DISCUSSIONS in New York between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and General Kim Yong Chol revive hopes of progress towards a reduction of tension and the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Over recent weeks North Korea has made consistent attempts to keep discussions on track and to enhance confidence-building measures.
But there should be no illusions about the underlying threats to world peace — or that they result from a dangerous brinkmanship by the United States.
The previous 1994 Accord between the North and the Clinton administration was torpedoed by the incoming Bush administration and more specifically by Dick Cheney and John Bolton, Trump’s current security adviser.
The Accord provided food and energy in return for a moratorium on plutonium enhancement. Bush scrapped it and imposed crippling new economic sanctions.
The foreign policy perspectives of the Bush administration had been developed in the Project for a New American Century, jointly authored by Cheney.
This asked how the global supremacy of the US established in the 20th century could be maintained into the 21st in face of the growing economic and military power of China, the European Union and Japan.
Its main answer was remilitarisation. Nato allies would be bound into a series of interventions against an “axis of evil,” integrating them far more closely into a military alliance on US terms that would extend from Europe into central Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific.
Although the original “Project” may have been forgotten, Trump is continuing these policies in circumstances where the perceived threats to US economic dominance are far greater.
When George W Bush came to power, the US economy was four times the size of China’s. Now it is virtually the same.
China’s exports exceed those of the US by 20 per cent and across the Atlantic Germany exports more to China than the US.
At the same time the position of the US as an international debtor has ballooned. Government debt is double the proportion of GDP it was under Bush. Forty-five per cent of it is held overseas, the biggest shares by China and Japan.
This is equally the case with non-governmental and corporate debt — although here the biggest holdings are in Europe.
This is the real background to Trump’s aggressive foreign policy and his attempts grab back US dominance in world trade through tariffs and sanctions.
Even including the revenue from the continued US dominance of global banking, the US trade deficit ticked up last year from 2.7 per cent to 2.9 per cent of GDP.
US trade sanctions are often multipurpose. Sanctions against Russia, particularly its gas exports, hit Germany, the US’s biggest rival in advanced engineering.
Sanctions against Iran equally hit Germany and France, which over the last two years have virtually monopolised the Iranian market for industrial goods and oil exploration.
The same goes for North Korea. Threats to escalate conflict, and to continue — along with Japan — the militarisation of the Pacific rim, add to the pressure on China to fully open its markets to US goods and to limit competition with the US elsewhere.
These are dangerous policies themselves. Combined with the global expansion of Nato they are very dangerous indeed. Next week Colombia will formally join Nato, the first Latin American state to do so.
Colombia hosts seven major US military bases. It borders Venezuela.
It is therefore high time for Britain’s trade union and labour movement to re-examine its current policy by which Nato membership, and the accompanying commitment to nuclear weapons, remain unquestioned. Trump’s policies demand it.
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