- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

The Chasm Between the U.S. and South Korea

Josh Rogin reports [1] on the Trump administration’s determination to thwart South Korea’s engagement policy:

Earlier Thursday, at Yokota Air Base in Japan, I asked Pence directly how he planned to deal with Moon’s public desire to build off of the North-South Olympic engagement. Pence said the Trump administration wants the warming of relations with North Korea to end when the Olympic flame is extinguished.

Improved relations between the Koreas is an obviously desirable thing for everyone who wants to avoid armed conflict on the peninsula, so it is telling that the Trump administration wants to smother Seoul’s engagement policy in its crib. There is not just a gap between Washington and Seoul on how to handle North Korea, but rather a yawning chasm. Pence and Moon can paper this over while the vice president is there, but it will be impossible to cover up once the Olympics are over.

It is possible that South Korea’s efforts at engaging North Korea will ultimately be unsuccessful, but it is crazy for the administration to want to sabotage those efforts when they have barely just begun. Even if North-South dialogue doesn’t “solve” the major disputes with Pyongyang, the reduced tensions and improved communications between the two governments will make managing these other problems a bit easier. Washington should be actively encouraging its ally in this outreach instead of pressing them to halt it. That would not only be in the best interests of South Korea and the surrounding region, but it would also make U.S. involvement in a major war less likely.

12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "The Chasm Between the U.S. and South Korea"

#1 Comment By collin On February 8, 2018 @ 9:57 am

TBH, this one endeavor I really don’t get at all. If South Korea is making decent diplomatic discussions with North Korea, I completely agree it is desirable and in no way hurts the administration.

It is possible that South Korea’s efforts at engaging North Korea will ultimately be unsuccessful,

I am think ‘unlikely’ should be put here but again if South & North Korea make any headway we are better with little downside of a worse situation.

#2 Comment By john On February 8, 2018 @ 10:24 am

Well SK is about to discover it they are truly “sovereign” or merely occupied.

I think provided it is smallish the Russians wouldn’t mind the USA blowing substantial amounts of blood, treasure and respect in yet another idiotic immoral war.

Just checked the forecast for Moscow, cloudy with a chance of golden showers.

#3 Comment By b. On February 8, 2018 @ 12:22 pm

“Pence has said Washington would soon unveil “the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever”
[2]

Canary
[3]

One wonders whether these “enhanced sanctions” are what torture was to interrogations, and Pence is de-facto talking military blockade.

I suspect that there are “great gamblers” in this administration that really want to dare North Korea in conducting an “intertial fonop” by launching an ICBM to a point in the ocean just outside the US territorial limits.

#4 Comment By rayray On February 8, 2018 @ 12:24 pm

But if there was ever an administration that desperately needs a war, it is the Trump administration. Other than tax breaks for the wealthy, and a “wall” for a non-existent immigration problem, they got nothing.

#5 Comment By William Dalton On February 8, 2018 @ 1:47 pm

If the Trump Administration continues to make itself enough of a nuisance about North Korean nukes perhaps the South will tell America to take its troops and go home. They are more than capable of fending off any North Korean attack and making it unacceptable for the North to attempt a takeover of the South, even without nuclear weapons. In fact, North Korean nuclear weapons are useless against the South – unless Kim is willing to subject his own people to the same fallout from nuclear war which the South would suffer.

And, the dirty secret is that once U.S. forces are gone from Korea, not only will North Korea no longer have a reason to possess nuclear weapons – its draconian, isolationist government will no longer have a reason to exist.

#6 Comment By up wazoo sans paddle On February 8, 2018 @ 1:49 pm

I think we’ve agreed with S. Korea and maybe even China that we’ll play bad cop. Bad cop is one of the few roles Trump still plays convincingly, but it’s still a very bad idea, because like a lot of bullies he’s a coward inside – look at all the important campaign promises he’s been too timid, lazy, or incompetent to fulfill. Eventually the world will smell his inner coward and start calling his bluffs. That’s when things will get really dangerous, because when he’s caught in the headlights of history, he’ll be confused and panicked and may feel compelled to do what he threatened to do.

@rayray“Other than tax breaks for the wealthy, and a “wall” for a non-existent immigration problem, they got nothing.”

What wall? The wall is as non-existent as the immigration problem is urgent and all-too-real …

#7 Comment By Patrick D On February 8, 2018 @ 3:23 pm

William Dalton,

“And, the dirty secret is that once U.S. forces are gone from Korea, not only will North Korea no longer have a reason to possess nuclear weapons – its draconian, isolationist government will no longer have a reason to exist.”

And its utility to the Chinese government as a shield against the U.S. military presence in South Korea will evaporate.

#8 Comment By Whine Merchant On February 8, 2018 @ 4:35 pm

SK is genuinely an ally of the US: support when needed in world diplomacy, fair trade practices, and respectful, constructive dialogue when in disagreement. Unlike the other “ally”, with whom we have “no daylight” between policies and whose bidding the White House and Congress rush to oblige at every moment.

#9 Comment By Paul Bakulski On February 8, 2018 @ 6:15 pm

I read that recent North Korean defectors have been infected with intestinal worms (worms!). Maybe a first step to negotiations would be for some country (maybe South Korea) to defy the sanctions and send these poor people some medicine.

#10 Comment By michael in nyc On February 8, 2018 @ 9:49 pm

Draft Dodger Donald, needs a war for his rating manna.

The best war, the best ratings, the best distraction, everybody is talking about…..a big beautiful war.

Just don’t expect to Don Jr, Eric or Jared suiting up for action.

#11 Comment By Mia On February 8, 2018 @ 10:09 pm

“And, the dirty secret is that once U.S. forces are gone from Korea, not only will North Korea no longer have a reason to possess nuclear weapons – its draconian, isolationist government will no longer have a reason to exist.”

I have formally studied communism, and never has it just been a reaction to some perceived military situation elsewhere. North Korea has very expansionist ideas, and the US is in the way of it reaching it’s 70+ year goal of spreading the Kim dynasty’s corrupt regime. There’s no dirty little secret there, just the reality of how communist and fascist governments work.

#12 Comment By rayray On February 9, 2018 @ 11:40 am

@Mia
Fair point. But that said, the Kim dynasty is massively unlikely to spread anywhere. And talking about it as emblematic of some academically abstract communist dictatorship is both ignoring the reality of North Korea, and in the process unnecessarily inflating their threat. They have neither the military nor the bureaucratic capability to expand on the peninsula or elsewhere. It also plays into the misread that the dynasty is completely “irrational” and therefore must be completely eradicated.

Nor does the Kim dynast have the support to expand. Despite China’s support of NK (to maintain them as both a strategic buffer and to avoid the consequences of a social meltdown) China has no desire to see Kim expand. They would be completely happy with a more conventionally functional “communist” government more in line with current Chinese thinking than the dysfunctional personality cult that Kim has evolved. But they are unlikely to stir up massive instability in order to do it.

Right now, the Kim dynasty’s #1 goal is to stay in power. Full stop. If you threaten that, they will react with as much madness as they need to. It is an abusive regime for sure, and that is a tragedy, but it’s not an expansionist one.