Philippines socialists on the Korean crisis: 'Halt all war preparations! Stop US provocations and intervention!

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US sailors aboard the aircraft carrier George Washington prepare to leave for joint military exercises at the port in Busan, South Korea, in 2010.

By Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses), Philippines

Direct political negotiations to defuse Korean crisis! Halt all war preparations!

Stop US provocations and intervention!

Philippines government act responsibly! Halt joint US military exercises! Protect overseas Filipino workers!

For a unified Korea without US and big power interference!

April 5, 2013 -- The situation on the Korean peninsula has taken a belligerent new turn drawing the entire region into a threatening climate of war preparations. According to the line promoted by the US government: the new young North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, is making unprovoked threats--including a nuclear threat--against South Korea and the U.S and that even China, North Korea's only close ally, supported tighter United Nations sanctions against the North. The situation, however, is more complex than the simple US State Department line that North Korea has, once again, taken the region to the brink of war. The crisis in the Korean peninsula has a long and complex history and goes beyond the two Koreas. It’s also made in the US.A.

Absent from the US government propaganda is the Obama administration’s escalation of military threats against North Korea, especially since Kim Jong-un came to power. Not since the first term of George W. Bush has the US signalled so blatantly that it aims for the downfall of the North Korean regime. And Kim Jong-un regime is responding to the US message.

South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, is the daughter of the South's former military dictator, Park Chung-hee. She is considered to be a strong opponent of the North and has effectively ruled out any negotiations by insisting that the North Korean regime must disarm first in order to begin negotiations. But Park is also constrained by strong public opinion, as most South Koreans wish to avoid a confrontation with the North, and hope for a peaceful reunification of the country. A majority of South Koreans also favor humanitarian aid to North Korea and direct talks with the North.

The US military has long cooperated with the South Korean government to prepare for war, conducting frequent joint military exercises and deploying major weapons in the South. There are still some 28,000 US troops in the South, and, in case of war, the US would be in command of the South's 500,000 troops. The US withdrew its nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula in the early 1990s, but nuclear and other heavy munitions remain ready for use from ships, submarines and warplanes just off the coast.

But all this is standard operating procedure. In the past year, there are many signs that the US and South Korea have started taking steps to fight an offensive war that would occupy the North.

  • In March 2012, combined US.-South Korean forces carried out the largest amphibious landing operation exercise in 20 years, involving 13 naval vessels, 52 amphibious armored vehicles, 40 fighter jets and helicopters and 9000 US troops.
  • To cross the DMZ, the US has brought in mine-resistant vehicles originally constructed for action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Last year's war games included a computer-assisted simulation of an invasion of the North.
  • In April 2012, South Korea disclosed that it had developed a cruise missile capable of a precision attack on any target in the North.
  • In the summer, the Pentagon advertised its possession of "super bunker-busters" that could destroy the North's nuclear facilities.
  • Last year, Japan also agreed to host a second US-designed missile defence radar, while South Korea is constructing a naval base on the island of Jeju that can accommodate Aegis destroyers, a key component of missile defence. This so-called missile "defence" would actually enable offensive operations by neutralising North Korea's missile deterrent.

The redeployment shows the real meaning of the US "pivot to Asia". As Barack Obama winds down past wars in the Middle East, the US is preparing for new ones, this time and once again, in Asia.

Philippines' role

The Philippines has no direct interest in forcing regime change in North Korea. Our national interests are served through peaceful cooperation with our neighbours, not through escalating militarism and war. The responsibility and duty of the Philippines government is to do everything in its power to diffuse the current crisis. According to today’s newspaper reports, the Philippines has urged a “toning down of rhetoric” between North Korea and the United States to ease tensions in the region and ensure the safety of overseas Filipino workers on the Korean Peninsula.

However, instead of practicing what it preaches, the Philippine government is (at this very moment) conducting joint military exercises with the US Hornet jet fighters have started to fly into the Philippines and a US military ship has docked in Manila Bay to bring equipment and US troops to participate in the war games. This will have the exact opposite effect of escalating the war preparations and heightening the tensions.

The fact that the government has allowed the military exercises to go ahead during such a crisis is astonishing. Is this merely a big blunder by the government in mis-timing these exercises? Have our officials been distracted by the election fever? Or is this once again a case of the Philippines obediently rolling over and being bull-dozed by the interests of the US.? In any case these military exercises will be viewed by the North Korean government as a clear provocation against them, this time by the US., in alliance with the Philippines. This is of real concern to us.

The Philippines is known to be a close ally of the US It has military agreements with the US., such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and therefore its ability to pursue a truly sovereign and independent foreign policy in the region, based on peaceful and prosperous relations with our neighbours, is severely constrained and even compromised. Once again, the current (and preceding) government’s unwillingness to follow a foreign policy independent of the US., could potentially pit us against our neighbours and place the security of our nation and its people in jeopardy.

The Obama administration and South Korean President Park Geun-hye seem to be taking concrete steps to get ready for regime change. The North Korean government’s responses show that they are preparing for the worst. And the Philippines government, it seems, has predictably decided to obediently line up with the US., irrespective of the consequences for our nation and our people.

PLM calls for the opening of direct political talks between North and South Korea, as the most urgent and necessary step, to stop the further escalation of the crisis into a full-scale war. We call on the Philippine government to act responsibly and to take all necessary measures to diffuse the escalating crisis, with the view to protecting our national interests, and the welfare of our overseas Filipino workers. This includes the immediate cessation of the ongoing joint military exercises with the US.