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Vol. 81/No. 12      March 27, 2017

(front page)

US-led war games in SKorea exacerbate tensions in Asia

In a move that increased tensions over the Korean Peninsula, Washington rejected a March 8 proposal by the Chinese government that the U.S. and South Korean governments suspend their joint military maneuvers in the region in exchange for an end to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons program — a proposal previously put forward by Pyongyang.

There are currently 3,600 U.S. troops and 300,000 South Korean soldiers taking part in the annual “Foal Eagle” maneuvers, which include practicing the decapitation of North Korea’s leaders.

“The two sides are like two accelerating trains coming towards each other with neither side willing to give way,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media. “The question is, are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision? Given the situation, our priority now is to flash the red light and apply brakes on both trains.”

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, responded that talks with Pyongyang were out of the question because North Korean President Kim Jong Un is not a “rational” person. “We’re not ruling anything out,” she said, threatening North Korea, “and we’re considering every option that’s on the table.”

Seoul and Tokyo, following Washington’s lead, also dismissed Beijing’s proposal. The Japanese government is on a drive to upgrade the fighting capacity of its military, raising its military budget in 2017 for the fifth year in a row. The $44 billion expenditure, the highest since World War II, is justified as “tensions increase with China over disputed islands in the East China Sea and North Korea’s missile tests get ever closer to the island nation’s coasts,” reported UPI.

Underneath the spreading tensions in the Far East is competition between the expanding economic reach of Beijing and the declining power of Washington, which still remains the dominant imperialist power worldwide.

Particularly sharp is rivalry over trade lanes in the South China Sea — routes that carry $5 trillion in sea-borne trade each year. All of the capitalist regimes in the region — from Japan to Vietnam and the Philippines — are vying for a place at the table.

In response to the U.S.-South Korea maneuvers, Pyongyang on March 6 launched four missiles that they claimed had the capacity to hit seven U.S. military bases in Japan where 54,000 soldiers are stationed. The missiles landed 200 miles off the Japanese coast.

The same day Washington began installing a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, anti-ballistic missile system at a U.S. Army base 45 miles south of Seoul. Beijing demanded the installation be halted, saying its range endangered the sovereignty of China.

In retaliation, Beijing, Seoul’s main trading partner, shut down a chain of South Korean-owned stores and threatened further steps.

The instability in the region was deepened when South Korea’s Constitutional Court unanimously upheld the legislature’s impeachment of President Park Geun-hye in a corruption scandal and removed her from office.

Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans had protested week after week for her ouster. A top official of Samsung, the country’s largest corporate empire, has been indicted in the scandal.

Moon Jae-in, a leader of the opposition Democratic Party, leads in polls on who will be elected president. He opposes the deployment of the THAAD system, saying it “has dragged the country into the dangerous and growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing,” according to the New York Times March 9.
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US troops out of Middle East, Asia!
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