Feb 182013

A debate on the desirability or otherwise of NATO membership will be taking place in Aberdeen on Friday, 22nd February. With thanks to Jonathan Russell.

The question of NATO membership became headline news when the SNP decided to overturn their policy for an independent Scotland not to join NATO at their conference in October.

NATO is a military alliance which was set up during the cold war in 1949 but has outlived the Eastern Block.

Since 1991 NATO has conducted military operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya as well as having a training mission in Iraq and deploying warships to protect maritime traffic in from Somali pirates.

Alex Johnstone is a North-East for the Scottish Conservatives and will be speaking in favour of NATO membership.

John Finnie is an independent MSP for the Highlands and Islands region who opposes membership of NATO and resigned from the SNP over their change of policy on NATO.

The debate promises to be both interesting and informative and should get to the heart of whether or not an independent Scotland should be neutral or a member of NATO.

The debate will take place at 7.30pm on Friday 22nd February in room 613 in the MacRobert building at the University of Aberdeen. It is being hosted by the University’s Politics and International Relations Society in partnership with Aberdeen Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

All members of the public are welcome to attend.

Feb 182013

The past year has been a particularly active year for Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament who have broadened their activity on a number of fronts. Jonathan Russell writes.

We now have our own Facebook page which has been putting out related news items on most days with several articles often appearing on the same day.

The amount of information coming out about Trident and nuclear weapons in general has escalated over the past year particularly in relation to the Independence debate.

The information being sent out to those that have signed up to our yahoo groups e-mail list has also increased.

This particularly relates to information being sent out from the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament but also reflects our own activity and information being sent in by individual members.

We have also run a series of articles in Aberdeen Voice, our local alternative on line newspaper, on the effects and Economics of Nuclear Weapons. Aberdeen Voice has also been particularly helpful in advertising our events. We have also had some publicity on STV and in the Evening Express and Press and Journal. The SNP and the Labour Party have both been helpful in circulating information as have the United Nations Association, Aberdeen Against Austerity and the Aberdeen branch of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Our public stall outside Marks and Spencer took place weekly during the warmer months and allowed us considerable interaction with the general public. We also had stalls at an Anti- Racist event at Aberdeen Trades Union Council and at One World week at St Mark’s. Last, but by no means least, we have managed to get letters published in the Press and Journal and Evening Express.

Public Meetings

We continued to have regular meetings on the second Monday of the month and these have included talks on a variety of subjects:

  • Dave Watt gave a talk on nuclear accidents which was published in Aberdeen Voice.
  • Mike Hennessy gave a talk on the nuclear tension between India and Pakistan.
  • Jonathan Russell gave two talks: one on the Arms Trade and the other on Korea and the wider Asia Pacific ,both of which were published by Aberdeen Voice.
  • The main public meeting of the year however was with Bruce Kent, Britain’s most famous peace activist.

The meeting was held at Aberdeen University and hosted by the student/youth United Nations Association.

We also arranged for STV to interview Bruce which was subsequently broadcast on their news program.

Bruce’s visit was part of a wider tour of the East of Scotland co-ordinated by ourselves which also included Inverness, Brechin and Dundee.

  • We had representation at the Annual General Meeting of the Scottish CND and three meetings organised by the local and youth branches of the United Nations Association; one with Des Browne, a former Defence Minister under the Labour Government and now Co-chair of the BASIC Trident Commission, and a meeting with Malcolm Savidge, the former MP for Aberdeen North and Vice-President of the United Nations Society and ONE WITH Alexandra Buskie UNAUK R2 programme officer Alexandra Buskie on ‘The responsibility to protect and the prevention of mass atrocities’. Jonathan and Mike have attended local UNA organising meetings and Mike is now represented on the committee.
  • Members of the group also attended the Scotland for Peace conference at the Scottish Parliament with speakers from Finland, Ireland, England and Scotland.


We continued with our two regular events; the Hiroshima Memorial Day and our Poetry and song night.

Hiroshima Memorial Day

Hiroshima Memorial Day takes place on August 6th, the anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. At the memorial we have a number of speakers, some poetry and songs then a one minute’s silence. Then in a particularly atmospheric gesture, we float 200 candles onto the River Dee, each of which represents 1,000 of the 200,000 people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Speakers included Barney Crockett, Leader of Aberdeen City Council, Kevin Stewart SNP, MSP for Aberdeen Central and Tommy Campbell of the Unite union.

We also had speakers from the Green Party, the United Nations Association, the Quakers and the Aberdeen branch of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Hilda Meer’s poetry was read and Kirsty Potts sang some rousing songs prior to the candles being sent down the river. We have run the event since 2009 and each year the attendance has increased.

Thanks go to all those that helped with the candles and all those who attended this very positive event.

Poetry and song night

This annual event took place at the Quaker meeting house on International Peace Day.  Songs were sung by Kirsty Potts, Dave Davies, Dennis Shepherd and friends and Simon Gall.  Poems were read by members of the group with special thanks going to Hilda Meers both for her poetry reading and for the poems from her recently published poetry book ‘Pathways’ published by Braswick.

New Year Party

We had a very successful New Year 2013 party at Jonathan’s.


A number of member and supports have sent letters to the Ministry of Defence and we encourage others to do so.

We encourage people to sign our petition and to sign up to the ‘No Nuclear Weapons here’ map which is available to sign up to online at naenuclear.org

Looking ahead….

2013 is likely to be an exciting and eventful year:

  •  We have taken the lead in organising a public debate on NATO scheduled for Friday, 22nd February and hosted by Aberdeen University Politics and International Relations Society. The speakers will be John Finnie, one of the two MSPs who resigned from the SNP following their Conference decision to reverse their previous policy of keeping out of NATO. Alex Johnston MSP will speak in favour of NATO on behalf of the Conservatives.
  • Alan MacKinnon of Scottish CND will be one of the speakers at a conference organised by the Politics and International relations society at the University of Aberdeen entitled the ‘Global War Over Resources’ on 6th March.
  • Dr Nick Gotts will be speaking on the nuclear question in relation to Iran at our meeting on Monday, 11th March.

One of the most significant events of the year will be the weekend of action scheduled from Saturday 13th April to Monday 15th April organised by the Scrap Trident Coalition. This will involve the following:

  • National Stop Trident Demonstration on Saturday 13th April
  • Workshops on Trident and non-violent direct action on Sunday 14th April
  • A blockade of Faslane Nuclear weapons base from 7am on Monday 15th April


  • We will be holding our annual Hiroshima Memorial Day on Tuesday, 6th August.
  • We will also hold an event on International Peace Day on September 21st in which we hope to involve a variety of organisations and people
  • Last, and by no means least, we will hold regular stalls outside Marks and Spencer on Saturday afternoons during the summer months.

I would like to thank everyone in whatever way who has participated in the work of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament over the past year. Particular thanks go to Christian Allard for setting up and operating our amazing Facebook page, to Sally Dickson for doing all the minutes and inspiring us to have stalls and to the forever present and diligent Mike Martin.

Jonathan Russell – Chair Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Feb 042013

With thanks to Mike Martin.

Aberdeen And District Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament are holding their Annual General Meeting on Monday, 11th Feb, at The Belmont Cinema.

Christian Allard will lead a discussion on independence, Trident and the way forward for the local group following Scottish CND’s decision to be part of the Yes Scotland campaign for independence.

Options ranging from full participation in the Yes Scotland campaign to no involvement will be discussed.

Everybody welcome!

Venue: Seminar room, Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, AB10 1JS

Date:  7:30pm, Monday, 11th Feb

Website: http://www.cnduk.org/

Contact: Jonathan on 07582-456-233

Nov 162012

Aberdeen Voice presents the last of three articles by Jonathan Russell  of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) investigating the nuclear and military build-up and tensions in Korea and the wider Asia Pacific area.

Possibly the single most important and worrying decision of Obama’s first presidential term was to move 60% of US naval assets plus other military personnel to the Asia Pacific area by 2020.
Obviously linked to shifts in military resources from Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan, this development is the principal reason bilateral relations between the US and China are at their lowest point since Obama came to power.


That said, the possibilities following the re-election of Obama are certainly preferable to what may have unfolded under Romney. The latter’s insistence on naming China as a currency manipulator might well have increased tensions between the two countries.

One key issue is that, while the US has huge debts and could face economic meltdown, its military might continues to dominate the world. We now face a scenario where, on one hand, US allies in Asia Pacific have huge military budgets while, on the other, China is now the second biggest global military spender. This is a situation as unsustainable as it is absurd.

  • Current US debt is more than $16 trillion — the country is facing bankruptcy
  • Conflict over this continues between the Democratic Presidency/Senate and the Republican Congress.
  • Popular belief is that most of this debt is held by China. In fact, the biggest debt (one third) relates to surpluses in social security, unemployment benefit, disability, federal employer’s pensions and hospital insurance.
  • Though the US owes similar figures to Japan ($1.1 trillion) and China ($1.16 trillion), the US media often lumps these together and quotes the Chinese debt as $3 trillion, giving US citizens a false perception that China is somehow largely responsible for their fiscal difficulties.
  • Meanwhile, annual world military spending of $1,735 billion continues to explode, the US spending $711 billion this year alone.
  • China is now the second highest global spender on the military ($143 billion), almost double that of third-placed Russia on $71.9 billion.
  • In Asia Pacific, Japan ($59.3 billion) is the world’s 6th highest spender; South Korea ($ 30.8 billion) comes in at number 12, followed by Australia on $26.7 billion.

One US think tank suggests that as US debt equals its military spending, the way to reduce the deficit is to withdraw from its international military role.

While huge sums are spent on the military, international aid has fallen rapidly to $114 billion, much of this awarded to recession-hit western countries or used to boost western sales in the third world. Unfortunately, much aid is wasted funding large-scale corruption and high consultancy bills.

US defence department study The US force posture strategy in the Asia Pacific was presented to Congress in July. Co-author Michael J Green explained:

“An underlying weakness in the strategy is that it focuses on the US military in Asia in isolation from diplomacy, trade policy and other non-military elements of government that are just as important in maintaining influence in the region. The defence establishment meanwhile continues to see US/China issues in binary terms as it did during the cold war against the Soviets.” 

Concerns across Asia about the US military shift in the region were further fuelled by the US launching an air-sea battle exercise focused on fighting emerging powers. Green warned against overestimating China’s military despite its rapid growth, pointing to China’s huge vulnerability due to its dependence on sea lines.

China is now questioning the sincerity of the US role in stabilising Asia. Given their strong security ties to the US, China regards Japan, South Korea and the Philippines as US proxies and is consequently investing considerably more of its resources into military spending, at the same time reaching out to the US through diplomatic channels.

Following a meeting between a US deputation including Hilary Clinton and China (as reported on September 12) Councillor Doi Binggu stated:

“Major powers like China and the US should focus their Asia Pacific policies and interactions on regional peace, development and cooperation. China and the US cannot tread an old path of conflict and confrontation.”  

The Chinese do not have a history of invasion outside what they see as China. The US has considerable form in such matters. The emerging country also faces internal conflicts which, added to the massive task of sustaining its own population and dealing with rising inequality and an ageing population, leaves it with little energy to take on the US militarily. Despite this, China’s military continues to grow, largely in response to US military policy.

A recent power struggle has taken place in China. An open letter from a group of leftists asked parliament not to expel disgraced leader Bo Xilia, protesting such a move would be politically motivated. Particularly popular with the poor, Bo Xilia’s demands for social reform were seen as a threat to the current leadership.

  Meanwhile, both countries are meant to be making cuts in their military budgets, the US to the tune of $400 billion

In my last report, I spoke of the Juju island situation in South Korea, where the US wants to build a naval base against strong local opposition.

Japan has a similar conflict on Okinawa, an island annexed in the 19th century that looks across to both China and the Korean peninsula.

The island houses two-thirds of the US army in Japan (currently 26,000 troops), and is the centre of opposition to having Osprey aircraft based in the area.

Ospreys, which take off and land like helicopters but fly like fixed wing aircraft, could be used to attack the Chinese mainland and North Korea. It is reported 80-90% of the local population opposes basing them in Okinawa and a protest involving some 100,000 took place recently. A number of older protestors maintain a constant vigil outside the US base.

Despite Australia’s economic reliance on China, it has also increased its military alliance with the US with a doubling of US troops, primarily in the Darwin area. Meanwhile, both countries are meant to be making cuts in their military budgets, the US to the tune of $400 billion. Policies and budgets are clearly not fitting.

There have been reports of conflicts between China and Japan following the landing on the disputed Diayutai/Senkaku islands of 14 activists from Beijing. The islands, Chinese prior to WWII but now Japanese, are being used as a US military base. This initial incursion was followed by 150 Japanese activists landing on Diayutai/Senkaku, leading to nationalist demonstrations in both China and Japan.

These demonstrations have arguably helped both governments: in Japan, by deflecting concern from the Okinawa situation and boosting the popularity of a right wing government; in China, by distracting public concern about Bo Xilia and bolstering a government still to the right politically despite increasing concerns about corruption and inequality.

Japan and the US are presently undertaking joint military operations with 10,000 US and 37,400 Japanese troops. This again creates tension and will certainly lead to increased military spending by China. The Chinese are monitoring the situation but accuse Japan of manufacturing tensions. This may also be related to Obama’s successful presidential campaign in showing he can be tough on foreign policy, particularly on China.

On a positive note, Japan and North Korea met in August, their first meeting in four years and the first ever between their respective leaders.

Elections will take place in South Korea on December 19. For the Saenuri party Park Guen-hye is standing, the daughter of previous president Park Chung-hye.

Initially, her only rival was former human rights lawyer Moon-Jae-in of the liberal left Democratic United Party, but a new contender is Ahn Cheol-so, founder of the country’s biggest antivirus software company. One factor that may yet play a part in the region’s future is the historic hatred that exists between North Korea and the Saenuri party to this day.

Park Geun-hye initially led the polls and remains the leading contender, though Ahn Cheol-so has considerable support, particularly among young people.

In a further development, Moe-Jae-in and Ahn Cheol–so formed an electoral pact to beat Park Guen-hye but as we go to press have yet to decide who will lead (they hold similar positions on increasing welfare, and on North Korea favour dialogue and economic co-operation). In response, Park Geun-hye has said she wants to meet the North’s Kim Jong-un in a bid to improve relations.

Another development in South Korea is that two nuclear reactors have been closed temporarily.

The South Korean economy has ridden the recession in similar fashion to Brazil by moving to Green technology.

It is difficult to judge what control China has over North Korea. Information leaked to Wikileaks suggests there is often tension between the two and at the UN, China has condemned the latter’s nuclear weapon trials. China remains North Korea’s main ally, however.

  Short-term internal needs must be replaced by a longer term vision for Asia Pacific

North Korea has been badly affected by floods this year, leading to increased aid from China. Agricultural reforms similar to those in Cuba have taken place and following shortages of artificial fertiliser and pesticides, they are increasingly moving towards organic farming.

The state has supported training and research in this area and has developed organic fertilisers suitable to its cold climate. Farmers are now allowed to keep 30% of produce to sell in markets; the rest goes to the state.

Following its own agricultural crises linked to the long-term damaging effects of industrial farming, South Korea has been developing organic farming since 1993.

There are problems politically and culturally in both North and South Korea. A united Korea should be the long term aim, with a government hopefully informed by the mistakes of the past and foreign influence kept to a minimum.

Military posturing on all sides serves only to worsen the situation. Short-term internal needs must be replaced by a longer term vision for Asia Pacific. Diplomacy should take centre stage and agreements must be reached by all sides to reduce their military, reducing tension and leading to better relations all round. Reducing military spending will then allow countries to foster alternative use of resources and improve the lot of ordinary people.

On a broader front, the people of the world need to start protesting NOW against the crazy military machine that controls, kills and robs us of our humanity. We need real statesmen like South Korea’s former president Kim Dae-Jung and current world leaders could do worse than follow this great man’s example.


Nov 092012

Aberdeen Voice presents the second of three articles by Jonathan Russell  of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) investigating the nuclear and military build up and tensions in Korea and the wider Asia/Pacific situation.

Jonathan will be giving a talk on this subject at 7.30pm on Monday 12 November in the conference room on the top floor of Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema.

The one Korean politician who has cut a positive figure in recent years is Kim Dae-Jung.

President of South Korea from 1998-2003, the introduction of his Sunshine Policy led to marked improvements in relations between North and South Korea.

In the period following Dae-Jung’s presidency, however, the historic lack of trust between the nations, a change in the South Korean government and lack of positive leadership, both internally and internationally, has seen the relationship deteriorate.


North Korea decides to re-activate a nuclear reactor and expel international inspectors.

2006: President Bush names North Korea as part of the axis of evil. In October, North Korea states that, due to growing intimidation by the US, they will stage a nuclear test that month and a second in 2009.

The situation worsens when South Korean president Lee Myunheg-Bak ends his predecessor’s Sunshine Policy.

2009: North Korea walks out of international talks aimed at ending its nuclear activity and announces it no longer considers itself bound by the terms of the 1953 truce.

2010: The south accuses the north of sinking one of its warships and cuts off all cross border trade. The accusation is strenuously denied and the north severs all ties with Seoul. The US then imposes tough sanctions on the north. During a trip to China in August, North Korea’s Kim Jung Il signals a willingness to accept foreign aid to help cope with major flood damage.

2012: South Korea hosts the second Nuclear Security summit. The gathering of 50 nations is attended by President Obama, who hosted the first summit in Washington in 2010. North Korea condemns the South’s hosting of the event as ‘an unpardonable crime’ and an ‘intolerable grave provocation’. During the summit, the south mobilises more than 40,000 police and an unidentified number of troops to guard against possible provocation by North Korea, terrorists or demonstrations by its own citizens.

The United States has 28,500 troops based in South Korea. As a direct result of US pressure and with massive American funding, South Korea is constructing a naval base on the island of Jeju to berth Aegis warships, 38 of which form part of the US missile defence system.

Named the Island of Peace by the late President Roo Moo Hyon, Jeju was the site of a massacre where more than 30,000 civilians were estimated to have been slaughtered by the South Korean army during a 1948 uprising.

The high biological diversity, unique volcanic typography and local culture of Jeju attract many tourists but building the base will be hugely detrimental to the environment (notably its coral reefs), threatening the livelihoods of local fisherman and many related jobs.

Located strategically in the Korean straits, the construction of a naval base would considerably increase the island’s potential to become a military target in the event of an armed conflict.

Many observers believe Jeju naval base will serve the sea-based component of the US ballistic missile force.

Actor and campaigner Robert Redford has stated:

‘’I am moved and impressed that residents near the coastline have been waging a fierce, non-violent struggle to stop the base. They’ve used their bodies to block bulldozers and cement trucks, sacrificed their personal freedom, been beaten and imprisoned and paid heavy fines… I think the least environmentalists, peace activists and supporters of democracy can do is express our outrage.’’

In September, the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) held its World Conservation Congress with some 8,000 attendees on Jeju, throwing the spotlight on the bitter battle over the island’s future.

Missile defence systems on Aegis destroyers are currently being tested at the Pentagon’s testing facility on Hawaiian island Kavai. There is a potential danger of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan going nuclear or having US nuclear bases.

In February, there was good news following talks in Beijing between North Korea and the US, the former agreeing to halt uranium enrichment and the testing of long range missiles in return for food aid.

This agreement foundered on North Korea’s plan to launch a long range missile in honour of the hundredth anniversary of their leader Kim Il-Sung.

South Korea uses extensive nuclear power and produces plutonium

While the Koreans claim the launch was linked to the peaceful advance of their space programme, critics suspect it was connected to their nuclear ambitions. Both South Korea and Japan threatened to shoot the missile down if it entered their territory. In reality, however, the launch failed.

The failed ballistic missile launch by North Korea has been condemned by the UN Security Council, including China and Russia.

The unexpected re-election of the conservative Saenuri party in South Korea has complicated matters. As the Saenuri and North Koreans traditionally hate each other, the party is not interested in improving relations and tensions have increased.

South Korea uses extensive nuclear power and produces plutonium. If its nuclear plants were targeted in a conflict, extensive devastation would follow with possibly catastrophic consequences worldwide.

While it has not yet developed a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, it is likely North Korea has more than one enrichment plant. Though a failure, the recent attempted missile launch suggests North Korea is well on its way to developing such a weapon.

Confused messages coming out of the country suggest an internal power struggle, that some elements want better relations with the West in return for food aid while others seek a more militant stance.

Meanwhile, China has been advocating calm in the area. North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner and main source of food, arms and fuel, China has its own internal conflicts between its role as an emerging global player and its commitment to its North Korean allies.

The first six-nation talks since 2008 between North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the US were due to restart in September. Russia allocated one of their top deputies to the talks, showing they are taking the situation seriously. While it seems some informal contacts did take place, these turned into an exchange of insults rather than any constructive dialogue or agreement.

Heads need to be knocked together by Russia and China re the North and the US re the South to make these talks happen and work. The alternative is ever escalating tension leading potentially to military and even nuclear warfare.

0n 23 October, South Korea announced a new deal with the US allowing it to develop ballistic missiles capable of striking targets anywhere in North Korea, missiles with larger warheads than had previously been in operation. North Korea responded by claiming it had missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

A frequent complaint made by North Korea is that South Korea is a puppet regime of the US, which wants it to invade the north. This leads to North Korea pursuing its military First, Second and Third policies, meaning other aspects of society are neglected. This surely is not the way forward for either of the Koreas or the wider Asia Pacific area.

Next week Jonathan Russell will be writing about the wider Asia/Pacific political context taking in developments in China, the US, Japan, other Asian countries, Australia and Korea.

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Oct 312012

As tension mounts on the Korean Peninsula, Jonathan Russell of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) provides background to the conflict. Jonathan also examines its potential for leading to a nuclear and conventional arms build up between the United States and China and to a much wider conflict.

This is one of a series of articles being produced for Aberdeen Voice by Aberdeen and District CND.

Jonathan Russell will give a talk on the Korean conflict at the meeting of Aberdeen and District CND on Monday 12th November.

Aberdeen CND have meetings on the second Monday of each month at 7.30pm on the top floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen. You are more than welcome to come along.

This week’s article gives some historical background to the present tensions.

It will be followed after the talk on Monday 12th by two subsequent articles in Aberdeen Voice on Korea specifically and the wider Asia/Pacific area.


North and South Korea are two very different states situated on the Korean peninsula, an area similar in size to that of the UK, lying between China and Russia to the North and Japan to the South-East. Japan occupied Korea from 1905 until 1945 and has a brutal history in the region.

In 1910 the Treaty of Annexation turned Korea into a fully fledged Japanese colony. This heralded a period of oppressive colonial rule. The Japanese aim was to modernise Korea and they built roads, railways, and waterways . They also eradicated nostalgia and hundreds of uniquely Korean buildings were destroyed.

The Korean Communist party was formed in 1925 and it became involved in guerrilla wars with other Korean groupings against the Japanese. The Western world turned a blind eye and only Christian missionaries raised concerns. By 1948 the Japanese language was made compulsory. During the Second World War conscription took place into Korean mines and Korean and Japanese factories. Thousands of Korean leaders from schools, churches and newspapers were thrown into jail.

With the surrender of Japan in 1945, the United Nations developed plans for a trusteeship administration, the Soviet Union administering the peninsula north of the 38th parallel and the United States administering the south.

This was done as a hasty expedient based on no more than a National Geographical map. After 40 years of Japanese oppression Korea was not prepared for the collapse and withdrawal of the Japanese in August 1948. On the 8th September 1948 Soviet troops moved into the North and United States troops into the south.

Initially the Korean Workers Party tried to establish a Government. The Russians backed a people’s committee in the North originally headed by a Christian nationalist Cho Mansik.  However Stalin came to favour a communist resistance fighter called Kim ill Sung whose ‘dynasty’ the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea still remains in power.

  This led to a horrendous three year war resulting in the estimated deaths of 2.5 million combatants and civilians.

The politics of the Cold War resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Korea(Republic of Korea). There was a major contradiction in this in that more communist party members were living in the South and more Christians in the North.

In October 1948 Synman Rhee a right wing nationalist returned to Korea in a plane arranged by General Macarthur. Following elections Synman Rhee took over the Presidency of the South. Soon after this there was what was known as the autumn uprising which was brutally put down. In Jeju island at the bottom of Korea 160 villages were destroyed on the orders to Rhee by the United States and nearly a third of the population were killed. Soldiers of Rhee’s 14th regiment mutinied but they themselves were brutally put down.

Following a build-up in tensions the North Korean army – the Korean People’s Army -crossed the 38th parallel on 25th June 1950 in response to the massacre of communists in the South. This led to a horrendous three year war resulting in the estimated deaths of 2.5 million combatants and civilians.

The Soviet Union under Stalin supported the North and had given the go-ahead for the People’s Army to cross the 38th parallel. Following a UN resolution sponsored by the United States, the United States and twenty other countries, including the United Kingdom, supported the South. The Russians supported the North with military equipment and aid but due to fear of a Third World War never directly became militarily involved.

Initially the North nearly captured the whole of the South but following a counter offensive led by General Macarthur the reverse was achieved.

The leadership of the newly declared People’s Republic of China under Mao also supported the North but was initially reluctant to get involved as they were both recovering from and consolidating power following their own civil war. However when United States and its allies nearly reached the Chinese border they entered the war with an estimated 340,000 troops.

The war was part civil war but primarily it was a struggle between the Communists and the Western allies.

The United States dropped more bombs during the conflict than they had in the Second World War and used napalm in greater levels than they did in Vietnam. 

Both sides committed appalling atrocities against soldiers, civilians, and prisoners of war.

The use of child soldiers became a common occurrence on both sides.

After Stalin’s death the Soviet Council of Ministers ordered Mao and Kim to seek peace. The ending of the war (it has never been officially declared- a truce still remains) led to no change in that the pre-war border remained un-altered along the 38th parallel.

Without doubt the entire Korean people were the losers and the area has remained one of high tension. Korea has not been affected by ethnic tensions as in other parts of the world following the war but by ongoing ideological tensions.

Since 1948 the Korean peninsula has been divided between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the North (23million people) and the Republic of Korea in the South (48.25 million people) the mountainous north has more mineral resources and the south richer agricultural land.

In the early days the northern Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a communist success story but over time in particular after the fall of the Soviet Union it rapidly declined. Kim IL Sung its leader from the inception had close links with Stalin and in similar vein was involved in purges to get rid of his opposition.

Following Stalin’s death Kim IL Sung developed his totalitarian system called ‘juche’ a kind of Confucian Socialism which demanded that all activity would be beholden to the state. Emphasis went onto industrialisation to the neglect of agriculture and following the collapse of the Soviet empire this led for many to starvation.

In 1999 the North admitted to 220,000 deaths from famine though outside commentators have suggested the figure of 600,000.

There has been some improvement in North Korea since with China recently putting £3 billion into the economy but there is no doubt that the citizens of North Korea are much poorer than those in the South and vulnerable to shortages of food. The Kim IL Sung dynasty with its military 1st, 2nd and 3rd policy which is a huge drain in its overall resources is still in place with the young Kim IL Sung the third having just taken over the reins of power.

The people are poor and even the army are mostly involved as peasants on the land. Amnesty International in the United States has satellite images of political camps in North Korea where they estimate there are 200.000 people held in horrendous conditions.

The North Korean government are adamant that the camps do not exist. In the Korean situation even more than others it is difficult to distinguish between propaganda and truth from either side. If the camps to exist in the form suggested they are truly horrific.

There was another form of totalitarianism in the South under their leader Syngman Rhee’s autocratic and corrupt government and most of the governments and military governments that followed. The South had their National Security Law which allowed clamp downs on opposition.

In present day South Korea Amnesty International, report, that the South Korean Government are increasingly invoking their national security law. This restricts freedom of expression particularly in the context of discussions pertaining to North Korea. In March the UN Human Rights Commission considered the cases of 100 South Koreans.

Initially it was South Korea’s economy which did not work well with an over reliance on foreign aid from the United States and North Korea was seen as a communist success. However over recent years South Korea has become one of South East Asia’s booming economies with standards of living rising but with marked disparities in wealth.

According to a speaker on BBC’s Women’s Hour from Nottingham university who has spent a number of years in North and South of Korea, those defecting from the North find it difficult to adapting to the hierarchical style of businesses in South Korea. Korea is indeed a place of many contradictions and working out what is true and what is propaganda is complex.

For a much more detailed history of Korea an excellent book ‘Everlasting Flower a History of Korea’ is available in Aberdeen’s Central Library. Information is also available on the Internet.

Next week I will be writing more on the present situation and the third and final article which will be published following my talk will look at Korean conflict and the wider military build up and potential for conflict in the wider Asia/Pacific area.

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Oct 312012

Talk & discussion: Conflict Zone Korea

As tension mounts on the Korean Peninsula Jonathan Russell, chair of Aberdeen & District CND, provides background to the conflict in Korea and its potential for leading to a nuclear and conventional arms build-up between the United States and China/Russia.

Time and Date:  7:30pm, Monday, 12th Nov

Venue:   the seminar room, top floor, the Belmont Cinema, Belmont St.

Everybody Welcome!



For more details contact: Jonathan on 07582-456-233

Oct 182012

Veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent says it is time for Scotland to get rid of its Trident Nuclear Weapons.  With thanks to Jonathan Russell.

The United Kingdom’s leading peace activist, spoke at a public meeting in Aberdeen on October 3rd as part of a speaking tour of the East Coast of Scotland taking in Inverness, Aberdeen, Brechin and Dundee.

Bruce outlined his opposition to both Nuclear Weapons and warfare in general, and started by questioning the way the world is presently dealing with conflict.  

He told the audience that he lives in a part of London that has a wide variety of ethnic groups and said that, while there are challenges between different people and ethnic groups, people manage to get by with each other without having to take a shotgun to their neighbours.

This he contrasted with present conflicts where the leaders of the world choose to deal with these disputes by military means rather than by mediation and noted that we can see the results of this in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and, presently, in Syria.  He suggested that, when investigated, pretexts for military invasion are usually found to have no truth to them.

Bruce argued that we need to start honouring peace makers and peace keepers rather than the politicians and generals who cause havoc around the world.  The acceptance and glorification of violence in our society needs to be changed to a culture which encourages peace, and the fact that it is found acceptable for business to create and sell arms and Nuclear Weapons has to end.

Treaties have been signed to stop chemical weapons and land mines and the same could be true for arms and nuclear weapons.  People are suffering across the world as a result of conflict, something which the aid agencies and people in general need to speak out about more powerfully.

Bruce outlined the horrific nature of the 19,500 nuclear weapons which still exist on our planet.  These weapons are sure to be used at some point as world leaders have only minutes to decide whether to use them and incorrect, or faulty, information linked to the fallibility of our political leaders, could lead to the destruction of our planet.

Scotland, he feels, presently has a unique opportunity with independence to get rid of Trident Nuclear weapons and while he does not back any political party, he noted that the majority of Scottish politicians and 75% of the population are against the Trident weapons which are housed here for the UK Government.

Getting rid of Trident from Scotland would, he said, make it impossible for the rest of the UK to house its nuclear weapons and would set the right example to the rest of the world.

At 83, Bruce Kent is still active and sets an example to us all.  He has been a prominent figure in the peace movement for over 40 years and is presently Vice President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Vice-Chair of the Movement for the Abolition of War.

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Sep 242012

With thanks to Jonathan Russell.

Bruce Kent, Britain’s most well known peace campaigner, will be speaking at meetings on the East Coast of Scotland in early October. Meetings will be taking place in Inverness, Aberdeen, Brechin, and Dundee.

The meeting in Aberdeen is being organised by Aberdeen Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It will be held  in Room 10, New Kings at the University of Aberdeen on Tuesday October 3rd at 7.30pm

Described by David Blair in the Daily Telegraph as ‘The most principled and consistent figure in public life’, at 83 Bruce Kent is still one of the most radical people in British politics.

He recently supported the Occupy movement and has been Britain’s most long standing opponent of Nuclear Weapons and war in general.

At a time when the world is sliding into ever more warfare, and the UK  government are intent on renewing our deadly Trident nuclear weapon system, Bruce’s voice is one which urgently needs to be heard.

All welcome to attend.

Bruce Kent Speaking at Anti- Trident meeting

Bruce Kent at Faslane in Scotland the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Base


Aug 032012

With thanks to Aberdeen CND Chair Jonathan Russell. 

Monday 6th August sees the 67th anniversary of the first ever explosion of a nuclear weapon, when the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

This was followed on the 9th August by the explosion of a nuclear bomb on the city of Nagasaki.

200 peace lanterns will be released on the river Dee to commemorate the 200,000 men, women and children who died following the nuclear explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many more died later from injuries or prematurely from the horrendous health effects that followed. The memorial event will start with poetry, song and speeches from politicians, students and faith groups.

The event will take place on Monday 6th August at 8.30pm until 10pm by the side of the River Dee at the Fishermans hut off Riverside Drive (between the Bridge of Dee and Duthie Park).

All members of the public are welcome to attend.

For most of us nuclear weapons have been a part of the world we have always lived in. We can often put into the back of our minds how horrific these weapons would be if used. But whether or not to build a new nuclear weapons system in the UK is still an issue of debate.

Worldwide, nearly 50% of these weapons have been destroyed. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan have become nuclear free. South Africa has unilaterally got rid of its Nuclear Weapons. Argentina and Brazil stopped their Nuclear Programmes in the 1980’s and South America has a treaty which forbids the development of Nuclear weapons, as do the Scandinavian countries.

However, there are still 19,500 Nuclear Weapons in the world – enough to destroy our world several times over. The UK Government currently plans to build new nuclear weapons by restoring the Trident system.

For further information Please Contact Jonathan Russell Chair Aberdeen CND mobile 07582456233  e-mail jhamiltonrussell@hotmail.co.uk