Leading presidential candidate Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday that South Korea will have to take the initiative in dealing with the North Korea’s nuclear program, and on inter-Korean issues, in the Donald Trump era.
Speaking at a seminar entitled “Inauguration of U.S. Trump and Direction of South Korea’s Foreign and Security Policy” hosted by his think tank in Seoul, Moon pledged to shape South Korea’s diplomacy to “responsibly ensure national security.”
“With the launch of the Trump administration, it is predicted that a new transformation will emerge in U.S.-South Korean security cooperation, including a request to increase the defense burden-sharing for the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea (USFK),” Moon said.
Moon, the former leader of the opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, said the South should make the North Korean issue one of its “top priorities” and resolve it with “the cooperation with the U.S… while taking responsibility for our security.”
The presidential hopeful, in an apparent bid to boost his national security credentials, has tapped former high-ranking military officials and diplomats, including former Navy Chief of Staff Song Young-moo and former Air Force chief of staff Park Jong-hun, to join his think tank.
After the forum, Moon admitted “the uncertainty for our diplomacy has increased” since President Trump took office.
“Experts share the view that we should confidently engage in our diplomacy for ‘our national interest,’” Moon told local reporters after an hour-and-a-half long discussion with his advisors, which include academics, former diplomats, and senior military officers.
Earlier in the day, Moon reiterated South Korean diplomacy must “prioritize national interests,” arguing that the security and diplomatic policies of the last ten years had “comprehensively failed.”
“The South Korea–U.S. alliance and the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea are the combinations of the U.S. strategic interests and South Korea’s national interests,” Moon told reporters.
“As we have mutually beneficial relationships, I believe that [the South] would be able to negotiate while claiming our rights and protecting our national interests.”
But Moon declined to comment on his position on the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery. The candidate has been accused of reversing his stance on the issue in recent weeks.
“A paradigm shift in diplomatic approaches is required,” Suh Hoon, professor of North Korean Studies at Ewha Womans University and Moon’s top advisor, told local reporters after the seminar, suggesting the South should expand its diplomatic relations to the entire Asian region and Europe.
“It’s a strategy to maximize our national interest by taking different measures for each new challenge and foreign demand.”
Although Suh refrained from discussing the deployment of THAAD, he argued “new challenges were emerging” in the South Korea-U.S. alliance and the country’s strategic relationship with China in parallel, describing the THAAD issue as “a very difficult hump.”
Suh argued that the strategic value of the Korean Peninsula is “higher than in the past.”
“Since we can have more bargaining chips in negotiations and dialogues, there is an assessment that we can have a reciprocal and progressive negotiation.”
Trump’s administration hasn’t thoroughly analyzed North Korean issues, Suh added, quoting Kim Kyung-hyup, a lawmaker for the opposition Minjoo Party who attended Trump’s inauguration ceremony last week, as saying.
“I listened to suggestions from the U.S. Congress that South Korea take the initiative in South – North relations,” Suh said, quoting Kim. “I get an impression that it may take a considerable amount of time, at least six months, to formulate concrete policies.”
Featured Image: Moon Jae-in’s official web page
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