Korea: Freeze for a Freeze!
In the hills behind South Korean village of Seongju, U.S. military helicopters have airlifted THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), a U.S. missile defense system designed to shoot down North Korean missiles, onto the local golf course, without notice or consultation with local residents. Seongju,a Buddhist pilgrimage site for those seeking peace and enlightenment, now has become a center of protest, with people coming from all over South Korea to demand the removal of THAAD. CodePink as part of a U.S. delegation traveled to Seongju to add their voices in calling for the removal of THAAD. The delegation also called for an end to the U.S.-South Korea War Games in exchange for a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, the replacement of the Korean War Armistice with a peace treaty, and the peaceful reunification of Korea. Many South Koreans are in favor of dialogue with North Korea, and believe the presence of U.S. troops and weapons are putting South Koreans in danger. Tensions between the Trump administration and the North Korean government have reached a boiling point. We must avoid, at all costs, a direct military confrontation with North Korea. Any military action by the United States, even limited, could instantly kill millions on the Korean peninsula and threaten nuclear and regional war that could draw in Japan, China and Russia. The ONLY solution is dialogue, starting with a freeze for a freeze!
Before the delegation could share its message of solidarity with villagers of Seongju, Soseongri and Gimcheon where the THAAD interceptors are deployed, and with the broad spectrum of peace activists in Seoul. Delegation coordinator Juyeon Rhee and Hyun and Lee were prevented from boarding a plane at LaGuardia Airport in New York City because the South Korean government blocked their entry. The two Korean American peace activist were denied entry based on Articles 11 and 12 of the Korea Immigration Control Act, which prohibits the entry of foreigners who, among other things, are “deemed likely to commit any act detrimental to national interests of the Republic of Korea or public safety.”
It is not peace activist that are detrimental to public safety, but the militaristic response by the South Korean and US governments. Instead of negotiation the North Korean and US governments are name calling, head butting and posturing like stags in the rut. This strategy has not worked for 70 years, it has not unified Korea it has only brought the world to the brink of WW111. The US does not need to flex it’s military muscle, the world knows that the US can destroy North Korea, unfortunately South Korea would be destroyed as well. It is time to switch strategies from the current (MAD) mutually assured destruction to (MAP) mutually assured peace, from not talking to talking while freezing military maneuvers.
The remaining delegates: Jill Stein of the Green Party, Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, Reece Chenault of US Labor against War, and Will Griffin of Veterans for Peace traveled to South Korea to work with South Koreans for peace. The delegation was sponsored by the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and End Militarism in Asia and the Pacific and the Channing and Popai Liem Education Foundation. The delegation was hosted in South Korea by the National People’s Action to Stop the Deployment of THAAD in South Korea (NPA), a coalition of 100 civil society organizations. The NPA was formed August 2016 (expanding an earlier formation) with the goal of achieving the repeal of the decision to deploy THAAD in South Korea.
The protesters have set up a permanent camp in the village and stage regular demonstrations . They often clash with police and protesters have been injured. Buddhist monks have set up a shrine and hold vigil right next to an access road to the golf course, alongside a squadron of policemen on guard. Citizens are not permitted to get closer. The delegation heard from the villagers of Soseong-ri about their year-long anti-THAAD struggle.
“Our children no longer want to come here. If the THAAD comes, the water will go bad, the air will be bad,” said an elderly farmer.
“Will the THAAD protect us? No, it won’t. If the THAAD comes, we think it will be war,” said another grandmother, who worried that the THAAD will only make Soseong-ri and Seongju a target in the crossfire between the United States and its opponents in the region.
Chul Ju-park, one of the organisers, said the THAAD system was not about protecting South Korea but more about American and Japanese security.
“The system is protection against intercontinental ballistic missiles. From North Korea to South Korea is only short range so it’s not about protecting South Korea at all,” he said.
The delegation asked the residents to send a message to CEO Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, the leading U.S. weapons manufacturer. “You are also a mother. Stop making weapons of destruction and contribute to making peace,” they said.
For Korea’s children and the children of the world the US needs to divest from the mad war machine economy that will kill innocent children and invest in a map to the peace economy where children are protected with a chance for a bright future.
Children dance and sing anti-THAAD slogans at a protest camp near the new U.S. missile defense system in southeast Korea. Residents oppose THAAD, as do about half of all South Koreans.
The villagers and protesters maintain that they do not want any conflict with North Korea. Rather, they want America to engage, and not strike North Korea.
“It’s not only a regional issue,” says Choi Sung-hee, a former art teacher who traveled to Seongju to camp out and protest. “It’s about peace, and how we Koreans can stop war and future weapons together.”
The Trump administration has never even tried a diplomatic solution—it has only tried sanctions that hurt the lives of ordinary Koreans. The South Korean corporation Lotte decided on February 27 to hand over its golf course in Seongju/Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province to the South Korean Defense Ministry for the deployment of THAAD. The defense ministry will soon hand over the golf course to the U.S. Forces in Korea, which will turn it into a base for the THAAD system. Instead of the golf course for the local residents to enjoy they are having a base forced on them that puts them at risk of a retaliatory strike.
China objects to more U.S. weaponry in the Asia-Pacific region, and has called for a boycott of South Korea and its products. That’s a worry for businesses catering to the lucrative Chinese market. In a touristy shopping district of Seoul, cosmetics vendors yell out what’s on sale — in Mandarin. Chinese tourists are their biggest clients. “But THAAD is hurting our sales, here and in China,” says store manager Cho Ah-jin. “There’s a boycott of Korean cosmetics, and Chinese tourists have stopped coming.” Tourist arrivals from China dropped by nearly half this past March compared to the previous year. Banks in Seoul have started to offer special loans to businesses hurt by the Chinese boycott. A recent report by a Korean think tank estimates the Chinese boycott will cost South Korea some $7.5 billion this year — amounting to half a point of GDP. Sanctions have not worked and more sanction is not the answer, dialogue with a freeze is.
The U.S. delegation also met with Democratic National Assemblyman Shim Jae Kwon, who chairs the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the National Assembly, on July 24 and raised the need to reverse the controversial U.S. THAAD deployment. Medea Benjamin: “Shim acknowledged the opinion of missile defense experts who question the military effectiveness of THAAD and discussed his own doubts about the THAAD system’s ability to defend South Korea. He discussed his commitment to creating an environment that removes the need for weapon systems like the THAAD. He discussed the tensions the THAAD deployment has caused with its neighboring countries and its impact on South Korea’s economic relations with China. He also acknowledged the grievances of the residents of Seongju, where the THAAD battery is being deployed. Shim thanked the delegation for inspiring him and expressed his commitment to seeking alternative solutions for security and peace that do not rely on destructive weapon systems.”
Both China and Russia have called for a freeze. The Trump administration has rejected the proposal, insisting the drills are essential in response to North Korean provocations.
The China Daily said: “It was both narrow-minded and undiplomatic when the US UN Ambassador Haley described the “freeze-for-freeze” proposal as “insulting”. Why not give it a try if it could help ease tension and lead to denuclearization?
Haley’s call for new sanctions “could lead to an enormous humanitarian disaster in North Korea, hurting millions of women and children and innocent people,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
The US has been calling for stronger sanctions on the DPRK after sanctions have repeatedly proved a failure.
Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, Haley herself questioned the effectiveness of sanctions. “Do we think more sanctions are going to work on North Korea?” she asked. “Not necessarily. But what does it do? It cuts off the revenue that allows them to build ballistic missiles.”
What Haley could not dare admit is that the sanctions she hopes for could lead to an enormous humanitarian disaster in the DPRK, hurting millions of women and children and innocent people. Besides, she has provided no convincing argument that sanctions will lead to a solution rather than further raising tensions.
It’s quite disturbing when Haley said that, “We should always let every country know, whether it’s North Korea or Iran or anyone else, that we will always look out for our interests, our security and make sure that it’s working for us, not making sure that it works for everyone else. That’s very important.”
If the US cares only about its own interests and ignores others’, then it will be hard to seek others’ support.”
The Solidarity Peace Delegation, concluding their July 23-28 visit to South Korea, calls for immediate US-South Korean action to de-escalate growing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“Returning to the United States on July 28, 2017, the delegates have pledged to build solidarity in the U.S. for the struggle against the stationing of THAAD in South Korea and the escalation of militarism in Asia. The delegates further call on peace-loving people in the United States and globally to join in this effort to get dialogue with a freeze for a freeze!
The delegation issued the following map to peace statement:
The Korean Peninsula is rapidly approaching the boiling point. On the last day of our visit, July 28, North Korea conducted a missile test, and the US-South Korean governments launched another set of warning missiles. South Korean President Moon announced he would allow the United States to deploy four additional launchers to complete the controversial THAAD anti-missile system unit, reversing his previous position. In light of these escalations and the likelihood of more aggressive measures, urgent actions are needed in order to de-escalate tensions.
North Korea has repeatedly offered to suspend its nuclear weapons development in exchange for a freeze in US-South Korean joint war exercises. It’s time for the US and South Korea to respond to this offer as a jumping off point for definitive negotiations towards a peaceful, sovereign, nuclear-free Korean peninsula, free from the conflicts of competing global powers that have been so harmful to the region.
North and South Korea have lived in a perpetual wartime mobilization for decades, with the presence in the South of 83 US bases and nearly 30,000 US troops. Provocations are being made with increasing frequency by both North Korea and the United States. Each time North Korea conducts an additional nuclear or missile test, the potential severity of hostilities escalates, and the more difficult it becomes to defuse tensions and avert the outbreak of conflict on the Peninsula.
Given the proximity of North Korea to Seoul, a metropolitan area of 25 million people, any outbreak of hostilities would be devastating. In a North Korean attack with conventional weapons, it’s estimated that 64,000 South Koreans would be killed in the first day alone. Even a limited exchange using nuclear weapons risks causing “nuclear winter”, a disruption of the climate due to the reduction of sunlight from airborne dust and debris. This, in turn, could drastically reduce global agricultural production, leading to worldwide famine and hundreds of millions of deaths.
Since Seoul would be caught in the crossfire of any hostilities, it is essential that the conflict be handled through diplomacy. The sooner diplomatic action is launched, the more likely it will succeed.
Therefore, we call for immediate diplomatic action to reduce threats that push North Korea towards the development of nuclear weapons. Foremost among these threats are the US-South Korean joint war exercises against North Korea, which include dropping mock nuclear bombs on North Korea. In addition, the United States has long held a “ nuclear first strike” policy towards North Korea. This frightening threat of a pre-emptive US nuclear attack gives North Korea good reason to want a nuclear arsenal as the sole means for deterring such an attack.
Fortunately, tensions can be defused through actions that are diplomatic, strategic, just and long overdue. Specifically, the Peace Delegation calls for the following actions:
- Declare an end to the unethical and hyper-aggressive, nuclear first strike position held by the US towards North Korea.
- Declare an immediate moratorium on US-South Korean war games, including the dropping of mock nuclear bombs on North Korea. This would be a first step towards a formal agreement ending US-South Korean war games in exchange for North Korea freezing its weapons and nuclear program. The US government should respond to North Korea’s long-standing offer by inviting North Korea to begin serious negotiations for such an agreement now.
- Withdraw THAAD, the misnamed missile “defense” system recently installed by the US in Seongju,South Korea despite vigorous and ongoing protests by local residents. THAAD is not actually capable of defending against incoming missiles under real world conditions with multiple missiles and decoys. Its powerful radar system is widely believed to have been deployed for the purpose of spying on China, provoking dangerous tensions in the region.
- Begin negotiating a peace treaty to finally bring closure to the Korean War. The Korean War, in which nearly 20% of North Korea’s population was killed, has never been formally ended with a peace treaty.
- The South Korean government should lift travel bans on peace activists, like the ban that prevented our Korean-American trip leader Juyeon Rhee from accompanying our tour.
Delegates also call for more peace delegations so that the US peace movement can build stronger solidarity with their counterparts in the South, and learn firsthand about the negative consequences of U.S. military bases on Korean soil.
The solidarity statement of the delegation, “No to THAAD in Korea, Yes to Peace through Dialogue,” has the support of over 270 individuals and nearly 90 organizations, including well-known U.S. peace activists and educators Noam Chomsky, MIT; Daniel Ellsberg, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; Chris Hedges, author/activist; Gwyn Kirk, Women for Genuine Security; Oliver Stone, Academy Award-winning director; Cornel West, author/activist; and Ann Wright, former U.S. State Department official, Army colonel, and member of CODEPINK. The organizational endorsements are also worldwide, reflecting a recognition that peace in Korea serves not only local and regional but also global interests.
In the weeks following the conference, the coalition has been working on a campaign to mobilize citizens to put pressure on their elected representatives for a peaceful resolution of the volatile conflict on the Korean peninsula.
On October 31, Seoul and Beijing announced an agreement and released coordinated statements acknowledging the importance of their relationship. The agreement signaled their desire to move beyond the (THAAD) dispute and put mutual relations back on track in order to focus on their joint desire to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
The Trump administration continues with a failed policy of generals acting like a bully threatening North Korea with military maneuvers, do it my way or else and pressuring China for help with North Korea, but not listening to their suggestions. At the same time trying to sell weapons to the Japanese and South Koreans because it is good for American business and jobs. The war machine economy is not in America’s interests, it only benefits a few corporations while millions suffer physically, mentally and economically. It is time to divest from the war machine economy and invest in the peace economy where people work together to mutually assured peace and economic benefit for all. Join us and our peace partners as we work to get America to freeze it is militaristic policy and begin negotiations with China and Russia on a freeze for a freeze policy that can lead to the de-nuclearizaton of Korea. It will make the world a safer place.
Please send an email to Ambassador Haley telling her to stop escalating for war and start negotiating for peace. And share this message on Facebook and Twitter.
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