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평화군축센터    한반도 평화를 위해 비핵군축운동을 합니다

  • English
  • 2007.05.22
  • 652
Our concerns that the establishment of a naval base in Jeju would lead to the complete militarization on Jeju Island are becoming realized. On May 8th when Hoichan Noh, congressman from Democratic Labor Party, visited to Jeju, he argued that fighter jets battalion would be deployed in Jeju and the Ministry of National Defense and the local government were negotiating to provide 300,000 pyeong." In addition, he expressed his suspicion that 'the southern troops for searching and rescuing' planned as part of the mid-term vision of defense was quite same as the plan for Jeju naval base in terms of size, budget, facilities ect. That means although most of Jeju residents oppose the plan, the Ministry of Defense is enforcing the plan for the establishment of a naval base in Jeju only by switching the name to the troops for searching and rescuing.

According to the parliamentary records which Congressman Mr. Noh opened to public, it seemed obvious that the Defense Ministry also is planning to establish an air base after a naval military base in Jeju. One naval officer's statements in the records tell us the reason why the Defense Ministry has enforced the plan for the establishment of a naval base again since 2005 and lied to the Jeju residents by saying they had no plan for an air base in Jeju. "No one doubts about its necessity and practicability of an air base in Jeju. However, when the decision on a naval base hasn't been made yet, bringing up the issue of an air base will risk both plans", said the officer. And he added, "The Ministry had another plan since 2006 to push for an air base as soon as the problem of a naval base would be settled down."

Although the Navy has insisted on the necessity of a Jeju air base, they denied their plan for it by saying that "Jeju is not a good place for an air base." in a response letter to PSPD's inquiry. It was such a deceitful manner. Another statement from an Navy officer - "we will just reserve the land for an air base and use it only in case of emergency."- could be seen as an indication that the recent prior consultation on MOU between the Military of National Defense and the local government of Jeju was to manage to get the land for an air base.

Considering our hopes for keeping Jeju as Peace Island which would be functioned as a bridge for peace in Northeast Asia, we have argued that building an air base in Jeju itself is unnecessary. Moreover, we have raised our concern that once a naval base is established, additional ground and air forces can be introduced. That will be meant to turn the whole island into a military base.

The Ministry of National Defense has insisted that an air forces for searching and rescuing will only work as rescue corps in the sea so far. If so, it doesn't make any sense that fighting combat units are included in that plan. Moreover, that doesn't explain the roles of the units which are engaging in local wars in case a territorial conflict breaks out and building up long-distance flight capabilities. The Defense Ministry changed the name of the plan to forces for searching and rescuing, but the contents of the plan is exactly same as the one for the establishment of an air base. Therefore, it is clear that deployment of searching and rescuing forces is only a preparation for building an air base in the future and the efforts for building a naval base will lead to the complete militarization in Jeju.

We also would like to point out a possibility that a naval base might prompt Korean army's participation in the U.S. activities to keep their military hegemony over the sea. While it is hard to expect the situation that Korean navy will dispatch 7000t AEGIS, LPX, or a submarine to a long distance by itself, it is quite possible if it is an U.S.-Korea joint military operation. As you know, U.S. has consistently asked for the Korean army to take part in their so-called War on Terrorism such as PSI, CSI, RMSI. That is why we has kept suggesting the high-possibilities not only of the Korean army's participation in the U.S. marine military operation, but also of the use of Jeju naval base by the U.S. military. Moreover, that means that Jeju will possibly be a target in case of Chinese marine operation or military exercise.

Nevertheless, the Defense Ministry and the local government are pushing for the plan of a naval base in the name of national security and economic development, both of which are very ambiguous. As it proceeded, they didn't really pay attention to the residents' opinion. They kept saying that they would proceed the project based on the residents' decisions, however, ironically they have opposed to directly ask the people and announced the Defense Ministry would propose sites for a military on their own. Also, the Ministry has raised distrust among the residents by having changed a proposed site several times from Hwasoon to Weemee, and from Weemee to Kangjung again. In addition, they have tried to fool the resident by exaggerating economic benefits from a naval base.

Given that settling a military base would have a great effect on the residents' lives, it is very problematic that the Jeju governor announced that the decision would be made by polling the public without enough discussions and verification. In particular, the fact that the local government is negotiating with the Defense Ministry on providing 300,000 pyeong for a military base shows that the polling will be used only as a ground for establishing a military base.

The Blue House also supports the moves to establish a military base in Jeju. President Roh used to have a stance to emphasize on the Jeju residents' opinion and to insist on reconsideration for the military plan back in 2002 when he was a candidate for presidency. Later on, when he became president, he declared Jeju as Peace Island. However, he hasn't properly proceed the project for Jeju Peace Island, but rather takes a leading role to build a military base in Jeju. President himself debases the vision for Jeju Peace Island. Although president Roh has been calling for peace and prosperity, this situation shows that Roh administration's lack of understanding on peace

Therefore, the Blue house, Defense Ministry and Jeju local government all should take responsibility for the disputes and conflicts surrounding the establishment of a military base among residents. It is also certain that the residents' distrust on them is increasing. As our concer that the establishment of a naval base would be just a start of the complete militarization of Jeju is being realized now, the government should reconsider the plan all over again. The local government should stop all the negotiations on the naval base and make its position clear on an air base. As long as all these suspicious remains, the plan for the establishment of a military base shouldn't be proceeded.

Lastly, we would lay stress on the fact that establishing a naval base jumping on arms race in Northeast Asia will not protect the Korean Peninsula, but rather risk peace in this region by increasing the levels of military tensions. We should take a lesson from the past, that the presence of a military base had rather put Jeju in danger. Only establishing the real Peace Island of Jeju will help make the residents' lives and furthermore the Korea Peninsula better.

Center for Peace and Disarmament
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