US experts say Trump's speech sees "more measured" approach to DPRK

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/11/9 12:58:35

At a time when tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at a decades-long high, US President Donald Trump took a more measured tone in Wednesday's speech from South Korea, US experts say.

Trump was "far more measured" in his remarks than some of his previous statements on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), said Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, and Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, in recent interviews with Xinhua.


"Trump seems to continue stepping back from previous hints and threats of preventive attack" against the DPRK over that nation's nuclear program, Klingner said.

Klingner spent 20 years with the US Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, and has testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"If Trump's new tone and approach continue, then American allies will be less nervous... But everyone is now waiting for the other Tweet shoe to drop," Klingner said, referring to Trump's tendency to make outrageous statements via social media platform Twitter.

On Wednesday morning, Trump spoke before South Korea's National Assembly, highlighting the 70-year alliance between the two nations, at a time when tensions between Washington and Pyongyang are at a high not seen in decades.

In the first state visit to South Korea by a US president in 25 years, Trump praised the relationship. He warned the DPRK not to continue on its path toward nuclear weapons, but avoided any bombast.

Recent months have seen much sabre-rattling between Washington and Pyongyang, with Trump vowing "fire and fury" if the DPRK threatens the United States.

In August, Pyongyang's official daily Rodong Sinmun put out a statement, saying: "The day the US dares tease our nation with a nuclear rod and sanctions, the mainland US will be catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire." The DPRK also threatened the US territory of Guam.

Mahaffee said Trump's speech "highlighted the importance of the alliance" between the United States and South Korea.

"This is significant given that he has often questioned the value of alliances to the United States," Mahaffee said.

Trump carefully avoided direct confrontation or provocation, such as hurling insults at DPRK's leader Kim Jong Un and mocking him with names. Instead he focused on laying out the continued danger of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, said the experts.

"Overall, his speech reflected a more disciplined approach to (the DPRK) compared to past statements," said Mahaffee, adding that Trump also called for diplomacy and a united international front to end the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs.

Klingner said there had been great trepidation and concern as to what tone and message Trump's speech would have, before Wednesday's address.

The speech saw "no faux pas and his less bombastic tone will be appreciated by his (South Korean) hosts. The bar was set low and Trump far exceeded it," Klingner said.


Klingner said Trump's comments during the South Korea leg of his Asia trip, which suggest a greater willingness to return to talks, will be dissected for whether they reflect a flip-flop in policy, or were all part of a strategy.

However, in a broader context, when the speech is stripped of all its rhetorical flourishes, Trump seems to have articulated what is basically a continuation of successive administrations' DPRK policy, Klingner said.

"Consistent messages across administrations, though stated differently, are: You attack the US or its allies, we will respond firmly, resolutely, and overwhelmingly; the international community must increase pressure but the path is open to negotiations; and the objective must remain comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement" of nuclear weapons, he said, referring to a concept also known as CVID.

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