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2017-11-01 17:03
Koreans cherish ROK-US alliance with conditions

U.S. President Donald Trump will soon pay a state visit to Korea, the success of which is pivotal to the two countries’ alliance and regional peace and stability. A recent opinion poll commissioned by The Korea Times provides Trump with a couple of pointers that can boost the success of his visit.

First, contrary to widespread belief that South Koreans spare North Koreans _ their estranged brothers _ from the responsibility for rising tension on the Korean Peninsula, nearly half of those surveyed or 48.6 percent blamed the North’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. But more than a quarter or 27.2 percent find fault with Trump. This means there is a degree of bias in the reported onslaught against the American president over his verbal threats against the North such as “fire and fury” or “quiet before a storm.”

Undoubtedly, he should exercise more verbal restraint during his Korean stay, because whatever he says will run the risk of being amplified as if spoken through a bullhorn. That in turn can jeopardize his credibility with Koreans as well as his voters back home.

At a time when the sense of security is compromised by the North’s nuclear brinkmanship, an overwhelming number or 59.2 percent pick the U.S. as the most favored nation _ China, Russia second at 27 percent ahead of Japan and the North respectively at 23.6 and 11.4.

Throw in the finding that Koreans see China as least wanting Korean unification and it is clear that, despite mixed signals, Koreans are on the same page with the U.S., sharing the same democratic system and market economy with each other. It also signifies the collective suspicion, fueled by Beijing’s state-organized boycott of Korean products over the deployment of U.S. missile interceptors, about China’s hegemonic pursuit.

Six in 10 prefer to have self-protection through nuclear arms against the North in the sentiment of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” True, there is little evidence that the respondents are well aware of the consequences of nuclear armament such as international ostracism, or understand the differences between the North’s strategic nukes and tactical types the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party is asking the U.S. to reintroduce here.

Amid the constant threat of war, over three-quarters or 77.3 percent favor replacing the current armistice with a peace treaty on the condition the North relinquishes its nuclear weapons. This leaves a great deal of room for Trump to maneuver to start dialogue with the North and guide it to his declared endgame of denuclearization. Of course, there are caveats that the South should take a significant role in any deal or deal-making process and be given the lead in the North’s reconstruction.

All told, Trump has a better than good chance of a successful visit. That is unless he orders his cavalcade to stop and gets into a shouting match with protesters along the way. He has a big job to do.




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