Trump to seek Moon pres­sure on N. Korea

South’s dovish leader to tem­per THAAD talk

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR AND DAVE BOYER

As Pres­i­dent Trump pre­pares to meet with new South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in for the first time, the White House said Wed­nes­day that the U.S. has only be­gun to ex­ert se­ri­ous pres­sure on North Korea to halt its nu­clear weapons pro­gram and faulted the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for not im­pos­ing stronger sanc­tions against Py­ongyang.

Mr. Trump and his ad­vis­ers say there is much more that the U.S. and South Korea can do to­gether to get North Korea’s at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing greater eco­nomic iso­la­tion. But that could make for some awk­ward mo­ments in Thurs­day’s talks with the dovish Mr. Moon, a one­time hu­man rights lawyer and a long­time backer of the “Sunshine Pol­icy” that in­cludes a softer ap­proach and en­hanced ties with the North.

“We are adding pres­sure and have re­ally only be­gun to do so,” a se­nior White House of­fi­cial said. “It’s re­ally the one ap­proach that we haven’t tried yet: acute eco­nomic pres­sure on North Korea. That cam­paign is only now gath­er­ing mo­men­tum. And the pres­i­dent is de­ter­mined to fol­low through with that and to see how it works.”

Mr. Moon spoke of­ten on the cam­paign trail

against U.S. mil­i­tary pos­tur­ing around North Korea, and has raised ques­tions about the Pen­tagon’s move to in­stall an anti-mis­sile sys­tem known as Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense, which tar­gets North Korea but has also alarmed China and Rus­sia. But, with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe al­ready hav­ing been given warm wel­comes by Mr. Trump, the South Korean leader is likely to take a far more con­cil­ia­tory ap­proach dur­ing his meet­ing at the White House.

Mr. Moon’s four-day Wash­ing­ton visit will in­clude din­ner with Mr. Trump on Thurs­day night and for­mal talks Fri­day at the White House, as well as talks with U.S. busi­ness lead­ers and a Wash­ing­ton think tank.

While Mr. Moon was given a strong man­date in May by South Korean vot­ers who saw the THAAD anti-mis­sile sys­tem as an un­wanted es­ca­la­tion with the North, an­a­lysts say he will tem­per his views in front of Mr. Trump. In pre­sum­mit in­ter­views in Seoul, he re­peat­edly stressed that he and Mr. Trump shared the same goals in deal­ing with se­cu­rity is­sues on the Korean Penin­sula.

There is no chance that it will be the “get-THAAD-out-of-[South Korea]” Mr. Moon who shows up at the White House, said By­oung-Joo Kim, an an­a­lyst on South Korean for­eign pol­icy at Hankuk Univer­sity of For­eign Stud­ies in Seoul.

“Moon will try hard to put the best pos­si­ble friendly face on the THAAD is­sue,” Mr. Kim told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “He will do his best for be­ing shown to be on the same page with the U.S. on se­cu­rity and eco­nomic is­sues.”

The North Korean regime has nu­clear weapons and is work­ing on de­vel­op­ment of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile, which the U.S. views as a di­rect threat. Mr. Moon said he is willing to restart di­rect talks with the North only if the Py­ongyang regime halts its nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams, but his govern­ment has said it does not need Mr. Trump’s per­mis­sion to restart such talks.

North Korea con­ducted about 30 mis­sile tests last year and det­o­nated two nu­clear de­vices. The Trump of­fi­cial said Pres­i­dent Obama didn’t be­gin to ap­ply se­ri­ous pres­sure on Py­ongyang un­til his fi­nal year in of­fice.

“It was only re­ally over the course of 2016 that our prior ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan to ap­ply acute pres­sure through those U.N. sanc­tions, Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions,” the of­fi­cial said. “To say that pres­sure has not worked, it’s a lit­tle early to say that. There is plenty more pres­sure that could be brought to bear on North Korea in the form of U.N. sanc­tions, Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions and also uni­lat­eral sanc­tions.”

Mr. Trump “has in­structed his govern­ment to look care­fully at a whole range of po­ten­tial sanc­tions tar­gets for his con­sid­er­a­tion,” the of­fi­cial said. “He will move for­ward po­ten­tially with ad­di­tional sanc­tions when he chooses.”

Ten­sions over THAAD

As the two lead­ers meet face to face, there is a clear un­der­cur­rent of ten­sion over the U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in South Korea. Mr. Moon sur­prised the Pen­tagon this month by sus­pend­ing the de­ploy­ment of THAAD un­til his ad­min­is­tra­tion could com­plete an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment.

The sus­pen­sion could be read as a con­ces­sion to China, which has ex­pressed out­rage over THAAD and says the real rea­son be­hind Wash­ing­ton’s de­ploy­ment is to spy on and con­tain Chi­nese — not North Korean — mil­i­tary as­sets.

U.S. of­fi­cials say the Chi­nese com­plaints over THAAD’s pow­er­ful X-band radar are un­founded and have al­ter­na­tively pushed on China, which is North Korea’s main ally and trade part­ner, to pres­sure Py­ongyang into aban­don­ing its nu­clear weapons and mis­sile provo­ca­tions.

Mr. Trump has pressed China’s Mr. Xi to ex­ert more eco­nomic pres­sure on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to scale back his nu­clear pro­gram and said he even backed off on eco­nomic sanc­tions on Bei­jing over its trad­ing prac­tices in a bid to get China to co­op­er­ate. But Mr. Trump has said re­cently that China’s ef­forts, in­clud­ing cur­tail­ing pur­chases of North Korean coal, have not worked.

The White House aide said China could be do­ing much more.

“China is still fall­ing far short of what it could bring to bear on North Korea in terms of pres­sure,” the of­fi­cial said. “Coal is only one com­po­nent of that. We very much want to see China do more than it’s willing to do, while we do rec­og­nize that China is do­ing more than it has done in the past.”

Mr. Trump is even weigh­ing tougher ac­tion against China over the North Korean is­sue, Reuters re­ported, based on con­ver­sa­tions with three se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who said the pres­i­dent is con­tem­plat­ing trade sanc­tions against Chi­nese steel im­ports.

But China has been ap­ply­ing eco­nomic pres­sure on South Korea since the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion reached an agree­ment last year with Mr. Moon’s pre­de­ces­sor to al­low for THAAD’s de­ploy­ment. Among other ac­tions, Bei­jing has put a cap on Chi­nese tourism, trig­ger­ing sig­nif­i­cant losses to the South Korean econ­omy.

Mr. Moon promised on the cam­paign trail to or­der a re­view of THAAD, ar­gu­ing that the sys­tem’s de­ploy­ment failed to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the po­ten­tial fall­out for South Korea.

Mr. Moon, a one­time hu­man rights lawyer, faces his own pres­sures in his first trip to Wash­ing­ton as pres­i­dent. China, not the U.S., is the coun­try’s big­gest trad­ing part­ner, and Mr. Trump on the cam­paign trail was a sharp critic of the 2012 U.S.-South Korean free trade agree­ment ap­proved un­der Mr. Obama. Seoul was also con­sid­er­ing join­ing the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal when Mr. Trump killed it this year.

Mr. Moon’s re­fusal to rule out seek­ing new talks with Py­ongyang — and pos­si­bly restart­ing joint North-South busi­ness and cul­tural ven­tures — clashes with the harder line in Wash­ing­ton.

“The crit­i­cal ques­tion is which Pres­i­dent Moon will come to D.C.,” said An­thony Rug­giero, a se­nior fel­low at the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies think tank in Wash­ing­ton, who ad­vised U.S. diplo­mats on multi­na­tional talks with North Korea prior to the col­lapse of the ne­go­ti­a­tions in 2009.

“Is it the one who rec­og­nizes the grow­ing threat from North Korea? Or is it one who is in­tent on en­gag­ing North Korea re­gard­less of Py­ongyang’s con­tin­ued provo­ca­tions?” he asked in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters.

Mr. Rug­giero said that “the ques­tion re­ally here is, given China’s sanc­tions on South Korea be­cause of the de­ploy­ment of THAAD, how can Trump and Moon co­op­er­ate to get THAAD op­er­a­tional and to help the South Korean govern­ment counter China’s sanc­tions?”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

VIS­I­TOR: South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in will meet with Pres­i­dent Trump to dis­cuss a con­tro­ver­sial U.S. mis­sile de­fense sys­tem and is­sues with North Korea.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Well-wish­ers watched the de­par­ture of South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, whose four-day Wash­ing­ton visit will in­clude din­ner with Pres­i­dent Trump on Thurs­day night and for­mal talks Fri­day, as well as talks with U.S. busi­ness lead­ers and a think tank.

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