Japan Today



Planned naval base on Jeju Island has security implications for Asia

By Noam Chomsky and Matthew Hoey

There is an island off the coast of South Korea that is arguably the most idyllic on the planet. It is internationally recognized as the "Island of World Peace" and is home to more UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites than any single geographic location on earth.

In the years leading up to the Korean War, a virtual genocide was committed there, referred to in Korea as the Sasam. One in five residents on the island were killed, and 90% of villages were burned to the ground. These barbaric crimes were committed by the South Korean police and military against their own people under a U.S. military mandate to begin what would be known later as the "scorch the earth campaign." Today this Island, Jeju Island, is again threatened by joint U.S.-South Korean militarization and aggression.

Jeju Island residents and peace activists are fighting with all of their energy, risking their freedom and lives to prevent the construction of a naval base that is underway on what many consider to be the most beautiful coastline on the island. This military base will be home to both U.S. and South Korean naval vessels and a sea-based ballistic missile defense system called Aegis. The planned facility would have a capacity for a total of two submarines, 20 large destroyers and up to two aircraft carriers.

The purpose of this ill-conceived military facility is to project force toward China and to provide a forward operating installation in the event of a military conflict between two of the world’s super powers: the U.S. and China. The location of this base is Gangjeong village, which bears a population of just 1,900 people. This farming and fishing village has reluctantly become the site of an epic battle for peace. In the world today, this may be the most symbolic and critical fight against the military industrial complex.

The Gangjeong base resistance is a unique grassroots crusade because it is not simply about militarization. Human rights, the environment and free speech are also at stake. Gangjeong village should be viewed as an important battleground for all who believe in social justice worldwide. People must know about what is happening on Jeju Island and help the residents prevent this illegal and very dangerous project. The consequences of losing this fight could not be more dire, and they have the potential to not only impact the entire South Asian community, by undermining regional security and triggering an arms race between South Korea and China. The installation of this base would surely put innocent Jeju island civilians at risk, whose home was recently referred to in a Joongang Daily op-ed as “the spearhead of the country’s defense line.” A line recklessly located approximately 500km from China.

The location of this base is a trend in congruence with the U.S. military strategy of encircling Asia. The naval base that is planned for Gangjeong village will be home to the same sea-based missile defense platform that has been sold to Japan, Australia and will soon be sold to India. On a map it is impossible to deny the semicircle of U.S. military hardware that encroaches upon China and others in the region. How this is going to help bring peace to an already volatile region is unknown. In fact this argument is just as absurd as the South Korean Navy’s claims to the villagers that the naval base will bring prosperity and tourists. It is foolish to think that this military base would deliver security to the region.

Gangjeong villagers know what their future holds if their cry for peace is not heeded: an influx of South Korean and foreign soldiers, weapons, war and a world of suffering delivered to a small island that has already endured enough. Now you know as well.

Matthew Hoey is the outreach coordinator for the Global Campaign to Save Jeju Island and an international security analyst based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Koreans should know that if you are not prepared then China will take that Island. China is going every where claiming everything as their. I am sure China is pumping lots of money through the spys in South Korea to stop making it. If you want peace in Asia you need to be able to defend yourself from China. No other way you can talk peace with China....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They should build it. Get it up and running as soon as possible. This is a good thing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

JT is carrying a Noam Chomsky commentary - pretty cool. Wouldn't mind visiting Jeju before it is taken over by the military.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The authors wrote:

How this is going to help bring peace to an already volatile region is unknown.

From the text we can clearly conclude that the authors have a strong agenda. Still, as they boasts their experience they should know about the principle of mutual deterrence, which so far has worked quite well to prevent the next world war.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To realmind and Netninja:

Both of you seem to be suffering from a morbid fear of China -- sinophobia, that is. Phobias like this -- claustrophobia, agoraphobia, acrophobia, anthropophobia, gynephobia, hydrophobia, pyrophobia, xenophobia, and what else do we have? -- are "intense, abnormal, or illogical fear of a specified thing" that are subject to a psychological consultation with a specialist.

Can I hear why you fear China's rise so much? Of course, I wouldn't deny China's partial responsibility for causing such phenomena throughout East Asia.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So, I suppose in retaliation - China will just quit investing into US Bonds and instead send the money to Mexico, Latin, and South America (and MAYBE even Canada) and thus "encircle" the USA. Funny thing about this is - the USA is using money invested by China to do all these interesting things.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A political rant from Noam Chomsky... the label for this should not be "features" but "agitprop".

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I’m unfamiliar with Matthew Hoey but know Mr Chomsky well. I disagree with almost everything he says, but find him entertaining to read nonetheless. This article highlights why – his almost paranoid outlook and consistent conspiracy theory rhetoric, universally condemning the US. As usual, he is 100% wrong.

Today this Island, Jeju Island, is again threatened by joint U.S.-South Korean militarization and aggression. Jeju Island residents and peace activists are fighting with all of their energy, risking their freedom and lives to prevent the construction of a naval base that is underway on what many consider to be the most beautiful coastline on the island. This military base will be home to both U.S. and South Korean naval vessels and a sea-based ballistic missile defense system called Aegis. The planned facility would have a capacity for a total of two submarines, 20 large destroyers and up to two aircraft carriers.

Hogwash and pure fairy tale. The initiative to establish this facility on Jeju is being pursued solely by the ROK government. It would be their base - the US was never consulted, asked to participate, invited, or anything else. This is all about what the ROK government sees as potential long term threats to its national security – as to what those threats are, you would have to ask the ROKs but my sense is if you plied them with enough soju they would tell you China and Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

U.S. is no saint what so ever, but, maybe, just maybe, this time they're on the clear.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is somehow paradox that the author can combine "peace", "activists", and "fighting" in one sentence.

... residents and peace activists are fighting ...

Real peace activists should not be actually fighting. But, hey!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think its a good idea to meet force with force as China certainly has strategic plans in this area and China does and will respect a strong counter force which will help keep the peace.The Naval Bases will also bring prosperity to the Islanders as in the case of Okinawa and historically in the Phillipines-Clarke,Subic Bay etc.As regards UNESCO sites its often the case that nature thrives in such closely guarded areas where humans dont interfere too much.Just look at the N/S Korean border,which is a wildlife refuge at the moment.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Wassup at JT? Without commenting on the merits of the article, Why Is JT carrying such a highly-politicized and totally one-sided commentary regarding this matter.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

to voiceofokinawa . This is not phobia. It is like wikkileaks. You should know the spy world. You should know the communist world. And this is the age of Internet. This forum is watched well by both Chinese and US spies. Let the world knows what people are thinking about anything as you do for Okinawa. I do not want to say okinawafobia.

Now the War is not between countries. It is a trade and image war. want to get more materials and power through propaganda backed by weapons.

If other Asian countries (people) are not aware of what China is and what they are heading to, then a billion people loose their everything to Chinese aggression. No country will be there to protect the poor asians including super powers??.

Rise up and be proud of Asians and protect us from Chinese aggression. Defending our position is not a phobia man. If a single man can make a revolution through internet ( Jasmine rev. in middle east) then that kind of phobia is good for you and me Hope you understand.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

To realmind:

Maybe, I am one of those Asian people who you consider are "not aware of what China is and what they are heading to." You assert matter-of-factly that "a billion people (will) lose their everything to Chinese aggression."

This confident assertion of yours is based on your imagination of China as an imminent threat to the world -- a morbid fear of the country -- and therefore it's a phobia.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush had a similar phobia, a morbid fear, for Saddam Hussein's Iraq and sent formidable invading forces there to annihilate him and his regime. And you know the rest of the story.

The problem I see with those people with phobias is it's hard to cure their fear syndrome.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

voice of okinawa - Bush's war on terror was really a war of terror to kill endless lives of innocent people, what the US gov does to the people of jeju and okinawa does not make me proud to be american or a veteran. I join veterans for peace for a reason.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Jared Norman:

Thank you very much. I hope a voice like yours will become louder and louder, and someday overwhelm the Washington establishment's frenzied jingoism. They behave like patriots but they are not. They are pseudo-patriots.

We have the same bunch of people here in Japan even today. It is people like them who destroy the country. We've learned that hard lesson from our own experiences during the Second World War.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The american leaders have no consideration for others they just care about money. But i personally enjoyed my time in okinawa.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To voiceofokinawa

In any debate we see this kind of tactics when a person loose his stand. Nothing more to defend on topic or own wrong intentions are opened and run out of words. Then what they do? Attack the opposite person personally. Accuse him, as he is not mentally fit, need psychological treatment. Etc..etc…

So far China was pretending as a good guy. Every military growth they made for self defense only. Once they got more money and power they started claiming more territory and the list is growing every day. They cried and begged for Japanese ODA and spend it to buy all resources in Africa but acted like a savior who protect help them from the greedy west. There are pages if one writes it. The poor Africans cannot get the real market price for the resources. I am not supporting USA or any super power. We Asians learned lessons. We need to be aware of what is going around us. It is an equal transfer. If US need leadership in Asia pay for it.

I feel like you are a Chinese strategist for Internet image-maker for China. China controls the entire Internet in their country. Now they want to control the world platform. The Chinese outside of China are reading everything freely and they worry about it.

The Chinese Spies are trying to shut it or attack it. Even this kind of forums. China is spending millions to kick out US bases in Okinawa. Many of the protesters and Internet propaganda guys get paid from China.

What Bush did with Iraq will not justify any Chinese aggression in Asia? Asians are not going to listen Chinese offer as the regional leader of Asia. . I wish you all the best for your work you are paid for.

But listen your personal phobia story, which you direct should be send to the leaders of Chinese communist party and help them to consult a psychologist. That will bring peace in Asia.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


Most of your discussion is based on your own imagination, as for an imminent Chinese aggression against Japan -- and as for me. I am simply a man on the street, an Okinawa resident, trying to appeal to the international community about our burdens deriving from this exorbitantly excessive U.S. military footprint. Read my posts elsewhere at this site.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

(Resubmitted after some stylistic change) realmind:

Most of your discussion is based on your own imagination as usual, as to an imminent Chinese aggression against Japan -- and as to me. I am simply a man on the street, an Okinawa resident, trying to appeal to the international community about Okinawa's burdens deriving from this exorbitantly excessive U.S. military footprint. Read my posts elsewhere at this site.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


I do not have any special imagination towards China. But if a person do not imagine anything then he is so stupid to act on time.

Prevention is better than cure; We have seen what china is dong for 100 years and what is China after it became a communist country. Now what are they? They had more millionaires than Europe and more poor people than in many developing countries. Where is thier face? what is their moral? I see it is always opportunist and tricky. I did study those things. And learned the actions of communist in all most all the countires. Dear friend I want to tell you we do not need imagination to judge the communist China after observing that country for 60 years.

About Okinawa and the US. I do not imagine anyting about it. What I know is it was Japan and US had similar interest putting camps in that Island after WWII. It was not an aggression or claim which USA made recently. It was the relationship with US made the Japan as the second GDP nation for decades. If Japan were an alley of USSR and China it would have been another North Korea. japan did benefit economically and politically from USA. US did help Japan to be a capitalist country and protected from USSR block.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

realmind, my friend:

The question at issue is whether China of today is an aggressor nation waiting for a chance to invade Japan. Yes, China tried to invade Japan twice in the course of history, first in 1274 and again in 1281 (the 13th century). But whether those invasions were carried out by China or not, I am not sure, for China at the time was under Mongolian rule (Great Yuan Empire). On the other hand, Japan invaded China in the 20th century and occupied part of its territory from 1937 to 1945. This is not my imagination; it's a fact.

I want you to engage in a discussion like we have based on such facts and not by the stretch of an inflated imagination. In daily life, of course, we need imagination to enrich it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The history before 1945 is not applicable now. The flow of the history is much faster than ever before. If we calculate the speed or length of the history from 1950 to 2010 it has travelled 1000 times more faster than the past 5000 years of human histroy. We can not take those facts as the base for trusting or distrusting a country. If the country had different ideology and purpose then it is very clear that we should watch that guy.Hope you understand it.

Yes Japan invaded China in the 20th century. Lets seal Japan as an invador or the bad guy. But Japan did not claim any other countries land for the last 60 years. China is keep claiming even in this 21st century. They are waiting for the chance to invade those places. Other wise why do thay have to claim for it and make the army more strong every day??? China claims parts of India, Japan, Vietnam, Philipines and Korea. Google it you will get facts.

I do not hate China as you think. But the communist base in China is the threat for other Asian countries.

I am not particulary concerned about Japan, As long as US has bases in Japan, China will not invade Japan.

If you look for facts then it will lead us to the very begining of human history. You have to take religious text to find the real facts why human being has problems...Or the origin of evil and the solutions.

Sorry it is too lengthy..

0 ( +0 / -0 )


As you say, China has, or has had, border or territorial disputes with other countries. But so does Japan with China, South Korea and Russia. Such disputes must be solved through dialogue and diplomacy, certainly not by military confrontations or war. But you seem to advocate the latter.

Since the signing of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1951 and the revised one in 1960, the purpose of which was to contain China and Russia, Japan had no choice but to confront both countries even though there was no need to do so for Japan.

Mistrust, if any, can then be expected from the Chinese side because of Japan's confrontation policy toward China since 1951 as well as Japan's invasion and occupation of China as recent as 66 years ago (not 800 years ago).

On the contrary, you (a Japanese, I assume) imply you cannot trust China. Don't you think something must be done on citizens' level to dispel such mistrust and fear and make the East Asia a peaceful, prosperous region?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reading this commentary brought back memories of The Daily Worker, Pravda, and the 1960s demonstrations. There is one player left out by the piece and the letters: North Korea or the PDRK, home of the Tepo Dong missile and a couple of nuclear fizzles. How about this question? What direction would North Korea launch a missile intended to do harm to either Japan or some North American target? Also, what about those Japanese citizens kidnapped from the west coast? In this context, a South Korean base on the island makes sense. Logistics of the construction could be problematic since the terrain is mostly rocky with few level spots on the island. If you're a rock climber, liberty would be a paradise for the members and a headache for the Ground Safety Officer.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

(A further stylistic revision. Editor, will you please delete my two posts, one dated Oct. 17, 2011 - 08:40AM JST and the other Oct. 17, 2011 - 10:40AM JST? Thanks. )


One of the reasons given by the Pentagon and the Marine brass here in Okinawa why Futenma's relocation site must be within Okinawa was Okinawa's strategic location. Its location clears "tyranny of distance", they said. South Korea Foreign Minister Yu Myonfan expressed his hope when he visited Tokyo early last yearr that the Futenma issue must be solved as had been accorded between Japan and the U.S.

I thought then why Okinawa has had to and will have to sacrifice so much for the defense of South Korea. If Seoul wanted Futenma to continue functioning as deterrence against North Korea, China and Russia, why don't they consider Jeju Island as a possible relocation site? I asked myself. From a strategic aspect, Jeju Island is a far better choice than Okinawa. As deterrence against North Korea, the northwest coast extending from Kyushu to Ymaguchi to Shimane would also satisfy military strategists. Of course, I knew they would never accept this idea.

Then, suddenly, came into light this gigantic naval base development project on Jeju Island. I deeply sympathize with the Jeju Island residents. The strategic theory for which they say bases must be built either on Jeju Island or Okinawa has lost their momentum in the face of a new security environment brought about by China's development of a new type of long-range missiles covering a 1500 ㎞ radius. That's the reason why Guam has become the center piece of the U.S. pacific war strategy with 8000 Marines to be moved from Okinawa to the island as part of the new force realignment. Both Futenma and Jeju are wasteful projects then, resulting only in environmental devastation.

Certainly, Jeju will lose its strategic value in the not distant future and therefore the island's new naval base will become a white elephant for sure. So they will never fail to regret having built the base there. The nature of the problem underlying the Jeju naval base development project is all the same as with the Futenma issue.

One final word to Jerom_from_Utah.. The abduction issue, one of the most tragic cases Japan faces, won't be solved by a military buildup. The issue has nothing to do with either Jeju or Okinawa as he thinks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's quite interesting that Mr Chomsky has so much sympathy and concern for the islanders of Jeju, but none for innocent islanders of Yeonpyeong. Nor does he evoke any of his scorn or vitriol for the U.S. towards those paragons of diplomatic behavior the North Koreans who with no provocation or warning last November, shelled the island with artillery, killing one and injuring thirteen.

This, I believe, is called hypocrisy......

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Again to Jerome_from_Utah:

Berths for two submarines, piers for two nuclear aircraft carriers and twenty warships? That's too formidable a citadel for deterrence against North Korea. Environmental and cultural destruction must be enormous beyond anyone's imagination. My sympathy and support are with Jeju islanders for their opposition to its construction.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites