Dennis Apel, from the Guadalupe Catholic Worker, was in South Korea to attend and speak at a conference for the resistance movement in opposition to a U.S. Navy base on Jeju Island, 50 miles southeast of South Korea’s mainland. The Navy base will be a direct threat to China, 300 miles away.
The 706-square-mile volcanic island comprises three UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites. Today Jeju Island is being threatened by joint U.S.-South Korean militarization and violence: the construction of a naval base on what many consider to be Jeju’s most beautiful coastline. The base is located in Gangjeong, a farming and fishing village that has reluctantly become the site of an epic battle for peace.
For more than four years, island residents and peace activists have engaged in determined resistance to the base, risking their lives and freedom. The Jeju base will host up to 20 U.S. and South Korean warships, including nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and destroyers, several of which would be fitted with the Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.
For the United States, the base’s purpose is to project force toward China – and to provide a forward operating installation in the event of a military conflict. The last thing the world needs is brinksmanship between the U.S. and China. Failure to prevent this dangerous, destructive project may well have consequences reaching far beyond Asia. We need not speculate how Washington would react were China to establish a base near the U.S. coast.
The resistance is a grassroots movement that goes well beyond the issue of the island’s militarization. Human rights, the environment, and free speech also are at stake. Though small and remote, Gangjeong is an important battleground for all who believe in social justice and peace worldwide. Dennis was arrested with several other activists, held for three days, then released on Tuesday, February 28.
The ongoing protest on Jeju has halted construction over the past year and counts as a critical struggle against a potentially devastating war in Asia, and against the deeply rooted institutional structures that are driving the world toward ever more conflict. With nearly 800 military bases outside the U.S. already, the U.S. empire races full steam ahead in its quest for world domination and destroys whomever attempts to get in its way. We must ask, when is enough? Never-ending militarization, perpetual wars and occupations, not to forget holding the world hostage with its nuclear arsenal, willing to destroy all or part of the world in its diabolical obsession with hegemonic supremacy are destroying this nation economically, morally, and spiritually. We must RISE UP! RESIST!