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Behind Washington’s new military strategy in Korea

Published Jan 13, 2006 9:19 AM

Following is an abridged version of a talk by Yoomi Jeong, secretary general of the Korea Truth Commission, a guest speaker at a Jan. 6 Workers World Party forum in New York City.

Yoomi Jeong
WW photo: G. Dunkel

The Korea Truth Commission held its second meeting last November in Shenyang, China. Due to the National Security Law (NSL) in South Korea, we couldn’t meet earlier because of the possibility of arrest. In fact, the only South Korean representative who attended the first meeting was jailed after his return to Korea.

The NSL still is in place despite a tremendous struggle last winter, when over 1,000 people engaged in an indefinite hunger strike outside [South Korea’s] National Assembly. However, since then the overall political climate has improved substantially, and over 20 representatives attended the November meeting from North and South Korea, the U.S., Japan and China.

Korea & the struggle against U.S. imperialism, part 1
Yoomi Jeong, Secretary General of the Korea Truth Commission, on a recent international meeting of the Korean Truth Commission. Workers World Forum, Jan. 6, NYC
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Korea & the struggle against U.S. imperialism, part 2
John Choe, Coordinator of the U.S. Chapter of the KTC, on the battles in Hong Kong against a recent meeting of the WTO. Workers World Forum, Jan. 6, NYC
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The Korea Truth Commission has been one of the leading forces in the self-determination and reunification struggle. We helped to bring awareness of the U.S. role on the Korean peninsula, thus contributing to the struggle for self-determination and national sovereignty.

Our dual goals were 1) to uncover civilian massacres and bring justice and reparations to the victims, and 2) to advance self-determination and reunification.

In terms of self-determination, our focus has been on the removal of U.S. troops and the closing of U.S. bases.

The new U.S. military strategy that came after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center brought significant changes to the Korean peninsula, as well as northeast Asia.

Under the new U.S. scenario, South Korea becomes a forward base and staging ground for an invasion of China, and a logistical hub for U.S. wars fought overseas. The U.S. has kept its military in South Korea for the last 60 years on the pretext of defending South Korea against North Korea. However, according to the new plan, U.S. forces in Korea (USFK) are to become a forward deployment force to contain regional conflicts around the world, even if these regional conflicts might well be orchestrated by the U.S. government.

One obvious goal of this transformation is to contain China. The U.S. is attempting to deter the potential challenge to its hegemony in the region and are willing to protect U.S. interests by any means necessary, including preemptive nuclear strikes.

By 2008, the U.S. will relocate its largest base from Seoul and move the Second Division, which is now stationed along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), to Pyongtaek on the southwest coast. Osan airbase, located in Pyongtaek, will be a new military command center for northeast Asia and a key base for the U.S. Missile Defense System in East Asia.

This relocation will put U.S. troops outside the range of North Korean artillery.

Pyongtaek is equipped with a waterfront and an airport, allowing flexibility when deploying troops outside the Korean Peninsula. This minimizes U.S. risk in an offensive first strike against North Korea.

Also, Pyongtaek is strategically located to contain or attack China. The latest U.S. military build-up is particularly in the western region, at Suwon, Pyongtaek, Gunsan and Gwangju.

The expansion of the role of the USFK to include the Asia-Pacific region implies that U.S. troops will be stationed in Korea indefinitely.

This military transformation heightens tensions against North Korea and China, increasing the chances of conflict. This instability and the threat of U.S. war prevent the peaceful unification of Korea as well as peaceful economic and security cooperation in Northeast Asia. We Koreans do not want to become a hostage to U.S. military aggression against other countries and its fight for global hegemony.

After years of struggle to stop crimes by the U.S. military and [win] just trials over such cases, more than 1,000 crimes are still committed [each year] by U.S. military forces against South Korean civilians; only 3.9 percent of these cases are tried in South Korean courts.

With the money allocated for the relocation of the U.S. forces and other assistance provided to U.S. military, we could provide free education to all college students or free medical service to our people.

Last year on May 15, thousands of people demonstrated for the closing of the Gwangju Patriot missile base; on July 10 a large national rally against the base expansion and relocation took place in Pyongtaek; on Aug. 15 a national rally in Seoul called for U.S. troops to get out of Korea; on Sept. 8 on the 60th anniversary of the U.S. occupation, a large demonstration took place in Inchon to demand the dismantling of the statue of Gen. Douglas MacArthur there; and on Nov. 18 a large demonstration took place to oppose a meeting of the [U.S.-dominated] Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in Pusan.

On Jan. 3, farmers from Pyongtaek began a 33-city national tour. They are driving their tractors and visiting various cities demanding an end to the U.S. base expansion in their home town and U.S. troops out of Korea. Most participants are ordinary farmers, showing the level of political consciousness among the people.

Despite the people’s opposition, the South Korean National Assembly extended for a year the dispatch of South Korean troops to Iraq—the third-largest contingent there.

The majority of South Koreans consider the U.S. the major stumbling block to peace and reunification and the U.S. threat of war on the Korean peninsula as real.

We are concerned that the hardliners of the U.S. will try anything to stall the progress of the six-party talks [between North and South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan].

The major achievement of the six-party talks has been a Joint Statement of Principles signed on Sept. 19, 2005, in Beijing. It outlines the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the normalization of relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the U.S.

Before, the focus of the six-party talks was on the abandonment of the DPRK’s nuclear program. Now it has changed to denuclearization of the whole peninsula, demanding accountability also from South Korea as well as the U.S.

However, the talks are now in a stalemate. The U.S. is trying to use charges of “counterfeiting” and “human rights” issues as a pretext to put the brakes on the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, and has imposed financial sanctions on North Korea.

Of all countries in the world, the U.S. has no right to raise the issue of human rights when it blatantly violates the human rights of its own peoples as well as people in other countries.

North Korea has lots of patience. It still wants to participate in the six-party talks for the sake of peace and stability on Korean peninsula, even though within one month of the Beijing Joint Statement, the U.S. announced that it has no intention to normalize relations, even if North Korea abandons its nuclear program.

Peace and stability on the Korean peninsula are not solely dependent on the U.S. but on all Koreans. That is why South Korea is beginning to voice “independent opinions” that at times place it at odds with U.S. foreign policy.

Also, inter-Korean reunification efforts have been improving substantially since the June Summit of 2000.

Inter-Korean trade doubled last year, totaling $1.05 billion. South Korea is now North Korea’s second-largest trading partner.

Since the June 2000 North-South Summit, North and South Korea have reconnected east and west coast railroads and roads across the DMZ. In December of last year, the two Koreas established limited commercial telephone links for the first time, after 60 years of division.

There has been a tremendous increase in contacts of people, culture, sports, religion and others since the June Summit. And this year, a North-South joint collective farm will open in North Korea. North and South Korea will form a joint team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the first time since the division.

North and South Korea now hold ministerial-level meetings every three months. We forecast that there may be another heads-of-state meeting between North Korea and South Korea.

Against these reunification efforts, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea called North Korea a criminal regime and publicly supported regime change in the North. We promptly launched a movement to recall him.

For peace and stability, the U.S. must realize that it needs to respect the dignity and sovereignty of other nations and peoples.