At the same time, he seeks to widen sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a conflict rooted in Washington’s division of the Korean Peninsula and unremitting hostility to the North, which handed the U.S. rulers their first military defeat in 1953.
The challenge before the U.S. rulers is to find ways to work with Beijing and others in the region as Washington — still the strongest world imperialist power by far — is declining.
At stake is sustaining relations and trade with long time U.S. allies that are increasingly drawn into relations with China as its economic clout grows. As part of sharp shifts away from priorities that shaped the actions — and inactions — of the administrations of both Barack Obama and George W. Bush, the White House has downgraded promotion of “human rights.” Trump sees such policies as an obstacle to defense of Washington’s economic interests.
Trump’s decision to invite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for talks in Washington drew a howl of criticism from the liberal media and Democratic Party politicians, who focused on the Duterte government’s involvement in the killing of thousands in his war on drugs. Administration officials defended the invitation as a move to get a U.S. ally back on board.
Duterte has tried to play Washington and Beijing off against each other to make space for Philippine capitalist interests. And he has scaled back joint military exercises and limited U.S. access to military bases, steps Washington would like to reverse.
Following his decision to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a move welcomed by Beijing, Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Among other topics, he sought collaboration in increasing pressure on the DPRK. In deference to Beijing, Washington has paused “freedom of navigation” exercises by the U.S. Navy around disputed areas in the South China Sea.
Beijing has stepped up pressure on Pyongyang to back off threatened nuclear tests. This led to an unusual public rebuke by the government’s Korean Central News Agency, charging Beijing is “dancing to the tune of the U.S.”
Trump has also put together the strongest foreign policy and military leadership team for the U.S. rulers in decades, based on a layer of experienced military brass and businessmen. He is moving to implement what he campaigned for — a stronger military as a standing threat, combined with moves to forge alliances and increase trade to get results for the propertied rulers while minimizing shooting wars. The administration’s missile attack on a Syrian military base had the same goal.
The Pentagon announced a plan to increase naval spending by $8 billion in the Pacific region May 7. Beijing has sharply expanded its military in recent years, but it can’t begin to match Washington’s firepower.
As Washington seeks to hold onto its domination of the region, it confronts the Korean people’s 70-year-long aspirations for reunification of their country. U.S. forces occupied Korea, trying to turn back a revolutionary struggle that spread across the peninsula and then waged a devastating war from 1950 to 1953. But Washington failed to roll back the overturn of capitalist property relations in the North and open the door to placing its military on the border of China.
North Korea has faced sanctions from Washington and the U.N. since its first nuclear test in 2006.
Seeking to mollify Beijing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear April 28 that Washington has no interest in war in Korea. “We do not seek regime change, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula,” he said.
And Washington is considering further sanctions on North Korea that will continue to fall most harshly on working people, restricting money earned by North Koreans working abroad going back to the DPRK.
Elections in South Korea
Washington will now face a new government in South Korea, ending nine years of conservative rule. Incoming Democratic Party President Moon Jae-in favors collaboration with North Korea and rediscussing the deployment of Washington’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, or THAAD, in South Korea.
However, Washington has been able to overcome shifts in emphasis by previous liberal governments and found ways to collaborate to pursue its interests.
The elections were held as workers in South Korea face carnage millions around the world know only too well: high levels of youth unemployment with more and more young people forced to stay with their parents; growing numbers of workers of all ages working temporary contract jobs; and low wages and mandatory workdays of 14 hours or more. South Korea’s aging population has one of the world’s highest rates of elderly poverty levels.
Because of the capitalist economic crisis bearing down on working people, youth in South Korea began calling themselves the “3 Give-Up Generation” — unable to date, marry or raise children. Today they say they face 5 Give-Ups, adding on the inability to get a permanent job or their own place to live.