Veterans For Peace is absolutely delighted that peace is breaking out on the Korean Peninsula. We congratulate the Korean people, who cried out for peace and unity, and we applaud their leaders, who listened and acted courageously.
The joint statement from the historic summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un is a hopeful departure from hostile relations between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Just months ago, the two leaders were threatening nuclear war. The world can breathe much easier today.
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jung UN agreed on four basic points:
1) "… to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples’ of the two countries for peace and prosperity;
2) … to join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula;
3) the DPRK commits to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; and
4) the U.S. and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the repatriation of those already identified."
The joint communiqué also states that "President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK." Within hours of signing this agreement, President Trump surprised many by announcing a suspension of the US/South Korea "war games," which he called "expensive" and "provocative." This much needed step is exactly what Veterans For Peace has been calling for, along with peace advocates in the US, Korea and around the world.
Sadly, this historic opportunity for peace on the Korean Peninsula is being met with widespread skepticism by mainstream media, who all seem to be reading from the same talking points. Even more alarming is the outright opposition from many in the Congress, both Democrats and Republicans. Two Democratic senators, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a disabled Iraq veteran, and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, have already introduced an amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that seeks to prevent President Trump from withdrawing US troops from South Korea. This is perhaps just a taste of what is in store.
It is worth noting that prior to the Kim-Trump summit, North Korea had unilaterally provided all the security assurances, by halting missile and nuclear tests, releasing US detainees, and destroying its nuclear test site. These confidence-building steps are overlooked by those who complain that President Trump has given much but gained nothing.
Skeptics who claim "the agreement is lacking in substance" do not appear to want peace at all. Are they more comfortable with a dangerous nuclear standoff and endless taxpayer spending on "defense?" In fact, the joint agreement is quite general, and a tremendous amount of work remains to be done. These negotiations will take some time, and the process of demilitarization of the Korean Peninsula will take years.
The US peace movement has played an admirable role in building support for a peace agreement with North Korea. Over the last year, many outstanding activists and organizations, coordinating through the Korea Peace Network, have shared information and strategies. Veterans For Peace helped to write and distribute the People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea,which has been signed by tens of thousands of people in the US Women Cross DMZ made repeated visits to Korea, both the north and the south, building peace together with Korean women. Well-informed voices for peace have succeeded in breaking through into the mainstream media.
We share in this victory. We pause to celebrate. But we know our work is cut out for us. If this historic opportunity for peace is not to be squandered, or strangled in its crib, we must step up all of our efforts. We will need to keep our eyes on the prize, and rise way above partisan politics.
Veterans have a special role to play. We must remind our friends and neighbors of the millions who died in the Korean War – 70% of them civilians. The Korean people have been waiting a long time for peace. We will continue to call for the withdrawal of our sons and daughters, brother and sister GI’s from South Korea (32,000 of them, plus families). We will press our government to sign a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War.
With over 800 military bases in 80 countries, the US is intervening overtly and covertly in many places, and threatening even greater wars. These wars have nothing to do with the legitimate security needs of the people of the United States; they are fought by poor and working class GI’s for the benefit of the billionaire class. In such a poisoned environment, the sudden opening for peace on the Korean Peninsula is quite startling.
We must also push for the United States to be at peace with the people of Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Palestine, Venezuela, Russia, China and all the world. We must demand the withdrawal of US occupation forces and the closure of US military outposts around the world. We must push for the de-nuclearization of the entire planet, starting with the US
The Korean people are showing us that peace really is possible. If the people of the US and Korea persist, despite all the obstacles, we can win a major victory for world peace. We can start by talking with our neighbors, writing letters-to-the-editors, and talking with our political representatives. Tell them that We The People want peace. Peace with Korea, and peace with all the peoples of the world.
Gerry Condon is a Vietnam-era veteran who serves as Board President of Veterans For Peace.