deployed the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, and two Aegis destroyers, as part of an attempt to “improve joint operability against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.”

Around the same time, the U.S. and South Korean Air Forces were carrying out drills out of the U.S.’s Kunsan Air Base outside of Seoul, 198 kilometers from the North Korean border (and 950 kilometers from Beijing) involving 25 different war planes and 100 aircraft in total.[1]

A month earlier, the U.S. and South Korea conducted one of their largest overall drills, the Freedom Shield exercises, involving tens of thousands of troops that involved the participation of 11 other countries, including the United Kingdom and the Philippines.

A collage of military equipment

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[Source: youtube.com]

According to Hyunhwee Yi, Ph.D. in International Politics and Research Fellow at Korea National University of Education, the U.S. and South Korea are scheduled to carry out a whopping 130 joint military exercises this year.

Hyunhwee Yi [Source: Photo Courtesy of Hyunhwee Yi]

These exercises send a powerful signal to North Korea and to China that the U.S. and South Korea are planning for war, though the U.S. and Western media spin it that North Korea is a primary threat and that its missile tests are triggering the heightening of tensions.[2]

The Associated Press reported in early April that “tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest in years, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dialing up his weapons demonstrations, which have included more powerful missiles aimed at the U.S. mainland and U.S. targets in the Pacific. The United States, South Korea and Japan have responded by expanding their combined military training and sharpening their deterrence strategies built around strategic U.S. assets.”

The bias in this account is that it makes it seem like Kim Jong Un was the one to provoke the escalation of tension through his missile tests and that the U.S., South Korea and Japan were forced to respond.

North Korean cruise missile test. This test was depicted in U.S. and Western media as provocative and a manifestation of the North Korean threat—not responsive to U.S.-South Korean actions. [Source: nbcnews.com]

The latter view is reinforced by omitting any discussion of the U.S.’s destruction of North Korean cities during the Korean War (1950-1953) in a massive bombing campaign, and South Korea’s abandonment of the “sunshine policy” promoting peaceful rapprochement under South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

B-26 bombing attack over North Korea during the Korean War. [Source: uso.org]

In an exclusive interview with CovertAction Magazine, Hyunhwee Yi expressed his belief that the U.S. may have interfered in South Korea’s 2022 election to ensure the election of Yoon Seok-Youl, a neo-conservative hardliner branded by the RAND Corporation as the “perfect partner of Joe Biden.”[3]

Hyunhwee said that “when Yoon Suk Yeol was Prosecutor General in South Korea, American FBI and CIA officials came to Korea and met with Yoon Suk Yeol. Then, strangely enough, even though he had no political experience, he ran for president and was elected.”

Yoon Suk Yeol playing “American Pie” with Joe Biden at a White House State Dinner in April 2023. [Source: au.sports.yahoo.com]

Hyunhwee continued: “As soon as Yoon Suk Yeol became president, he strictly followed the will of the United States. Yoon declared North Korea, China, and Russia to be evil forces and abandoned diplomacy completely. Then, military tensions on the Korean Peninsula began exploding. Yoon also completely abandoned economic exchanges with China and Russia. 

Many South Korean companies that were doing well in China and Russia have pulled out in droves. This was also a faithful fulfillment of the U.S. policy of containing China and Russia.  

Consequently, the Korean economy is sinking without end.” 

As a further example of close South Korean-U.S. cooperation under Yoon’s regime, Hyunhwee said that Han Dong-hoon, Yoon’s closest associate, visited the FBI when he was Minister of Justice. Han was the chairman of the ruling party in the recent National Assembly election.

At the end of the interview, Hyunhwee raised concern that, “if war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, China will have no choice but to participate. As you know well, China also participated in the Korean War that broke out in 1950. Just like Russia’s participation in the Ukraine War, China’s participation is what the United States wants. If war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, the possibility of nuclear war is very high. In that case, humanity will fall into a catastrophe.”[4] 

New Cold War Sending Tremors in Northeast Asia

A new report released by the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, a left-wing think tank offering a perspective on world events from the Global South, shows that the perilous situation in the Koreas is part of a continent wide phenomenon triggered by the U.S. military buildup in Southeast Asia and bellicose policies towards China.

Released on May 21, the Tricontinental report is titled “The New Cold War is Sending Tremors Throughout Northeast Asia.”

Along with the derailing of the peace process in Korea, the report warned about Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s pledge to double military spending by 2027, about the looming threat of conflict between China and Taiwan as a result of the U.S. of transforming Taiwan into a heavily armed “porcupine,” and of a region-wide arms race now developing.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a U.S. fighter-jet. [Source: independent.co.uk]

The authors wrote that the U.S. trilateral military partnership with Japan and South Korea was “approaching a level of commitment akin to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)” and could result in Japan and South Korea being dragged into a U.S.-China conflict.

The disastrous policy course was initiated by the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” policy, which aimed to place 60% of U..S warships in the Asia-Pacific by 2020 and revitalize U.S. military bases.

The pivot was enacted despite the fact that at its 18th National Congress in 2012, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) laid out a foreign policy that sought to create “‘a new type of great power relations’ in which China’s ‘peaceful rise’ would not confront the United States frontally.”

[Source: seekingalpha.com]

Besides the huge military buildup, Obama pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement favoring U.S. corporate investors that excluded China.

Obama’s policies have been expanded upon by the Trump and Biden administrations, which have substituted the TPP for a trade war directed against China that aims to ensure that China never becomes an economic peer of the U.S., to quote Pentagon official Jon Bateman.

To accomplish these latter ends, Biden has sought to restrict China’s access to cutting-edge semiconductors (a linchpin of the Fourth Industrial Revolution) and related technologies while pressuring leaders in the semiconductor industry such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Netherlands to enact similar restrictions.

According to the authors’ of the Tricontinental report, U.S. policy in Northeast Asia follows a pattern of continuity from the original Cold War where the U.S. fueled regional divisions as it tried to contain Communist China and secure a chain of military bases that had been acquired in the Pacific War.

The main hope for today lies in grassroots social movements in Northeast Asia that are working to undo the U.S.-driven system of military alliances and the broader trend of militarisation

Peace activists in Okinawa, which houses 74% of Japan’s military bases (on just 1% of Japan’s land), are leading the way in their opposition to the U.S. military which has devastated the local environment. These activists may yet help inspire a broader movement against the U.S. empire in Southeast Asia, which, contrary to popular illusions, has been as violent and exploitative as past colonial empires.

  1. At present, there are approximately 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, which also fields its own huge, heavily armed military of around 500,000 active troops.

  2. The Associated Press reported on April 11 that North Korea had announced testing of a “super-large” cruise missile warhead and a new anti-aircraft missile in a western coastal area as it expands military capabilities in the face of deepening tensions with the United States and South Korea.

  3. One manifestation of the perfect partnership was South Korea’s agreement under Yoon to provide $2.1 billion in low interest loans to the Ukrainian government.

  4. In April, officials from the U.S. Defense Department and the South Korean Defense Ministry held their 24th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue in Washington in which they agreed to hold a tabletop exercise on nuclear weapon planning concurrently for the first time with the upcoming Ulchi Freedom Shield war games in August. The decision is part of the growing nuclear weapon cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea. At their summit last year, Presidents Joe Biden and Yoon Suk Yeol agreed to establish the Nuclear Consultative Group to give Seoul a larger role in how U.S. nuclear weapons are used. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko has expressed grave concern over the escalation of tensions in Korea. He emphasized that the main cause of this was the irresponsible and provocative policy of Washington, which, in pursuit of its own geopolitical interests, is pressing its regional allies to carry out its aggressive plans that could have unpredictable consequences, including in the military area.

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  1. In reference to the following comment:
    According to Hyunhwee Yi, Ph.D. in International Politics and Research Fellow at Korea National University of Education, the U.S. and South Korea are scheduled to carry out a whopping 130 joint military exercises this year.

    But on Hyunhwee Yi’s facebook page he posted the following sentence on June 15
    According to Lee Hyun-wook, a PhD in International Politics at Korean Teachers’ University, the United States and Korea are planning to carry out 130 joint military exercises this year.


    • The so-called relationship between China, Russia, North Korea and Iran is doomed to fail. You cannot have 4 bullies on the same playground without mayhem

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