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China can sort out North ‘easily,’ Trump claims

U.S. president vows to be ‘top of the pack’ with nuclear weapons
Feb 25,2017
U.S. President Donald Trump criticized China for not doing enough on the North Korea issue and announced that the United States will be “at the top of the pack” among nuclear powers if the world cannot be rid of nuclear-armed states, in an interview Thursday.

“We have a very big problem... with North Korea... I think China has tremendous control over North Korea. I think they can solve the problem very easily if they want to,” Trump told Reuters. “It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

He added, “Missile defense is one of the many things that can be done.”

Experts in Korea puzzled over the implications for its foreign relations, especially in maintaining strategic relations with both China and the United States.

“Trump appears to be putting forward a foreign policy strategy that pits the United States against China and brings it closer to its allies, Korea and Japan,” said Kim Han-kwon, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy. “But a competition between the United States and China in the East Asia region can be troublesome for South Korean’s new administration.

“Especially if Trump increasingly pursues installation of American missile defense systems in Korea,” he added, “this could be an issue in regards to Korea’s relations with China and the United States.”

Beijing has criticized the Seoul-Washington agreement to deploy the U.S.-led antimissile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in Korea to counter military threats from the North, and lashed back with unofficial economic sanctions on the South.

In the interview, Trump also called China “grand champions at manipulation of currency.”

He cut short any possibility of a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by saying “it’s very late [to hold one].”

While campaigning for the presidency in June, Trump said he could hold a meeting with Kim over a hamburger, an idea he seems to have dropped after the North Korean government conducted missile tests earlier this month.

“We’re very angry,” he said of the North’s test-firing of the intermediate-range ballistic missile on Feb. 12. “I would never say no. It may be very late.”

The Thaad system, in the meanwhile, is set to be deployed in Korea by June at the earliest.

“After the Lotte Corporation holds a board meeting on Monday, it will likely sign a contract with the National Defense Ministry on Tuesday [to swap land for the Thaad deployment],” said a ministry official.

The two parties agreed in November to swap the Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, for government land in Namyangju, Gyeonggi. The Thaad system will be deployed at the former golf course.

The South Korean government plans to inject nearly 600 billion won ($530 million) this year to develop military defenses of the South against threats from the North.

BY YOO JEE-HYE, CHAE BYUNG-GUN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]