In the short span of his Asia tour, Donald Trump made the case for war with North Korea, legitimized the brutality of the Duterte administration, and pushed for the increased militarization and neoliberalization of the Indo-Pacific region. While Trump’s boorishness and impudence may be unique in magnitude, his policies are but a new chapter in more than a century of US imperialism on the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands.
US Pacific Command (USPACOM), the oldest and largest of all US combatant unified commands, has brought war, military exercises and occupations to Indo-Pacific Asia, Oceania and parts of Africa for over 70 years. Its legacy includes nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands; the wartime devastation of Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; the illegal deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea; the destabilization and underdevelopment of communities in vicinity to USPACOM facilities; and military exercises in Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa, Korea and countless other places. Presently, USPACOM oversees over 200 US military facilities in 11 nations, including Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. All told, USPACOM has dropped over 7.5 million tons of explosives on civilian and military targets throughout the region.
The occupation of these lands upholds US hegemony in the region while promoting and perpetuating war, authoritarianism, gender violence, instability, exploitation and ecocide. As the largest market for US exports, including sales of military-grade arms worth $600 billion globally, Asia is a vital site of colonial extraction essential to the maintenance of US global power. The US’s tremendous military footprint in the Indo-Pacific region exists to uphold an economic and political order that chiefly benefits the US elite at the expense of the peoples and lands of the region.
Trump has perpetuated this shameful legacy of domination and destruction throughout his presidency and during his tour of Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. He advanced neoliberal policies designed to fortify US economic hegemony in the region throughout his trip, notably in his attempts to renegotiate the South Korean Free Trade Agreement. After months of escalating tensions, provocations and threats against North Korea, Trump pushed the region ever closer to war with the offer of arms sales to South Korea and Japan. During his time in the Philippines, Trump supported Duterte’s authoritarian engagement with the press, and remained silent as thousands of protesters were brutalized by police in the streets of Manila on the first day of the ASEAN summit, injuring more than 56 participants. Prior to this visit, Trump lavished praise on the Philippine military’s extrajudicial killings throughout the country and war on terror-style operations in Mindanao, and directly supported the slaughter of the Filipino people with promises of increased collaboration, intelligence sharing, and counterinsurgency efforts with Duterte’s government.
As Filipinos, Koreans and peoples of Asian diasporas, we understand our presence in the Americas as a consequence of US and Western colonialism, and see the racism and violence we experience in diaspora as inextricably linked to the racism and violence inflicted upon our homelands. We declare our unwavering support for all those who resist US empire, militarism and neoliberalism in the Indo-Pacific, especially those in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines who risked their safety and freedom to protest Trump.
We recognize US occupation as colonialism and demand the immediate and unconditional demilitarization of our homelands and the entire Indo-Pacific region — including the closure of all US military facilities, the withdrawal of all military personnel, and an end to all military exercises, war games and operations. We call on the US government to respect the sovereignty and self-determination of all peoples in the region, including Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. Furthermore, we stand firm against the dehumanizing and violent rhetoric and policies the Trump administration has implemented globally and at home.