(COMMON DREAMS) Doohan Paik, November 4, 2015 — Last September, I attended a remarkable gathering in Okinawa of impassioned young people from all over the Asia-Pacific. They convened at a critical moment to urgently discuss ramped-up militarism in their region. Thousands of hectares of exquisitely wild marine environments, peaceful communities and local democracy are now under extreme threat. Participants hailed from: Taiwan; Jeju (South Korea); the Japanese Ryukyu islands; Indonesia; New Zealand; and the Japanese Ogasawara islands. I was invited to represent Hawaii, where the headquarters for the U.S. Pacific Command (PACCOM) are located, and where decisions are made that have profound consequences for these young activists, and the rest of the world. These include missile base-building on pristine islands, rampant navy war games that destroy coastlines, reefs and other vital ecosystems, not to mention adding to climate change, pursued with no regard for local opinion.
It’s all a result of the “Pacific Pivot,” announced by President Obama in 2011, to move 60% of U.S. Navy and Air Force resources from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific. The stated goal is to maintain “balance” in the ongoing battle with China for regional military and economic hegemony. A particularly dangerous expression in this effort came a few weeks ago, when a U.S. missile-carrying warship challenged China by passing through disputed waters surrounding China’s artificial island bases in the South China Sea. It is the latest example of brinkmanship after years of provocative moves by the U.S. in the so-called interest of balance. But, the grim fact is there is no balance in the Pacific. The little publicized reality is that the United States, located thousands of miles from China’s coast, already maintains over 400 military installations and 155,000 troops in that part of the world. Meanwhile China, even with its newest artificial island-bases in the South China Sea, will have a grand total fewer than ten.
At the conference, entitled “Peace for the Sea Camp” it was noted that one of the most destructive developments has been Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s 2015 campaign to forge a new network of aggressive bilateral agreements with militaries from other countries such as South Korea, the Philippines, Australia — and most insidiously, Japan — to augment American dominance. These alliances are reinforced economically by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an essential component of the fool’s endeavor to contain China within its own hemisphere. However, no one at the conference took sides with one hegemon or the other. China was also criticized for having smothered thousands of acres of healthy reef with concrete and crushed coral, to build its artificial islands. To be sure, one of the primary purposes of the gathering was to establish a global voice against all military desecration of islands and the seas. Here’s the full story on the crisis and resistance.