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Jeju Island naval base tensions escalate with arrival of riot police from Seoul.
Amid growing controversy over a proposed naval base in South Korea, national authorities have sent five brigades of police armed with crowd suppression equipment to quash protesters in the small fishing village of Gangjeong.
By: Matthew Hoey
Ganjeong village leaders announced that tomorrow (Tuesday, August 16) police will likely converge on peace camps occupied by protesters who have until now halted base construction by means of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Earlier this week Blue House Special Secretary, Lee Jae Oh, visited the island and promised to solve the situation politically. The sense of urgency in his statement is considered a driving force in the actions of police, who may anticipate a potential order to retreat.
The Jeju District Courts are also expected to sign off on a litigation suit filed by the South Korean Navy and Samsung C&T on August 17.
Governor Woo Geun Min, earlier this month, made a special phone call to the Seogwipo police department requesting that violence be avoided at all costs. However the presence of water cannons and the dramatic entrance by the police on Sunday have tensions in the community high.
Since base plans were announced five years ago, Jeju residents have used every democratic means to block its construction, including filing a lawsuit against ROK Defense Minister and holding a recall vote to oust a local governor who had consented to the plan. The hugely unpopular project has caused 95% of the island's population to vote against it.
The recent increased show of force by the South Korean government is in response to growing global attention to the residents' cause, including a letter of support from American feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem, and the launch of an English-language website and online petition supported by over 100 peace and religious groups worldwide.
The 400,000 square meter base will be home to a new fleet of destroyers equipped with the advanced Aegis ballistic missile defense system. Many military analysts believe that the Jeju Island naval base will serve as part of the U.S. military's sea-based ballistic missile defense system. This same technology is also a proven anti-satellite weapon. Some analysts are also concerned that if the base is constructed it could lead to military hostilities between China and South Korea.
The ROK Navy expects to complete construction of the base on Jeju in 2014. Officials say the base, which would accommodate more than 20 warships, submarines, and other naval vessels will cost about 800-billion-