[Able to get on here from my home laptop]
Donald Trump has long had a record of doing things one finds not just unbelievable, but seriously outrageous. However, we may now have seen him do so in a situation involving a really dangerous foreign policy situation, the threat of a war on the Korean peninsula, a war that could involve nuclear weapons and could involve not just thousands, but possibly millions of people dying. The DMZ that separates North and South Korea is the most heavily armed place on the face of this planet, by a long shot, with most of those armaments piled up on the northern side. It may be of a lower qualitative technological level than what faces it from the southern side, but it is simply enormous in quantity, and quite capable of inflicting massive damage on metropolitan Seoul, only 30 miles south of the DMZ, whose population in the greater metro area approaches 20 million people, a very large number of sitting ducks.
As it is, the DPRK, or North Korea, has been provocatively testing ever more capable missiles and bombs. A missile that flew over Japan, more or less freaking them out, supposedly has the ability to hit even the east coast of the US. Kim Jong-un made noises about firing missiles at Guam and Trump made a lot of loud noises. That Kim backed down led Trump to brag that he knew how to handle Kim. Meanwhile, new President Moon Jae-in of the ROK, South Korea, supported engaging in peace negotiations, even though Kim Jong-un has so far made no positive responses to that. Then over the weekend Kim put the cherry on the top by testing a 100 kiloton device that has been advertised as a fusion H-bomb, a qualitative jump to a much more dangerous type of weapon. Trump’s response was to tweet that Moon was pursuing “appeasement” in contrast to his tough way of handling things, which he claims works, despite all this glaring evidence to the contrary. Kim seems not deterred or suppressed in the least.
But the really outrageous move here is on top of this Trump has declared that he is planning to terminate the free trade agreement with South Korea, not even renogiate it, just cancel it. Really? The South Koreans do not support this and like the agreement. Trump claims that the bilateral trade deficit of the US has increased, which was the immediate outcome of the agreement, but over the last year that has turned around with the deficit declining and has now returned to about what it was when the agreement was signed and continues to move in that direction. But not to put too fine a point on it, Trump is lying about this as well as stabbing Moon in the back just as he denounces Moon for advocating what Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and pretty much every other leader in the world advocates, and even Trump has said he supports on certain days, ready to talk face to face to Kim under the right conditions. But if Moon says it, well, time to cancel that trade agreement, especially since it was another of those things that Obama did. So, it must go. The South Koreans are mystified and simply do not even know how to respond to this outrage. What can they say? They need the US alliance, even if the man in the White House is a lunatic, which is what they say he is.
I shall note that this is not the first time a Republican president has stabbed a peace-seeking South Korean president in the back. I have blogged on this previously, but back in March 2001, President Bush killed the peace efforts of then ROK President Kim Dae-Jung. He came to dinner, thinking that the peace process under way from the previous administration and supported by Secretary of State, Colin Powell, would continue. He was to have a dinner at the White House. But Cheney and Rumsfeld got to Bush and convinced him that a hard line against the DPRK would bring about regime change, a much better outcome, ha ha! We can see how that turned out. Kim Dae-Jung went home humiliated.
Most of the discussion of this now goes on about how the North Koreans cheated on nuclear agreements by enriching uranium. However, those commentators somehow fail to note that the agreements were only about plutonium, not uranium. But “history” has the North Koreans violating agreements, with everybody forgetting how Bush undercut the agreements (and the US never fulfilled parts of it in terms of supplying DPRK with various items). Trump’s back stab is worse, but this is not the first time.
Oh, Moon has responded to Trump’s outrageous tweet. He has pointed out that Korea suffered a “fratricidal war,” which he does not want to see again. He intends to “pursue denuclearization” on the peninsula “by peaceful means” in agreement “with our allies.” Sounds reasonable to me, but at the moment reason does not seem to be in charge of what is going on here. Let us hope for Moon’s view to prevail, somehow or other.