August 24, 2015
I am writing to you from the Asia-Pacific following our very successful 23rd annual Global Network (GN) space organizing conference in Kyoto, Japan. The meeting exceeded our expectations in every way.
We had our largest overseas delegation ever as activists from India, Nepal, Germany, Sicily, England, Malaysia, Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan, Sweden, and the US attended. Thanks again to the many of you who donated to our travel fund to help us offer support to our board members.
(I should also note that some GN members also first visited Okinawa on this trip, where people have been engaging in daily protests against an American military base for 10 years, including the most recent opposition to the construction of a new Marine Corp air base, which is despoiling pristine Oura Bay.)
The highlight of our Kyoto conference was our three-hour bus drive to the Ukawa village in northern Kyoto prefecture where the Pentagon recently deployed a ‘missile defense’ X-Band radar aimed at China and Russia. We presented the beleaguered village committee with our annual Peace in Space Award and promised them they were not alone in their fight to resist the X-band radar. Already they’ve seen the disruption of their local culture by the American GI’s assigned to the base. The fishing and farming village will surely become a prime target as Obama continues to ‘pivot’ 60% of US military forces into the Asia Pacific region. Despite Pentagon reassurances, the Ukawa villagers are deeply worried about the health effects from the radar just as are the residents on Cape Cod, Massachusetts and citizens in other locations around the world where the US has deployed similar missile defense (MD) radars. No legitimate health studies have ever been made public that easure the true human impacts of electromagnetic radiation waves.
The villagers took us to the base where we stood by the barbed wirefences with banners proclaiming our opposition to MD. American soldiers stood on the other side of the fence armed with machine guns, walkie-talkies, and cameras. Some arrogantly laughed at us.
In our final morning of meetings at the GN Kyoto conference we made plans for Keep Space for Peace Week (October 3-10). We hope your community will be able to participate in this international week of activities by organizing a local event. Please let us know what you plan to do.
Following Kyoto many of our GN leaders made the trip together on the bullet train to Hiroshima. Economics Professor Atsushi Fujioka who is on our GN board of directors and hosted the Kyoto conference led us. In the days leading up to August 6 we participated in Hiroshima meetings where delegates from around the world shared stories about the struggles against US military bases in their local communities.
Many of these bases are now expanding due to the US pivot—thus the environmental bootprint from these war bases is growing as more airfields, ports-of-call, and barracks are needed for US troops. Struggles in Okinawa, Jeju Island, Guam, Philippines, and many other places in the region are heating up as local citizens demand US bases be removed—not expanded.
I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the concluding rally of the World Conference Against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs in Hiroshima on August 6 before 5,500 people from around the world. I reported that US deployments of MD surrounding Russia and China were in fact a death blow to nuclear disarmament as long as Washington insists on gaining the advantage of the shield after a first-strike sword is thrust at either of those nations. The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia had outlawed MD systems, but since George W. Bush withdrew the US from that important agreement the Pentagon has been working at a feverish pace to encircle Russia and China with these destabilizing systems.
I next traveled to South Korea. There I participated in a conference in Seoul, which outlined the reality of US base expansion across their nation. Korea still remains divided and officially in a state of war, as the Korean armistice of 1953 has never led to a formal peace treaty.
At the Seoul conference I spoke about Washington’s ground-based and sea-based MD deployments throughout South Korea, including on Jeju Island where the Navy base nears completion. Just in recent days the US Navy Admiral assigned to South Korea publicly declared that the Navy was eager to use the new Jeju Island base to port warships being assigned to the region. These deployments on Jeju would put American warships right smack in the middle of the Yellow Sea shipping lanes that China utilizes to import 80% of its resources, particularly oil, to run its economy. Following the conference I had the great honor to speak at a protest on August 15 before more than 10,000 people on the 70th anniversary of Korean liberation from imperial Japan.
After my participation in the Seoul events I went to Jeju Island where I have eagerly joined the daily protests at the front gate of the Navy base now being completed in Gangjeong village. The eight-year protest movement on Jeju is a cry out to the American people to take notice of what our government is doing in our name.
The arrogant US plan to expand military operations in the Asia-Pacific is hugely expensive and absolutely destabilizing to world peace. NATO is signing up Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand as ‘partners’ and the European-based alliance is making its move to become the primary global military arm of corporate capitalism. Any nation that does not surrender its sovereignty to US-NATO is being threatened with regime change. Russia and China have other ideas and have formed a counter-alliance as we literally stand on the possible brink of WW III.
The membership of the Global Network is working hard to help build a much-needed international movement for peace to counter these dangerous moves toward war. It will indeed take a surging global movement to avert this hyper-warfare insanity coming out of Washington-London-Brussels. We don’t have much time.
I have concluded all my talks during this trip with the following words that I’d like to share with you as well. We do have a common problem on our planet today and that is climate change and growing global poverty. Sadly at this important moment the US, Japanese, and South Korean governments continue to waste our national resources on war preparations when our countries should be working together to prepare to deal with the reality of climate change.
We should be converting the military industrial complex in our countries to build solar, wind, rail, and tidal power systems. We should be using our resources to help those small Pacific island nations that are the first to face rising sea levels. We must demand our governments move from confrontation to global cooperation.
We have no other choice if we hope to survive. Nothing is more important than all of us working together to make sure that the future generations have a chance to live on our fragile Mother Earth.
Please help us to continue this important work to build a movement at home and abroad for peace and justice.
Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator