Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009
BACT TO SOUTH KOREA AND NEW ARMS RACE
I leave on October 6-25 for another speaking trip to South Korea. I'll be traveling this time to several cities and near the end of the tour I will be visiting Jeju Island which is just off the southern tip of South Korea, very near the Chinese mainland.
In 2002 the South Korean government announced the intention to build a Naval base on Jeju Island and since that time people have been organizing to stop the construction of the base.
According to one South Korean peace organization (Solidarity for Peace And Reunification of Korea- SPARK), “Setting the Aegis [destroyer] in Jeju Island and operating the ships as an element of constructing an Asian missile defense system is part of the U.S. military program. From the geographical point of view, the naval base in Jeju Island cannot have been anything else but the U.S. missile defense base on the sea. Jeju Island is at the center of conflict structure of northeast Asia in reference to missile defense system. The island is located at the gateway of East Asia. Recently, the strengthening of the U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea military alliance led by the U.S. is an unstable fact. Under the circumstance, the naval base in Jeju Island would become a stepping-stone for the U.S. navy. It would also be inevitable that Jeju Island would turn to be a focal point of an arms race in Northeast Asia.”
Local protests against the base have even been organized under the ocean in order to show the world the precious coral reefs that would be in danger of destruction from the militarization of their island.
Construction will begin in December and the base is slated to be completed in 2014. The Jeju base will serve as the home port for the Navy's strategic mobile fleet of two Aegis destroyer-led squadrons to be initially operational beginning next year.
The Navy's Aegis combat system, built by Lockheed Martin, is the same missile defense system that Obama has declared he intends to deploy throughout Europe. These Aegis-based missile defense systems will take the place of the controversial systems Obama recently decided not to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The Korea Times reports:
"Jeju has long been considered a tactical, strategic point to secure southern sea lanes for transporting energy supplies and to conduct mobile operations in the case of an emergency in the region," the Navy official said.
"Following the construction, the Navy will be able to successfully conduct long-range operations to protect our commercial vessels in blue waters, including the Malacca Strait, as well as carry out full-scale operations around the Korean Peninsula," he said.
China imports the majority of its oil through the Malacca Strait and the U.S. strategy is to put in place the ability to choke off this transit route thus giving the Pentagon the ability to control the keys to China’s and the world’s economic engine. The opening of a Navy base, and homeporting Aegis missile defense systems on Jeju Island, will be a major provocation toward China. It will ensure an even larger regional arms race.