US missile defence (missile offence really) has gone through various forms since President Reagan came up with it thirty years ago. But it always has the same vision, of maintaining US military dominance on the Earth and in space. This dream – turned nightmare for the rest of the world – has been pursued by successive presidents. And President Obama is no exception. Despite saying he would ‘cut investments in unproven missile defense systems’ before being elected, he has since changed and extended Bush’s unworkable plans for European bases, got NATO on board and is now planning bases surrounding the Russian border in the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania. There are also possible roles for Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey and Israel. Little wonder then that Russian President Medvedev has warned of a new arms race and threatened to quit START – the nuclear weapons reduction Treaty – as a result.
And US missile defence is not only causing problems in Europe. The US is selling Patriot missile defence systems around the world – to Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, India, wherever they can get the customers – irrespective of the consequences. One of those has just become harsh reality to the people of Jeju Island in South Korea.
President Obama’s new missile defence plans involve the stationing of 38 or so war ships armed with SM-3 missile interceptors (the so-called Aegis systems) in and around the Black Sea and the Pacific. The US is pressing South Korea to build a large naval base on Jeju island to berth some of them. Building this base will destroy the beautiful local environment – including unique coral reefs – and also ruin the lives and livelihoods of local people. So it is not surprising that they do not want the base to be built. South Korea wants Jeju Island to become a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site but at the same time are going to destroy it by building a military base there – it doesn’t make sense!
Locals have been campaigning for some time to prevent it and a number of peaceful protestors have been arrested and imprisoned. Among them are Professor Yang Yoon-Mo, who was imprisoned for trying to help build international awareness about the base, going on hunger strike for 57 days before his release on probation on June 1st, and Sung-Hee Choi who is still in jail. Sung is due for trial on June 10th. The peace movement must support these activists and raise awareness, both of their plight and the outrageous and oppressive military expansion of the US.