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Pence’s Hard-Line Posturing Weakens the Alliance with Seoul

Pence’s misguided Asia trip continues [1]:

Vice President Mike Pence is pushing South Korea to adopt a more hawkish stance toward the North, as he arrived in the country Thursday ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Pence met with President Moon Jae-in to advocate a clear-eyed approach toward his bellicose, nuclear-armed neighbor, warning against North Korean “propaganda” around the games.

There is something very wrong with the relationship with Seoul when our government presses them to become more confrontational in their dealings with their neighbor. If the U.S. alliance with South Korea serves any constructive purpose, it does so because it contributes to regional security and stability. When our government uses that alliance to pressure South Korea to take a harder line against the DPRK than they want to take and risks ratcheting up tensions as a result, it contributes to regional instability and uncertainty. There is always a danger that our alliances can pull us into conflicts that the U.S. could otherwise easily avoid, but there is also a real danger that our government might use its alliances as cover for pursuing reckless and aggressive policies that our allies don’t support. Pushing for a harder line from Seoul isn’t going to succeed and it won’t change North Korean behavior, but it is likely to give North Korea an opening to drive a wedge between the U.S. and our ally.

The language in this news report is also quite misleading, and it betrays a common bias in giving hawkish positions far more credit than they deserve just because they are more aggressive. There is nothing “clear-eyed” in using discredited pressure tactics to pursue an impossible goal. The Trump administration’s North Korea policy is myopic and divorced from reality. If South Korea’s government isn’t doing what the administration wants, that is because they have a better grasp of the situation and have far more at stake than our government does.

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "Pence’s Hard-Line Posturing Weakens the Alliance with Seoul"

#1 Comment By Fred Bowman On February 8, 2018 @ 11:22 am

Being that South Korea is a 1st world country and also the country that will suffer the most should North Korea decide to attack/retaliate they should make it very clear that “they” are going to take the lead in “ratching downs” tensions with North Korea. If that means having US forces leave the South Korea, so be it, as that is a better deal than being “Ground Zero” for a Nuclear or a massive Artillery attack from the north.

#2 Comment By Trapshooter50 On February 8, 2018 @ 2:17 pm

I think it would be a catastrophic mistake to withdraw all of our military personnel from S.Korea because of the signals that it would send to our political adversaries. Additionally, we lost too many lives fighting on the Korean Peninsula to just abandon the region.

#3 Comment By Just Dropping By On February 8, 2018 @ 5:50 pm

@ Trapshooter50: If South Korea is a sovereign nation, then it should have the final word on whether a U.S. military presence is allowed to continue there, let alone whether its soil is used to launch a military offensive that will almost certainly result in a counterattack that kills tens of thousands or more of its own citizens.

#4 Comment By Mia On February 8, 2018 @ 10:13 pm

From what I read, it seems Moon is being strategic in embracing NK for the Olympics precisely as a way of shutting down Trump and reasserting the rights of Koreans to protect their own interests and not let themselves become a war zone on the whims of some half-wit leader from the other side of the world. Moon is right to use it as a passive aggressive rebuke of US leaders, and Pence is the last person I’d ever send on a diplomatic mission anywhere to boot.

#5 Comment By rayray On February 8, 2018 @ 11:06 pm

Another surefire way to dishonor our dead soldiers is to use live ones to “send a message” or even worse, to double down on failed military policies.

#6 Comment By Trapshooter50 On February 9, 2018 @ 9:20 pm

I am not a foreign policy expert and am a college student but still think that it improves our national security to have a small quantity of troops stationed near the DMZ. We wouldn’t have to deal with this problem if General MacArthur didn’t want to invade China so bad and kept away from the Yalu River. If only there were an easy answer to this modern day N/S Korea issue it would sure make life easier. I appreciate all of the feedback.

#7 Comment By Kizhe On February 11, 2018 @ 9:21 pm

@ Trapshooter50: “If South Korea is a sovereign nation, then it should have the final word on whether a U.S. military presence is allowed to continue there… .
Problem is …. that SK is NOT a ‘sovereign nation’ just like Germany, Japan, etc,. We have many military bases all around the world and at no circumstances we plan to remove them even if hosting countries would like to. It is impossible – please do not kid yourself.