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Protesting the US-Japan-Philippines trilateral summit meeting

By Paul Liem | April 11, 2024

The following is based on a talk delivered by KPI Board Member, Paul Liem, at a demonstration called to protest the trilateral summit meeting between leaders of the U.S., Japan and the Philippines on April 11, 2024.  Organized by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-US (ICHRP-US), Bayan, Nikkei Resisters and Malaya Movement, rallies were held at the Philippine and Japanese Consulates in San Francisco.

Thank you for organizing this protest and inviting the Korea Policy Institute to speak.

Today when Biden, Kishida and Marcos Jr. are meeting, I cannot fail as a Korean American to acknowledge the sordid history of collaboration between U.S. imperialism and Imperial Japan at the turn of the 20th century in Asia.

U.S imperialism made its debut in Asia in 1905, hand in hand with Imperial Japan. The U.S. colonized the Philippines after its war to subjugate Filipino nationalist forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo in 1902, and Japan defeated Czarist Russia in a contest for control over Joseon Korea in 1905. 

Imperialist collaboration between the U.S. and Japan was sealed by the Taft-Katsura memorandum of 1905 in which the U.S. recognized Japan’s interests in Korea, in exchange for Japan’s recognition of U.S. interests in the Philippines.  Ever since, the peace-loving people of Korea and the Philippines have stood in solidarity with each other in their struggles for sovereignty, and their desire for liberty guaranteed by popular governance, free of U.S. militarism.

So, it is today that we stand together in opposition to designs by the U.S. and its junior partner in imperialism, Japan, to entrap the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Philippines, and other countries in the region in a web of militaristic “minilaterals” (AUKUS, JAKUS, the Quad) to do their bidding. That is, to serve as shock troops fighting to preserve a moribund neoliberal world order in Asia, as is NATO in Europe, and Apartheid Israel in Palestine.

Along the new cold war fault lines being carved out by the Biden administration, nowhere is the possibility for the outbreak of nuclear war greater than at the Korean demilitarized zone.  The U.S. and the now lame-duck Yoon Suk Yeol administration have declared that Korea shall be reunified under a “liberal” political system, a catchphrase calling for regime change in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and for the privatization and accumulation of the public property of its people into the hands of a rapacious oligarchy of family run conglomerates in the ROK, known as Chaebol.

Thus, under the guise of pushing back on the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent the U.S. and ROK militaries, under U.S. command, have just conducted the world’s largest military exercises to date in scale and scope, deploying U.S. nuclear capable bombers, fighter jets, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and mobilizing 300,000 ROK soldiers and 100,000 U.S. soldiers.

What is a country, facing such brazen hostility to do?  How, in fact, is the DPRK responding? It has deployed its military to build housing on a massive scale and to develop a manufacturing infrastructure in its rural counties; it is turning airfields into green houses and implementing renewable energy in its grid.  To avert an accidental outbreak of fighting it is clarifying its national borders; it is developing its nuclear weapons in response to the U.S. “extended nuclear deterrent” over the ROK, and it has been candid with its people that reunification with a U.S. sponsored regime, intent upon overthrowing socialism in the DPRK is not possible.  In short, the DPRK is carving out a space for itself in which it can improve the livelihood of its people, secure from the threat of foreign invasion.  Under the most precarious of circumstances, it seeks to thrive.

To ensure peace on the Korean peninsula what can the people of the ROK to do?  No ROK president can implement agreements with the DPRK without U.S. permission.  The ROK is not a sovereign state.  However, the people are sovereign. They can act in the interests of the nation.  They can call for a Peace Agreement with the DPRK.  United, they can hold their new electorate accountable for achieving a state of peaceful co-existence on the Korean peninsula, instead of allowing President Yoon Suk Yeol to plunge the peninsula into war.

To end the forever U.S.-led Korean War, we call upon the world’s people to stand with us today as we demand that the U.S. sign a peace treaty and normalize relations with the DPRK.

To ensure that Japan never goes to war again, what are the people of Japan to do?  The peace-loving people of Japan, can hold their government accountable to its Peace Constitution and never allow their troops, their land, or industrial might to be used as a “force-multiplier” for U.S. military adventures in the region, or beyond.  It is time, long past, for Japan to apologize and make amends for atrocities it committed against the people of the Philippines during WWll, to apologize and make amends for its its crimes against the Korean people and nation during its colonial rule of Korea, it is time for Japan to treat Zainichi Koreans and all other marginalized peoples in Japan with respect and dignity; and is long past time for Japan to establish diplomatic relations with the DPRK.  It is long past time for the Rising Sun to set.

To ensure that U.S. adventurism does not start a world war, what can the American people do?  All peace-loving people of the U.S. and the Korean American diaspora must struggle ceaselessly for the U.S. to embrace the concept and practice of being one among the many global citizens of a multi-polar world; a country which embraces all countries big and small; wealthy and developing, as its equal; a country committed to the equitable distribution of wealth domestically and across the globe, rather than the accumulation of financial wealth resulting from the exploitation of the U.S. working class, the super-exploitation of marginalized people’s within the working-class, and chronic debt peonage of the Global South. 

Today, the people of the world are rising up against U.S. imperialism.  Only we in solidarity with the world’s people can decide if the exit of U.S. imperialism, Japanese militarism, Zionism, and NATO expansionism from the world stage ushers in a new era of human development, or more forever war.

Long live international solidarity.

Paul Liem is the Chair of the Korea Policy Institute Board of Directors.


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