South Korea

North Korea Calls Out Trump’s Misleading Claims

North Korea criticized what it called “misleading” claims that President Trump’s policy of maximum political pressure and sanctions are what drove Pyongyang to the negotiating table, CBS News reports.

The North’s official news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman warning the claims are a “dangerous attempt” to ruin a budding detente on the Korean Peninsula.

Korean Leaders Pledge to End War

“Smiling and holding hands, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met at the heavily fortified demilitarized zone between the countries on Friday, pledging to pursue peace after decades of conflict,” Reuters reports:

“Kim became the first North Korean leader since the 1950-53 Korean War to set foot in South Korea after shaking hands with his counterpart over a concrete curb marking the border at the truce village of Panmunjom.”

President Trump sent a congratulatory tweet: “Korean war to end! The United States, and all of its great people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!

Trump Takes Credit for South Korea’s Olympics

President Trump took credit for the “very successful” Olympic Games, despite the fact that they took place in South Korea, The Week reports.

Said Trump: “We’ve been given tremendous credit, because the Olympics was not going well.”

He explained: “When [North Korea] came in out of the blue and said ‘we’d love to participate in the Olympics,’ it made the Olympics very successful. President Moon of South Korea was very generous in his statements as to the fact that we had a lot to do with that, if not everything.”

Disagreement Derails Trump Choice for South Korea Post

“The White House’s original choice for U.S. ambassador to South Korea is no longer expected to be nominated after he privately expressed disagreement in late December with the Trump administration’s North Korea policy,” the Washington Post reports.

“Victor D. Cha, an academic who served in the George W. Bush administration, raised his concerns with National Security Council officials over their consideration of a limited strike on the North aimed at sending a message without sparking a wider war — a risky concept known as a ‘bloody nose’ strategy.”

South Korea Wonders Why Trump Is Attacking Them

“South Korea’s president tried late Sunday to dismiss talk of a dispute between Seoul and Washington over how to deal with North Korea following its sixth nuclear test, after President Trump criticized the South Korean approach as ‘appeasement,'” the Washington Post reports.

“Moon Jae-in’s office said that his government would continue to work towards peaceful denuclearization after tweets and actions from Trump that have left South Koreans scratching their heads at why the American president is attacking an ally at such a sensitive time.”

Observed former State Department official David Straub: “Opinion polls show South Koreans have one of the lowest rates of regard for Trump in the world and they don’t consider him to be a reasonable person. In fact, they worry he’s kind of nuts, but they still want the alliance.”

Trump Mulls Ending South Korea Trade Pact

President Trump is considering withdrawing from the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, sources tell Axios.

“Administration sources have cautioned that no decision has been made, but the leaking of these deliberations has startled many in the U.S. business and pro-trade communities, who were under the impression that KORUS withdrawal was not in the cards for 2017.”

“More than $100 billion of annual trade between U.S. and Korea in goods — and billions more in services — hangs in the balance as Trump weighs this decision. Withdrawing from the trade deal would also damage relations between the U.S. and a key ally in Asia at the same moment the North Korean threat is escalating to historic proportions.”

Trump Still Has No Ambassador to South Korea

BuzzFeed News: “For months, national security experts have warned that the large number of unfilled positions at the State Department risked putting the United States in jeopardy in the event of a crisis. Now, with North Korea threatening war and a new US intelligence finding that Pyongyang has succeeded in miniaturizing a nuclear bomb, a crisis has arrived, and President Trump has yet to name a US ambassador to South Korea.”

“The personnel gap comes amid confusing signals out of Washington — at a time when one of America’s most important and vulnerable allies is seeking clarity and instruction.”

For members: Diplomacy Is the Only Option for North Korea

South Korea Elects a New Leader

“Moon Jae-in was poised to be elected as South Korea’s next leader, ending nine years of conservative rule and bringing to power a forceful advocate for closer ties with North Korea,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Joint exit-poll results released by the country’s three major television stations suggested a sweeping victory for Mr. Moon, who has said that South Korea needs to learn to say ‘no’ to the U.S.”

Trump Offended South Korea

President Trump’s apparently offhand comment after meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping — that “Korea actually used to be a part of China” — has enraged many South Koreans, the AP reports.

The historically inaccurate sentence “bumps up against a raft of historical and political sensitivities in a country where many have long feared Chinese designs on the Korean Peninsula. It also feeds neatly into longstanding worries about Seoul’s shrinking role in dealing with its nuclear-armed rival, North Korea.”

Tillerson Denies ‘Fatigue’ Reports

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “denied reports in South Korean media outlets that he did not dine with the country’s officials due to ‘fatigue’ on a leg of his Asia trip,” Politico reports.

Said Tillerson: “They never invited us for dinner, then at the last minute they realized that optically it wasn’t playing very well in public for them, so they put out a statement that we didn’t have dinner because I was tired.”