US OUT OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION! NO TO THE US “PIVOT” TO ASIA!
US OUT OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION! NO TO THE US “PIVOT” TO ASIA!
Statement of US-based Asian-Pacific Islanders and Supporters of Peace
BAYAN USA, Notudol, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
April 13, 2014
We, the members of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, an alliance of over 45 grassroots organizations, and peace-loving people in the US, denounce the US government’s strategic plan to increase economic, political, and military intervention in the Asia-Pacific region, as part of the so-called “US Pivot to Asia”. The said pivot aims to expand and consolidate the already US hegemony over the region, as well as quell peoples struggles for social and national liberation across the Asia-Pacific region that have historically frustrated the interests of US empire.
We call for protests in April 2014, when US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines to further consolidate key allies in the region in line with its strategic economic and geopolitical agenda.
We stand with the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region who for decades have been struggling for self-determination and for genuine sovereignty amidst decades of US-led neoliberal economic policies in the region.
Speaking to a gathering of Pacific Islander leaders in the Cook Islands earlier in 2012, State Secretary Hillary Clinton reaffirmed U.S. resolve to intensify its presence in the Asia and Pacific region - “This is a vast and dynamic region – a key driver of global economics and politics. That’s why I have said that the 21stcentury will be ‘America’s Pacific century.’” (August 31, 2012) This was echoed by Defense Secretary Panetta on his tour of the region the following week - “The United States recognizes that the Asia-Pacific region is becoming more important in our economic and diplomatic and security interests.”
U.S. determination to increase its projection of power in Asia is also reflected in the Defense Department’s 2012 Strategic Guidance, which outlines plans to distribute flexible, rotational troop deployments throughout the Asia and Pacific region to ensure U.S. naval control of trade routes from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. The White House, the Defense Department, and the State Department have all pledged to protect its capacity for power projection in Asia from any future budget cuts.
Why the supposed pivot to Asia? Asia is the U.S.’ largest source of imports and the second largest export market after North America. Desperate to revive its ailing economy, the U.S. is scrambling to ensure its hegemonic power in the region. It is also wary of the growing regional influence of China – the world’s second largest economy and the largest trading partner of most of its neighboring countries. As Asian countries move towards greater regional economic integration – through bilateral trade agreements and regional institutions such as ASEAN – the U.S. wants to make sure that it, not China, is at the helm.
What does an increased U.S. presence mean for the region? We have already experienced decades of U.S. military presence in Asia and the Pacific with wars through Southeast Asia, South Asia, Korea, Japan, and are currently still engaged in wars with the Middle East. Now, Pentagon chief Panetta has pledged to shift the majority of U.S. forces (60%) to the Asia and Pacific region, and commit new advanced weapons, including 11 aircraft carriers, fast attack submarines, new cruise missiles, Aegis radar-equipped destroyers, Littoral Combat Ship, and space and cyberspace warfare capabilities. The U.S. has revived bases from the Vietnam War period throughout the region, while negotiating for new ones. In 2012 alone, it conducted over 20 joint military exercises and war games in the region.
Such concentration of military presence renews dangerous war threats in an already volatile region. On the Korean peninsula, the Obama administration has stopped all engagement and dialogue with North Korea. Instead, it regularly conducts US-ROK joint war games with tens of thousands U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of South Korean troops, simulating the invasion and occupation of North Korea. The United States government is pressuring the South Korean government to pay more to host U.S. troops in Korea and South Korean taxpayers, already burdened with growing job insecurity and stagnant wages, have to pay the price. And on Jeju Island, the construction of a naval base designed to house U.S. aegis destroyers has cut off local fisher folk from the sea and is destroying sacred volcanic rocks and pristine coral reefs.
In the Philippines, once the site of the largest US permanent bases outside the mainland, the US has maintained a military presence in the country despite the historic Filipino people’s movement that led to the 1991 Philippine Senate’s rejection of the US bases treaty renewal. The US government has been able to maintain rotational, virtually-permanent military presence through the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement, and the annual Balikatan Joint Military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The US government has also used Supertyphoon Haiyan tragedy as a pretext for increasing US military presence in the Philippines through disaster militarism. On his trip to the Philippines in April, Obama hopes to seal a new security deal with the Aquino government that would in effect convert all Philippine military bases into de facto US military bases.
The US government is also exploiting and intervening in regional territorial disputes in the South China Sea as well as in Northeast Asia, fanning strong anti-China sentiment to establish a pretext for greater military presence and deploy more warships.
To carve out its sphere of influence and ensure that economic integration in the region is modeled after its own rules and neoliberal framework, the U.S. is aggressively pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Billed “NAFTA on steroids” by some, the TPPA is the largest trade agreement in history and so far involves the United States, Malaysia, Peru, Australia, Vietnam, Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei; Canada and Mexico have begun consultations to join the negotiations.
As with NAFTA, the TPPA will privatize public resources (including water) and social services; relax trade restrictions in favor of corporations; create mass unemployment, lower wages, and leave people with no choice but to migrate in search of work; and eliminate regulations that protect the environment and public health in order to protect corporate profits. Although the TPPA is called a “free trade” agreement, what it really does is secure rights for private corporations of developed nations; weaken the sovereignty of underdeveloped countries in the Asia-Pacific; and perpetuate neo-colonial relationships between developed and underdeveloped countries. The TPPA also violates basic principles of democracy; its negotiations are kept secret from the public and the full content of the agreement will not be made public until four years after the TPPA is completed and implemented.
The TPPA guarantees profits for corporate giants like Monsanto and Cargill but not job security or a living for U.S. workers. Continuing war threats abroad guarantee profits for Pentagon contractors but not increased security for the U.S. public. While the White House and the Pentagon are concerned about its “official” pivot to Asia, a growing number of people at home find themselves spending more of their income toward paying off debt, cut off from healthcare access, losing unemployment benefits, and/or facing unaffordable tuition hikes.
As Asian and Pacific Islanders and supporters of peace in the U.S., we oppose U.S. war threats in Asia and the Pacific and the TPPA, and demand a reorientation of U.S. national priorities to place human needs and the environment above corporate profits. We are unified in our concern for the livelihoods and security of our sisters and brothers in Asia and the Pacific and envision a world that values local industries and small farmers; guarantees labor rights and food sovereignty; ensures access to social services for all; and prohibits corporate plunder of our environment. We resolve to fight the U.S. pivot to Asia and the Pacific in all its forms - including war games and intensifying war threats, the TPPA and corporate-driven trade agreements, and new weapons of mass destruction that cost U.S. tax payers resources that can otherwise be invested in education and healthcare.