In the 64 years since the end of the Korean war, the US has done everything in its power to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on North Korea. Washington has subjected it to starvation,  prevented it from accessing foreign capital and markets, strangled its economy with crippling economic sanctions, and installed lethal missile systems and military bases on their doorstep.

Washington refuses to sit down with a country which it sees as its inferior.  Instead, the US has strong-armed China to do its bidding by using their diplomats as interlocutors who are expected to convey Washington’s ultimatums as threateningly as possible.  They are hoping that Pyongyang will cave in and do the bidding of the Washington-Wall Street Consensus. But North Korea has of yet shown no sign of succumbing to intimidation.They have developed a small arsenal of nuclear weapons to defend themselves if the US tries to assert its dominance by launching another war. The country has not been destroyed and its leader killed like Saddam and Gadhafi because it does not have oil and because it may have the capacity to reduce Seoul, Okinawa and Tokyo to smouldering ruins.

North Korea is a most secretive state, a country of 25 million ruled by a dictatorial dynasty and supporting a hugh army of 1.2 million with 7.7million reserves, though often referred to as being a communist society, it could not be further from such.The country emerged in 1948 liberated from the Japanese by help from Russia in the North and the United States in the south. In the chaos following the end of the Second World War, its history was dominated by Kim Il-sung, who shaped political affairs for almost half a century.

It is important to remember what moulded the modern mind and will of North Korea. In the Korean war in the early 1950s, the US dropped more bombs there than in the entire Pacific theatre during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of the chemical weapon napalm, targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Hundreds of tons of bombs, and incendiary devices were dropped on Pyongyang by the US airforce, causing annihilating fires. The number of inhabitants killed by bomb splinters, burnt alive and suffocated by smoke is incalculable. Only 50,000 remained in the city out of 500,000. Overall the United States killed over 2 million people in a country that posed no threat to US national security. By the autumn of 1952, every town, city and industrial area in North Korea had been bombed. By the spring of 1953, Reservoirs, Irrigation dams, rice crops,  hydroelectric dams, population centres were all razed to the ground. The US couldn’t win the ground war, so they turned the country into an uninhabitable wasteland. Now on the pretext of being threatened by military parades or test firing of unarmed missiles the US is ready to go killing again.

There is, however, a way to end this pointless standoff between Pyongyang and Washington, a way to mend fences and build trust? The first thig is respect and for the USA to follow through on promises. Ex-President Jimmy Carter has stated that North Korea wants the USA to honour its obligations. In September 2005, an agreement reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord which included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. The promise had been to build two light-water reactors to provide heat and light in exchange for an end to the Norths’s nuclear weapons program. Unfortunately, since 2005 no substantive progress has been made.

Relations with the North Korea can be normalised,  economic ties can be strengthened, trust can be restored, and the nuclear threat can be defused. This situation does not have to be a crisis, it can be fixed. It just takes a change in policy, a bit of give-and-take, and leaders that want peace more than war. The Republic of Ireland is ideally placed to play a role in this peace process, The media and government have played a positive role in a recent successful peace process. The country is not a part of any military alliance (ignore Shannon Airport for the moment), we punch above our influential weight in the United States. It just takes a few airline tickets and a hard neck to begin.