How they see us: Anger over Trump’s North Korea strategy
Our greatest ally is threatening us in our hour of need, said The Korea Times (South Korea) in an editorial. As North Korea tests ever more powerful nuclear weapons and launches more advanced ballistic missiles, South Korea should be able to count on the U.S. for support. But rather than offer reassurance, U.S. President Donald Trump this week criticized South Korean President Moon Jae-in for being open to dialogue with the North, calling the policy “appeasement.” This came after he threatened to scrap the free-trade agreement between our two countries, claiming that the deal was bad for the U.S. To do so would hurt everyone: consumers in both countries, the U.S. beef and auto industries, and South Korean manufacturers. Trump knows that South Korea is already suffering under economic retaliation from China, which is angry that Seoul has deployed the U.S. THAAD missile defense system to its territory. If Trump tears up the trade deal now, Washington may lose “one of its strongest allies in the world.”
Still, Moon bears some share of responsibility “for the schism,” said JoongAng Daily (South Korea). After Pyongyang threatened to strike Guam, Moon declared that no one could take military action in the Korean peninsula without Seoul’s consent—implying Trump should ask Moon’s permission before retaliating against an attack on U.S. territory. Moon’s insulting manner contrasts with that of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “who is in constant communication with Trump.” Abe is doing his best to steady Trump’s “unstable” foreign policy, said the Asahi Shimbun (Japan). He wants the U.S. to pressure China to cut off North Korea’s oil supply, which might force dictator Kim Jong Un to rejoin international talks on his regime’s nuclear program. But Trump has done so in the least diplomatic way possible, by threatening to stop all trade with China if it refuses to crack down on Pyongyang.
Washington needs to learn that it “does not hold absolute authority over the world,” said the Global Times (China). Starting a trade war with China is impracticable, because it would cause “a much worse crisis” than the North Korean showdown. And threatening Pyongyang with military action won’t intimidate Kim: He knows the U.S. won’t follow through because a war in the peninsula would cause unacceptable devastation. Washington should accept China’s “dual suspension” plan, whereby North Korea would halt nuclear and missile tests if the U.S. and South Korea suspended joint military drills.
South Korea will not reward the North for its belligerence, said the Dong-a Ilbo (South Korea). Our defense minister, Song Young-moo, has asked for U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines to visit more often, not less, and he has raised the possibility of redeploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korean soil. We should also develop our own nuclear weapons. With atom and hydrogen bombs being built across our border, “the South can no longer afford to blindly count on the U.S.’s nuclear umbrella.” ■