The international community is extraordinarily concerned about the Chinese construction on small islands and atolls in disputed waters off China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan. Over the past 18 months, the Chinese government has created islands out of atolls and larger islands out of small ones.
With the Obama administration’s “pivot” of the United States military and economic strategy to Asia and the Pacific, the Chinese have seen military construction in their front yard.
I’ve just returned from my third trip to Jeju Island, South Korea. Jeju is called the Island of Peace. However, its where the South Korean military has almost finished construction of a new naval base, the first military base on this strategically located island south of the mainland of Korea that is littered with U.S. and South Korean military bases, leftover from the Korean war and that are a part of the U.S. “defense” of South Korea from “aggression” from North Korea.
The Jeju Island naval base will be the homeport for ships that carry the U.S. Aegis missiles. Many on the island call it a U.S. naval base since it will be a key part of the U.S. “pivot” to Asia and the worldwide U.S. missile defense system. They believe that the naval base will be used as frequently by U.S. warships as by South Korean ships and submarines. With a naval base on Jeju Island, they believe that Jeju Island becomes a target should military hostilities breakout in Asia and the Pacific.
The naval base was built in the pristine waters off Gangjeong Village midst seven years of intense civic outrage. The destruction of the marine environment off the village where the famous women divers for decades have harvested by hand the “fruits of the sea” is one of the cultural and economic losses the construction of the naval base has caused.
The destruction by huge dynamite explosions of a unique geologic rock formation called “Gureombi” is a cultural and spiritual loss to the islanders. Its tide pools, crystal clear springs and lava rock formations made “Guremobi” a favorite area for villagers and visitors to the island.