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The hand that feeds you

June 17,2017
U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain reportedly canceled a plan to visit South Korea late last month because he could not arrange a meeting with President Moon Jae-in.

The foreign ministry explained that it had notified McCain that a meeting was possible a week after receiving the request. McCain canceled the trip, saying he had other plans.

Whatever the reason, it is a pity that a U.S. political heavyweight had to be turned away amid tension over the North Korean nuclear problem and dispute over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.

The five-term senator is a key figure in the U.S. Republican Party. He ran in the 2008 presidential election. He chairs the armed services committee that shapes U.S. defense policy. McCain has long been a supporter of Seoul.

When U.S. President Donald Trump raised a stir with his outburst that Washington will make Korea pay the $1 billion operational cost for the Thaad battery, McCain claimed the United States is “committed to make sure” Korea does not pay for its deployment. He publicly criticized Beijing for retaliating against Korean companies for the Thaad decision.

It is a serious matter if someone who was willing to help Seoul was turned away. But Washington officials have been complaining of difficultly gaining access to Seoul under the new president.

Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Cory Gardner, who heads the Senate subcommittee on East Asia under the Committee on Foreign Relations, also did not have a chance to meet with Moon during their visit last month. Sen. Dick Durbin was able to briefly meet with Moon after his meeting the other day was canceled.

A strong alliance with the United States is needed more than ever. Shunning McCain is a greater problem than failing to notify the president of the procedural developments in installing Thaad. The security and foreign team must not repeat such major slip-ups.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 16, Page 34