‘Pine Gap hardwires us into any North Korea nuclear conflict’

p2357-richard-tanter-1-copyLETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – Whether we like it or not, Australia would be dragged into a conflict on the Korean Peninsula because of the critical role of Pine Gap in US military operations against North Korea.

 

The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap will play a critical role in both conventional and nuclear-armed US attacks on North Korea.

 

Pine Gap hardwires Australia into US combat operations in Northeast Asia. Pine Gap’s tasking will now be very actively focussed on North Korea.

 

Given the geography of Korea and the decades of military preparations of both sides we could become a participant in a war likely to result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Koreans, with a high likelihood of uncontrollable escalation to involve regional conflict.

 

Informed commentators recognize that there is no military solution to this conflict, and talking is the only option to avoid unimaginable horror.

 

Difficult though it is to negotiate with North Korea, there is good reason to believe that its leaders are not bent on suicide. There are indications that negotiations could be possible, but they need to be genuine to have any chance of avoiding war.

 

The Australian government’s strategic response has for a long time been compliance with whatever constitutes United States policy of the day.

 

In the hands of President Trump, this places the future of both the Korean Peninsula and Australia in the hands of a deeply delusional narcissist who is incapable of comprehending the consequences of his actions.

 

The logic of nuclear weapons, epitomized by the United States’ nuclear posture, and fully supported by compliant Australian governments, has led to North Korea’s successful path to nuclear weapons state status.

 

Its goal has clearly been to deter US from attempting regime change, rather than suicidal nuclear aggression.

 

It is time for Australia to take an independent stance urging the utmost caution on its nuclear-armed ally as well as on North Korea, and actively oppose any action leading to what would be a catastrophic outbreak of war.

 

But equally, the present crisis makes clear that doctrines of nuclear deterrence – by any country – hold the whole world to ransom, with deterrence failure inevitable in the long run.

 

It is clear that only the abolition of nuclear weapons will offer any chance of planetary safety. The Australian government’s craven acceptance of US demands that its allies boycott the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons adopted at the United Nations indicates that we have no independent foreign policy.

 

Professor Richard Tanter

Senior research associate at the Nautilus Institute and honorary professor in the School of Political and Social Sciences at Melbourne University.

 

 

 

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5 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Kathryn
    Posted August 12, 2017 at 10:16 am

    In response to Greg and John, former Australian Ambassadors to North Korea have indicated that North Korea can be negotiated with. No-one is saying that North Korea is not also a disastrous regime, but the current path to war is not the only way of dealing with the situation.
    The following is a bit long, but worth reading.

    Former Ambassador Richard Broinowski says “The first is that North Korea is determined to have nuclear weapons, so negotiating is an exercise in futility.”
    Well, no. Pyongyang has said many times that it would dismantle its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a written pledge that the US won’t attack it, attempt to overthrow it, or impede its economic development through sanctions on trade and investment.
    Between bombastic statements threatening Japan, South Korea and the United States with condign nuclear punishment, Pyongyang still offers this compromise, even though no one in the West appears to be listening.
    The second inexactitude is that after 1994, Washington kept its word while Pyongyang cheated.
    But for six years after 1994, Pyongyang froze its plutonium extraction, paused its nascent uranium enrichment program, allowed American technicians to come to Yongpyon to remove and safely store irradiated fuel rods from its only research reactor, and halted construction work on two other reactors.
    But back in Washington the Republicans gained control of Congress days after the Agreed Framework was signed.
    Clinton backpedalled, not wanting to take them on, especially Jesse Helms, the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Defence Committee.
    Bunker oil shipments had been promised while the reactors were built, but were not delivered on time or at all, and the concrete and steel mats for the reactors were only poured in August 2002, hopelessly behind schedule for what was promised to be a 2003 start-up.
    Nor did the United States live up to its pledge in Article II of the Agreed Framework to “move towards full normalisation of political and economic relations”.
    In disgust Pyongyang sent the technicians packing, walked away from the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and its membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and resumed its nuclear weapons program.

    This and other informed comment can be found on the blog “Pearls and Irritations” – very well worth reading for a more informed understanding of a host of issues.

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  2. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says if North Korea launches an attack on the United States, Australia will join the conflict.
    But nothing to do with Pine Gap.

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  3. Ralph
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    The professor is 100% correct.
    The US base on our doorstep enables missiles to be targetted.
    We are part of the nuclear war fighting machine that could devastate any country that the US goes to war with.
    So naturally, Pine Gap is a prime target of such a country.
    The weapon of choice is a nuclear warhead that would kill most of us sooner or later.
    Many of us support the US but does that have to extend to being a nuclear target?
    It is not practical to try to abolish the base but surely it could be moved far from any population centre.

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  4. John Bell
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Professor Tranter’s academic qualifications in politics and social sciences are duly acknowledged.
    However, a few assertions beg clarification. The Prof asserts: “The logic of nuclear weapons, epitomized by the United States’ nuclear posture, and fully supported by compliant Australian governments, has led to North Korea’s successful path to nuclear weapons state status.”
    Is the Prof saying it is all Uncle Sam’s fault that North Korea is developing nuclear warheads? (A few other nuclear Great Satans come immediately to mind eg North Korea’s next door neighbour China, Russia et al. Then there are all those others …Iran …)
    The Prof asserts: “In the hands of President Trump, this places the future of both the Korean Peninsula and Australia in the hands of a deeply delusional narcissist who is incapable of comprehending the consequences of his actions.”
    Is the Prof suggesting that The Donald has taken over Kim Jong-un’s mantle as the world’s number one nutter, or is he actually saying that Kim Jong-un deep down is a good guy, a rational good bloke who can be reasoned with, not a deeply delusional narcissist who has lost his biscuits?
    The Prof asserts: “Difficult though it is to negotiate with North Korea, there is good reason to believe that its leaders are not bent on suicide.”
    The UN and everyone else has long ago given up trying to reason with North Korea’s crazy family dictatorship, with the UN forced to issue threats and sanctions that aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
    Does the Prof really believe that Kim Jong-un is not a nutter, not bent on going the whole nine yards to oblivion as he has so often ranted and threatened? Does the Prof know something that the rest of the world doesn’t?
    Or is the Prof perhaps a Baby Boomer who simply grew up politically on the Whitlamesque Left doctrine that Uncle Sam has been the Great Satan of the democratic world since WW2, and set out on an academic career path to enforce his political leanings?
    Yes? No?

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  5. Greg Latency
    Posted August 11, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Why does this nut-job even get airplay? Ranting, thinly veiled under pseudo-academic double-speak. The leaps of “logic” are almost breathtaking.
    Australia won’t be dragged anywhere. We have strong ties with the US and will support them in the same way they support us.
    “Informed commentators” indeed. Who are they? Dick’s mates at the pub?

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