Peace for Life: Nuclear Crisis and USA

International Conference on Peace for Life in North East Asia
Korea Christian Faculty Fellowship
15. – 19. May 2005 at Roman Catholic Retreat Center, Uiwang, Korea

The Nuclear Crisis and the Problem of the USA's Strategic "Flexibility"
Cf. The Gospel of Mark 5: 1-17
Rev. Dr. HONG Keun-Soo


It is a pleasure to present my paper at this distinguished gathering. I want to speak on the conference's theme, "Toward an eternal system of life and peace in East Asia", which is a particularly meaningful and urgent issue for Koreans at this moment.

There are many problems that we confront today, but the two most urgent ones are in the political-military field: the six-party talks on the issue of North Korea's nuclear program and the "strategic flexibility" of US troops stationed in South Korea. Some might think that the dispute between Korea and Japan over Dokdo Island is most urgent and should be re-solved before any other problems are addressed. However, it suspected that in this controversy the US is acting behind the scenes, in support of Japan, not Korea. If that is true, it might make no difference whether we deal with the six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons, the US forces' "strategic flexibility", or Dokdo Island.

We Koreans have to recognize that as a nation, we must act in our own national interests. Those of us in the peace movement who closely monitor the behaviour of the US military forces in our country believe that they plan to relocate more troops to Pyongtaek and to enlarge the bases there in order to implement a change in the mission of US forces sta-tioned in Korea. They propose to transfer the 8th army headquarters from Yongsan, Seoul, and the 2nd division from Dongdu-chun, Kyungki Province. We are convinced that as part of its policy of "strategic flexibility", the USA wants to have a rapid mobilization force available in Asia, so that it is able to deliver a first strike against North Korea and curb China's power. We absolutely oppose these moves on moral grounds.

The moral foundation for opposing the relocation of US troops is even more important than political or environmental reasons, legitimate though these are in their own right. Dur-ing our regular monthly peace demonstration (our 66th) last March 15, sponsored by the "anti-USA solidarity" movement, at the citizens' public park near the US embassy, I noticed a slogan on the "Peace Pilgrims" bus, parked nearby: "From the land of death to the land of life". The slogan meant that we, the people of the peace and life movement, opposed any attempt to relocate US troops to Pyongtaek. Before, the Pyongtaek area was a land of life, farmland for growing crops, but if the US military bases are enlarged there, it will be a graveyard, a place of death.

North Korea startled the entire world, including the USA, when it announced that it has nuclear weapons and will not attend the six-party talks which are supposed to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. The announcement embarrassed the US government and en-dangered the six-party talks. The rest of the world is anxious about what will happen in Northeast Asia, but has been disappointed to see that the USA has no alternative plan for dealing with North Korea. Washington merely repeats that North Korea must return to the six-party negotiations and continues to exert pressure on Pyongyang.

Some Koreans may not understand why the North Korean government acts as it does. It has a different way of thinking and acting in a time of crisis. The South Korean govern-ment usually criticizes Pyongyang's behaviour as "brinkmanship diplomacy" without learn-ing anything from it. It appears to me that the North Koreans know how to deal with the USA and other powerful countries in order to get what they want. I must admit that I was impressed with the way the North Koreans could capture the attention of the entire world, including the USA, with their unexpected announcement.

There are different opinions about what to do. Some say that the USA must change its atti-tude, others propose trying to persuade North Korea to return to the six-party talks, in par-ticular by appealing to China to use its traditional influence on the Pyongyang regime. It must be kept in mind what North Korea has demanded in return: the USA has to apolo-gize for Secretary of State Rice's remarks, in which she branded the North as an "outpost of tyranny". In their view, no nation could sit down at the negotiating table with another country which it regards as an "outpost of tyranny", and could not expect any positive re-sults from such a meeting. This is common sense.

Thus we see that the USA is disturbed about the North's reaction, USA-China relations, high-level Chinese-North Korean meetings, and contacts between public officials of North and South Korea. We Koreans are very concerned as well, because the USA seems to be in love with war, devoting a huge budget to weapons and preparations for hostilities which it might initiate on the Korean peninsula. Secretary Rice's recent visit to Korea was a sym-bolic expression of the USA's concerns.

In November 2004, during his visit to the USA, President Roh Moo Hyun declared that ‘in rational terms, to a great extent’ he could understand North Korea's announcement that it was determined to possess nuclear weapons ‘as a measure to protect itself from any outside attack.’ Later, because of the USA's potentially negative responses to this, he changed the wording of the phrase to the effect that ‘there is an understandable aspect’ to North Ko-rea's action.

Last March 10, President Roh spoke out on this issue even more frankly, emphasizing that ‘it is a firm principle that in any case, our nation must not become involved in a Northeast Asian regional conflict against our will.’ Of course his words provoked many furious re-sponses from the American side.

For example, one of these reactions came from Representative Henry Hyde from Illinois, who is a member of the House International Relations Committee. In particular, he ques-tioned the judgment of the Korean Defence Ministry in deciding to eliminate the reference to North Korea as the ‘main enemy,’ in the latest edition of the National Defence White Paper (handbook) which the Ministry irregularly publishes. This proved to be confusing for the American public, in Congressman Hyde's opinion. Mr. Chung Dong Yeong, the Minis-ter of National Unification, responded that now 'there is no occasion to refer to North Ko-rea as the 'main enemy' in a written document' of this kind, and admonished the Americans to bear in mind that 'while the USA is an ally, the North Koreans are our compatriots, members of the same ethnic group.' He further criticized Representative Hyde for thinking in such dualistic terms, which did not promote national unification. I was unusually pleased to hear about this.

With reference to the six-party talks, the USA demands that North Korea should attend unconditionally, and threatens to use all kinds of political and military pressure to bring this about. Washington also made it clear that North Korea could make objections if it found this unfair and could raise questions at the six-party conference, implying that Pyongyang would be rewarded for good behaviour in some unspecified way.

While the American authorities require North Korea to 'first attend the conference, then talk afterward', North Korea says that the USA must 'first guarantee the security of North Korea, then the North will attend the six-party talks'. The two countries' positions thus are diametrically opposed. It is hard to predict what the outcome will be, making us all anxious about what will happen next to break the deadlock.

The talks are in danger. To be honest, however, we favour and welcome North Korea's po-sition with reference to objecting to any nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We cannot ignore the fact that the USA must bear the ultimate responsibility for the fact that North Korea decided to embark on a policy of nuclear development. The USA's position on this issue is sheer hypocrisy. On the one hand the USA is very reluctant to sign the Nuclear Se-curity Agreement (NSA), it urges the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to strengthen the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and to apply its high standards to North Korea.

On the other hand, far from undertaking any significant reduction of its own nuclear weapons arsenal, the USA is researching and developing new models of nuclear weapons such as the "bunker buster". The South Korean authorities are of little help in this matter, putting forth no policies of their own, just parroting the USA's insistence that the North must return to the six-party talks. In Korea, we regard the nuclearization of the peninsula as a matter of life or death. Our nation's survival is at stake. The question of peace or war here may affect the entire human race. If nuclear war starts here, it could easily spread. It all depends on the resolution of these two issues.

It is true. The main purpose of the secretive relocation of US military bases from Yongsan in Seoul and Dongdu-chun in Kyungki to Pyongtaek is to enable the USA to deliver a first strike against North Korea and control China, which remains the USA's potential enemy at this point. The aims of creating a super-division out of the US forces and relocating them to the Pyongtaek bases are the same to readjust the structure of the US forces in Korea so that they can be mobilized more rapidly and effectively.

The second matter that I want to discuss is the "strategic flexibility“ of the US armed forces. Recently we were shocked by news reports that by this summer, instead of two years from now, the US will already complete its plans to transform its troops into "units of action", newly equipped and capable of conducting military operations, including precision strikes, over great distances. When this transformation is realized, the 2nd army division will be a new kind of military division, armed with extended battlefield and strategic capa-bilities, the "Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I)" sys-tem, the most modern Abraham and M270A1 tanks, and multiple extended missile systems, much more advanced than present weapon systems. Moreover, its real purpose is to change the basic nature of US forces in Korea.

They will redesign the military formations by creating so-called "super units". The new "units of action", equipped with heavy weaponry, will be twice or three times the size of other existing units now in Korea. I regard this kind of measure on the part of the USA as a second phase in its policy of aggression against Asia, because it forms the basis on which the USA assumes a "commanding strategy during war time" as regulated by the Mutual De-fence Treaty between the Republic of Korea and the USA. The US forces in Korea are al-tering their strategic structures and command system, from that of a defence force de-signed to deter any possible aggression from North Korea, to an Asian-Pacific theatre rapid mobility force. The reason why we object to the "strategic flexibility" plan is not just the problems inherent in it but the fact that it is a violation of the current ROK-USA Mutual Defence Treaty.

We object to the USA's "strategic flexibility" project, because it is a matter of our life or death, our security, and peace in this region. Of course we, the people of Korea, are op-posed to this because it is against our national interest. We have to protest against such a change in the US forces in Korea, not only because of the technical problems that it will cause, but because it will lead to an arms race in the region, including North Korea. We ob-ject to any transformation of the US forces in Korea because China and its neighbours in-cluding we in Korea will resist any military pressure or threats by the US.

We oppose this kind of transformation of US forces in Korea, not only because it can lead to war on the Korean peninsula, but also endanger peace throughout the Northeast Asia region.
In particular, the USA's plan to complete the transformation this summer, instead of two years from now, contradicts President Roh's statements on November 11, during his visit to Los Angeles, and again on March 10, that "there will be no involvement in conflict in Northeast Asia against our will".
The only way that the US troops can preserve their lives is to withdraw from Korean soil, especially in view of the fact that the South's military forces are stronger than those of the North.

We oppose the "strategic flexibility" policy not only for the sake of our own security but because of the danger of a possible wider arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.

Last month, there was a hearing for General William Parren, the new US commander of the Pacific Ocean region. At the hearing Parren, a former navy admiral, said that his 'short-term goal will be to increase the military readiness of a rapid mobilization force in Asian and Pacific areas'. This was virtually a proclamation of official strategic policy, rather than an explanation of his ideas as a new commander. The same day, General LaPorte, the commander of the US forces in Korea, acknowledged that the purpose of stationing US troops in Korea was to deter any military aggression, as stipulated in the Mutual Defence Treaty. He actually admitted that the USFK's task is to support the mutual security agree-ment, but at the same time he alluded to the USA's aim to implement the new 'strategic flexibility' plan. It was wrong to say that.

The US forces are not welcome anywhere in Korea. Their presence is like a blight, creating social and political problems, and changes life to death. The US soldiers should go home immediately, not only for the sake of our national sovereignty and survival but also for the well-being of the US itself. That is the best solution. No one would willingly choose death over life.

The US forces in Korea are actually a horde of barbarians, a swarm of evil spirits that eventually will be destroyed by Jesus.





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