Posted June. 29, 2017 07:18,
Updated June. 29, 2017 08:38
President Moon Jae-in will visit a new memorial for the Jangjin Lake Campaign as soon as he arrives in Washington on Wednesday local time on his visit to the U.S. for a summit. The Jangjin Lake Campaign was the fiercest battle in the Korean War wherein some 13,000 U.S. marines who marched into North Korea up to Lake Jangjin on Kaema Plateau in South Hamkyong Province, got sieged by Chinese troops, and suffered massive damage. Due to the U.S. military’s tremendous sacrifice that helped block the Chinese military’s advance into South Korea, some 200,000 North Koreans including President Moon’s parents were able to defect to the South aboard the Meredith Victory from the port of Heungnam. President Moon is taking a symbolic first step for his alliance diplomacy through his family history related to the blood-bonded ties between South Korea and the U.S. His alliance diplomacy is very significant in that it is aimed at dispelling concern over possible crack of Seoul-Washington relations since the inauguration of his administration.
The Trump administration is also displaying extraordinary hospitality in receiving President Moon. Moon’s visit is an official working visit, which entails more simplified diplomatic protocol than a state visit or official visit, but President Trump is giving special consideration, including welcome dinner at the White House that will double as their first meeting. Seoul’s foreign ministry officials say that Washington is displaying the kind of hospitality on par with that for a state guest in a bid to translate their first encounter into a successful summit based on friendship and trust.
Agendas of the summit between the two leaders are hardly soft ones. All of them are highly sensitive including strengthening of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and coordination of their North Korea policy, and deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system. Diplomatic authorities of the two countries already completed prior consultations and coordination, but the two leaders will not be in a position to only exchange flattering remarks over a string of thorny issues. Even allies will not necessarily share consensus on every single issue. Coordinating different views and taking cooperative stances thereof will be the way to further solidify the alliance.
Amid this situation, unexpected remarks by South Korea’s ruling party chairperson are disappointing at best. Democratic Party Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae said on Wednesday, “The South Korea-U.S. alliance is not comprised only of THAAD, and lack of THAAD will not cause the 70-year-old alliance to collapse.” Despite the South Korean government’s repeated statement that Seoul will never withdraw the decision between South Korea and the U.S. to deploy THAAD in the South, Choo has voiced her opposition to THAAD deployment nonetheless. Her act could only be construed as expression of objection by the ruling party chief to the president’s alliance diplomacy.
Choo also claimed on Tuesday “The political significance of THAAD is so large that it has been expressed through conflict between the U.S. and China, and if there is misunderstanding between the two Koreas, the damage will inevitably result in a war.” Of course, chances are high that conflict between Washington and Beijing can intensify. The U.S. has been expressing discontent against China, saying Beijing’s efforts to pressure Pyongyang has not been sufficient, and even labeled China as a third or lowest-grade country in human trafficking on Tuesday. However, her shallow recognition that THAAD could trigger a war is effectively distorting the true nature of South Korea’s diplomacy.
Scholars of pragmatic international politics judge that China’s rise that challenges the U.S.’ hegemony increases the possibility for a hegemonic war and that the weakest ring of chain in Northeast Asia is the Korean Peninsula. Then, what South Korea should be doing? World history has already demonstrated that the only way for a weaker country to survive amid a hegemonic war between superpowers lies in alliance rather than "diplomacy of balancing." This is the reason President Moon has embarked on alliance diplomacy.