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2017-11-06 16:56
If US leader shows gravitas, Seoul trip would be success

There are many myths, wrong or right, about U.S. President Donald Trump.

If Trump corrects some of the mischaracterizations, his two-day Seoul trip, starting Tuesday, would be a success. True, expectations for his visit are quite low as shown by his host President Moon Jae-in’s call for restraint on demonstrators who plan to follow him around in protest of his bellicosity against North Korea, pressure tactics for revision of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and his close ties with Japan’s ultranationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Here are some key challenges for Trump.

Is Trump eager to go to war with North Korea?

His “rhetorical bombs” say it all. He threatened to rain down “fire and fury” on the North, presaged “quiet before a storm,” and vowed to “totally destroy” the country. Then, there is a stream of news capturing his disregard for the lives of Koreans, him being quoted by Senator Graham as saying, “… if thousands die, it would be thousands there (in Korea).”

Any conflict with the North could result in the deaths of millions on the Korean Peninsula in a potential nuclear World War III. However calm Koreans are reported to be about the Trump-Kim war of words, we cherish our lives as much as Americans do theirs and feel scared by the outlook of war.

Is Trump for ditching KORUS FTA?

This trade issue is about more than just dollars and cents, rather a matter of trustworthiness. The two countries’ trade deal was made on a consensual basis. True, the deal can be revised or ditched as with any treaty but Trump ambushed President Moon in a post-summit press meeting in Washington and gave South Koreans a collective sense of humiliation. Then, the trade surplus Korea has with the U.S. is quite small compared with that of China. Seoul and Washington are supposed to be allies but Washington has hung Korea out to dry while it was pressed by Beijing over Seoul’s accommodation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), the U.S. missile interceptor unit. This has led to Seoul’s pledge of friendship with China and boosted the pro-China faction in the Moon camp and it will likely take a toll on ROK-U.S. ties.

Is Trump a Japan lover?

Trump has encouraged the grandson of a World War II criminal politician at every turn, raising concern among the peoples of Korea, China and other countries victimized by Japanese imperialism last century. Americans may give themselves a pat on the back for turning the warmongering Japan into a peace-loving modern country. But don’t be mistaken. If given a chance, Japan would turn back into the monster that made Asia into a killing field.

The problems Trump faces are complicated but the solution can be rather simple.

During the summit with Moon, he should be fair and courteous to his host and make light of Moon’s chief policy adviser Jang Ha-sung’s attempts to try English.

Trump should make a big deal out of his National Assembly speech to produce an articulated foreign policy worth being named the “Trump Doctrine”that persuades the North it has no other choice but to choose peace. If Trump should end the speech, “gachi gapsida” (Let’s go together), it would go a long way to reassure the Koreans.

 

foolsdie@koreatimes.co.kr

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