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On Trump-Moon Agenda: What to Do About threat posed by North Korea President Kim Jong Un

Moon, a liberal, took office early last month, succeeding the impeached Park Geun-hye, known for her tough stance toward North Korea

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, wave before leaving for the United States at the Seoul military airport in Seongnam, South Korea, June 28, 2017. Moon left for the United States for a summit meeting with his U.S. counterpart. VOA
  • For the Trump-Moon meeting, “building a rapport” will be as important as anything else, considering how closely they will be working together, the senior U.S. official told reporters at a background briefing
  • The U.S. president had hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping would quickly bring into line North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
  • Moon also has put the brakes on his predecessor’s move to quickly deploy the U.S. Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea

USA, June 29, 2017: U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday evening hosts South Korean President Moon Jae-in for cocktails and dinner, a prelude to talks the next day on the “very urgent threat posed by North Korea,” according to a senior White House official.

It’ll be the first time the two leaders meet.

Moon, a liberal, took office early last month, succeeding the impeached Park Geun-hye, known for her tough stance toward North Korea.

ALSO READ: Korea is Emerging as an Important Economic Partner for India

“It’s going to be a meeting with a lot of uncertainty about whether the two presidents can agree on a common policy toward North Korea in terms of the specific tactics,” said Gary Samore, research executive director at Harvard’s Belfer Center.

Tens of thousands of men and women pump their fists in the air
Tens of thousands of men and women pump their fists in the air and chant as they carry placards with anti-american propaganda slogans at Pyongyang’s central Kim Il Sung Square on Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Pyongyang North Korea, to mark what North Korea calls “the day of struggle against US imperialism” – the anniversary of the start of the Korean War. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

For the Trump-Moon meeting, “building a rapport” will be as important as anything else, considering how closely they will be working together, the senior U.S. official told reporters at a background briefing.

“My biggest concern is that President Moon will want to dive into tough policy challenges, rather than focusing on building a rapport with President Trump,” said Mansfield Foundation President Frank Januzzi.

Moon and North Korea

“I believe Moon is coming to Washington with a very specific proposal — if (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un agrees to pause nuclear and missile testing, that should open the door to a diplomatic engagement, which would try to create a negotiation for eventual nuclear disarmament,” Samore, a non-proliferation and arms control official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, told VOA. “But I don’t know that Trump is going to be in a position to accept that proposal.”

Taro O, adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS, concurred.

“I don’t think Moon’s messages and various protests in South Korea help to set a positive tone for the summit,” O said.

But O expressed hope the long-standing alliance “would have a soothing effect.”

U.S. officials are downplaying any potential disagreement.

“We’re comfortable with where the two governments are right now,” the senior U.S. official said.

Increasing pressure

The Trump administration desires to substantially increase pressure on Pyongyang “to change its calculus in order to have substantive talks with us when they reduce the threat,” the official said.

Moon and Trump, he added, both want North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs completely dismantled.

“Moon might want to adopt an approach that asks Trump for dealmaking advice, even as he expresses the clear will of the South Korean people that dialogue be a key part of any diplomatic strategy to reduce the threats posed by North Korea,” Januzzi, a former East Asia policy director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told VOA.

The U.S. president had hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping would quickly bring into line North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But Trump acknowledged recently that Beijing’s influence has failed to dissuade Pyongyang from its provocative course.

“We very much want to see China do more,” the U.S. official said.

“We are adding pressure and have really only begun to do so,” the official added, rejecting criticism that pressure has not worked.

FILE - Protesters attend an anti-THAAD protest in Seongju, South Korea. ​THAAD
FILE – Protesters attend an anti-THAAD protest in Seongju, South Korea. VOA

THAAD

Moon also has put the brakes on his predecessor’s move to quickly deploy the U.S. Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea.

China strongly objected to the presence of THAAD on its neighbor’s territory.

“It is not unreasonable for the U.S. to be perplexed when South Korea appears to disregard a real missile threat from North Korea, succumb to China’s bullying, and portrays THAAD as a U.S. infringement of South Korean sovereignty,” O, a retired U.S. Air Force officer who worked at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies on Korean security issues, told VOA.

Administration officials discount the differences.

THAAD will be “a routine point of housekeeping” in the Trump-Moon talks but it is not being treated as a major issue, the senior White House official said.

Seoul diverging on security matters “could marginalize South Korea as a key player in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, especially when Pyongyang is getting closer to developing a nuclear-tipped ICBM that can strike the U.S.,” O said.

Trade issues

There also are trade disagreements between Seoul and Washington, but “it’ll be a friendly, frank discussion,” the senior U.S. official predicted.

Trump has repeatedly termed the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) “horrible.” In April he threatened to terminate the decade-old pact because “we’re getting destroyed in Korea.”

The senior White House official diplomatically acknowledged “there are aspects of the trade relationship that are not in balance.”

Particular irritants: The lack of sales of American-made cars in Seoul and Chinese steel coming into the United States via South Korea.

Moon should have in mind Trump’s job creation agenda and inform him “about the great contributions that Korean companies are making to the U.S. economy, employing hundreds of thousands of Americans, both directly and indirectly,” Januzzi suggested. (VOA)

Next Story

Impeachment Process Divides Global Opinion, but Shows Democracy in Action

Trump Impeachment Drama Gets Attention, Mixed Reviews Around World

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Impeachment Process of Donald Trump
President Donald Trump waits outside the Oval Office of the White House before walking with first lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump on the South Lawn in Washington, before boarding Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Trump is traveling to Florida for a campaign rally and the Thanksgiving holiday. VOA
As the impeachment process against U.S. President Donald Trump unfolds, it’s not only Americans who are following every twist and turn. Millions of people around the world have been following the testimonies on Capitol Hill and are fascinated by the political warfare in Washington. Many observers say it shows American democracy in action.

Trump is accused of threatening to withhold $392 million in military assistance to Ukraine, unless Kyiv launched a public corruption investigation into the family of his political rival, the Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden. Soliciting foreign interference in U.S. democracy is unlawful and Trump strongly denies the allegations.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, Britain is trying to break out of its own political crisis caused by the 2016 vote to leave the European Union. With a general election imminent, many Britons see their own recent political chaos mirrored across the Atlantic, says political scientist Thomas Gift of University College London.

“Both the U.S. and the U.K. [Britain] are rivaling one another for levels of dysfunction in government, or lack of ability to get things done,” Gift said. “Typically, the world, including the U.K., looks to the U.S. as a model of democratic governance and has had, for a long time, institutions of power and leadership that project integrity. And I think watching this, particularly from abroad, I think does to some extent undercut that belief that the U.S. is this kind of moral, ethical and democratic leader.”

Polls suggest less than one in five Britons have a positive opinion of Trump — and that’s echoed in the views of many watching the impeachment process play out.

View of the Arc de Triomphe
General view of the Arc de Triomphe as French President Emmanuel Macron attends a commemoration ceremony for Armistice day, 101 years after the end of the First World War, in Paris, France. VOA

“If it goes through the House, I really hope that the Senate really stand up and do something about it. He shouldn’t be president and he should be impeached,” London resident Dayo Thomas told VOA.

In Paris, there is mixed interest in Washington’s political battles. Jacques Grau, a physician, believes the impeachment process is a good idea. “It allows democracy to function,” he told VOA.

Student Selene Ay says many of her contemporaries are not that interested.

“I know a lot of people followed after [Trump] was elected. But I think it kind of died down, I guess. People don’t care that much.”

There appears to be greater interest in Russia — and seemingly, greater support for Trump. Moscow resident Mikhail says the Americans elected Trump, “but now they want to take the decision back. That is wrong,” he said.

Fellow Moscow resident Dmitri says it is a political struggle. “[Joe] Biden’s team is just looking for compromising information to make Trump step down.”

They may be strategic rivals, but Russia doesn’t necessarily welcome America’s political problems, according to Andrey Kortunov, director of the Russian Council on International Affairs.

Buildings in Cairo, Egypt
A general view of clustered buildings in Cairo, Egypt. VOA

“The only U.S. president who can fix problems with Moscow is a strong U.S. president,” Kortunov told VOA. “So if Trump is under impeachment it definitely weakens his position and it becomes more difficult for him to manage this very complex and very delicate relationship. We need to have predictable partners. Weakness makes leaders unpredictable.”

With 1.3 billion people, India is often called the world’s biggest democracy. In Delhi, there is admiration for principle of impeachment. “It means that it is a very fair, a proper democracy at work,” according to Dipika Nanjappa, who works at a local voluntary organization. Retired government official Ashish Banerjee agrees: “We need to be more accountable. Our leaders need to be more accountable,” he told VOA.

Cairo resident Sameh Ghoneim sees echoes of Egypt’s own leadership in the alleged actions of Donald Trump. “He is only interested in personal gain,” said Ghoneim, who works as a mining engineer outside the capital. “He will look for corruption in others when it helps him.”

ALSO READ: Trump to Pursue Higher Sales Age for Vaping Devices: ‘An Age Limit of 21 or So’

In South Africa’s Johannesburg, opinion on Trump’s fate is again divided. “I think he’s doing just fine, so I don’t see the reason why he should be removed,” said local chef Khanyisile Shongwe. Cleaner Joseph Maisa is no fan of the U.S. president. “He doesn’t bring nice things in America. That is why he should be removed.”

The impeachment process could go on well into 2020, as the U.S. also gears up for the presidential election following what promises to be a bitterly fought campaign. Each twist and turn will be followed closely across the globe. (VOA)