U.S. Out! The Asia Pacific Pivot and Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Christine Ahn
Mar 3, 2014

In a security conference held in Munich, Germany, Henry Kissinger said on a panel that “Asia is more in a position of 19th-century Europe, where military conflict is not ruled out,” given deteriorating tensions between China and Japan. Yet lurking behind its over 300 military bases and installments throughout the Asia Pacific is the U.S. military, which is poised to expand its presence even more with the Asia Pacific Pivot, the Obama foreign policy doctrine that will direct 60 percent of the U.S. military to the region by 2020.

This was the topic of the March 1st global teach-in on “U.S. Out! A Teach-in Call/Webinar on the U.S. Military Pivot to the Asia Pacific and the Trans Pacific Partnership.” Organized by the filipino organizational alliance Bayan and co-sponsored by several peace and justice organizations, the teach-in featured talks on the impact of these militaristic/neoliberal policies on South Korea, Philippines, Japan and Guam by movement leaders working to challenge and confront U.S. militarism and imperialism.

With the Asia Pacific Pivot (“pivot”) and Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Washington strives to achieve three goals: 1. Contain China’s rising economic influence; 2.) Control major trade routes; and 3.) Secure dominance by force. Talks over the TPP began in 2008 and now includes 12 countries throughout the region. We don’t know what is fully in this super trade agreement because the document remains secret with just a few leaked chapters through Wikileaks. One of the speakers claimed that the treaty would not be made public until four years after it is signed. What we do know is based on the experiences of past free trade agreements: the TPP will intensify de-regulation and the privatization of public resources and weaken the sovereignty of less developed countries.

The pivot is further emboldening right-wing reactionary leaders in Japan and South Korea, two key U.S. allies in the region where the greatest number of U.S. bases and troops are currently located. In Japan, Shinzo Abe is seeking to rewrite the anti-war/militarization Constitution, honoring former war criminals, and inciting conflict with China over islands in the East China Sea. In South Korea, Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the longest-reigning dictator, has instituted a climate of fear reminiscent of her father’s authoritarian rule.

Lots of great historical context and analysis shared, including these:

  • Since the announcement of the pivot, more frequent calls have been made by U.S. ships in the Philippines, despite the Filipino people’s victory in forcing the U.S. navy out years ago.
  • The mission of the U.S. Forces in Korea has shifted from primarily protecting the south from a North Korean invasion to one of “strategic flexibility” whereby it is now an expeditionary force that can freely intervene anywhere in the world using South Korea as a launching pad.
  • If China and Japan are embroiled in a military conflict, because of agreements signed, the United States is automatically involved. The U.S. has been conducting joint military exercises with Japan staging amphibian landings of islands in preparation for conflict over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. And the U.S. and South Korea have now agreed since the 2010 Yeonpyong Island skirmish between North and South Korea to pre-emptive strikes in the case of a potential nuclear weapon launch by North Korea.

This was a great effort by the organizers and co-sponsoring organizations to galvanize over 100 people across several countries. More is needed to understand specifically how these two policies interact and reinforce the other, but this was a terrific start.

For more information, you can read my January 14, 2014 analysis in Foreign Policy In Focus “Open Fire and Open Markets: The Asia-Pacific Pivot and Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Christine Ahn is a writer and activist. She works at the Global Fund for Women by day and by moonlight on a range of peace and social justice issues. She's a co-founder of the Korea Policy Institute, a columnist with Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, and a fellow with the Oakland Institute.

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