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Date: Sun, 20 Apr 97 19:44:12 CDT
From: Workers World <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Pentagon war threat against food-short north Korea
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Apr. 24, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper

Pentagon bullying: war threats against food-short North Korea

By John Catalinotto, Workers World, 24 April 1997

Following reports of widespread hunger in north Korea, top U.S. military officials went right to that country’s border in early April to flaunt the Pentagon’s power. They not only vowed to hold back food aid but raised a threat of U.S. military force. Japan’s foreign minister also said Tokyo would withhold food.

The food shortages in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea have grown life-threatening following two consecutive years of major floods. United Nations officials say the DPRK told relief agencies in Pyongyang that 134 children had died of malnutrition due to the food crisis. International food experts estimate that the DPRK must import 2.3 million tons of grain this year to avert starvation.

Apparently, only the efforts of the socialist DPRK government to share food equally have prevented greater loss of life. U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, who toured the DPRK April 4-7, said, The government is trying to do everything it can to give everybody a little food.

Hall, who is reputed to be an expert on hunger, reported widespread food shortages among civilians and soldiers alike in the DPRK. What the world has promised and committed to as far as food for north Korea is not enough—it’s not even close, the Ohio Democrat said.

One might think Hall’s words would increase sympathy for the DPRK. But if his report had any impact on the Pentagon and the Clinton administration, it was only to harden Washington’s resolve to exploit the suffering of the Korean people and raise its demands on Pyongyang.

Defense Secretary William Cohen and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. John Shalikashvili were in south Korea on separate visits April 8-11. They used the trip to point weapons to the north.

Cohen accused Pyongyang of preparing for war and warned that the U.S. could inflict overwhelming damage and defeat on the DPRK.

The defense secretary tried to discourage others from sending food aid unless the DPRK virtually surrenders by dismantling its military defenses. At the same time Cohen insisted Washington would keep its 37,000 troops in south Korea—along with 47,000 in Okinawa and Japan and 16,000 at sea in the region—even if there were peace in Korea and the north and south were united.

Shalikashvili joined in on the cold-blooded attack, accusing the DPRK of increasing its flying time for fighter pilots and keeping its military on the ready. Why are they spending their resources on this kind of military exercising? he asked.

The cynical U.S. general knows that annual joint U.S.-south Korea war games involve hundreds of thousands of troops, a U.S. armada of ships and planes armed with nuclear weapons and a constant danger of attack on the north.

Washington has been pushing for four-way talks involving the DPRK, the U.S., China and south Korea, supposedly to end the 47-year declared state of war with the DPRK. But the U.S. is using both war threats and the food shortages to try to squeeze the maximum in concessions from the DPRK, which has maintained its socialist system despite the adverse international situation.

Kim Yong Chun, chief of staff of the DPRK People’s Army, answered the Pentagon’s accusations by pointing out that the launching mechanism for a northward invasion is already in place. He also answered the threats, saying, We do not want war, but we are not afraid of war. It is our sacred independent right to take strong measures against those provoking war.