Peace groups and Korean Americans in the United States held candlelight vigils in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Berkeley last week to oppose the U.S. government’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.

 

The actions were timed to mark the 100th nightly anti-THAAD candlelight vigil in Seongju, South Korea, the site that was originally designated for THAAD deployment.

On July 7, 2016, the U.S. and South Korean governments announced a joint decision to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea.  Due to staunch opposition from the residents of Seongju, mostly melon farmers, the Park Geun-hye administration was recently forced to change the location of the THAAD deployment to nearby Gimcheon City.

This week’s candlelight vigils in the United States were organized by the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific, a new coalition of U.S. peace organizations and Korean Americans, to demand the White House rescind its decision to deploy the THAAD system in Korea.

In a statement signed by eighty-four peace organizations around the world and notable figures such as MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Nobel Peace Laureate Ingeborg Breines, the Task Force urges the U.S. government to “move away from policies that escalate military tension in favor of policies that seek to resolve conflicts, peacefully, through diplomacy and dialogue.”  Toward that end, it demands the U.S. government “rescind its decision on THAAD deployment in South Korea and pursue all possible avenues for reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula by re-engaging in diplomacy with North Korea.”

“The U.S. THAAD deployment in South Korea is part of the U.S. ‘pivot’ to the Asia Pacific,” said Will Griffin of Veterans for Peace, “It expands the already significant network of U.S. missile ‘defense’ systems encircling China and Russia and intensifies regional military tensions.  It also fuels a new arms race, increases the possibility of a new war on the Korean peninsula and undermines the national sovereignty and democratic aspirations of the South Korean people.”

“Very little is known in the United States about THAAD, but this issue should also be of concern to people in the United States,” said Marty Hart-Landsberg of the Korea Policy Institute.  “The cost of the THAAD system – estimated at $1.3 billion, plus an additional $22 million each year for operating and sustainment – will be borne by South Korean and U.S. taxpayers.  The continuing development of new and more destructive weapons systems draws precious resources away from needed domestic social programs.”

Soobok Kim, a Korean resident of New Jersey and a member of the June 15th New York Committee for Peace and Reunification spoke about the history of U.S. military presence in Korea dating back to 1945. Kim stated, “In September of 1945, U.S. troops entered Korea south of the 38th parallel. After 72 years, they have yet to leave. If the THAAD is deployed now, the U.S. could stay another 72 years.”

Gian Parel of BAYAN-USA stated, “The U.S. has again and again bullied other countries into unequal military agreements, whether it’s permanent bases in the Philippines… whether it’s missile defense systems in Korea. Long live international solidarity!”

In Washington DC, Brian Becker of the ANSWER Coalition stated, “We have an obligation, a responsibility, a duty to say to the [American] government that speaks in our name but not with our consent, ‘Let’s end, in fact we demand the end of, the Korean War, not a deployment of a missile defense shield, which will only draw Russia, China, and North Korea into a larger confrontation.”

Peter Bronson of Veterans For Peace New York Chapter stated, “The U.S. should try front-loading peace as a method of ending war. It’s kind of silly to say that you will stop something [like war] by engaging in more of it.”

In LA, a Won Buddhist clergy person criticized the U.S. for having no concern for the people of the land it chooses to impose its military presence.

In the Bay Area, performance artist Dohee Lee stated, “[The Korean residents] really just want to live in their land with their family and their friends, their relatives. They just want to live with them, in a peaceful way.”

The Raging Grannies of New York, who led protesters in anti-war songs, stated, “We are so sorry that our country is continuing these hideous war activities, continuing to build these hideous weapons, these horrible missiles.”

 

By Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific

Go to stopthaad.org to learn more about international solidarity efforts to oppose the THAAD deployment and other U.S. missile operations in Korea and the regions of Asia and the Pacific.

 

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