Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2005
International Symposium


Yoo Hong

Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea (SPARK)


Korean Peopl's Struggles against the Transformation of the USFK into an "Asia-Pacific Rapid Deployment Force"

1. The realignment of the US forces in Korea (USFK)

As part of the GPR (Global Defense Posture Review), the US Forces in Korea are scheduled for relocation to Pyongtaek, Daegu and Busan by the year 2008.
One of the reasons why the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul and the 2nd Infantry Division near the DMZ are moving to Pyongtaek, south of Seoul, is that they will be safely out of the range of North Korea's artillery, so that the USFK can minimize its casualties when it launches a preemptive attack on the North.

However, the essential reason for the relocation is to enable the USFK to function as the "Asia-Pacific rapid deployment force", taking advantage of the increased mobility offered by the air base and the naval port at Pyongtaek.

Why is this so important? This realignment of the USFK has serious implications for all of us in Asia and the world. It is an essential component of the US's grand strategy of containing China and dominating the Asia-Pacific area. War is likely if the US is not prevented from transforming its forces in Korea into rapid-deployment troops for intervention in Asian countries

2. The transformation of the USFK into an "Asia-Pacific rapid deployment force"

1) What is it?

The operational range of the USFK has been limited to Korean soil so far in accordance with the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty. However, the USFK is changing its status and mission under the deceptive concept of "strategic flexibility" from a stationary force defending South Korea against a North Korean attack to a rapid deployment force projecting American military power throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The USFK, with their improved capacity for rapid mobility, can be promptly dispatched everywhere in the Asia-Pacific region.

2) What is its objective?

Through the transformation of the USFK into an "Asia-Pacific rapid deployment force", the US essentially intends to encircle and contain China. With the end of the Cold War, the US has come to regard China, instead of the USSR, as its main rival. In accordance with this new geopolitical perspective, the US hopes to prevent the People's Republic from rising to the status of a rival superpower. The so-called "arc of instability", stretching from the Middle East through Central Asia to Northeast Asia, is a concept related to the US's strategy of containing China.

The US aspires to exercise military control over the states in this "arc of instability" in order to put into effect its long-term strategy of containing China. This is the background of the stationing of the US forces in Central Asia, the strengthening of military cooperation with India and Pakistan, and the joint military exercises with the Philippines and Thailand.

However, within this vast area, East Asia is the most vital region for the US in terms of implementing the strategy of encircling and controlling China. Both the USFK and the USFJ reorganization aim at the containment strategy. Therefore, the transformation of the USFK takes the containment of China as its primary goal, and thus the USFK and the ROK forces, combined with the US Forces in Japan and Japanユs Self-Defense Forces (SDF), will turn into the front-line troops for containing China.

3) What problems will it cause?

North East Asia is the most heavily militarized region in the world and the military tension is at the highest level. Furthermore, the transformation will provoke an endless arms race between the US and its allies - the ROK, Japan and Taiwan - and the DPRK and China, and intensify the military confrontation, resulting in the constant threat of war in N.E. Asia.

The US and its allies, which already have overwhelming military superiority over China, are deploying Missile Defense systems to render the opponent's counterattack impotent, and introducing high-tech offensive weapons.

In this situation, if the transformation of the USFK increases the degree of pressure against China, in self-defense, an alarmed China will definitely strengthen its own military power more and more, and then N.E. Asian countries will inevitably be in sucked into a terrible arms race.

This kind of arms race, combined with the territorial conflicts between Japan and its neighbors - China, Russia, the ROK - will trigger an even greater crisis in tense N.E. Asia, where the US considered an invasion of North Korea several times in the 1990s because of the North Korean nuclear issue.
Meanwhile, the transformation of the USFK into an "Asia-Pacific rapid deployment force" will inevitably compel the ROK military to function as an "Asia-Pacific rapid deployment force" also. This is unavoidable because of the vertical-hierarchal structure of the ROK-US military relationship. (The USFK has controlled the ROK military since the Korean War.) This means that ROK-US defensive national alliance will be changed into an aggressive regional alliance. The fact that Korean troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are supporting the US forces, under the command of the US Pacific Command, shows that the ROK-US alliance is already changing into an aggressive regional alliance.

Besides, S. Korea will be reduced to a staging area and logistics base for the USFK's invasion of China and intervention in Asia-Pacific regional conflicts.

Finally, the transformation of the USFK will critically endanger the ROK's national security, as the US openly implements its long-term geopolitical intentions to permanently contain China.

After the USFK and the ROK forces are changed into the Asia-Pacific Rapid Deployment Forces, their intervention in the China-Taiwan conflicts means that the ROK changes into Chinaユs enemy and therefore a direct target of a Chinese counterattack.

3. Struggles against the transformation of the USFK into an "sia-Pacific rapid deployment force"

1) SPARK's activities

Since 2003, SPARK has been mainly working to block the transformation of the USFK into an "Asia-Pacific rapid deployment force", because if we accept the transformation of the USFK, it will be a deadly threat to peace on the Korean peninsula and in N.E. Asia. The US will feel even less restraint in exploiting its military power in the region wherever, whenever, and however it wants.

According to a recent survey, about 54% of the Korean people support the immediate or gradual withdrawal of the USFK, but ordinary people aren't aware of the danger of the transformation of the USFK because the ROK-US negotiations were undertaken secretly and the real nature of the transformation, and the reason for it, were disguised behind the name "strategic flexibility" of the USFK.

Therefore, SPARK has concentrated its efforts to alert people to the danger and support the struggles of the Pyongtaek residents.

Public actions to influence government policy and legislation
Whenever Seoul and Washington have talks about the transformation, SPARK holds press conferences, rallies and sit-down demonstrations in front of government buildings.
When the National Assembly debated the Yongsan base relocation agreement, SPARK organized sit-down demonstrations at the National Assembly building.
SPARK has talks with the government officials and delivers open letters to the president and the Defense and Foreign Ministries.

Public relations activities
We have published articles about the transformation and had interviews in daily newspapers, Internet media and on TV and radio. We have been holding campaigns on the street and a petition movement against the enlargement of US military bases at Pyongtaek.

Support for the Pyongtaek residents' struggle
As we think that blocking the US base expansion at Pyongtaek is the most essential part of stopping the transformation of the USFK, two members of SPARK staff, including the secretary general, have been staying in Pyongtaek to support the residents. SPARK members have actively participated in the residentsユ various activities.

2) The struggle against the US base expansion at Pyongtaek: Land for Food, not War!

a) Significance of this struggle

The campaign against the US base expansion in Pyongtaek is the core part of the struggle against the transformation of the USFK into an "Asia-Pacific rapid deployment force". The reason is that the US base expansion in Pyongtaek is essential for the US to secure the material and geographical basis for the USFK's mobility.

Moreover, this expansion outrages most Korean people since the US deprives the farmers of their land in order to build up its war bases, but demands that Korea pay for most of the cost in the process. Above all, the Pyongtaek residents themselves are at the center of the struggle.

b) Situation in Pyongtaek

Pyongtaek has the best farmland in Korea because the climate is ideal for agriculture, neither too wet nor too dry. However, the US bases in Pyongtaek already occupy 1511 hectares and the USFK demand an additional 1154 hectares.

After decades of being deprived of land of their own, the Pyongtaek residents are now once again on the verge of losing the basis of their livelihood in the name of national security.

First, the Pyongtaek farmers lost land to the Japanese during the colonial period; second, after the Korean War they lost land to the US military; and now their land is being taken away for a third time by the USFK.

To farmers, land is life itself, and especially so for the Pyongtaek residents, because most of them are in their 60s or 70s and therefore are too old to start a new way of life. Thus, seizing the Pyongtaek farmers' land is like depriving them of life itself.

c) Pyongtaek residents' campaign

The local residents were outraged not only because of the land grab, but because the Korean government never asked the residents' opinion about the land seizure plan when the government negotiated with the US. The residents only found out about the plan through the press.

As the Defense Ministry announced the plan in April 2003, the farmers formed a residents' committee against the US military base expansion, and organized various activities.

They held press conferences and demonstrations at the Defense Ministry building and the US embassy, and held a grand rally in their hometown.
They blocked the Defense Ministry land surveys at the planned base expansion site.

On September 1, 2004, they started a candlelight vigil in front of the Pyongtaek police station to protest against the arrest of their leader. Since that day, they have held a candlelight vigil every night in their community. Today, Nov. 24, they are holding the 450th candlelight vigil.

d) Pan-South Korean Solution Committee against US Base Expansion in Pyeong-Taek (KCPT)

The US base expansion in Pyongtaek concerns all Koreans, not just the residents. If the dangerous transformation of the USFK into an "Asia-Pacific rapid deployment force" is completed, it will drag the whole Korean nation into a war that the Koreans never want, annihilating the whole nation. However, only about 1,370 residents - that is, 535 families -- live in the area of the planned base expansion. Thus, it is very difficult for the residents to block the US military base expansion just by themselves.

Therefore, last February, 136 organizations - peace activists including SPARK, popular organizations like the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, human rights groups and civic organizations - established the Pan-South Korean Solution Committee against US Base Expansion in Pyeong-Taek.

To increase public understanding and solidarity with the residents, the Committee organized many trips to Pyongtaek for various groups. Many trade unions and youth groups visited Pyongtaek, and some churches held worship services at Pyongtaek. When the farmers were busy planting rice, the Committee organized students and other people to help the farmers.

The Committee has launched many programs to raise public awareness of the Pyeongtaek issues, including the "Protect the Land of Life and Peace" campaign that recruited a hundred thousand volunteers.

As a result, the demonstration on July 10th attracted about twelve thousand people from every part of the country. In spite of the riot police's violent attacks against them, the participants showed their determination to block the base expansion by forming a human chain around the base and pulling down part of the fences.

The demonstration publicized the issue all around the country and the residents gained confidence in their struggle.

From Aug. to Oct. the Committee sponsored weekly concerts in the center of Seoul (Gwang-hwa-mun), performed by a famous singer, Jeong Tae-chun, to publicize the issue and support the farmers.

In the meantime, many peace activists from Japan, North America, and Europe visited the village, encouraged the residents and promised to support the residents' struggle. The Committee sent delegations to Japan and Europe to publicize this issue and appeal for international solidarity.

On October 29, 2005, members of the Committee, led by Father Mun Jeong-Hyeon and Pyongtaek residents, pitched a tent in the front plaza of the Pyongtaek train station and began a day-and-night vigil to stop the expansion of US bases in Pyongtaek.

The Committee will hold a tremendous demonstration on December 11. For us, this demonstration is very important because the government plans to complete the land grab by this winter. Thus, the Committee does make every effort to organize as many participants as possible, and appeals to the international community to support this rally and participate in it if possible.

4. The challenge for us

The transformation of the USFK is part of the US's global military transformation and definitely for the USユs strategy to maintain and strengthen its hegemony over the world.

The US is ambitious to dominate the world militarily, economically, and politically through the threat and use of force, which will be enhanced by this military transformation, and to secure its own interest and power at the expense of the rest of the world. If we do not combine our strength to oppose this military madness, we will all be victims in the coming war which the US has been planning for years and is now preparing to launch.