Escalating an Asian Arms Race – by Stephen Lendman
Together with South Korea, America’s military plans expanding its Asian footprint on Jeju Island with a strategic naval base for Aegis class attack ships. They’re equipped with sophisticated SM-3 interceptor missiles intended mainly for offense, as well as powerful computers and tracking radar for first-strike capability against enemy targets.
In 2002, Seoul announced construction plans to accommodate Pentagon planners despite strong local opposition. Located south of Korea proper, Jeju Island is its only special autonomous province, situated in the Korea Strait, Southwest of Jeollanam-do Province it separated from in 1946.
Japan lies Northeast, China due West. Jeju is in central Northeast Asia, important for reasons other than military.
Strategically located Southwest of Japan, East of China between the East China Sea and Korea Strait shipping lanes, UNESCO declared Jeju a World Natural Heritage Site in 2007 under the name Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes. Korea has nine others chosen for their cultural or natural importance to humanity’s common heritage, vital to preserve and protect, not used as launch pads for belligerence and destruction.
In fact, former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun designated Jeju a “peace island.” It’s also a popular tourist spot and home to rare sea life, a VisitKorea.or.kr site calling it a “Volcanic Island full of Allure.”
During WW II, Japan stationed 75,000 soldiers there. The Pentagon later planned to use it strategically, today with another naval base cooperatively with South Korea and Japan against China’s military presence, as well as perhaps interdicting its ability to import oil, much of which comes through Yellow Sea shipping lanes.
According to a 2009 Pentagon report, China’s naval forces are formidable, numbering 260 vessels, including 75 or more major warships and over 60 submarines. However, Beijing regards powerful US and South Korean warships equipped with interceptor offensive missiles close to its border a strategic threat. According to South Korea’s Peace Network director Cheong Wook-sik:
“China regards missile defense as the 21st century’s greatest threat and is dissatisfied with US missile defense policy,” knowing it targets them offensively.
Lee Tae-ho, deputy secretary general of South Korea’s People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, in fact, believes:
“The Chines government has a response strategy that first attacks US missile defense in the case of an emergency. That means that the Jeju naval base will be targeted in an armed conflict between the United States and China,” or in case of one with Taiwan in which America intervenes.
Short of war, an Asian arms race and popular opposition are major bones of contention, reflected in a 2007 Geongjeong Village People’s Council vote showing 94% of residents against a naval base. They oppose one disrupting their lives by environmental destruction (including soft coral habitat), harming tourism, disrupting fishing, and displacing local citrus growers by confiscating their land for militarism and potential war.
Nonetheless, in May 2009, construction plans were approved followed by dredging the Joongduk coastline to accommodate large warships. As a result, several lawsuits were filed without success. On December 15, 2010, a Jeju court ruled building plans posed no infringement problems despite clear evidence otherwise.
As a result, villagers and supporters protested, including on Christmas day 2010, blocking cement trucks brought in to pour concrete over coral reefs vital to preserve. Moreover, local residents occupied the site, facing off with police to stop cranes from dredging their cherished shoreline for America, not their own country.
Bruce Gagnon, co-founder and coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, follows the base controversy on two web sites:
— Space4peace.org; and
On May 19, he reported arrests of eight protest leaders, including Global Network board member Sung-Hee Choi for the second time recently. Moreover, “Gangjeong village resident Professor Yang Yoon-Mo (entered) his 45th day of his hunger strike while in jail for trying to block a construction truck.” He vowed to die there unless constructions stops.
Urging others offer support, he explained America’s destabilizing presence, contributing to regional militarism that could escalate to war. He also included a letter from South Korea supporter Jungjoo Park, saying:
Government security forces “are stepping up their efforts to silence all opposition to the naval base. This morning, May 19, the construction companies came with their heavy equipment together with around 100 members of the police and military” – specifically to destroy a Jungdeok coast greenhouse. Villagers chained themselves to it to stop them. Arrests followed. “Obviously the situation is still ever developing….”
On June 1, Gagnon reported Professor Yang’s release from jail after his 60-day hunger strike. “He was sentenced to one and one-half years in jail with a suspended sentence but with two years probation,” an affront for trying to preserve, not destroy, life and environmental sanity.
Widespread support helped free him weakened yet vowing to persist, saying:
“My struggle will be continued to the end. Gangjeong villagers are the teacher who led me to the road of justice.”
Her hunger strike ended, Global Network’s Sung-Hee Choi’s trial will begin June 10. The struggle against militarizing Jeju continues. “Many NGOs in South Korea launched the ‘Korean National Committee against Jeju Naval Base Construction’ on June 1.”
Gagnon continues daily commentaries, supporting Gangjeong residents struggle to preserve the “endangered soft coral reefs and a shoreline of remarkable beauty in this fishing and farming village.”
Imperial America opposes them for unchallenged global dominance. Trampling on sovereign nations, humanity and environmental sanity, it claims only its objectives matter, again proving it’s a rogue out-of-control menace.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.