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This past weekend marks a historic moment: the first time a serving US president has stepped foot into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as Donald Trump briefly accompanied Kim Jong-un across the border barrier of the DMZ. This is a continuation of talks that began last year at the Singapore Summit and continued with the Hanoi Summit earlier this year, which ended abruptly without any agreement. However, analyzing this development within the context of current material conditions opens up a few questions.
With capitalist profits stagnating, antagonisms between the imperialist states rising, trade wars intensifying, and the US hawkishly eying Iran and Venezuela, why this apparent step in the opposite direction? Do the US ruling class or Trump now harbour fraternal feelings for the people of the DPRK? Have they given up their predatory ways?
No, of course not! Lenin rightly analysed the diplomatic and trade relations of the imperialist states as a continuation of war by other (especially economic) means, and recognised that peace between the imperialist and anti-imperialist states could only ever be temporary.
With the DPRK’s success in establishing its nuclear arsenal now making direct military engagement difficult, the US has chosen another line of attack. The US is using these conditions imposed upon the DPRK as a bargaining chip and offering to partially retract the knife they have stuck into the back of the DPRK in exchange for concessions and influence. If the US truly wanted peace, it could simply end the economic sanctions and remove the troops it has stationed in the Korean Peninsula.
These talks have nevertheless been a long-term goal of the DPRK. In his 2018 New Year’s Eve address, Kim Jong-un made clear that, with its nuclear ballistic missiles now complete, the immediate plan of the DPRK was to use its statecraft and the upcoming winter Olympics in neighbouring South Korea to bring the US to the bargaining table, and increase diplomacy with the US-aligned South Korean government.
This is a development that should be celebrated by all people everywhere. Peace between the DPRK and the US is the best condition for the working people of both nations. It represents a chance for the DPRK to develop under less obstructed conditions, and it increases the possibility for a reunited Korea.
The US intends to use diplomacy to exert influence through South Korea, a vassal state of the imperialist powers. The DPRK will not lose sight of the fact that the US is their enemy, and that even under peace terms they must resist hostile attempts to subvert their economy.
Even if the peace talks are stalled or cut short by the US, the DPRK’s rise in international standing will provide it with a real opportunity to redevelop relations with South Korea. Talks between the DPRK and the South are ongoing but the recent reconnection of their train lines—which the US failed to sabotage—and shipments of goods between the two countries signal an unprecedented improvement in North-South relations.
This will increase the DPRK’s scope to promote the cause of reunification and socialism with the peoples in the south of the Peninsula, who suffer under a neoliberal régime of massive social inequality and state repression. An anti-imperialist government in the North and rising anti-capitalist sentiments in the South point to a long-term possibility of a reunited socialist Korea.
Solidarity to the DPRK and all the working people of Korea.