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Worrying currents in Washington

Aug 19,2017
Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist whose comments are often as provocative as President Donald Trump’s, told a small liberal magazine, the American Prospect, that the United States was entering into an economic war with China and that the trade sanctions would go on regardless of Beijing’s increased influence over Pyongyang to contain its weapons program.

“On Korea, they are just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow,” he told the magazine. Bannon said there could be a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the U.S. removed its troops from South Korea, but such a deal seemed remote.

Such talk of pulling out American troops as Washington tones down conditions for a dialogue with Pyongyang from denuclearization to a freeze in the buildup and cessation of provocations raises concerns.

The U.S. military presence in South Korea, which has been a fact for decades, suddenly sounds like a fluid situation. Former U.S. State Secretary Henry Kissinger recommended a deal to resolve the North Korea nuclear problem in return for a pullout of U.S. forces from the peninsula.

The subtle yet obvious change in mood in Washington suggests that U.S. policymakers do not have a clear solution to the North Korea nuclear issue. That explains the cacophony on North Korean affairs within the U.S. administration.
Since they lack good options, they could jump into direct bargaining with Pyongyang while leaving Seoul out in the cold. We could find ourselves in a most confounding situation.

We need not overreact, but at the same time should not treat the threat too lightly. We have to rely on a solid alliance with the U.S. as the linchpin of our security.

We must not risk even the slightest discord and endeavor to fine-tune our relationship with the U.S. That is the only way President Moon Jae-in can keep his promise to do whatever he can to prevent a war on the peninsula.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 19, Page 26