Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Asia Pacific Pivot Points

From Jeju and Afghanistan, an Asia Peace Pivot

by Hakim

Mi Ryang, standing with Gangjeong Village Association members and Gangjeong’s mayor, outside the Jeju Courts, to refuse paying fines for protests against the U.S. naval base construction. (Courtesy of the author)“Don’t you touch me!” declared Mi Ryang.

South Korean police were clamping down on a villager who was resisting the construction of a Korean/U.S. naval base at her village.  Mi Ryang managed to turn the police away by taking off her blouse and, clad in her bra, walking toward them with her clear warning.  Hands off!  Mi Ryang is fondly referred to as “Gangjeong’s daughter” by villagers who highly regard her as the feisty descendant of legendary women sea divers.  Her mother and grandmother were Haenyo divers who supported their families every day by diving for shellfish.

Since 2007, every day without fail, Mi Ryang has stood up to militarists destroying her land.
In doing so, she confronts giants: the Korean military, Korean police authority, the U.S. military, and huge corporations, such as Samsung, allied with these armed forces.

Mi Ryang and her fellow protesters rely on love and on relationships which help them to continue seeking self-determination, freedom and dignity.

Jeju Island is the first place in the world to receive all three UNESCO natural science designations (Biosphere Reserve in 2002, World Natural Heritage in 2007 and Global Geopark in 2010). The military industrial complex, having no interest in securing the Island’s natural wonders, instead serves the U.S. government’s national interest in countering China’s rising economic influence.

The U.S. doesn’t want to be number two. The consequences of the U.S. government’s blueprint for ‘total spectrum dominance,’ globally, are violent, and frightening.

I recently attended a conference held at Jeju University, where young Korean men told participants about why they chose prison instead of enlisting for the two-year compulsory Korean military service.  “I admire these conscientious objectors for their brave and responsible decisions,” I said, “and I confess that I’m worried.  I fear that Jeju Island will become like Afghanistan, where I have worked as a humanitarian and social enterprise worker for the past 10 years.”

“Jeju Island will be a pawn harboring a U.S. naval base, just as Afghanistan will be a pad for at least nine U.S. military bases when the next Afghan President signs the U.S./Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement.

When the Korean authorities collaborated with the U.S. military in 1947, at least 30,000 Jeju Islanders were massacred.

How many more ordinary people and soldiers will suffer, be utilized or be killed due to U.S. geopolitical interests to pivot against China?

As many as 20% of all tourists to Jeju Island are Chinese nationals. Clearly, ordinary Jeju citizens and ordinary Chinese can get along, just like ordinary Afghans and citizens from the U.S./NATO countries can get along.   But when U.S. military bases are built outside the U.S., the next Osama Bin Ladens will have excuses to plan other September 11th s!

A few nights ago, I spoke with Dr Song, a Korean activist who used to swim every day to Gureombi Rock, a sacred, volcanic rock formation along Gangjeong’s coastline which was destroyed by the naval base construction. At one point, coast guard officials jailed him for trying to reach Gureombi by swimming. Dr. Song just returned from Okinawa, where he met with Japanese who have resisted the U.S. military base in Okinawa for decades.

The Okinawan and Korean activists understand the global challenge we face.  The 99% must link to form a strong, united 99%. By acting together, we can build a better world, instead of burning out as tiny communities of change. The 1% is way too wealthy and well-resourced in an entrenched system to be stopped by any one village or group.

‘We are many, they are few’ applies more effectively when we stand together. Socially and emotionally, we need one another more than ever, as our existence is threatened by human-engineered climate change, nuclear annihilation and gross socioeconomic inequalities.

The governments of South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and even my home country Singapore, have dangerously partnered with the U.S. against China, in Obama’s Asia pivot, dividing human beings by using the threat of armed force, for profit.

The non-violent examples of the people of Gangjeong Village should lead people worldwide  to make friendships, create conversations,   build alternative education systems, promote communally beneficial, sustainable economies , and create peace parks where people can celebrate their art, music, and dancing.  Visit Gangjeong Village and you’ll see how residents have created joyful ways to turn the Asia War Pivot into an Asia Peace Pivot, as you can watch in this video.

Alternatively, people can choose the “helpless bystander” role and become passive spectators as oppressive global militarism and corporate greed destroy us.  People can stand still and watch  destruction of beautiful coral reefs and marine life in Jeju, Australia and other seas; watch livelihoods, like those of Gangjeong and Gaza fishermen, disappear;   and watch, mutely, as fellow human beings like Americans, Afghans, Syrians, Libyans, Egyptians, Palestinians. Israelis, Ukrainians, Nigerians, Malians, Mexicans, indigenous peoples and many others are killed.
Or, we can be Like Mi Ryang. As free and equal human beings we can lay aside our individual concerns and lobbies to unite, cooperatively, making our struggles more attractive and less lonely.  Together, we’re more than capable of persuading the world to seek genuine security and liberation.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers have begun playing their tiny part in promoting non-violence and serving fellow Afghans in Kabul. As they connect the dots of inequality, global warming and wars, they long to build relationships across all borders, under the same blue sky, in order to save themselves, the earth and humanity.

Through their Borderfree effort to build socioeconomic equality, take care of our blue planet, and abolish war, they wear their Borderfree Blue Scarves and say, together with Mi Ryang and the resilient villagers of Gangjeong Village, “Don’t touch me!”

“Don’t touch us!”

Hakim ( is a mentor for the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul.


Organizing Notes by Bruce Gagnon:


Kathy Kelly being removed while blocking entrance to Navy base construction gate in Gangjeong village

Park Jung-Joo reports from Jeju Island, South Korea:

Peace Seminar of Gangjeong Peace School was held tonight at Peace Center in Gangjeong Village. Kathy Kelly gave us a talk of her experiences of peace activism in her life. She told us about people in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the US and how they have gone through the wars and fears caused by wars. It was really inspiring, challenging and also encouraging time for us. This is a poem she shared with us tonight in the middle of her talk.


by Daniel Berrigan

Some stood up once, and sat down.
Some walked a mile, and walked away.

Some stood up twice, then sat down.
“It’s too much,” they cried.
Some walked two miles, then walked away.
“I’ve had it,” they cried,
Some stood and stood and stood.
They were taken for fools,
they were taken for being taken in.
Some walked and walked and walked
they walked the earth,
they walked the waters,
they walked the air.
“Why do you stand?” they were asked, and
“Why do you walk?”
“Because of the children,” they said, and
“Because of the heart, and
“Because of the bread,”
“Because the cause is
the heart’s beat, and
the children born, and
the risen bread.”


Robert Naiman

Posted: June 16, 2010 03:22 PM

Usually, when someone refers to a place as a "U.S. colony," they are making an analogy, suggesting that U.S. influence somewhere is so strong, and the indigenous residents of the place have so little effective say over key decisions, that it's as if the place were a formal U.S. colony.

But, remarkably, and perhaps predictably, for a country whose leaders, editorialists and pundits constantly pontificate about how we are an indispensable force for freedom in the world, we rarely discuss the fact that there are places in the world that are actual U.S. colonies. Still less do we consider whether we are complying with our international obligations to respect the right of self-determination for colonized peoples, and if we are not, what we could do to change that.
A small corrective is being offered as part of Asian Pacific Heritage Month by PBS, which is webcasting Vanessa Warheit's documentary, The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands until next Sunday, June 20.

The Mariana Islands comprise two political entities, the territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Guam was ceded to the U.S. by Spain in 1898 after Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American war, while the Northern Mariana Islands were conquered by the U.S. from Japan in World War II. As political entities, the two have several features in common: while they are ruled by Washington, and their residents are U.S. citizens, many of whom serve in the U.S. military, they have no vote in Presidential elections, nor do they have a representative in Congress who can vote on the passage of legislation.

In other words: they are U.S. colonies.

Guam, in particular, is facing a major decision about its destiny, a decision made in Washington about which its indigenous population has not yet had any effective say. The United States is currently planning to relocate 8,000 Marines and 9,000 dependents to Guam by 2014. With an expected influx of foreign workers recruited for military construction projects, Guam's population is expected to increase by some 80,000 people by 2014, a 45% increase from its current estimated population of 180,000.

More than a quarter of the island is already owned by the U.S. military, the Washington Post noted in March, while a quarter of the island's population lives below the U.S. poverty level.

As the Post noted, Guam was not consulted in the decision to move 8,000 Marines to the island and has no legal means to block it. Yet an Environmental Protection Agency analysis said the U.S. military buildup could trigger island-wide water shortages.

The possibility that Guam's indigenous residents may suffer irreparable harm from this planned military buildup without ever having had any effective say about it heightens the responsibility of Americans who do have voting representation in Washington to know something about the military buildup and its historical background. Thanks to PBS, until Sunday we have the opportunity to catch up a little on the history they didn't teach us in school.

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Militarization of public lands still a political battleground

April 30th, 2014 · 6 Comments · Campaigns, environment, Politics

Okay. Last week I commented on Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s interpersonal skills, which certainly make her an effective campaigner who can connect with voters.

Then, just a few days later, came news reports on her sponsorship of a bill that would appear to dramatically expand the military use of the Pohakuloa training area, including facilities capable of handling larger aircraft, more use by foreign nations, combined air-ground maneuvers, etc.
What struck me was that her glowing assessment of the bill seemed oblivious to the environmental, cultural, and political damage that such an expansion will entail.

Just a couple of days after Hanabusa’s bill was announced, it was reported that a lawsuit was filed alleging the state has failed to enforce lease provisions requiring the military to clear unexploded ordnance left by training operations at Pohakuloa.

Even the Star-Advertiser, in an editorial this morning, took a cautious stance (“Pohakuloa plans need balance“).
Encompassing 133,000 acres on Hawaii island’s high central plateau, Pohakuloa has been envisioned as a 21st-century training field to ensure combat-readiness of U.S. forces, a key element in regional defense, and in Hawaii filling its regional role.
However, this preparedness will come at a cost. Hawaii land is a precious resource, with associated cultural and environmental assets. That means the job of Hawaii’s elected leaders — who represent civilian interests as well as the military — is to see that the cost is not too high.
That’s no small order. Finding the right balance has been an elusive goal, with the ordnance-laced landscape of Kahoolawe, as well as years of environmental court fights over training activities in Leeward Oahu’s Makua Valley, as part of the legacy.
There’s a long history here. Leading up to WWII, and during the years Hawaii was under martial law, the military basically took control of any lands that it might be able to use. Sometimes the land was “set aside” for military use by presidential or gubernatorial executive orders. In the post WWII years, there was pushback from the territorial government which wanted to reclaim control of public lands. During that period and up through statehood, many federally controlled lands were converted to leases of fixed duration that required the military to clean up and return the lands in their original condition.

Of course, that’s been routinely violated over the years in many places, Waikane Valley, Kahoolawe, and Pohakuloa among them. The additional issue of the presence of depleted uranium at Pohakuloa and its potential affects on health have become public issues in the past several years as well.
During that post-WWII period, it’s my impression that local Republican leaders took stronger action to reassert local control over military-held land than the emerging Democratic Party. Why? Because Democrats saw the development of the defense industry as a way to break the political control of the plantation elite, an alternative to the plantation economy.

So where does that leave us today? I’m afraid elected officials of all stripes are more afraid of offending the military by expressing the resentment felt by local residents over continued military control of such vast tracts of land. Pohakuloa alone covers some 133,000 acres, according the Army.
That would be a large training area even in a big mainland state. In a small island state like ours, it’s a huge footprint that feels oppressive–and destructive–to many.

There were decades of protests, political pressure, and legal action that finally led to the end of military use of Kahoolawe. Long-term pressure has also reduced training at Makua and, to some extent, Schofied Barracks. As Hawaii’s civilian population grows, pressure to reduce the military footprint will continue to build.

I wonder how continued military control of Pohakuloa is viewed by Big Islanders. I wonder how much of the economic benefit actually stays in the Hawaii Island economy and how much is raked off by defense contractors from elsewhere?

In any case, Rep. Hanabusa’s presentation of her bill to expand the militarization of Pohakuloa as an unalloyed good is a disappointment.

Marshall Islands sues nine nuclear powers over failure to disarm

Pacific nation that was site of 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958 accuses states of 'flagrant denial of human justice'
Mushroom Cloud of Operation Castle-Bravo
Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, where a 15-megaton device equivalent to a thousand Hiroshima blasts, detonated in 1954. Photograph: US Air Force - digital version
The Marshall Islands is suing the nine countries with nuclear weapons at the international court of justice at The Hague, arguing they have violated their legal obligation to disarm.

In the unprecedented legal action, comprising nine separate cases brought before the ICJ on Thursday, the Republic of the Marshall Islands accuses the nuclear weapons states of a "flagrant denial of human justice". It argues it is justified in taking the action because of the harm it suffered as a result of the nuclear arms race.

The Pacific chain of islands, including Bikini Atoll and Enewetak, was the site of 67 nuclear tests from 1946 to 1958, including the "Bravo shot", a 15-megaton device equivalent to a thousand Hiroshima blasts, detonated in 1954. The Marshallese islanders say they have been suffering serious health and environmental effects ever since.

The island republic is suing the five "established" nuclear weapons states recognised in the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) – the US, Russia (which inherited the Soviet arsenal), China, France and the UK – as well as the three countries outside the NPT who have declared nuclear arsenals – India, Pakistan and North Korea, and the one undeclared nuclear weapons state, Israel.
The NPT, which came into force in 1970 is essentially a compact between the non-weapon states, who pledged to not to acquire nuclear weapons, and the weapons states, who in return undertook to disarm under article VI of the treaty.

Although the size of the arsenals are sharply down from the height of the cold war, the Marshall Islands' legal case notes there remain more than 17,000 warheads in existence, 16,000 of them owned by Russia and the US – enough to destroy all life on the planet.

"The long delay in fulfilling the obligations enshrined in article VI of the NPT constitutes a flagrant denial of human justice," the court documents say.

The Marshall Islands case draws attention to the fact that the weapons states are currently in the process of modernising their nuclear weapons, which it portrays as a clear violation of the NPT.
The case against Britain, which has an estimated total inventory of 225 warheads and is in the process of replacing its submarine-launched Trident arsenal, states that: "The UK has not pursued in good faith negotiations to cease the nuclear arms race at an early date through comprehensive nuclear disarmament or other measures, and instead is taking actions to improve its nuclear weapons system and to maintain it for the indefinite future."

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's general secretary, Kate Hudson, said: "The nuclear-armed states continue to peddle the myth that they are committed to multilateral disarmament initiatives, while squandering billions to modernise their nuclear arsenals. The UK government's plans to replace Trident make a mockery of its professed belief in multilateral frameworks – and now in addition to huge public opposition in the UK, it will also face an international legal challenge to expose its hypocrisy."


Ban commercial fishing: Palau’s goal

And use drones for surveillance

By Giff Johnson
July 2013
Island Business News

Palau is aiming to become the first Pacific nation to ban commercial fishing in its 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). And in another unprecedented move, it will conduct a trial next month using drones for fisheries enforcement.

Soon after taking office for his third tour-year term, President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. announced his plan to ban commercial fishing and establish a working group to review the plan.

His announcement caused a stir in the fisheries and business world in large part because it is unprecedented in a region where most countries depend heavily on revenue from foreign fishing nations.

Remengesau’s long-term focus on environment, dating back to his first two terms in office from 2000-2008, underscores his belief that Palau’s resources are of value beyond dollar signs.

While it won’t be known until 2014 if the plan for what Remengesau describes as a “total marine sanctuary” will go into effect, it is drawing support from conservationists.

Noah Idechong, founder of Palau Conservation Society and a former Speaker of the Palau National Congress, is on Remengesau’s working group reviewing the proposal.

“We have to do these things (for a sustainable future),” Idechong said at the end of May on a visit to Majuro where Palau, Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia officials met to discuss expansion of marine conservation management efforts in the north Pacific.

“We don’t want the world to dictate to us. We have to think for ourselves.”

Remengesau is blunt about his plan for a total marine sanctuary: “It is in our best interests to do this. It is for the long-term sustainability of Palau and our contribution to the region—no commercial fishing.”

Remengesau believes there is momentum to make commercial fishing ban happen next year.
“We’re looking at it from all angles and the early review say it can work.”

And Remengesau’s ratcheting up enforcement with the rollout of airborne drones, like those being used by the US Government in the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The first test of the drones will be conducted in August in Palau by an Australian company, Remengesau said.

The main issue in the ban centers on how to replace the approximately US$5 million annually that Palau generates from allowing commercial fishing in its waters.

Compared to revenues Palau is producing from its tourism industry, Remengesau called fisheries money “negligible. It’s a drop in the bucket.”

Because Palau is on the fringe of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) fishing area where 70 percent of the region’s skipjack tuna is caught, most commercial fishing is concentrated to the south and east of Palau. Palau is not as dependent on fisheries revenue as are Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and other PNA members, making it easier for Remengesau to take this step.
Under the PNA arrangement, Palau is allotted about 500 fishing days a year, out of approximately 50,000 annually. At the current minimum sales price of US$5,000 per day, Palau’s potential PNA day sales translate to US$2.5 million.

“There really is not much tuna fishing in our EEZ,” Remengesau said. “We can sell our fishing days to augment other (PNA members).”

This way, Palau can have its cake and eat it too. Even without fishing in Palau waters, it can generate fisheries revenue by selling its fishing days to other PNA members, which it has done successfully in the past.

The business community will be concerned about revenue and job loss if fewer fishing vessels visit Koror for fuel, supplies and crew changes. But Palau has already established a name for itself in the conservation world by effectively implementing marine “protected area networks” at the village level around Palau and by banning shark finning in its 200-mile EEZ.

Remengesau sees creating a total marine sanctuary as the obvious next step in Palau’s effort to conserve its resources. “We will be making our contribution to sustaining the migratory tuna stock as well as within Palau,” he said.

PNA’s tuna management is about “conservation, not just selling fishing days (to distant water fishing nations),” he adds.

With Palau now attracting in excess of 100,000 tourists annually, the country sees the benefit of maintaining its beauty and conserving natural resources that in turn attract visitors.

“Palau is very fortunate to be bestowed with natural resources not found elsewhere,” he said. “This comes with a responsibility to ensure these are here for the next generation.”

Remengesau said the concept of people inheriting their islands from previous generations needs to be revised to: “We are borrowing our environment from our future children. We’re a fragile and small island. The only way to sustain ourselves is to put our environment first for our people and economic opportunities that come from the environment.”

Still, Palau is a frequent target of illegal fishing by foreign fleets and with only one patrol vessel, the government is hard-pressed to conduct effective surveillance.

“The enforcement side is very important,” Remengesau said. The working group he has established is considering ways to beef up marine surveillance. His aim is to find innovative ways—such as using drones and partnering with other governments and non-government groups—to improve enforcement and expand cooperation on conservation.

Remengesau said he recently talked to officials at the US Pacific Command in Hawaii who said the use of drones for marine enforcement was “doable”.

“We’re already doing shiprider surveillance with the US,” said Remengesau in reference to Palau law enforcement officials who ride on US Coast Guard and navy vessels for marine surveillance. Drone technology is available and “it’s an idea whose time has come,” he said.

Palau will conduct its first drone tests in August. “We’re working with an Australian drone manufacturer,” he said.

“They’ve done a preliminary assessment and said it can work.”

For Palau, its distant southwest islands of Tobi, Sonsorol and Helen’s Reef are known areas of illegal fishing.

The range of the drones allows for a control center to be set up on Angaur Island, which is about 400 miles from these small islands and located near Koror, the capital, making logistics easier.
“The southwest islands are a hotspot for illegal fishing,” he said, adding that this area will be the focus of the initial drone enforcement work. Palau has one patrol vessel, the Australian-provided Remeliik. It costs US$37,000 to send it to the southwest islands and back on a patrol mission. In contrast, to operate a drone for 20 hours costs US$360, he said.

Without reliable information about the whereabouts of vessels fishing illegally in Palau waters, it can be a waste of time and money to dispatch its lone patrol vessel.

The plan is to relay information from the drones to the patrol vessel. Other details, such as the use of drone photographs for prosecution of vessels need to be worked out.

“We’ll do a dry run in August, set up the equipment and let our leaders see the drones in operation,” Remengesau said. “We hope it will be successful and can be implemented throughout the Pacific. We all share the same challenge of monitoring our borders, which are mostly water.”


Japan says US base in Okinawa is only solution

Jan. 20, 2014 12:39 AM EST
Associated Press 

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese government said Monday it would push forward with a long-stalled agreement to relocate a U.S. military base within Okinawa, despite the re-election of a mayor who opposes the plan.

A government spokesman said building the base in Nago city is the only solution, given all the factors involved.

"We remain unchanged on continuing steadily with the plan," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, adding the government would work hard to win over Okinawa residents.

His comments come a day after Nago city Mayor Susumu Inamine, who vowed to block construction of the base by denying permits for the project, won a hard-fought contest against a pro-base opponent supported by Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"The local residents, the people of this prefecture are so much against this," Inamine said of the base after his victory.

The U.S. and Japan agreed in 1996 to move the Marines Corps Futenma air station to Nago from a more congested part of Okinawa, but many Okinawans want the base off their island completely.
The plan got a boost last month when the governor of Okinawa gave the go-ahead for land reclamation to build the new base, whose runways would extend over water from the U.S. military's existing Camp Schwab. Opponents filed a lawsuit last week seeking to invalidate the governor's approval.

Inamine's victory will make it more difficult to move forward, analysts said.

"I don't think it'll be easy now for the U.S. base to be relocated, but I think there is a limit to what a local mayor can do," said Toshiyuki Shikata, a former Japanese military officer and professor of political science at Teikyo University in Tokyo.

The Futenma air station would be moved from Ginowan city to the sparsely populated Henoko district in Nago, because of concerns about aircraft noise, accidents in civilian areas and base-related crimes such as rape. The proposed move is part of a broader plan to consolidate and reduce the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, currently home to about half of the U.S. troops in Japan.

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which supports the move, wooed voters with promises of additional development funds for the city. But an exit poll of 1,204 voters by Japan's Kyodo News service found 65 percent opposed to the base, and 13 percent in favor.

Inamine got 19,839 votes, versus pro-base challenger Bunshin Suematsu, who received 15,684.
"Despite all the efforts, the Liberal Democratic Party has lost," said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. "I think it reflects how strongly people are opposed to a base relocation."

Before the vote, Hitoshi Morine, a spokesman for the Japanese Defense Ministry in Okinawa, said the government will seek bids soon for drilling surveys of the seafloor bedrock to begin designing the base.

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