As President Donald Trump continues his bellicose rhetoric towards North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his trip to the Asia-Pacific region this week, organizations from the U.S., South Korea, and Japan on Monday demanded an "urgent pivot towards peace" and called on their leaders to rein in the militarization that could lead to "catastrophe."
Trump is in Japan on Monday as he continues his nearly two-week "Indo-Pacific" tour, which will also include stops in South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. In Tokyo, Trump said (his "sidekick") Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be able to ensure his country's safety by buying "lots of" military equipment from the United States.
But according to the civil society organizations, such a move would add to the already antagonistic stew of verbal threats, sanctions, joint U.S., Japanese, and South Korean military exercises, Abe's controversial move to re-militarize the country, and the continued nuclear weapons possession by any state. Instead, they say, Trump, Abe, and South Korea President Moon Jae-in should "take bold steps to ensure lasting peace."
"Washington is forcing a trilateral military alliance and provocative war drills on Tokyo and Seoul that threatens North Korea and the region," said Christine Ahn, international coordinator of global peace movement Women Cross DMZ. "The people of Japan, South Korea, and United States oppose war. Our demands are an urgent pivot towards peace."
Many South Koreas are putting that opposition on display. Ahead of a protest that willl coincide with Trump's visit to Seoul on Tuesday, thousands rallied in that capitol on Sunday chanting "We oppose war! Nengotiate peace!"
According to Choi Eun-a of the Korean Alliance for Progressive Movements, which is among the groups calling for a national protest on the day of the U.S. president's visit, "The South Korean public is highly critical of Trump for making threats of war and dismissing the gravity of its consequences as something 'over there,'" apparently referring to recent comments the president made to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
"The war-threatening, weapons salesman Trump is not welcome here, especially as he demands that South Korea pay more to host U.S. troops and set aside land for useless weapons like the THAAD missile defense system," she added, referring to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system located at a base in Seongju, around 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul.
"The war-threatening, weapons salesman Trump is not welcome here."The groups also spoke out about a series of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills scheduled to happen during Trump's visit.
"Peace-loving people in the United States, Japan, and South Korea reject the war-mongering policies of our governments and express our friendship and solidarity with the people of North Korea," said Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation in California, and the National Co-Convener of United for Peace and Justice. "The U.S. government must end its policy of sanctions and military threats against North Korea, cease the deployment of more weapons of mass destruction to the Korean peninsula and the region, and halt large-scale military exercises that impede dialogue with North Korea."
The new statements come less than two weeks after U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation to prevent Trump from launching a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, and days after the Pentagon said that only a ground invasion could secure North Korea's nuclear weapons sites "with complete certainty."
That assessment, said 16 U.S. lawmakers, is "deeply disturbing," and such an action "could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting."
The lawmakers, all veterans, said, the "assessment underscores what we've known all along: There are no good military options for North Korea."
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Read the civil society groups' full statement below:
U.S., South Korean, and Japanese Civil Society Organizations Call for a Bold Shift in Policy for Peace in Korea and Northeast Asia
As U.S. President Trump travels to Asia, we civil society groups from the United States, South Korea, and Japan call for a diplomatic solution to the dangerous conflict between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). As those who would be directly impacted by the outbreak of such a conflict, we call on our leaders to take bold steps to ensure lasting peace.
Recent events have set the stage for a possible catastrophe on the Korean Peninsula and even throughout the greater Northeast Asian region. Any further escalation of tensions could rapidly degenerate into violence. In its 27 October 2017 report, the U.S. Congressional Research Service estimates that over 300,000 people would die in the opening days of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, even without nuclear weapons, and would ultimately claim 25 million lives.
Even as President Trump calls his predecessor’s policy of “strategic patience” on North Korea a failure, he continues the same policy, i.e., intensifying U.N. and unilateral sanctions and military threats. Meanwhile, North Korea continues to escalate the pace and scale of its nuclear and missile tests. The Abe government, seizing on the crisis in Korea, has quickened the pace of remilitarization and revision of Article 9 of its constitution. South Korean President Moon Jae-in meanwhile, despite an unambiguous mandate from the South Korean people, who ousted his hawkish predecessor in hopes of a radical transition to harmonious North-South relations, instead continues to do the bidding of the United States as he assumes a hostile posture vis-à-vis North Korea. We therefore demand that:
1. The Trump administration boldly shift to a policy of peace by:
· Ending its policy of sanctions and military threats against North Korea;
· Ceasing the deployment of more weapons of mass destruction on the Korean peninsula and in the region, and withdrawing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system from South Korea as it only exacerbates tensions in the region; and
· Halting large-scale military exercises that impede dialogue with North Korea
2. The administration of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea honor the spirit of past North-South joint declarations for peace and reconciliation by:
· Assertively pursuing inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation;
· Halting future large-scale U.S.-South Korea combined military exercises to minimize the risk of confrontation ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyongchang, South Korea; and
· No longer cooperating with investments in costly weapon systems with the United States and Japan, including spending on missile defense, which only exacerbates tensions in the region and diverts precious resources away from human needs.
3. The government of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe immediately cease all further moves toward military buildup and instead contribute to regional peace by:
· Abolishing the controversial "Conspiracy Law" and "State Secrecy Law," as well as the 2015 "Peace and Security Legislation" or war bills which permit the use of the so-called right to collective self-defense;
· Pursuing the normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea based upon the principles of the Pyongyang Declaration and the Stockholm Agreement; and
· Ceasing moves to change Article 9, the peace clause in its constitution.
These are among the hundreds of civil society organizations who have signed on:
· Citizens Association against Constitutional Revision (許すな！憲法改悪・市民連絡会)
· Femin Women's Democratic Club (ふぇみん婦人民主クラブ)
· Japan-Korea People’s Solidarity Network (日韓民衆連帯全国ネットワーク)
· Kyoto/Kinki Association against the U.S. X-band Radar Base (米軍Xバンドレーダー基地反対・京都/近畿連絡)
· Network of Religious Persons Making Peace
· Nonviolent Peaceforce Japan (非暴力平和隊・日本)
· Peace Boat (ピースボート)
· Veterans for Peace Japan (ベテランズ・フォー・ピース・ジャパン)
• Federation of Korean Trade Unions (한국노동조합총연맹)
• Korean Alliance of Progressive Movements (한국진보연대)
• Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (전국민주노동조합총연맹)
• Korean Peasants League (전국농민회총연맹)
• Korean Street Vendors Confederation (전국노점상연합)
• Korean Women’s Alliance (전국여성연대)
• Korean Women Peasants Alliance (전국여성농민회총연합)
• Korean Youth Solidarity (한국청년연대)
• National Alliance of Squatters and Evictees (전국철거민연합)
• Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security
• International Forum on Globalization
• Peace Action
• Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific
• United for Peace and Justice
• Veterans for Peace National
• Western States Legal Foundation
• Women Cross DMZ