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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Olongapo, Jeju-Do, Tinian, Saipan, and Pagan

Jaime R. Vergara

What do the first five on our title list have in common? All in the western Pacific side of Asia, they have stored A-bomb materials in their premises at one time or another. They, and many other ports and bases around the world, have done so, often against their stated policies, and with the consent of only a few.

One of Lazarus Salii’s insistence in Palau’s independence from the UN-Trust Territory of the Pacific was a policy to make it a nuclear-free area, barring nuclear-powered naval presence in the area. He would become the country’s third president, reportedly committing suicide over bribery charges. (The first President was assassinated.)

Iwo Jima is one of eight villages of Tokyo, uninhabited by a civilian population though a Japanese airbase is on island. The U.S. Navy had used it to store nuclear bomb material.

We all know of Okinawa where the U.S. was legally an inch away from Japan’s prohibition of nuclear materials in its territories. Okinawa was technically under U.S. occupation for a long while before it was returned to Japan. The current Senkaku Islands’ conflict (Diao Yu in Zhongguo) was identified with the Ryukyus but geographically a part of Taiwan. We ceded the islands to Japan rather than to Taiwan where they would normally belong.

It took force majeure from lahar-spewing Mt. Pinatubo to close out Subic Bay naval facilities in Olongapo, home to the U.S. Seventh Fleet, and neighboring Clark U.S. Air Force base that, along with Anderson in Guam, sent Agent Orange to IndoChina during the region’s war in the ’70s.

The U.S. military kept installations in Northern Luzon where I was born, and supported efforts to the develop southwest Mindanao to contain resurgent Islam already resident in the area; also positioning interests on the discovered oil wealth underneath South China Sea that might extend into Sulu. We conducted Peace Corps training in the area in the ’80s, a fateful one for me since it apparently disqualified my participation in any further training.

Jeju-Do island of South Korea is building a huge naval facility that will support the preeminent U.S. military command in the region, and will be key to Obama’s military strategy of “pivot turn,” a move of military material and personnel to contain China in the Western Pacific.

I spent two months in Suwon in ’72 elbowing with Christian church folk to deal with the issue of what it meant to be a real religious servant force, rather than be the privileged muksa nim just slightly below royalty. When it was time to put our money where our mouths’ were, we thought on focusing on a community in Jeju.

In a series of programmed community meetings, we embarked in enabling local communities to meet their own requirements just about the time strongman Park Chung Hee (father of the current SoKor President) launched the Saemuel Undong (local community mobilization movement). My younger sister in Manila was then a newly minted nurse, so I volunteered her services to the effort. Other than learning how to belch heartily after a meal in Hangguel (the bulgoggi and kimchee can air out the system), and singing a popular tune whose lyrics were rewritten to declare one’s Saranghae to the village of Kwanyung Il, I think we pretty much left President Park to his own devices.

Jeju in South Korea’s history was one of neglect due to a post-WWII incident until the island presented itself as a possible tropical destination for Korean and Japanese tourists, now billed as an international island. Its new naval facility will be relatively equidistant to Vladivostok, Tokyo, Taipei, HK, and Beijing. The locals are now in active protest over the sleight-of-hand they experienced in the landing of a foreign naval base in their neighborhood.

MIT Noam Chomsky’s description of South Korea’s history wrote: “When U.S. forces entered Korea in 1945, they dispersed the local popular government, consisting primarily of antifascists who resisted the Japanese, and inaugurated a brutal repression, using Japanese fascist police and Koreans who had collaborated with them during the Japanese occupation. About 100,000 people were murdered in South Korea prior to what we call the Korean War, including 30,000 to 40,000 killed during the suppression of a peasant revolt in one small region, Cheju Island.” The last is the Jeju-do of my acquaintance. Chomsky’s Korean fascists would include the 18-year rule of General Park, a one-time member of the Japan Imperial Army elite Kwantung Army force of Manchuria.

Tinian cradled the only two nuclear bombs ever exploded over inhabited territory. We know of the CIA clandestine operations on Saipan in support of Chinese and Tibetan insurgents (check with Bill Stewart for more info), and now, Pagan is being proposed as a venue for military purposes.

(NMDs are understandably in a tizzy. We shall pick this one up in a subsequent reflection.)

For now, we should not wonder why certain responsible segments of American society think the War on Terror was a misnomer. We have met the enemy, they say. It is US! To many parts of the world, we constitute organized and effective uniformed terrorism.

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