Security ties strengthened by Moon-Trump summit, economic tension remains

By Li Jiacheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/4 20:53:39

Moon Jae-in was former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun's close friend and political partner. The two share similar political views. During the Roh period, South Korea-US relations witnessed a divide. Therefore, for the US, Moon assuming the presidency has cast a long shadow on the US-South Korea alliance. Some of Moon's speeches during the presidential campaign, especially about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, have made the US more worried.

In order to dispel US doubts, repair relations, build friendship and increase trust with US President Donald Trump, and further confirm and solidify the US-South Korea alliance, Moon visited the US soon after taking office.

During Moon's visit, the two leaders held their first summit and forged profound bonds of mutual trust and friendship. Nevertheless, although the two have made achievements in diplomacy and security, they have left unresolved some economic and trade problems.

Moon has strengthened his relationship with Trump. Trump said, "Our personal relationship with President Moon - our personal relationship is very, very good." He also added, "We very much respect you [Moon] and we very much respect the people of South Korea. I'd like to also congratulate you upon your election victory."

The South Korea-US alliance has been strengthened, and the two countries have coordinated their policies on the North Korean nuclear issue. Trump said, "The [US-South Korea] relationship is very, very strong." The two sides emphasized the bilateral alliance was a strong alliance to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat.

In addition, the two have reached an agreement for transferring wartime operational control to the South Korean military as soon as possible. The two sides also agreed to regard the North Korean nuclear issue as a top priority, and maintain close coordination in relevant policies. They agreed to solve the issue step by step through sanctions and dialogue.

Moreover, the US supports South Korea playing a leading role in Korean Peninsula issues. A joint statement released after the US-South Korea summit on Friday said, "President Trump supported President Moon's aspiration to restart inter-Korean dialogue on issues including humanitarian affairs."

During the South Korea-US summit, Trump emphasized his "America First" policy, put trade pressure on South Korea, and asked to renegotiate the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and the sharing of United States Forces Korea stationing costs.

Trump said, "The fact is that the United States has trade deficits with many, many countries, and we cannot allow that to continue. And we'll start with South Korea right now." He added, "We want to make a deal that's fair for the United States and fair for South Korea."

Trump also stressed the need to ensure equitable sharing of costs for defense. "We are working together to ensure fair burden-sharing in support of the United States military presence in South Korea," he said.

To sum up, Moon's first visit made a good start, and won understanding and support from the US in the security issues that concern South Korea most. It is expected that South Korea will have a series of follow-up actions for dealing with North Korea. Over the THAAD issue, the Moon administration will realize its commitments for a final deployment. 

South Korea will largely increase its investment in states where most of Trump's supporters live. Trump sought to change the original KORUS FTA, and come up with a trade deal beneficial to the US instead of South Korea. This will undoubtedly cast a shadow on South Korea-US trade relations.

The author is a research fellow at the Research Center for the Economies and Politics of Transitional Countries, Liaoning University.


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