Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry

Hon. John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

May 19, 2014

Dear Mr. Secretary,

As old friends and colleagues from the Vietnam War era, we are writing to support your condemnation of China's "provocative" behavior by installing an oil platform and sending some eighty ships to implement its unilateral claims to the South China Sea near Vietnam.

We are not proponents of what many call a "new Cold War" by our country against China. Too great a projection of US naval and diplomatic power, into what China understandably sees as its sphere of interest, is sure to escalate a conflict where we are disadvantaged as the historic Western outsider. The waters in question are called the South China Sea, or the East Sea, by the Vietnamese; and not the West American Sea, for obvious reasons.

That does not mean our government should be passive or remain neutral to a policy of Chinese expansionism when it threatens the sovereignty of smaller Pacific nations like Vietnam and the Philippines. Like you, we are deeply aware from experience that nothing is more precious for Vietnam than its independence. The Vietnamese have fought their "brother enemy" or China, twice since the US-Vietnam war, and 14 times over the centuries. As this month's extraordinary street protests have shown, Vietnamese public opinion is willing to confront China over the deployment of an oil rig 140 miles off the Vietnamese coast. The tensions even could escalate militarily with a Vietnam-China border battle on the one hand, and Vietnamese attacks on China's over-extended supply lines, on the other.

China, despite being a rising power, has shown great concern for its regional and global reputation through the exercise of soft power diplomacy. The United States government therefore should add its voice to those criticizing China's unilateral expansionism and indicate that Beijing will pay a diplomatic price for its behavior. In no way, however, should the US respond with any military threats, since those would be ineffective and play into the narrative of a new Cold War. 

According to the international press, China says it will remove its rig by August 18 for the coming typhoon season. That allows time for the current dangerous brinksmanship to be transformed into a diplomatic process, which will ensure Vietnam's sovereignty, lessen regional hostilities, and restore China's standing as a good neighbor in the area. The idea of joint exploitation of resources benefiting powers with historically established contending claims should be explored.

We all know the perils of hubris, blind ambition, and over-reach. We also know the proven potential of meaningful steps towards conflict resolution. It is our hope that our government can summon the lessons of the bitter past to play a constructive role in protecting sovereignty while promoting coexistence in this case.

Over the long term we should deepen our relationships with Vietnam to make clear we are a committed partner to regional stability, and not a power seeking to use them as a counter to China. Of course it would bolster our reputation if we reconciled with Cuba, Vietnam's closest friend in our hemisphere.

We are encouraging many friends to sign or support this letter.


TOM HAYDEN                                            JOHN McAULIFF 
Peace and Justice Resource Center             Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Additional signers are welcome, will be listed below and forwarded to Secretary Kerry.  Send authorization to director@ffrd.org.  Indicate if affiliation is for identification purposes only.

RICHARD FLACKS                                     ANN FROINES        
University of California Santa Barbara        University of Massachusetts Boston (Retired)

MARILYN B. YOUNG                                  CHARLES M. PAYNE
New York University                                 University of Chicago

JERRY LEMBCKE                                       VAN GOSSE
Holy Cross College                                   Franklin & Marshall College


University of Florida


In 2013, the following signers attended ceremonies throughout Viet Nam observing the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.  The first nine listed had all visited Viet Nam as peace activists during the war.

Judy Gumbo Albert— Judy Gumbo Albert, Ph.D. visited Vietnam in 1970 as an anti-war activist. Judy is completing her memoir Yippie Girl: My Romantic Adventures in Love and Protest and can be found on her website, www.yippiegirl.com or on Facebook.

Jay Craven— Jay Craven is an independent filmmaker, public radio commentator, and professor of film studies at Marlboro College.

Rennie Davis— Rennie Davis was the coordinator of the U.S. anti-war coalition and one of the Chicago 7 during the 1960s.

Alex Hing— Alex Hing is a sous chef in New York, and an activist in the Asian American, Labor, and Peace Movements.

Doug Hostetter— Doug Hostetter did his service as a conscientious objector, 1966 - 1969, working in South Vietnam with the Mennonite Central Committee, doing literacy work with Vietnamese children whose schools had been destroyed in the war.  Doug was also part of the US National Student Association delegation that traveled to both South and North Vietnam negotiating the People's Peace Treaty with the Saigon Student Union, The North Vietnamese Student Union and US students.

Frank Joyce—Frank Joyce is a life long anti-racist,  anti-war activist who visited Viet Nam in 1970,  2006 and 2013.

Nancy Kurshan—MSW, LCSW, is a retired school social worker and anti-war, anti-racist activist.

John McAuliff—Executive Director, Fund for Reconciliation and Development, first arrived in Hanoi on April 30, 1975, as the director of the Indochina Program, Peace Education Division, American Friends Service Committee.

Becca Wilson— Becca Wilson is a Los Angeles-based freelance editor-writer who traveled to Hanoi in 1970 with the Peoples' Peace Treaty delegation, which crafted and signed a symbolic peace agreement between students of the U.S. and students of Vietnam.

Karin Aguilar San Juan— Karin Aguilar-San Juan is an associate professor of American Studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Mary Anne Barnett— Mary Anne Barnett incorporates her life work of helping workers overcome the many barriers to organizing unions with activism on many fronts to achieve a world that honors the rights of all.

Steve Whitman—Steve Whitman, PhD, is an epidemiologist whose research focuses on inequities resulting from racial disparities in health.

No comments:

Post a Comment