Spotlight: U.S. activists stress need to build anti-THAAD solidarity with S.Koreans

2017-07-25 09:20:20 GMT2017-07-25 17:20:20(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, July 25 (Xinhua) -- A delegation of U.S. peace activists, who were on a five-day trip to South Korea, stressed the need to build solidarity with the people of South Korea to stand up against the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interception system in the South Korean territory.

The so-called U.S. Solidarity Peace Delegation, which arrived in South Korea Sunday, held a press conference Tuesday in central Seoul to express the solidarity of "peace-loving Americans" to those in South Korea fighting the THAAD deployment.

The peace activists announced an anti-THAAD statement endorsed by over 80 U.S. and international organizations as well as 270 individuals, which included world-renowned scholars and prominent figures such as Noam Chomsky, a linguistics emeritus professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and former U.S. State Department official and Army colonel Ann Wright.

"Building solidarity between peoples of (South) Korea and the United States is the most important," said Will Griffin, an anti-war activist for Veterans for Peace, on the sidelines of the press conference.

As most Americans knew nothing about THAAD and the opposition of South Koreans to its deployment, the activist said, the private-sector anti-THAAD solidarity between the two countries would help people recognize what THAAD is and why it is useless in South Korea in order to eventually reverse the THAAD deployment decision.

Griffin said the withdrawal of THAAD from South Korea would be possible, but he noted that it had a long way to go.

The delegation was dispatched by the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific, a U.S. advocacy group that was formed in July last year to fight against the THAAD installation in South Korea and make the anti-THAAD moves known to U.S. citizens.

Joining the delegation were Jill Stein, a Green Party candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the U.S. peace group CODEPINK and Reece Chenault, a national coordinator for U.S. Labor Against the War as well as Griffin.

Rhee Juyeon, a coordinator of the task force, was originally planned to join the delegation, but she was denied her entry to South Korea because of the entry ban which had been imposed under the presidency of impeached South Korean leader Park Geun-hye.

The peace delegates sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in who took office on May 10, asking to lift the entry ban on Rhee who has worked together with them to remove the U.S. missile shield from South Korea.

The U.S. task force has fought against the U.S. missile shield deployment in southeast South Korea since Seoul and Washington announced the deployment decision in July last year.

The deployment site was changed in September of the year into a golf course in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province, which is located in the northernmost part of the county and faces the Gimcheon city.

On April 26, just about two weeks before the May 9 presidential by-election of South Korea over the impeachment of the former president over a corruption scandal, part of a THAAD battery was transported in the middle of the night to the golf course, suppressing the elderly protesters and peace activists by mobilizing thousands of riot policemen.

About 170 people, mostly in their 70s or older, live in Soseong-ri, a small, peaceful village where the golf course is located. People in Seongju and Gimcheon as well as Soserong-ri villagers have held candlelit rallies every night to demand the THAAD removal from their hometown.

The anti-THAAD statement said the U.S. anti-missile system deployment would strain South Korea's relations with China, embolden militaristic and anti-democratic political forces in South Korea and exacerbate tensions between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Neighboring countries, including China and Russia, have strongly opposed THAAD in South Korea as the AN/TPY-2 radar can peer deeply into the territories of the two countries, breaking the strategic balance in the region and boosting arms race.

According to the statement, the U.S. THAAD deployment in South Korea was part of the U.S. "pivot" to Asia strategy to expand the already significant network of U.S. missile defense systems.

It intensifies regional military tensions, fuels a new arms race and threatens a renewed outbreak of fighting on the Korean Peninsula, the statement noted.

The deployment would come at a high cost to the U.S. people as much of U.S. resources, necessary for domestic needs, would be spent on unnecessary weapons, said Reece Chenault, one of the peace delegates, during the press conference. "Militarism in the U.S. is unpopular and unnecessary," he said.

The delegation also expressed worry about potential negative health and environmental effects from the operation of the THAAD radar, which is known to emit super microwaves detrimental to human body and environment.

Jill Stein, a medical doctor and the Green Party candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, told reporters that distance required for people's safety from the THAAD deployment site was just not known, saying the U.S. missile shield deployment would put thousands of South Koreans in an extremely dangerous situation.

She said THAAD would be "useless" to protect South Korea from the DPRK's missile threats as the DPRK is located too close to South Korea to have enough time for THAAD to intercept incoming DPRK missiles.

THAAD is designed to shoot down incoming missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km. Most of DPRK missiles targeting South Korean territory are known to fly at an altitude of less than 40 km.

The THAAD battery installed in southeast South Korea is over 200 km away from the capital Seoul and its suburban metropolitan area having almost half of the country's 50 million population. It cannot protect the most populated region of South Korea.

According to Theodore Postol, an emeritus professor at MIT who once served as an advisor to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon, no evidence was found that THAAD can be effective under live-fire conditions with multiple incoming missiles and decoys.

"The real solution is to stop the operation of THAAD right now," said Stein who emphasized that stopping THAAD would be the solution to de-escalate tensions on the peninsula.

The U.S. peace activists demanded the halt of arms race on the peninsula by ending or significantly scaling down the annual U.S.-South Korea war games in return for an agreement by the DPRK to freeze its nuclear program.

Recently, a rising number of U.S. officials and experts expressed support for the half of, or an end to, the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises near the peninsula as a first step to address the tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Such U.S. figures included Richard Haass, president of the non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations, Jane Harman, a former congresswoman and head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry who served in the first Clinton administration.

The U.S. activists also demanded a peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War. The two Koreas are technically at a state of war as the war ended with ceasefire.

"Negotiation, dialogue and peace treaty are the best way to protect people of South Korea," said Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of the U.S. advocacy group CODEPINK, during the press conference.

She promised to continue to fight against the THAAD deployment in South Korea the provocative U.S.-South Korea "war exercises" after she comes back to the United States on Friday.

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