Posted June. 30, 2017 07:29,
Updated June. 30, 2017 07:46
South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the Korean War Chosin Reservoir Battle Memorial as his first schedule on the visit to the U.S. and said, “Had it not been for the warriors of the Chosin Reservoir and the success of Hungnam evacuation operation, my life would not have begun, and I wouldn’t be here today”. It was a tribute to the ROK-U.S. alliance that is “forged in blood,” sent from the son of an evacuee who crossed the border to the South thanks to the sacrifice of American forces. The first step of President Moon’s alliance diplomacy was reciprocated by the reply “gachigapsida (Let’s go together)” from the Commander of the American Marine Corps.
President Moon is scheduled to have his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday local time. Through dinner and summit meeting, the two heads of state will discuss sensitive issues such as the reinforcement of ROK-U.S. alliance, calibration of policies towards North Korea, and deployment of THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula. Given that it is their first summit meeting, it is expected that they will try to propose candid opinions and reach an agreement where possible, while putting off unsettled agendas for a follow-up discussion. It is a practical approach to iron out differences step by step, but it will require an extra care from the diplomatic authorities of the two countries lest the accumulated differences turn into an apple of discord.
Above all, it will be worth observing how President Trump will respond to President Moon’s proposal to “freeze” North Korea’s nuclear program rather than a full-fledged denuclearization. It is considered as an inevitable choice to halt Pyongyang’s provocations and bring it to a negotiation table, but President Trump’s reactions to the proposal will be a crucial variable for the two countries’ North Korea policies as the Trump administration has been more focused on pressure than dialogue. On the plane to the U.S., President Moon stated that the two allies had maintained the stance that freezing North Korea’s nuclear program and conducting joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea cannot be linked, making an extra effort to win the heart of the Trump administration.
As to the renegotiation over the KORUS free trade agreement deal, which had been demanded by President Trump, it is highly likely that President Moon will agree with a proposal for constructive discussion. The delegations of businessmen from 52 South Korean companies have taken a preemptive step by promising to make investments worth 40 trillion Korean won in the U.S. over the next five years, in a bid to appease American negotiators.
The problem is deployment of THHAD. For now, it appears that the two heads of state will bridge the difference of opinions by proposing to continue constructive discussions on the foundation of mutual understanding. “There has already been a lot of ink spilled on South Korea’s interest in deploying THAAD,” a source related to the White House stated, adding that differences in opinion from both nations and a point of agreement has yet to be found. The U.S. Embassy in Korea recently made an official complaint to the Korean government about the recent Anti-THAAD activists surrounded the U.S. Embassy, the so-called “armband protests” in Gwanghwamun for 19 minutes last weekend. Despite this, this group has stayed up all night sitting outside the embassy since Thursday showing great resolve. They are in actual fact putting shackles on President Moon’s attempts to engage in diplomacy with the U.S.
In international relations, alliance bears paramount importance. However, alliances can be rendered useless overnight if the parties involved share no mutual understanding or if they cannot iron out their differences. An increasing number of experts say that the ROK-U.S. alliance, which has lasted more than 60 years now, is getting fatigued. This journalist hopes that the summit meeting will be an opportunity to reaffirm the awareness that the blood-forged alliance between South Korea and the U.S. is based on a long-standing history and a sense of solidarity reaching beyond mutual interests, thereby writing a new chapter of the alliance.