Anna Fifield, Washington Post: In South Korea, mystification over Trump’s defense and trade comments
SEOUL — The South Korean government reeled Friday over President Trump’s sudden insistence that he expects Seoul to pay $1 billion for a missile defense system that many here do not want, the latest in a series of slights against one of the United States’ leading allies in Asia.
Trump’s remarks come at a particularly sensitive time on the Korean Peninsula: Not only have tensions with North Korea risen to their highest level in years, but South Koreans are heading to the polls next month and could elect a president whose ideas about how to deal with North Korea are very different from Trump’s.
“So far the reaction in South Korea to all these things that Mr. Trump has said has been surprisingly restrained, but I think that’s because South Koreans are still trying to figure out what kind of character he is,” said David Straub, a former U.S. diplomat dealing with the Koreas and author of the book “Anti-Americanism in Democratizing South Korea.”
“They know he’s an unusual president and they’re discounting a lot of what he says, but eventually remarks like these will have a serious effect,” Straub said.
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WNU Editor: The focus in South Korea right now is on their Presidential election .... not North Korea. As a long time and frequent visitor of South Korea over the years, I have seen how South Koreans have changed their views (and fears) of North Korea. My guess is that South Korea has been under the threat of annihilation from North Korea for so long .... that they are no longer focused as they use to be on what is happening in their northern neighbour. And as for North Korea's strides in developing a missile program that can strike a U.S. city with a deliverable nuclear weapon .... to the South Koreans this is nothing new .... they can be struck right now. I tell my South Koreans that this approach and lack of concern on U.S. security needs is a mistake .... they may feel comfortable and use to having a North Korean leader threaten them with destruction .... but the U.S. is not .... doubly so since this erratic North Korean leader's rhetoric is backed up by a weapons program that will accomplish such a goal. As for South Korea's reaction to a $1 billion bill for the deployment of THAAD and White House threats to renegotiate the U.S. - South Korean trade deal .... my recommendation to the next South Korean President (who will be elected next month) is that he better listen because business as usual is no longer acceptable. My prediction .... he will not listen .... in fact he may go out of his way to placate the North Korean leader and ignore the concerns that are being raised by both the U.S. and Japan..