‘Trump’s Possible Return Will Be Mixed Bag for South Korea’
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‘Trump’s Possible Return Will Be Mixed Bag for South Korea’


APLN Vice Chair Chung-in Moon was interviewed by the Korea Times, where he discussed the implications of the U.S. presidential election and foreign policy of the Yoon administration.

Q: There are concerns here that the potential return of Trump could result in a weakened South Korea-U.S. alliance. Would his return be a curse or a blessing for South Korea?

A: It would be both. It could prove to be a curse for the conservatives in Seoul, while progressives might see it as a chance for blessing. For conservatives, there are concerns that Trump could use the presence of USFK as a bargaining chip in negotiations over a defense cost-sharing deal. Such a move could potentially weaken the longstanding South Korea-U.S. alliance. Also, under Trump, there’s a significant possibility of decreased trilateral cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, along with a weakened U.S. security commitment to South Korea. This scenario could create a power vacuum on the Korean Peninsula, heightening the risks of war in the region.

On the other hand, progressives could leverage Trump’s eagerness to engage North Korea, if they play their cards right. His desire to establish a political legacy might open the door to unexpected breakthroughs in inter-Korean relations. Trump’s potential initiatives, such as pursuing a reduction of USFK forces and halting the deployment of U.S. strategic assets, could become useful cards for progressives in agendas such as an end-of-war declaration. This could potentially pave the way for them to form a new security architecture in the North Asian region led by South Korea.

Q. There is a lot of talk about the scenario of Trump’s re-election. But what if Biden wins the race? Do you think he might readjust North Korea policies?

A. I don’t foresee any significant changes coming from Team Biden. His security advisers maintain a traditional approach toward North Korea, focusing on status-quo management. Their aim is to avoid provoking Pyongyang, while also refraining from pursuing major diplomatic negotiations. So their strategy involves maintaining deterrence, while keeping the door open for dialogue.

However, in response to criticism that the Biden administration has placed the North Korean issue on the back burner, some U.S. officials have recently floated the idea of so-called “interim steps” to revive dialogue with the North. But this suggestion was apparently rejected by the South Korean government. Nevertheless, if Biden secures another term, this agenda may be pushed further by his administration. But it would still be difficult to get a positive response from the North, especially considering the virtual absence of direct communication channels between Washington and Pyongyang. There may be a need for assistance from either Russia or China, but the likelihood of this is very low.

The full article can be accessed here.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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