Date: Sun, 20 Sep 98 13:20:09 CDT
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: EAST ASIA: U.S. Military Presence Still Rankles
/** ips.english: 499.0 **/
** Topic: SECURITY-EAST ASIA: U.S. Military Presence Still Rankles **
** Written 4:07 PM Sep 19, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
HIROSHIMA, Sep 16 (IPS) - The United States' military presence in East Asia has been around for decades, but that has not stopped resentment over it from simmering on after all this time.
In fact, sceptical political analysts argue that the U.S. has been muscling its way into military base and related agreements in the region, in the years following the Cold War.
Here in Japan, activists have grown hoarse, to no avail, protesting
the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty under controversial
new guidelines that bind the countries even tighter.
The treaty was imposed on Japan by the victorious U.S. forces after World War II, and stipulated, among other things, that the United States would maintain military bases in this country. At present, Japan is host to 130 US military bases with about 45,000 soldiers.
New guidelines revising the treaty were agreed upon by Tokyo and Washington last year and give Japan, its closest ally in the region, a greater role in regional security. They would have Japan defend not only its surroundings in case of attack but also those around the Korean peninsula.
But many Japanese activists find the guidelines a step in the wrong direction, pushing Tokyo even deeper into the U.S. security camp when it needs to become more independent and able to shape its own security and foreign policies.
Hiroshi Suda of the Japan Peace Committee says the guidelines
constitute a virtual 'mal-revision' of the Japan-US Security
Treaty, thus attempting to automatically involve Japan in warfare when
the (United States) undertakes military interference or intervention
in the Asia-Pacific region.
As it is, adds Suda, the treaty already
allows the (United States)
to maintain forward deployment of its 'strike forces', including the
third marine corps expeditionary force, mobile aircraft-carrier task
force and air expeditionary force, ready to intervene militarily not
only in the region but anywhere in the world.
Some scholars have also lamented how Japan -- the only country to have experienced an atomic bomb attack -- has been unable to make a stand against nuclear weapons because of the treaty.
Professor Ikuro Anzai of the international relations department of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, points out that Japan has repeatedly abstained from voting in favour of U.N. resolutions for treaties banning nuclear weapons.
He says this is because
having opted to be protected by the
U.S. nuclear umbrella through the (Treaty), it cannot contend that
nuclear weapons must not be used.
The new security guidelines, though, form only part of the U.S. reconsolidation of its Asia-Pacific military power in the post- Cold War era.
Washington is now also pushing hard for the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by the Philippine Senate, seeking an arrangement that is no longer characterised by fixed bases but by access and training arrangements.
In addition, notes peace studies expert Dr Joseph Gershon,
are new basing and access agreements with Australia, Thailand,
Singapore and Hong Kong.
Clues as to why these moves are taking place can be found in the 1995 East Asian Strategy Report of the U.S. Department of Defence.
The report reaffirms U.S. commitment to
maintain a stable forward
presence in the (Asia-Pacific) region, at the existing level of
100,000 troops for the foreseeable future...for maintaining forward
deployment of U.S. forces and access and basing rights for US and
If the American presence in Asia were removed, it also warns,
our ability to affect the course of events would be constrained,
our markets and our interests would be jeopardised..
Last year, U.S. President Bill Clinton himself described the primary
goal of American foreign policy thus:
We have four percent of the
world's population, and we want to keep 22 percent of the world's
But U.S. anti-military activists have questioned Clinton's attempts to
defend the status quo.
Who is 'we'? asks Gershon, who is based
in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
To Gershon, the U.S. president is not referring to majority of his
country's population. Rather, he says, Clinton is protecting the
richest one percent of Americans who hold 38.9 percent of the national
roughly equal to that shared by the poorest 95
In the Philippines, opposition is building against ratification of the Visiting Forces Arrangement, with critics calling it a return by Manila to unequal ties with its fpormer coloniser, the United States.
Host to the largest overseas U.S. bases for a century, the Philippine Senate terminated the bases' lease in 1991. After years of cool ties stemming that the pullout, however, Manila and Washington last year signed the VFA that would allow for military exercises, access by U.S. forces and training.
Hundreds of protesters have been demonstrating in Manila against the
VFA, but Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon says chances for Senate
ratification remain good because there was no
opposition to it among senators.
Still, Corazon Fabros of the Nuclear Free Philippines says:
thing, the (VFA) accords (U.S.) forces in the Philippines special
rights and privileges (that) are not granted to Filipino citizens.
She adds that unlike the rejected Bases Agreement in 1991, which
included a compensation package, albeit a
paltry one, the VFA
seeks to market and bolster the U.S. military industry through the
sale of arms and ammunition to a cash-strapped, deficit-bound country
like the Philippines.
Plans are afoot for more protests, including on Sep 16, the seventh anniversary of the Philippine Senate's rejection of the treaty that would have extended the stay of U.S. bases.