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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.

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“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

U.S. President Donald Trump Suggests, Brazil Should be Able To Join The North Atlantic Treaty Alliance

Until now, Brazilian diplomacy was a zero-sum kind of relationship, not aligned with U.S. interests and "sort of hostile in certain ways, at least at the bureaucratic level"

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Amazon, US, Brazil, Agreement, Development
President Donald Trump greets Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 19, 2019. VOA

The leaders of the Western Hemisphere’s two largest economies are pledging closer trade ties and enhanced military cooperation, with U.S. President Donald Trump even suggesting Brazil should be able to join the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO).

Trump said for that to happen, however, he would “have to talk to a lot of people.”

The U.S. president, at a joint news conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, also pledged American support for Brazil to join the 36-member Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD), which includes most of the highly-developed economies.

Bolsonaro, speaking in Portuguese, said his visit begins a new chapter of cooperation between Brazil and the United States, adding that with his recent election, “Brazil has a president who is not anti-American, which is unprecedented in recent decades.”

U.S.
“All options are open,” Trump reiterated when asked by a reporter in the White House Rose Garden if military intervention in Venezuela by the United States is possible. VOA

The retired military officer is known as the “Trump of the Tropics” for his far-right agenda of cracking down on crime and corruption, and nostalgia for Brazil’s era of military dictatorship.

The two leaders, who met for the first time Tuesday, also discussed their mutual support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by most Western countries, including the United States and Brazil.

“All options are open,” Trump reiterated when asked by a reporter in the White House Rose Garden if military intervention in Venezuela by the United States is possible.

Trump noted that Washington has yet to apply really tough sanctions on Caracas, where Nicolas Maduro — who the U.S. president called “Cuba’s puppet” — remains in power with the backing of Venezuela’s military.

In oil-rich Venezuela there is no food, water or air-conditioning, according to Trump, while Bolsonaro said “people are starving to death” there.

“We need to put an end to this,” Bolsonaro added.

Space launches

Just ahead of the meeting between the two leaders, the United States and Brazil signed an agreement to support American space launches from Brazil. The State Department says the pact will ensure the proper handling of sensitive U.S. technology consistent with U.S. nonproliferation policy, the Missile Technology Control, and U.S. export control laws and regulations.

The two leaders “agreed to take the steps necessary to enable Brazil to participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Global Entry Program,” according to a joint statement issued following the news conference.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the Oval Office of the White House, March 19, 2019, in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the Oval Office of the White House, March 19, 2019, in Washington. VOA

‘Common ground’

The two countries have never had particularly close relations, with Brazil traditionally wary of American influence in Latin America. But now their two leaders find themselves in sync on concerns about the Maduro regime in Venezuela, Cuba’s involvement in that country, and the threat from China’s rising influence on domestic politics in South and Central America.

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Until now, Brazilian diplomacy was a zero-sum kind of relationship, not aligned with U.S. interests and “sort of hostile in certain ways, at least at the bureaucratic level,” former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega told VOA.

“If we can find common ground with them on some key specific initiatives,” the U.S. relationship with Brazil and South America, as a whole, can be realigned, according to Noriega, an American Enterprise Institute visiting fellow.(VOA)