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Moon Jae-in draws attention at U.S. House hearing

Posted February. 09, 2017 07:04,   

Updated February. 09, 2017 07:11


Moon Jae-in, a front-runner presidential candidate from the liberal bloc and a top contender in a local opinion poll, was mentioned at the U.S. Congressional hearing where its members paid attention to his North Korea policy and raised concerns. It is unprecedented that a Korean presidential contender is mentioned at a Washington's public occasion since the presidential impeachment scandal emerged.

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee convened a hearing Tuesday entitled “Countering the North Korean Threat: New Steps in U.S. Policy,” where Democrat House member Lois Frankel asked attending experts on the impact of South Korea's unstable political situation on countering North Korean nuclear threat. Sue Mi Terry, managing director for Bower Group Asia said the possibility is increasing that the liberal force will win the presidential election, and that if so there are concerns of a growing divergence between Donald Trump administration and Seoul in terms of North Korea policy. Korea born, Terry is a Korean Peninsula analyst who was formerly in charge of Korea at the National Security Council.

Frankel asked for details of South Korean presidential candidates and election progress, and Terry said Moon is the leading candidate and his North Korea policy more stresses involvement of both the South and North Korea. She added that other liberal candidates are similar with some wanting to delay the deployment of THAAD in the Korean peninsula or reopen the Gaesong Industrial Complex. She said these are the Korean peninsula risks that the Trump administration has to consider.

Terry also noted that while Korea-U.S. as well as Korea-U.S.-Japan cooperation is crucial to counter North Korea threats, the new potential Korean government may opt to move in a different way from Trump administration. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Ed Royce and others listened carefully to Terry's remarks with some nodding their heads. Other presidential candidates from the Saenuri Party and Barun Party were not mentioned.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has huge influence over U.S. foreign policies, and mentioning of Moon reflects Washington's big interest in Korea's new administration. This echoes Trump administration's stance to discuss key Korean peninsula issues including raising allocation expenses of U.S. troops in Korea with the new Korean administration. Heading into day 20 of the Trump administration, the new U.S. administration has yet to nominate who will succeed U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert.

Seung-Heon Lee ddr@donga.com