10,000 Protest THAAD in Seoul; Anti-THAAD Petition to White House Surpasses 100,000
On August 14, 10,000 people gathered at City Hall Plaza in Seoul to protest the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. The National Taskforce to Oppose THAAD Deployment in South Korea mobilized a nationwide peace action to demand the South Korean government and the U.S. immediately rescind their decision to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea. The peace action took place just one day before the 71st anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonization. 35 residents of Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, the planned site of the THAAD deployment, also traveled to Seoul to join the protest. Seongju residents gathered at their nightly candlelight protest in their hometown were connected via live video chat to the people gathered in Seoul. During the live video chat, Seongju residents resolved to fight together with South Koreans across the country and said, “Let us work together to prevent the THAAD deployment.”
The following day on August 15, 5,000 residents gathered in Seongju for a mass demonstration. 815 residents of Seongju (in honor of August 15 – Day of liberation from Japanese colonial rule) had planned to shave their heads as an act of protest against the THAAD deployment. 908 residents, including elders in their 80s and young people in their 20s, participated in this action.
The petition demanding the U.S. White House rescind its decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea reached 100,000 signatures last week. The online petition launched by Korean Americans in the U.S. on July 15 required 100,000 signatures within 30 days to trigger an official response from the White House. The petition reached the required number of signatures on August 9, five days before the deadline of August 14. Starting on August 14, the White House has 60 days to give an official response.
China Criticizes UN for Condemning North Korea’s Missile Tests but Not U.S. THAAD
In the United Nations, China opposed attempts to condemn North Korea for its recent missile launches. Last week on August 2, North Korea reportedly launched two missiles off its eastern coast. Of the two mid-range Rodong ballistic missiles, one reportedly landed in Japan’s economic exclusive zone (EEZ). Shortly after, the Chinese state media commented that although the missile tests were in violation of the UN Security Council’s resolution, under the current circumstances of high military tensions, there is a need to re-think what the missile tests mean for the region. It defended the latest missile tests as North Korea’s act of protest against the U.S. for its decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea in order to gain hegemonic control in the region.
On Tuesday August 9, the UN Security Council debated whether to release a statement drafted by the United States condemning North Korea’s August 2 missile launches. Members of the UN Security council failed to reach an agreement around the language of the statement. China had proposed including language that criticized the U.S.’ decision to build up missile defense systems in South Korea (specifically the THAAD system) and the Northeast Asian region. The specific language that China sought to include was the following: “all relevant parties shall avoid taking any actions which could provoke each other and escalate tensions, and shall not deploy any new anti-ballistic missile stronghold in Northeast Asia with an excuse of dealing with threats of the DORK nuclear missile programs.”
The disagreement in the UN Security Council may indicate that China will also change its position on endorsing U.S.-led sanctions against North Korea. With U.S. deployment of the THAAD system in Korea – which China see as a direct provocation against it – China is unlikely to retain its previous stance on denuclearizing North Korea.
North, South, Overseas Koreans Resolve to Realize Inter-Korean Conference for Peace and Reunification
On August 14, in commemoration of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial occupation in 1945, 1,000 people from all sectors of the movement for peace and reunification gathered in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Plaza for an outdoor “roundtable conference.” People from all sectors, including workers, farmers, women, youth and students, urban poor, scholars, media, elected officials and faith-based communities, from all regions between Seoul and Jeju sat around 100 round tables in the plaza to discuss peace and reunification. During this assembly, the 1,000 participants discussed the following questions:
- What will we do in the face of threats against the peace of the Korean Peninsula?
- What would a joint reunification movement between South and North Korea look like?
- What must we do to build a truly mass movement for reunification?
Opposition to the recent U.S.-South Korean decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea was the subject of much discussion at all the tables. There was also broad consensus on working towards realizing an inter-Korean conference of government officials, political parties and civic groups as a step towards peace and unification.
Participants agreed to step up pressure on the South Korean government and all political parties to work towards – restoring communication channels between the leadership of the two countries; facilitating talks between the two countries (particularly around military tensions); resuming operations in the Kaesong Industrial Zone and tourist areas of Mount Kumgang; finding solutions for issues surrounding separated families; and guaranteeing people-to-people exchanges between Koreans on both sides of the peninsula.
The 1,000 people roundtable conference event came a few days following a meeting between North, South, and overseas Koreans, who resolved to work together to realize the Inter-Korean Conference, which North Korea proposed at the end of June. Representatives of the North Korean Preparatory Committee for the Inter-Korean Conference, the Overseas Korean Preparatory Committee for the Inter-Korean Conference, and the June 15th South Korean Committee for Reunification of Korea gathered in China from August 11 to August 12 to discuss how to coordinate efforts in preparation for the proposed Inter-Korean Conference.
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