Time for a cir­cuit breaker on Korean penin­sula

The New Zealand Herald - - EDITORIAL & LETTERS - David Steven­son David Steven­son is a free­lance writer in Welling­ton.

Most peo­ple are un­aware of the num­ber of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties which were in­flicted on the peo­ple of North Korea dur­ing the Korean War which lasted from June 1950 un­til July 1953.

The al­lies in that war (United States, United King­dom, Turkey, In­dia, France, Greece, Ethiopia, the Philip­pines, Thai­land, South Africa, the Nether­lands, Swe­den, Nor­way, Den­mark, Canada, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and of course South Korea) are re­spon­si­ble for the drop­ping of 635,000 tons of bombs in­clud­ing 32,557 tons of na­palm on 78 cities, towns and vil­lages of North Korea. This com­pares with 503,000 tons of bombs dropped by the US in the en­tire Pa­cific war which in­cluded the bomb­ing of Ja­pan.

Ac­cord­ing to Gen­eral Cur­tis LeMay, this bomb­ing killed 20% of the North Korean pop­u­la­tion. Ac­cord­ing to some ac­counts only two modern build­ings were left stand­ing in the North Korean cap­i­tal, Py­ongyang. Take a mo­ment to think about the con­se­quences of hav­ing your city or town bombed in this man­ner. Noth­ing like this in­ten­sity of bomb­ing was in­flicted on the peo­ple of Ger­many and Ja­pan dur­ing World War II.

I think it is ar­guable that the long term ef­fect of this or­deal by blast and fire on the psy­che of the peo­ple of North Korea could be sim­i­lar to the ef­fect the holo­caust had on the psy­che of Jewish sur­vivors of the holo­caust and Jews in gen­eral.

Jewish peo­ple were en­ti­tled to think that the world had aban­doned them once and one of the rea­sons Is­rael de­vel­oped nu­clear weapons was to cover the pos­si­bil­ity that the world could aban­don them again. It is en­tirely un­der­stand­able that af­ter their or­deal by blast and fire that the North Kore­ans felt sim­i­larly vul­ner­a­ble and this ex­plains why they have been pre­pared to suf­fer great ma­te­rial de­pri­va­tion to en­able them to develop nu­clear weapons.

It is im­por­tant to note al­though the Amer­i­can Air Force car­ried out most of this bomb­ing it was a com­bined de­ci­sion of the com­bat­ants in­volved which au­tho­rised it. All of the coun­tries men­tioned above share the re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In the in­ter­ests of pro­vid­ing a cir­cuit breaker in the cur­rent stand-off be­tween North Korea and the United States could

The state of re­la­tions be­tween North Korea and the United States has been pushed to a new level of se­ri­ous­ness by Pres­i­dent Trump’s ir­re­spon­si­ble com­ment that the present pe­riod is the “calm be­fore the storm”.

now be the time for the Korean War com­bat­ants on the side of South Korea to is­sue a for­mal ex­pres­sion of re­gret for what hap­pened to the peo­ple of North Korea as a re­sult of the bomb­ing cam­paign?

The pur­pose of this ex­pres­sion of re­gret would be to com­mu­ni­cate to the peo­ple of North Korea that the world does now have an un­der­stand­ing of the or­deal they suf­fered. Many coun­tries, not just the com­bat­ants against North Korea, would al­most cer­tainly be pre­pared to join in the ex­pres­sion sym­pa­thy for the North Korean peo­ple. This could be the first step in a path­way to some sort of in­de­pen­dent me­di­a­tion process be­tween North Korea and the United States.

The state of re­la­tions be­tween North Korea and the United States has been pushed to a new level of se­ri­ous­ness by Pres­i­dent Trump’s ir­re­spon­si­ble com­ment that the present pe­riod is the “calm be­fore the storm”.

For­tu­nately the North Kore­ans have not been goaded by this bla­tant provo­ca­tion into any rash ac­tion. But the fact Pres­i­dent Trump is pre­pared to make such a risky and ill-judged com­ment in­di­cates it is time for the com­mu­nity of sen­si­ble na­tions (which nor­mally in­cludes the United States) to show some ini­tia­tive in re­solv­ing a cri­sis.

The first ac­tion of the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment should be to seek sup­port at the United Na­tions for the kind of cir­cuit breaker process which could bring about me­di­a­tion and hope­fully res­o­lu­tion on the Korean Penin­sula.

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