Tue, May 02, 2017 - Page 1 News List

S Korean papers warn ‘Trump risk’ threatens alliance

AFP, SEOUL

South Korean media yesterday warned of a “Trump risk” threatening the alliance between Washington and Seoul amid high tensions over North Korea’s weapons ambitions.

The two nations are bound by a defense pact and 28,500 US troops are stationed in the South.

However, US President Donald Trump has said that Seoul should pay for a “billion-dollar” US missile defense system being deployed in the South to guard against threats from the nuclear-armed North.

He has also pushed for renegotiation of what he called a “horrible” bilateral free-trade pact that went into effect five years ago, calling it an “unacceptable ... deal made by [then-US secretary of state] Hillary [Rodham Clinton].”

The remarks stunned Seoul, with South Korean politicians immediately rejecting his push for payment for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.

“Trump’s mouth rattling Korea-US alliance” a front-page headline in South Korea’s top-selling Chosun Ilbo said.

“There are issues that are far more important than just money,” the newspaper said in an editorial. “If either country keeps reducing the alliance to the matter of money or the economy, it is bound to undermine basic trust.”

Seoul needed to come up with “various Plan Bs” for the future, the paper said.

Trump on Sunday told CBS that if the North carried out a sixth nuclear test, he “would not be happy... And I can tell you also, I don’t believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either.”

“We’ll see” whether that signified military action, said Trump, who also described North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a “pretty smart cookie.”

Seoul’s presidential office on Sunday said Trump’s national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, had appeared to backtrack on THAAD, telling his South Korean counterpart by telephone that the US would bear the cost of the missile deployment as initially agreed.

However, McMaster told Fox News Sunday that the “last thing” he would ever do was contradict the president, and that “the relationship on THAAD, on our defense relationship going forward, will be renegotiated as it’s going to be with all of our allies.”

The JoongAng Ilbo accused Trump’s administration of sending “confusing and contradictory messages,” creating a “chaotic situation” that dealt a “huge blow” to the bilateral alliance.

“The US must be well aware of the pain and backlash Seoul has endured to push for the THAAD deployment,” it added.

The Dong-A Ilbo printed on its front page: “Trump Risk... we need to come up with new strategy for Korea-US alliance.”

Trump was pouring “a barrage of verbal bombs” on Seoul in a challenge to its next leader, the paper said.

“We hope that Trump will be more careful with his words,” the Dong-A Ilbo said in an editorial. “Who’s going to smile if our alliance is shaken? It will be North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and China’s Xi Jinping [習近平].”

In related news, CIA Director Mike Pompeo was in Seoul yesterday for an “internal meeting,” the US embassy confirmed.

The Chosun Ilbo said that Pompeo arrived in Seoul this weekend and held back-to-back closed-door meetings with the head of the South’s spy agency and senior presidential officials.

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