Friday, May 12, 2017

S. Korea Makes Shock Move, Pulls Rug Out from Under U.S. Forces

The crisis on the Korean Peninsula just got a whole lot more complicated.
The newly sworn-in president of South Korea is a liberal politician who’s backed a softer line against North Korea in the past and has questioned the deployment of an American missile shield for South Korea that is bitterly opposed by China, according to news reports from the region.
According to The Sidney Morning Herald, South Korean President Moon Jae-in used his inauguration speech to confirm “expectations that he would chart a different course on North Korea.”

A former human rights lawyer whose parents were North Korean refugees, the 64-year-old Moon was an adviser to past South Korean governments that favored a “Sunshine Policy” of openness toward the militaristic, communist regime to the north, The Daily Caller noted.
Under that policy, in place from 1998-2006, the South donated massive amounts of food aid to the starving Hermit Kingdom, engaged in two summits between the leaders of the divided peninsula, and opened a joint industrial park in the border region to foster cooperation between the two rival countries, according to The Washington Post.
Some Korean families — divided by the bloody warfare of 1950-53 and the uneasy truce that has continued since – were even allowed family reunions in the border area.

In return for the South’s approaches, North Korea continued its nuclear weapons program, conducting a nuclear test in 2006 that exploded the “Sunshine Policy” and any realistic hopes that North Korea would start behaving like a rational, peace-minded country.
Apparently undeterred, the new South Korean president sounds like he wants to revive that failed approach.
“I will try to solve the security crisis urgently,” Moon said in his inauguration speech. “If needed, I will fly to straight to Washington. I will also go to Beijing and Tokyo and even Pyongyang in the right circumstances.”

Just as worrisome to practical people, Moon has said he will review South Korea’s approval of a crucial U.S. anti-missile program in his country that China objects to. The American deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield over South Korea has rankled China.

Moon’s speech — and his willingness to re-engage with the North — already pose the risk of pulling the rug out from under American policy toward Pyongyang. What he does next is going to be crucial.
Robert Kelly, a political science professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University, told The Sidney Morning Herald that Moon’s speech was a sign of how he intends to govern, and that’s going to complicate things on the Korean Peninsula.
“He won’t go along with Trump. He would like to talk to North Korea and he wants to go to Pyongyang,” he told Fairfax Media.

But Kelly did say Moon Jae-in probably wouldn’t risk getting rid of the THAAD program entirely.
“Moon has prevaricated on this. If he pulls out THAAD he will look like he is buckling to China and will be severely criticized by the conservative press,” he said.
But that will be nothing compared to the criticism he’ll be getting from the White House.
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