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Not long enough

Oct 17,2017
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to stay in South Korea for only two days in his first trip to Asia in November. He will most likely stay in Japan for four days, according to news reports. Previous administrations each spent the same — or nearly same — period of time in South Korea and Japan when they made trips to Northeast Asia.

Trump wants to reinforce the United States’ relations with Northeast Asia through the tour. But his trip this time is focused mostly on discussing urgent issues involving the recent North Korean nuclear provocations. Nevertheless, his short stay in South Korea gives the impression that he is simply dropping by to visit a pivotal ally under direct nuclear threat from North Korea.

Our diplomatic authorities may argue that two of the days he will spend in Japan are holidays and that the quality of his stay is more important than the quantity. But one cannot ignore the length of his stay as well. If President Moon Jae-in and Trump spend time together, it will more likely lead to a better relationship between the two.

Moreover, Tokyo plans to arrange a golf outing between Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the holidays. The two leaders strengthened their friendship by playing golf at a Trump-owned estate in Florida when Abe visited the United States in February. Playing golf with Trump carries great significance to him.

President Moon Jae-in’s relations with Trump are known to be less friendly than his relationship with Abe. Trump’s scheduled stay in South Korea is not good news for the future of South Korea because it could give not only North Korea, but also the international community, the wrong impression that Washington does not consider South Korea a “blood ally” as it had in the past.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must persuade its U.S. counterpart to have Trump stay in South Korea at least as long as his stay in Japan. If not, it can not only damage our decades-old alliance with Uncle Sam, but also trigger a serious miscalculation from Pyongyang.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 17, Page 34