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Issue #1790      August 16, 2017

Negotiate, Don’t Escalate

In yet another dangerous escalation of the tit for tat threats between US President Trump and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK – North Korea), a spokesman for the Korean People’s Army said it is “carefully examining” a plan to strike the Pacific island of Guam – indigenous name Guahan – with missiles, just hours after US President Trump declared that any threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury and frankly power”.

The US has packed Guahan with nuclear powered and nuclear armed ships, submarines and planes and it is home to thousands of US marines and other military personnel.

Washington has warned it is ready to use force to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. North Korea retorted that it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any US military action.


The consequences of any US strike would be catastrophic not only for North Koreans but also South Korea, Japan and for any US, Australian or other people within range of any North Korean retaliatory strikes.

A US invasion of North Korea would incur massive retaliation across the 38th parallel and the death of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Korean civilians on both sides of the demilitarised zone.

On Guahan many of the population of 174,000 men, women and children would be killed or injured by a North Korean missile strike on their Pacific atoll.


Guahan is a US territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific. The indigenous people, the Chamorro, have been fighting for their independence but the US ignores this and uses the island as a military base.

The US Department of Defence currently occupies one-third of Guahan and is seeking to increase their landholdings by an additional 8.9 square km on an island that is only 549 square km.

Guahan is often called the tip of the US spear pointing at China. The US has packed it with nuclear powered and nuclear armed ships, submarines and planes and it is home to thousands of US marines and other military personnel.

Now threatened by North Korea as part of the increasingly dangerous flow of threat and counter threat between the US and the DPRK, the people of Guahan already have a bitter history of suffering from militarisation.

At the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2015 Dakota Alcantara-Camacho, speaking for the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, made a submission which pointed out in part that:

“Militarisation impacts indigenous peoples in various ways leading to further infringements on our right to cultural and political self-determination.”

“In Guahan, the military hold behind their fence, our largest supply of fresh water that they now sell back to us, most recently issuing a proposal to increase prices by 800%.”

“On Guahan’s Andersen Air Force and naval bases alone, there were over 95 toxic sites that were identified.”

“In 2011, the US Obama Administration officially announced the ‘Pacific Pivot’ strategy, a massive expansion of aggressive military posturing in the Pacific region.”

“The reason given for the hyper-militarisation of the Pacific region is the containment of China and North Korea. The Pivot involves bilateral agreements with Japan, which stipulates Guahan as the site of joint training exercises, without obtaining free, prior, or informed consent from the island’s indigenous Chamorros.”

There are solutions

James Goodby, a former US Ambassador and academic, has proposed a number of steps that could help resolve the current dangerous tensions on the Korean peninsula.

He stresses that it is for the two parts of divided Korea to manage North-South relations.

Dealing with issues arising from the Korean War means negotiating agreements to replace the 1953 armistice. Items on this agenda would include borders on land and at sea, establishing diplomatic relations, some measures to regulate military activities on and around the Korean Peninsula, and pledges to refrain from the use or threat of force to resolve differences.

One proposal for resolving the nuclear weapons issue is the idea of creating a nuclear weapon-free zone in a geographically defined area in Northeast Asia.

South and North Korea would join with Japan in pledging to renounce their possession of nuclear weapons. China, Russia, and the United States would pledge to support in concrete ways the decision of North and South Korea and Japan to renounce nuclear weapons.

To stabilise a nuclear/missile freeze while broader negotiations are proceeding, Goodby proposes confidence-building measures that could include measures like mutual security guarantees extended on a reciprocal basis by nations involved in any of these negotiations, suspending the US-South Korean annual military exercises, and steps by North Korea to prevent fast launch procedures in its missile forces.

Nuclear threat

The election of Donald Trump has blown away any illusions that existing nuclear weapons are in safe hands. And North Korea’s missile tests are more evidence that there are no safe hands for the tools of massive nuclear violence

In July, 122 United Nations members, (not including the nuclear-weapon and nuclear-umbrella states which includes Australia), adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, lighting the pathway to achieve abolition.

A handful of states have been amassing huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons, many deployed on a hair trigger. And countries like Australia underpin this dangerous reality, basing their military policy on the destructive doctrine of extended nuclear deterrence.

The treaty opens for signing at the UN on September 20 but Australia still resists joining this global momentum towards a nuclear weapons-free world.

As our world is threatened by nuclear war, for the sake of the future of life on Earth, now is the time for de-escalation. Australia must sign and the treaty, reflecting the wishes of the Australian people, the overwhelming majority of whom want a world free of nuclear weapons.

US Militarism is a major cause of:

  • War, Terrorism, Death, Injury, and Trauma
  • Wide-spread Destruction, Inequality, and Poverty
  • Climate Change and Pollution
  • Homelessness and Refugees
  • Militarisation of Police, Surveillance, and Erosion of Civil Liberties
  • Government Secrecy, Torture, Assassinations, and Lawlessness

Next article – Culture & Life – Racism – a capitalist tool

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