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Need for invincible mutual trust in S. Korea-U.S. alliance

Need for invincible mutual trust in S. Korea-U.S. alliance

Posted April. 18, 2017 07:15,   

Updated April. 18, 2017 07:20

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In the meeting with South Korea's Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Monday, the visiting U.S. Vice President Mike Fence warned North Korea, saying, "North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region... the era of strategic patience is over." He thus indicted that U.S. President Donald Trump's recent military actions in Syria and Afghanistan were clearly a message towards North Korea, and placed strong pressure on North Korea that Washington will not leave the situation unaddressed if Pyongyang crosses the "red line." Taking a tour to the demilitarized zone, the vice president also made it clear that Washington’s North Korea policy has changed from patience to intervention, saying that "All options are on the table."

With tensions increasingly mounting on the Korean Peninsula, Pence’s visit to South Korea was very timely. While U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited South Korea in February, failed to attended dinner, let alone issuing a joint statement before leaving, Vice President Fence displayed strong commitment to the South Korea-U.S. alliance through his words and actions during his three-day visit. The Trump administration sent its No. 2 man to Seoul this time, following Secretary of Defense James Mattis in February and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March. The series of visits in a short period of time is quite unusual especially considering a vacuum in South Korea’s political leadership.

A White House foreign policy advisor said during the vice president’s flight to Seoul that as for the completion of deployment and operation of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, it is appropriate for the next South Korean president to decide, which has caused a subtle disturbance. Vice President Pence said on Monday that the U.S. will continue to push for THAAD deployment adding that whatever the outcome of the (South Korean) presidential election, the U.S.’ commitment to South Korea's security is ironclad and immutable. Nonetheless, we naturally have doubt that a ranking official such as a White House advisor would have made remarks without giving serious thought. After the U.S.-China summit talks, even rumors of a big deal between Washington and Beijing have emerged. If the U.S. attempts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through "Korea passing" tactic in which Washington bypasses Seoul, it will undermine the value of the alliance even though South Korea and the U.S. are blood-bonded allies. .

The most important of all is our attitude. South Korea should give the U.S. a strong belief that whoever the next South Korean president will be, he or she will not dampen the Seoul-Washington alliance. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s remarks that "Japan is an ally, and South Korea is a partner" cannot be downplayed merely as slip of the tongue. We should keep in mind that Seoul’s attitude that it is fine to be anti-American during the Roh Moo-hyun administration effectively led to deterioration of the Seoul-Washington ties to the lowest point. No matter what others say, the backbone of South Korea’s national security is the South Korea-U.S. alliance. However, Seoul’s negligence in the effort to strengthen its own defense capability only by relying on the umbrella of the alliance will not be something that the U.S. would want either.