- Christine Ahnfounder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ and campaign coordinator for Korea Peace Now!
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden pledged to deploy nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea for the first time in 40 years. Alongside South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol, Biden also pledged to involve officials from Seoul in nuclear planning operations targeting North Korea. The visit between the two leaders comes as the U.S. and South Korea mark 70 years of military alliance under 1953’s Mutual Defense Treaty, signed at the close of active conflict in the Korean War. No peace treaty was ever signed by the North and South Korean governments, meaning the two countries are still technically at war. We discuss continued tensions on the Korean Peninsula with Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, and the coordinator of the campaign Korea Peace Now! Ahn says the Korean War marked the dawn of the military-industrial complex and that ever-more militarization of the peninsula is not the answer. “There is momentum now to transform this state of war into a permanent peace,” she says.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we end today’s show looking at the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. On Thursday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress and warned nuclear threat posed by North Korea. On Wednesday, Joe Biden pledged to deploy nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea for the first time in 40 years and to establish a new bilateral Nuclear Consultative Group, where the United States would involve officials from South Korea in nuclear planning operations targeting North Korea. On Wednesday, President Biden issued a stark warning to North Korea.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies or partisans — or, partners — is unacceptable and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action.
AMY GOODMAN: President Biden was speaking in the Rose Garden at a news conference with the South Korean president.
To talk more about his visit to Washington and tension on the Korean Peninsula, we’re joined now by Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. Christine is also the coordinator of the campaign Korea Peace Now!, speaking to us from Hawaii.
And we thank you for being up in the middle of the night for this conversation, Christine. Talk about the significance of the meeting at the White House between the U.S. and South Korean presidents and what President Biden has promised.
CHRISTINE AHN: Hi, Amy. Thanks for having me on.
The announcement that the U.S. would send nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea is a very provocative and dangerous move. It’s the first time that U.S. nuclear weapons have been on or around the Korean Peninsula in 40 years. In fact, most Americans have no idea that the nuclear crisis actually began with the U.S. bringing nuclear weapons in South Korea from 1956, three years after the signing of the ceasefire, and had them there up until George Bush Sr. So, that is not only a provocative act directed at North Korea, but also at China.
And this is actually throwing fuel into already a — into a fire that has been increasingly dangerous. There have been massive military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea this spring, all last year. Last year, I think North Korea conducted 90 missile tests. And the situation is just getting even more dangerous. There is a three-star general, Dan Leaf, who says of all the conflicts currently taking place right now, whether it’s between U.S. and China over Taiwan or the Russia-Ukraine war, that the Korean Peninsula is perhaps the one that may be the closest to a nuclear war. So, it is a very dangerous moment.
And the fact that the U.S. will be sending U.S. nuclear submarines to the Korean Peninsula, and for Biden to make such a statement, that is akin to Trump’s “fire and fury” era, where he threatened to totally destroy North Korea, this is a wake-up call, I think, for the American people and, obviously, for South Koreans, who feel that Yoon is basically drawing the Korean Peninsula on the frontline of the U.S. war against China.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Christine Ahn, this actually is being billed as a compromise. As part of the agreement, President Yoon renewed a pledge not to pursue the development of a South Korean nuclear arsenal. Your response?
CHRISTINE AHN: Well, it is, in the sense that there is growing concern in South Korea for its own domestic nuclear weapons program in light of the tactical nuclear weapons coming from North Korea or the program in North Korea.
But I think the problem is, is it’s not addressing the underlying issue, which is that the Korean Peninsula is continuingly at a state of war. This is actually the 70th anniversary of the ceasefire. This July 27th marks 70 years that the U.S. commander, the North Korean commander and the Chinese representative from the Voluntary People’s Army signed the armistice agreement, where they committed to halting the war, but they never actually followed up with their commitment, which was to return within 90 days to negotiate a peace settlement.
So, what we’re facing is this continual militarization. South Korea now is the sixth-largest military spender in the world. The U.S., we know, is the world’s largest, our budget approaching a trillion dollars, more than next nine countries combined. And it is an unsustainable crisis. And I think the way that the narrative of deterrence is as if there isn’t violence, as if they are preparing to prevent violence in the future, when in fact we know violence is taking place right now, whether it’s the division of families, whether it’s the suffering of the North Korean people, whether it’s the ongoing investment in militarization that should be otherwise invested in things that make us secure. I mean, I think about — I’m here in Hawaii, and we’re facing the Red Hill crisis, where, you know, this militarization means we are polluting Oahu’s aquifer. And this is the jet fuel that will basically fuel the ships or the bombers that will go and wage wars in Asia.
So we have to break down this mythology that this is actually what is making us secure, when in fact what we need to do is negotiate a peace agreement. And that is gaining traction among people, from the military to nuclear scientists to, you know, people like President Carter. We have to normalize relations with North Korea to achieve the things that we want.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this mobilization to end the Korean War scheduled for the end of July? And also talk about China’s response to all of this.
CHRISTINE AHN: Well, first, just since we’re short on time, I wanted to make sure that we are mobilizing hundreds to come to Washington, D.C. I hope, Amy, you will be there, or somebody from Democracy Now! But July 27th marks the 70th anniversary of the armistice. And we are saying it’s time to end this war, this war that inaugurated the military-industrial complex for the United States. It set forth the U.S. to become the world’s police. And it has been the war that has maintained this constant threat on the Korean Peninsula. So, we are gathering multiple organizations, faith-based, Vets for Peace, and Korean American Coalition. So, we are gathering — the website is KoreaPeaceAction.org. And we’ll be having a congressional briefing with our peace champions.
We want to also raise awareness that there is the first-ever Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act. It was reintroduced by Brad Sherman in the last Congress. We had nearly 50 co-sponsors of that bill. And so, we need —
AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds, Christine.
CHRISTINE AHN: Yeah. What I’m saying is, Amy, there is momentum now to transform the state of war into a permanent peace. And that’s where we need Americans to recognize, this is America’s oldest war. It’s on our responsibility to bring closure to this war.
AMY GOODMAN: Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, also the coordinator of the campaign Korea Peace Now!
That does it for our show. On Saturday, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González will be speaking at 10 a.m. at American University in Washington on an all-day conference titled “In Search of a New U.S. Policy for a New Latin America: Burying 200 Years of the Monroe Doctrine.” Check democracynow.org for details. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.