Source: In These Times
The Okinawan people’s movement against U.S. militarism provides a roadmap for a radical, transnational resistance to war.
Amid escalating fighting words between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the world has become increasingly fixated on North Korea’s military power. The North Korean regime’s string of long-range missile tests, paired with reports of miniaturized nuclear warheads, have brought debate over how the United States and its allies should, as The New York Times put it, “defang” Pyongyang’s missile programs. North Korea recently conducted the country’s sixth and largest nuclear test, prompting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to warn that any threat could be met with a “massive military response.” What’s rarely mentioned amid the sensationalism of “breaking news,” however, is the presence of the region’s most powerful military power: the United States.
In addition to its 6,800 nuclear warheads—compared to the 60 North Korea is said to possess—the United States has spent the better part of the century building hundreds of military installations across the Asia-Pacific region, as part of its long-standing strategy to “contain” China and North Korea. During the Cold War, stockpiles of nuclear weapons were often kept secretly at U.S. bases in South Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines and other parts of the region. As the United Nations Security Council bolsters sanctions against North Korea—which have already led to chronic food insecurity for ordinary people—the United States continues to flex its muscles through aggressive joint military drills with its allies, South Korea and Japan, along the Korean peninsula. This includes air drills with heavy bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Fear of conflict in the region is made all the more palpable under a U.S. president driven by impulse, whose reckless foreign policy has already ushered a series of horrific bombings in Afghanistan and the Middle East. With decades of propaganda stacked up against it, North Korea could become the antagonist in a familiar narrative of “regime change.” But it’s also under Trump’s presidency that transnational solidarity—spearheaded by those bearing the brunt of U.S. military hegemony—is taking root.
At the August convention of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) in Anaheim, Calif., a delegation of Okinawans took the stage to the strains of native song. The playful strumming of sanshin, a traditional instrument of the indigenous peoples, filled the ballroom of more than 600 workers from Asian-American and Pacific-Islander communities, many of whom danced their way through the aisles and onto the stage to join the Okinawans in celebration. As the song drew to a close, a young Okinawan activist grabbed the microphone and began a chant that grew louder and more whole as it spread across the room: “Resist, organize, fight!”