Anti-war protesters shout slogans during a rally opposing the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea on Monday, as police officers stand guard near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo: Ahn Young-joon/AP)
On the heels of a meeting between North and South Korea in which Kim Jong-un reportedly put denuclearization on the table, a grassroots coalition of more than 200 anti-war organizations and activists sent an open letter (pdf) to President Donald Trump on Thursday calling on his administration to help further “the current momentum for peace and dialogue in Korea” by canceling planned U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
“Further postponement or cancellation of the massive war exercises, which North Korea understandably loathes and fears, makes all the sense in the world at this time.”
—Kevin Martin, Peace Action“We believe the current U.S. campaign of ‘maximum pressure’ against the North is both provocative and dangerous,” the letter notes, arguing that recently announced sanctions could spark a “horrific” conflict on the Korean Peninsula. “Putting off the military exercises indefinitely will give more time for North-South diplomacy, with U.S. support, and allow the initiation of U.S.-North Korea talks, as both the North Korean and South Korean governments now advocate.”
In the place of “maximum pressure”—which is the Trump administration’s official policy stance toward Pyongyang—the peace coalition calls for “maximum engagement” with North Korea, which “is the only way to achieve permanent peace and nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula.”
“The United States has a rare opportunity to help resolve longstanding tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and this chance must not be missed,” Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action, one of the letter’s signatories, said in a statement on Thursday. “Further postponement or cancellation of the massive war exercises, which North Korea understandably loathes and fears, makes all the sense in the world at this time when South and North Korea are negotiating on so many crucial issues.”
As Common Dreams reported last December, North Korea has repeatedly cautioned the U.S. that continued war games on the Korean Peninsula increase the likelihood of “all-out war.”
Despite these warnings, the U.S. has carried out massive military exercises in partnership with South Korea, the largest of which featured a B-1B supersonic bomber.
In a statement on Thursday, Simone Chun, who works on the steering committee of the Alliance of Scholars Concerned About Korea, argued that only the postponement or complete cancellation of these provocative and aggressive exercises will allow diplomatic efforts to move forward.
“The recent dramatic breakthrough in North-South relations reverses a dangerous pattern of animosity and aggression that has driven the two Koreas further apart and brought the peninsula dangerously to the brink of war,” Chun said. “We now have a historic opportunity to begin to put an end to the longest-running war in modern history.”