Wait — Moon Jae-in can’t mean the man who is going to get us all nuked, can he? Well, yes, that’s precisely what South Korea’s president means. After opening the first talks with North Korea in over two years, Moon told reporters that Donald Trump deserves “big credit” for forcing the Kim regime to the table with a fresh strategy of hardball from the US (via Jake Tapper):
South Korean President Moon Jae-in credited U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday for helping to spark the first inter-Korean talks in more than two years, and warned that Pyongyang would face stronger sanctions if provocations continued. …
Seoul and Pyongyang agreed at Tuesday’s talks, the first since December 2015, to resolve all problems between them through dialogue and also to revive military consultations so that accidental conflict could be averted.
“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks, I want to show my gratitude,” Moon told reporters at his New Year’s news conference. “It could be a resulting work of the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure.”
Granted, Moon softens this with a conditional in the end, but it doesn’t keep him from providing the credit up front. Previous administrations seemed more content to kick the can down the road, especially the Obama administration, which kept up sanctions but kept trying to downplay the crisis. Thanks to that approach, other players were able to shrug off the North Korean crisis, especially China.
Trump has taken a different tack; he is acting as though the crisis were present, which it is and has been for some time now. Trump has increased the pace and reach of sanctions to the point where North Korea now has very few avenues for trade on critical commodities such as fuel and food. Trump’s belligerence has forced China into action to try to bring its obstreperous client under some form of control. The disruption even forced Moon, who ran as an appeaser looking to dial down tensions, into deploying the THAAD systems he had opposed during his campaign.
Besides the fact that it reflects reality, Moon’s credit sets the table for an eventual US-North Korea negotiations, one expert tells Reuters:
Lee Woo-young, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said it was wise of Moon to praise Trump, his sanctions and pressure campaign.
“By doing that, he can help the U.S. build logic for moving toward negotiations and turning around the state of affairs in the future, so when they were ready to talk to the North, they can say the North came out of isolation because the sanctions were effective.”
At this point, direct negotiations are the only path left to avoid another armed conflict. Trump has said he would consider that option if the conditions were right, although Kim Jong-un has so far balked at the idea until he achieves nuclear parity with the US. This week’s talks could provide a short-cut to a settlement, but don’t expect Trump to take his foot off the gas pedal until those talks become a reality. He’s getting pretty good mileage right now out of his foreign policy toward the Korean Peninsula, and Moon corroborates that.
This makes Andrew Malcolm’s latest column on Trump’s foreign policy and general productivity look prescient:
Trump’s tweets at North Korea’s “little Rocket Man” draw instant media attention, even igniting speculations on the president’s mental health. They reinforce a popular perception that this president is a loose cannon, a perception he sometimes seeks and feeds with unorthodox presidential behavior and statements.
What doesn’t get reported so eagerly nor attributed to Trump’s presidency are puzzling positive developments: Economic growth exceeding three percent by Trump’s seventh month, unemployment falling to longtime lows, 1.84 million new jobs since Trump’s inauguration, confident stock markets soaring to all-time highs, new homebuilding up, dozens of large companies granting bonuses and wage hikes. Even Trump’s job approval was climbing at year’s end.
How can so many things be going so well with an unbalanced usurper in the Oval Office? …
These and other actions demonstrating freshened resolve abroad suggest when it comes to foreign policy, friends and foes alike would do well to note that Trump follows words with action.
They’re beginning to notice that in Pyongyang.