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Moon’s good start

July 03,2017
The dove and hawk got along better than many expected. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump affirmed strong bilateral relations in a summit last week. Trump called the relationship “very very strong” and characterized his personal rapport with his Korean counterpart “very very good.” Moon was reassured that, “The United States and South Korea are walking together on the same path towards a great alliance.”

The two agreed to work towards a solution to the North Korean nuclear threat and maintaining peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula based on a sound alliance. The leaders have gotten off to a positive start. Although hurriedly arranged, the first summit ended well given the past awkwardness between liberal presidents of South Korea and Republican presidents of the U.S.

Most positively, the two were able to build personal trust. A single meeting cannot solve the myriad of complicated issues between the two countries. The main focus of the first summit was to strike a bond. At a welcome dinner, Trump served the Korean dish bibimbap served to the first couple from Korea. He also gave them a tour of his private parlor at the White House. In return, Moon lauded Trump’s diplomatic leadership based on “strong power.”

Moon passed his first test on the international stage. He faces a far more complicated test at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, next week. He will be meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time and can expect prickly questions about the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.

Trump appears to be losing patience with Beijing for not doing enough to pressure Pyongyang. The U.S. government placed China on a list of human trafficking offenders along with Syria and North Korea. It is mulling punitive dumping levies on Chinese steel imports. Slapping sanctions on two Chinese enterprises, including the Bank of Dandong and two Chinese citizens, for suspicious dealing with Pyongyang indicates Washington may be mulling a secondary boycott to increase pressure on North Korea.

Trump’s administration has endorsed arms sales to Taiwan, a move that could further provoke Beijing. Moreover, North Korea remains unpredictable and unruly. Shrewd statesmanship is essential to ensure the country’s dignity and safety.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 1, Page 26