A Statement from the Conference “Pivoting for Peace in Asia/Pacific: Confronting U.S. Militarism and Corporate Dominance“, Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 19, 2014
President Obama travels to East Asia this week to reinforce his administration’s military pivot to Asia and the Pacific and to rescue the faltering Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement. On the eve of his trip, sixty leading peace activists, labor and community leaders, and engaged scholars from across New England met to build the U.S. peace and justice movements’ capacities to prevent war and to work for peace in Asia and the Pacific; to create more just economic relations; and to learn how to address the domestic impacts of the Pivot, including increased bias directed against Asian-Americans.
We call for real security, for policies that reduce the threats of war and the costs of militarism across the Pacific and Asia and here in the United States, policies that ensure the well-being of people. We urge the following:
- An end to efforts to build the new U.S. Marine air base at Henoko, Okinawa, the naval base on Jeju Island in Korea.
- No return of U.S. bases to the Philippines.
- Withdrawal of all U.S. military bases and installations in the Pacific and Asia
- No Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership
- Replacement of the pursuit of military and economic hegemony with Common/Shared Security diplomacy and commitments to mutually beneficial and environmentally sustainable economic cooperation
- An end to provocative military exercises such as US-ROK war games
- Negotiations to replace the 1953 Korean Armistice with a peace regime
- Negotiations to create a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone
- Support for Japanese efforts to protect and preserve Japan’s “Peace Constitution” and to encourage Japanese society to face and atone for the aggressions and crimes of the Fifteen-Year War
- An end to the practice of threatening to initiate nuclear war during international crises; initiation of negotiations for a nuclear weapons abolition convention, as required by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
- Human solidarity: support for people and movements across the Pacific and Asia working to end the military colonization of their communities and nations; cutting the Pentagon budget in order to prevent war and to fund the human needs of U.S. communities; and launching and supporting initiatives to convert war production and industries in the U.S. to industries that create jobs that will help ensure long-term economic security and environmental sustainability.
We urge our compatriots to learn the history and dangers of U.S. Asia-Pacific military colonialism and the dangers of increasing Asia-Pacific militarism so that we can begin to affect U.S. policies.
Keynote speaker Professor Hideki Yoshikawa from Nago put Okinawa on our movement’s agenda. He placed the now seventeen year struggle to prevent the construction of a new and massive Marine air base in Oura Bay in Henoko and the drive to win the withdrawal of U.S. bases from Okinawa in the context of the 70 years of Japanese and U.S. military colonization of the once independent kingdom. We were impressed by the courage of Okinawan nonviolent direct actions to prevent the construction of the Henoko base and by the ways Professor Yoshikawa and others are using the law, courts and international organizations to defend their community, the priceless environment of Oura Bay, and the feeding grounds of the near-extinct dugongs. We were inspired to learn how the people of Nago reelected their anti-bases mayor, defying enormous pressure from Tokyo and Washington and Tokyo’s campaign to simply buy the election with ill-concealed and massive bribery.
Julian Aguon’s Moana Nui speech — about the ways that more than a century of U.S. military colonization has not only threatened the environmental integrity of his small island nation but has brought the Chamorro people of Guam to the brink of cultural genocide — was profoundly disturbing. Yet, we were inspired and moved to act in solidarity by the humanity and loving spirit of resistance that he and others of We Are Guahan exemplify.
We place the dangers of the Pivot — including recent U.S. nuclear threats against North Korea and China — in the contexts of the creation of the U.S. Empire, with U.S. leaders as early as the 1850s advocating that if the U.S. were to become the world’s dominant power it must first control Asia; that became reality with the initial foreign conquests of the 1890s. The Pivot must also be understood in the context of the histories and potential dangers of catastrophic war between declining and rising powers. Today, the U.S. is deepening and expanding military alliances and building new military bases to encircle China with a “great wall in reverse,” to “manage” China’s rise. New military bases are being established in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Australia, while the U.S. hopes to retain bases in Afghanistan. The U.S. is increasing access to military installations and increasing military cooperation with Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Zealand and India. With this increasing militarization come arms races and the growing dangers of miscalculations and war.
People at the receiving end of U.S. militarism are the collateral damage of wars, as a consequence of the estimated 1,000 U.S. overseas military bases (including hundreds in Asia and the Pacific) and the associated seizures of people’s land and property; sexual violence and other crimes; deadly accidents; terrorizing night and low-altitude landing exercises, and environmental degradation. During the conference, we were reminded, too, that returning U.S. military veterans are not the only U.S. victims of the “iron triangle”: the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex. It is the trillions of dollars that fund U.S. wars and preparations for war that deprive our communities of the schools, housing, and infrastructure revitalization that are critical for economic security, and the investments that are essential to combat global warming and to develop sustainable sources of energy.
We reject the increased vilification of China, and seek to consider Chinese perspectives and to understand the “modernization” of China’s military as a response to U.S., and more recently Japanese, military threats and provocations. Chinese people are understandably proud of their nation’s leading economic, cultural and political roles over most of recorded history. But Chinese are still deeply scarred by the 150 years of humiliation that began with the Opium War, concessionary colonialism and Japan’s devastating 15-year war of aggression, and Chinese political culture remains marked by the civil wars of the 19th and 20th centuries. Having finally “stood up” in 1949, Chinese are understandably focused on restoring their nation to its historic role, which requires preserving its national independence and continuing economic development. China’s military buildup should be seen as a response to this history and to more recent military threats.
Hyun Lee of the Korean-American activist group Nodutol impressed us with the dangers that come with the massive annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which in recent years have been structured to prepare for the ultimate collapse of the DPRK and which even the former commander of U.S. forces in Korea warns could easily spark catastrophic miscalculations. Lee also reminded us that in 2005 the Six Party process committed these nations to denuclearization of, and negotiation of a peace regime for, the Korean peninsula. She also stressed that despite differences, Korean reunification, possibly in some form of federation, is possible if negotiations proceed on the basis of mutual respect. These commitments – not the Obama administration’s failed policy of “strategic patience”: increased sanctions, preparations for regime change, construction of the new Jeju naval base, and pressures for increased South Korean/Japanese military cooperation targeted against North Korea and China – should be the foundations of U.S. polices in Northeast Asia.
Professor Yuichi Moroi of Temple University deconstructed the forces that have made the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands territorial dispute between Japan and China the flashpoint of tensions in East Asia and the potential trigger for a great power war. These include the Pivot, which has encouraged right-wing nationalist and militarist forces in Japan to precipitate the crisis; nationalist forces in both Japan and China – most dangerously the extreme right-wing Abe government in Tokyo; and historical claims and geography that seem to favor China’s claims to sovereignty over the small, desolate and uninhabited islands. He also pointed out that the tensions conveniently reinforce the ambitions of the ruling elites in Japan, China and the United States. While Okinawans and Japanese now have overwhelmingly unfavorable perceptions of China, a hopeful note is that a majority of Okinawans envision the possibility that Okinawa might serve to as bridge to overcome the tensions between the two powers.
Our panel on the domestic impacts of the Pivot focused on the economic costs to U.S. workers and communities – especially in the context of the hollowing out of the U.S. industrial economy — as well as the strategic implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA negotiations. While fast-track legislation is currently stalled, there are deep concerns that Democratic members of Congress who now oppose fast-track out of concern that it could cost them votes on election day, may join Republicans in voting for it during the lame-duck Congressional session that will follow November’s elections. Lydia Lowe of the Chinese Progressive Association reminded us of the ways that economic and military competition with China and Japan in the past resulted in racist exclusionary immigration legislation, the internment of Japanese-Americans and how with increased U.S.-Chinese tensions Asian-Americans are enduring increased bias and discrimination, which affect their job, housing and education possibilities.
More Photos: bit.ly/pivot-peace-photos