Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

cast away illusions, prepare for struggle!

Development finance helps China win friends and influence American allies

[Each day brings news of the every-sharpening contention between imperialist powers, who have long cooperated but are now more-ready to seize advantage at the expense of each other, and place burdens of more aggressive exploitation and more oppressive conditions on working people inside the imperialist countries (from US/EU to Chinese/Russian and others scrambling to expand their profits at each others expense).  One day, it is the seizure of energy resources, then it is trade routes and shipping, then monetary dominance, then credit dominance and wars, then military eyeball face-offs and surrogate/proxy hotspots, then it is digital battles and cyber wars.  There is no stopping this contention, nor any way for the people to see it but to raise the people’s struggles against all imperialism and all reaction.  Between these imperialists, working people have no horse in this race.  —  Frontlines ed.]
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
Mar 21st 2015 | SINGAPORE | From The Economist


STRATEGIC rivalry between America and China takes many forms. Rarely does a clear winner emerge. An exception, however, is the tussle over China’s efforts to found a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). China has won, gaining the support of American allies not just in Asia but in Europe, and leaving America looking churlish and ineffectual. This month first Britain and then France, Germany and Italy said they hoped to join the bank as founding shareholders. China said other European countries such as Luxembourg and Switzerland are thinking of joining the queue.

Yet America has been sceptical about the AIIB. Its officials claim they have not “lobbied against” it, but merely stressed how important it is that it abide by international standards of transparency, creditworthiness, environmental sustainability, and so on.

Continue reading

Philippines: “CPP denounces plans to revert Subic to US military use”

Press Release, Information Bureau –October 10, 2012
Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemned proposals by officials of the Aquino regime to refurbish the military facilities of the former Subic Naval Base in order to accomodate the growing number of visiting US troops involved in various types of US military operations in the Philippines.
At the same time, the CPP denounced the arrival of more than 2,200 American troops purportedly joining the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) with 1,600 soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in various parts of the Philippines from October 8-18.  Continue reading

Philippines: Subic Bay “makeover” as new pivot for US warships

[This year has seen US power beginning to shift its central focus from the middle east to Asia.  In line with this, the Pentagon has been making new deals for military force “visitations” and deployments, from Okinawa to Guam, Australia, and Philippines, along with new force buildups in Hawaii, Taiwan, Korea, and “joint operational and training” arrangements with India, Vietnam and elsewhere.  This article, from Stars and Stripes (US military media) in June, discusses the refurbishing — “makeover” — of Subic Bay, the former and future US navy base in the Philippines. — Frontlines ed.]
By Travis J. Tritten, Stars and Stripes (US military media)

Philippine government gives OK for US to use old bases

Published: June 7, 2012

[A Filipino father and son watch the guided-missile frigate USS Crommelin get under way after participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Philippines (CARAT) exercise in October, 2010. U.S. and Philippine officials have agreed to expand joint military training in the Philippines, raising the prospect former U.S. bases could be reopened, the Marine Corps Times reported July 17, 2012.  Thomas Brennan/U.S. Navy]

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Philippine government said this week that the United States military is again welcome to use Subic Bay and the sprawling Clark Air Base, two decades after the installations were abandoned due to political friction with Manila, according to media reports.

Philippine Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta said U.S. troops, ships and aircraft can make use of the old bases, as long as prior approval is granted by the government. Azcueta made the comments following a meeting with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who traveled to the country as part of a regional trip to generate support for a military pivot toward Asia, according to the Philippine Star newspaper.

The United States had key bases in the Philippines for decades after World War II, but relations broke down in the early 1990s, and the facilities were returned.

The announcement of an expanded military relationship this week comes after months of talks between Washington and Manila, and appears to be another step forward in the U.S. plan to bolster forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

“They can come here provided they have prior coordination from the government,” Azcueta said following the meeting at the Philippine military headquarters of Camp Aguinaldo in Manila, according to the Philippine Star newspaper. “That’s what we want … increase in exercises and interoperability.” Continue reading

US hegemony-media on the US’ military “pivot” to Asia

[This year has seen US power beginning to shift its central focus from the middle east to Asia.  In line with this, the Pentagon has been making new deals for military force “visitations” and deployments, from Okinawa to Guam, Australia, and Philippines, along with new force buildups in Hawaii, Taiwan, Korea, and “joint operational and training” arrangements with India, Vietnam and elsewhere.  This article, from TIME magazine in July, explores the responses to, and embraces of, these US moves in the Philippines. — Frontlines ed.]

American ‘Pivot’ to Asia Divides the Philippines

Recent trouble in the South China Sea has renewed debate as to whether the U.S. is a trusted friend, or an old foe

By Catherine Traywick , TIME magazine, July 23, 2012

Romeo Ranoco / Reuters — Members of a militant women’s group hold up placards condemning the joint Philippine-U.S. military exercises during a protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Manila on April 27, 2012 

Bai Ali Indayla, a human-rights worker and antimilitary activist, has met just one American soldier. They convened at a picnic table inside a Philippine army camp in Mindanao in 2010 to discuss the alleged suicide of a Filipino who died under mysterious circumstances after starting a job with the U.S. military’s counterterrorism program. Indayla believed the death was suspicious, and she wanted answers, but her first and only interaction with a U.S. soldier earned her none. He was dismissive, she says, as well as arrogant and profane. After a brief and terse exchange, he walked out of the meeting without warning, and she walked away with all of her prejudices soundly affirmed.

The encounter, colored by her mistrust and his apparent indifference, reflects an enduring dynamic at play between two forces in Philippine society: the U.S. military, whose decades-long occupation of the islands eventually gave way to civil unrest, and a small but historically significant network of activists who believe the former’s presence is tantamount to neocolonialism. As China more aggressively asserts its claim over the South China Sea and the U.S. ponders a “pivot” to Asia, the gap between these groups seems to widen, calling fresh attention to the question of U.S.-Philippine ties.

The relationship between ordinary Filipinos and U.S. armed forces is a tortured one, dating back to America’s “liberation” of the Philippines from colonial Spain more than a century ago. The U.S. takeover of the Philippines in 1899 kicked off a short, bloody war, during which Filipinos were forced into reconcentrados (a type of concentration camp), massacred in their villages and subjected to a new torture technique now known as waterboarding. When the U.S. finally gave the Philippines its independence in 1945, sprawling American military bases remained — and with them, an exploding sex industry and a legacy of human-rights violations widely publicized by the national press.

A decades-long antimilitary movement culminated in the 1991 closure of American bases and the ousting of U.S. troops. Yet American forces have nevertheless maintained a limited but continuous presence in the country, where they conduct regular joint training exercises and have, in recent years, extended antiterrorism efforts. Dubbed “the second front of the war on terror” in 2002, western Mindanao has played host to 600-strong U.S. troop rotations as they pursue two al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups. Though officially base-less, barracks, ports and communications infrastructure emerged within and near the Philippine military camps that host American soldiers. This year, the Aquino administration granted the U.S. Navy permission to use the former U.S. base in Subic Bay for the service of U.S. warships. Continue reading

South Korea’s Boom Leaves Workers in the Dust

[Another report on the further globalization of exploitation and resistance–class struggle. —  Frontlines ed.]

Hyundai workers protesting in Seoul in February 2011 (Mi Jin Lee, Flickr, Creative Commons)

Monday September 24, 2012

By Michelle Chen, In These Times

South Korea is sometimes touted as an exemplar of capitalist progress in Asia–a sophisticated economy with global brands and an educated populace (not to mention a stunning contrast to its miserable Communist analog to the north). But the lives of South Korean workers tell a different story. In recent months, they’ve been slammed by a much-maligned free trade deal, tussled with Hyundai in a bitter strike, and, according to an international assessment, become examples of how an economic boom can be a bust for labor.

According to a report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), published as part of the World Trade Organization’s periodic Trade Policy Review, Korean workers have faced major challenges in organizing independent unions, and women, migrants, and other marginal workers face widespread discrimination and exploitation.

Though unionization is generally legal, in practice, labor activities are regularly suppressed by employers, and independent organizing may be preempted by “management-controlled” or “paper” unions. Restrictions on public-sector union activities–in the name of protecting the public–parallel the limits on labor activism imposed on U.S. civil servants, according to the report:

[T]here are numerous categories of public officials who are still denied their trade union rights, including managers, human resources personnel, personnel dealing with trade unions or industrial relations, and special public servants such as military, police, fire-fighters, politically-appointed officials, and high level public officials. … The law also prohibits public sector unionists from engaging in “acts in contravention of their duties prescribed in other laws and regulations when doing union activities”. This very broadly worded provision leaves the door open for abuses.

For any issue that isn’t limited to the workplace, including broader economic justice demands, the strike is simply not a tool available to activist workers:

Strikes are illegal if they are not specifically called for labour conditions, such as wages, welfare and working hours. In addition, given the complicated legal procedures for organising a strike, collective actions on labour conditions often become “illegal” for breach of procedure. Unauthorised strikers often are punished with imprisonment for one year or/and heavy fines.

The weakness of organized labor is accompanied by structural inequalities in the workforce. Like many other “developed” economy, migrant workers have streamed in to fill low-paid, less desirable jobs, generating a two-tiered workforce that leaves the poorest workers socially and politically marginalized:

The government has paid insufficient attention to workplaces that employ foreign workers as only 5 to 6 per cent of roughly 75,000 such workplaces were inspected by labour inspectors. Reportedly, in such workplaces there are numerous cases of sexual harassment of migrant women workers and differences in pay. Continue reading

Al-Jazeera: Wikileaks reveals US-China maneuvering on Korea issue

China ‘backs Korean reunification’

Chinese leaders privately support a unified Korea and would not stop the North’s collapse, according to leaked US cable

30 Nov 2010

Chinese officials increasingly doubt the usefulness of neighbouring North Korea as an ally and would support the reunification of the peninsula if the communist state were to collapse, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

The latest documents released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks on Tuesday detail conversations between US officials and Chinese diplomats, as well as a senior South Korean official’s discussion with his Chinese counterparts.

Cheng Guoping, the Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan, was reported to have told Richard Hoagland, the US ambassador, that “China hopes for peaceful reunification in the long-term, but he expects the two countries to remain separate in the short-term”.

The remarks were made during a three-hour dinner in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, in June 2009, according to documents published on WikiLeaks website.

Guoping was quoted as telling Hoagland that China’s objectives in North Korea were to ensure they honour their commitments on non-proliferation, maintain stability, and “don’t drive [Kim Jong-il] mad”. Continue reading

South Korea bolsters its border military forces, appeals to China for help

South Korean soldiers stand near howitzer in a 2009 military drill near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, 45 km (28) miles from Seoul.

New York Times,  November 25, 2010

With Limited Options, South Korea Shifts Military Rules

SEOUL, South Korea — Responding to growing public criticism after Tuesday’s deadly attack, President Lee Myung-bak accepted the resignation Thursday of his defense minister and announced changes in the military’s rules of engagement to make it easier for the South Korean military to strike back with greater force, especially if civilians are threatened.

The government also announced plans to increase the number of troops and heavy weapons on Yeonpyeong Island, where two marines and two civilians died Tuesday in an artillery fusillade from the North.

But Mr. Lee, who came to office two years ago vowing to get tough with the North, has little maneuvering room in formulating a response. While the attack appears to have pushed anti-North Korean sentiment here to its highest level in years, there is little public support for taking military action against the North that might lead to an escalation of hostilities.  “North Korea has nothing to lose, while we have everything to lose,” said Kang Won-taek, a professor of politics at Seoul National University. “Lee Myung-bak has no choice but to soften his tone to keep this country peaceful. It is not an appealing choice, but it is the only realistic choice.”

The South’s powerful neighbor is also counseling restraint. The Chinese prime minister,Wen Jiabao, said on Thursday that Beijing opposed any provocative military behavior by either side on the Korean peninsula, Xinhua, the state news agency, reported. Continue reading

US Navy steps up pressure on China to bring North Korea to the negotiating table

USS George Washington, a floating airbase aimed at North Korea and China

[Commander-in-Chief Obama’s decision to send the USS George Washington and  supporting warships to the North China Sea is a full-court military press aimed at intimidating North Korea and putting greater pressure on China to bring North Korea back to the 6 country talks that have been suspended for months.  North Korea’s willingness to strike back at military provocations by South Korea (such as South Korea’s continual military exercises along the border), and its willingness to expend enormous economic resources on its military and nuclear program are not simply “defensive.”  The North Korean government hopes to use the threat of its powerful military to South Korea to extract substantial economic aid and investments (such as the South Korean export zones that already exist in the North) from South Korea and the US in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons program. It remains to be seen how successful tthe US political/military strategy will be.–Frontlines ed.]

BEIJING – China expressed concern about South Korea’s planned joint military exercise with the United States and said it was maintaining contact with Washington over tensions on the Korean peninsula, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. “We have noted the relevant reports and express our concern about this,” a spokesman for the ministry, Hong Lei, told a regular news conference.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Thursday a joint military exercise with the United States due later this month will send a clear message to North Korea. The resumption of stalled six-party talks to persuade Pyongyang to abandon nuclear disarmament  [sic] was “urgently” needed, Hong said, adding that all parties in the dispute in the Korean peninsula should “do more to ease” the situation.

China has been urged by the United States and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan, to help rein in Pyongyang after North Korea shelled a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing four people and triggering a confrontation. Beijing was angered earlier this year by joint U.S.-South Korea naval exercises off the South Korean coast that those two nations said were meant to warn North Korea. Beijing said such exercises could threaten its security and regional stability.

South Korea (backed by the US) clashes with North Korea (backed by China)

[Based on our present knowledge, the latest armed clash between North and South Korea is based on this sequence of events: Tens of thousands of South Korean forces were conducting military exercises near the border with North Korea;  South Korean forces fired their artillery into waters near Yeonpyeong island that are claimed by both the North and the South;  North Korean artillery fire hit a South Korean marine installation on the island; and South Korea returned artillery fire. The US and Western imperialist press immediately charged that this was an “unprovoked attack” by North Korea.  Obama then ordered the USS George Washington aircraft carrier to South Korea to conduct “joint exercises” in a show of solidarity with the South Korean government.

As the article posted below points out, the dispatch of the USS George Washington to the Yellow Sea is also meant to send a message to the Chinese government to place more pressure on North Korea to back off militarily. The US imperialists are well aware that China is the only country with any leverage over North Korea, since it supplies most of North Korea’s energy and food.  China does this not out of “socialist solidarity” (neither of them are socialist), but to keep North Korea from collapsing, generating a flood of refugees into China. Even more importantly, a disintegrating North Korea could lead to a unified Korea, with a US military presence on China’s border.

The South Korean government claimed that it was the victim of North Korean “aggression,” and threatened to launch air strikes on North Korean artillery bases. It also received assistance from the bourgeois media in ensuring that its responsibility for the armed clash would not be subject to public scrutiny. This response points to the “carrot and stick” approach of the South Korean government and the US imperialists to the North Korean government. The “stick” has consisted of tight economic sanctions and constant military pressure (including initiating some of these armed clashes) that force the North Korean government to match South Korean military spending. The “carrot” is the offer of substantial economic aid and investments (in export processing zones) if North Korea agrees to discontinue its nuclear weapons program.

There are two reasons underlying North Korea’s policy of engaging South Korean forces in “lightning” military actions (see the history of armed actions from 1999 to the present below): First, these continual armed clashes maintain political legitimacy and stability for a weak North Korean regime by raising the level of nationalism and reinforcing the official line that North Korea is under perpetual siege from the US and South Korea. Second, the hereditary “communist” dynasty that has ruled North Korea for decades is in a desperate economic situation, and is having great difficulty maintaining its huge military forces. To handle this situation, the North Korean government has been expanding its nuclear weapons program and engaging the South Korean military in small actions as bargaining chips to extract the largest amount of economic aid as possible from South Korea and the US.  This is a high-stakes gamble. The recent actions of the North Korean government will more likely lead to tighter Western sanctions and increased US pressure on China to force North Korea to back off from its military/nuclear ambitions–and come to terms with South Korea and US imperialism.–Frontlines ed]

New York Times, November 23, 2010

U.S. to Send Carrier for Joint Exercises Off Korea

Smoke on Yeonpyeong island after the artillery attack

Smoke on Yeonpyeong island after the artillery attack

WASHINGTON — President Obama and South Korea’s president agreed Tuesday night to hold joint military exercises as a first response to North Korea’s deadly shelling of a South Korean military installation, as both countries struggled for the second time this year to keep a North Korean provocation from escalating into war.

What steps should the U.S. take after the artillery attack on a South Korean island?

The exercise will include sending the aircraft carrier George Washington and a number of accompanying ships into the region, both to deter further attacks by the North and to signal to China that unless it reins in its unruly ally it will see an even larger American presence in the vicinity.

The decision came after Mr. Obama attended the end of an emergency session in the White House Situation Room and then emerged to call President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea to express American solidarity and talk about a coordinated response. But as a former national security official who dealt frequently with North Korea in the Bush administration, Victor Cha, said just a few hours before the attack began, North Korea is “the land of lousy options.”

Mr. Obama is once again forced to choose among unpalatable choices: responding with verbal condemnations and a modest tightening of sanctions, which has done little to halt new attacks; starting military exercises that are largely symbolic; or reacting strongly, which could risk a broad war in which South Korea’s capital, Seoul, would be the first target. Continue reading

Korea: Protests welcome Obama in Seoul

Wed Nov 10, 2010

US President Barack Obama waves goodbye before entering Air Force One and departing from the Halim Perdanakusuma military airport in Jakarta, November 10, 2010.
US President Barack Obama has arrived in South Korea to attend the G-20 summit in Seoul as activists stage protests against Washington’s policies around the world.

Prior to his arrival in Seoul, thousands of South Korean peace activists and civic group members took to the streets to protest Obama’s visit, saying the US president is not welcome in South Korea.

The activists have promised to continue their demonstrations until the summit kicks off on Thursday. The protesters are opposing a free trade agreement between Seoul and Washington.

Disputes over foreign exchange rates and the world’s unbalanced trade are expected to dominate discussions in the two-day gathering. The demonstrators say the deal harms South Korea’s agriculture and employment.

Continue reading

Japan, China and the US spar in the East and South China Seas

Peter Lee,  Asia Pacific Journal

In China’s international relations, 2010 has been the Year of Zero Sum.  On a series of issues, the Western and Asian democracies have demanded that China accept policies that advance their agendas while sacrificing Chinese interests.

On one level this is the inevitable outcome of the Obama administration’s repositioning of its foreign policy away from the amoral, Westphalian-style horse-trading of national interests of the Bush administration.

The United States has now established global adherence to norms championed by the U.S. and its allies—non-proliferation, global warming, democracy, freedom of information, freedom of navigation, open currency markets, and human rights—as the cornerstone of its foreign policy. This does not necessarily mean, of course, that the U.S. holds itself or its allies to such high standards in these realms, notably global warming, but even human rights and freedom of navigation.

By accident or design, the insistence on these norms as the driver behind global policy leaves nations, particularly an authoritarian government like the PRC, which is outside of the U.S.-defined mainstream on virtually all of these issues, little scope to define and advance its competing national interests as legitimate.

It also has the effect of isolating China from Western and some Asian democracies—a useful geopolitical windfall for nations anxious about China’s rising economic, military, and geopolitical clout and the global gains Beijing made in the first decade of the 20th century while the Bush administration was asleep at the Asian switch.

In 2010, China was called upon to sacrifice its own interests on virtually all of the Obama administration’s key initiatives. On global warming, China was asked to abandon the highly favorable terms of the Kyoto Protocol for an economically costly cap on its greenhouse gas emissions even as the U.S. failed to commit to any significant controls. On the issue of Google, the Obama administration (which counts a significant number of Google insiders in its tech-policy brain trust) called on China to tear down that Great Firewall, something that China considers an unacceptable political risk.

On Iran, China was pressed to put its energy security and alliance with Iran at risk in order to join the U.S.-led crusade against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. On North Korea, China was told to abandon its useful buffer, the DPRK, and join a chorus of condemnation over the sinking of the Cheonan that would shift the focus toward the reunification of the peninsula under the aegis of the United States and the ROK. On currency, the U.S. has demanded that China substantially appreciate its currency with the anticipated result of reducing its exports so the United States can try to find a way out of its economic difficulties. Continue reading