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A successful summit

July 03,2017
The first summit between President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump ended smoothly despite some concerns on both sides. The meeting carried great significance for us as it offered a chance to restore a communication channel lost after the impeachment and ouster of President Park Geun-hye in December.

We believe the summit came to a successful end particularly considering Trump’s unpredictable character, which led to many embarrassing moments for other heads of state. President Moon had a good opportunity to build mutual trust with the U.S. president as he hoped. In fact, Trump described his relationship with Moon as being “very, very good” and boasted of “great chemistry” with him. Later, Trump even invited Moon to his private space in the White House.

Moon achieved remarkable results in the security field by getting U.S. approval for South Korea’s leading role in the unification of the Korean Peninsula. Moon was also able to insert into a joint statement Trump’s support for his resumption of inter-Korean dialogue. That translates into the hawkish Trump administration’s acceptance of the new South Korean government’s policy to resolve tension through rapprochement.

The reaffirmation of close cooperation between Seoul and Washington under our new leadership means a lot for the future of the peninsula. Despite public disagreements over the timing of the transfer of wartime operational control, Trump agreed to return it to South Korea as soon as possible.

Nevertheless, conflict arose over economic issues. Expressing disgruntlement over the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, Trump underscored that the U.S. cannot allow its trade deficit to continue. In a statement before his one-on-one meeting with Moon, Trump even said the U.S. administration was renegotiating the trade pact. Trump also demanded South Korea bear a bigger share of the costs of U.S. forces in South Korea.

As the apparent friction over trade surfaced, Moon hurriedly said that a renegotiation of the FTA was not included in the agreement. But U.S. objections will not subside. It is certain that we will have to confront the U.S. government’s call for a renegotiation of the deal in the future.

Whenever the U.S. administration claims the FTA only benefits South Korea, our government argues it benefits both sides when taking the services sector into account. As Trump has made an issue of the deal, our government must devise an argument to effectively counter his complaint.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 3, Page 30