Since peace started to break out in Korea last June, the United
States has responded only with bitter carping. The U.S. does everything
it can to produce a peace treaty--any treaty--between the Israelis and
the Palestinians, but it downplays steps toward reconciliation between
North and South Korea.
The United States still keeps 37,000 combat troops in South Korea. The
South Korean people have become so irritated with the continued American
presence in their country that the U.S. 8th Army has ordered U.S. troops
and their dependents to use the "buddy system" when leaving their bases
in order to prevent assaults on them.
North Korea is the United States' dream boogeyman, its justification
for bases in South Korea and Japan and the most frequently cited reason
why we need a national missile defense system. Rep. Christopher Cox
(R-Newport Beach) has said that if the Republicans are elected, there
would be an end to the offered rapprochement with the North. This would
preserve the huge vested interests of the Pentagon and defense industry
in keeping the Cold War alive in East Asia.
On Tuesday at Frankfurt Airport in Germany, a 15-member delegation
from North Korea was en route to the United Nations Millennium Summit.
The delegates had completed departure procedures and were about to board
an American Airlines flight to New York when people the North Koreans
referred to as "U.S. air security agents" stopped them. The Koreans said
that after searching the delegates' baggage, the agents searched "every
sensitive part of the body." When they came to the head of the North
Korean delegation, Kim Yong Nam, who is also head of North Korea's
Assembly, the North Koreans balked. The Koreans say the agents canceled
their reservations to prevent them from departing. The delegation then
canceled its trip and returned to North Korea.
The U.S. later offered as an explanation that North Korea was one of
eight "rogue nations" (now called "states of concern") designated by the
U.S. State Department and that the delegates had to undergo U.S.-defined
search procedures to board a U.S. flag carrier.
North Korea is a member of the United Nations, and the delegation held
visas to enter the U.S. as well as invitations to a reception hosted by
President Clinton. It was expected that Kim Yong Nam would meet with
South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in New York. It would have been the
highest-level meeting between the two Koreas since Kim's journey to North
Korea last June, which opened a peace process that has both sides
declaring that "the threat of war on the Korean peninsula is over."
After the hassle at the airport, the North Korean deputy foreign
minister, Choe Su Hon, said the airport incident was intended to derail
the meeting between the two Korean leaders and frustrate the Korean
peoples' desire to reunify their country.
In Pyongyang, North Korea asserted that "the U.S. will come to know
what a dear price it will have to pay for having hurt our people's
dignity" and that the United States' "hostile policy toward the DPRK
[North Korea] has not changed even a bit." In Seoul, even the
conservative English-language daily, Korea Times, demanded that
Washington apologize and rejected its explanation that this was an
The Clinton administration waffled. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart
said, "It was a combination of unfamiliarity with our procedures
[presumably on the part of the North Koreans] and I think some
unfamiliarity on the part there [in Germany] with the delegation coming
through." The State Department's spokesman claimed that "this incident
did not occur at the instigation or with the knowledge of anybody in the
United States government." However, he added that, while diplomats
accredited to the United States or the United Nations are exempt from
searches, "this delegation did not qualify for that exemption."
This incident in Germany appears to be the diplomatic equivalent of
the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade--an outrageous act
explained by the flimsiest of excuses.
Chalmers Johnson's Latest Book Is "Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire" (Metropolitan Books, 2000).
Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times