So, this evening, Donald J. Trump was officially announced to the Republican nominee for the Presidency of the United States of America. Therefore, this post will focus on the nominee’s Korea’s policy, outlining the presumptive candidates views on the Korean peninsula.
Donald Trump has long been an advocate of pulling troops from bases around the world, of which he has explicitly mentioned South Korea, where more than 30,000 American troops work to ensure the security of 40,000,000 people from a North Korean attack. His calls consistently for South Korea to shoulder more of the cost of stationing troops in the country, under the pretense that Seoul pays, in Trump’s own words, peanuts. This policy prescription is seen, in many eyes, as a way for the United States to ensure that it makes money off defending nations who we consider to close allies. However, his policy ignores the fact that South Korea, since the early 2010s, has paid over $800 million per year to station American troops in the country. Another curious factor that Trump has overlooked in this policy prescription is the immeasurable amount of cultural exchange which exists between the two nations. In order to make this sound less of a critique of Trump, I will say that the American position in South Korea has been effective in deterring Northern aggression, and one can make the argument that South Korea should take control over its own national security. In short, a Trump in the White House would mean a smaller presence of American military in the world, even in countries regarded as major regional allies, such as South Korea.
Another crucial aspect of the relationship between Seoul and Washington D.C. has been criticised by Trump; the KORUS Free Trade Agreement, which was signed in 2010. Trump has taken aim at the majority of trade agreements made by the United States, most recently the Trans Pacific Partnership, saying that they take jobs out of America. Trump has advocated that he would repeal a majority of the current standing free trade agreements in hopes of negotiating a better deal, or, in Donald Trump logic, a way for America to get as much money for as little involvement in the process of trade. Now, I will stave off from commenting in detail on the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement since I have mostly studied defense and North Korea policy, and am in no way have anything of any contribution to the discussion on the KORUS Free Trade agreement. However, I will say that I feel the KORUS Free Trade Agreement, as it stands, offers another vessel for cultural and material cooperation and exchange between Seoul and Washington D.C. while also making it easy to promote effective cross-cultural communication by indulging in the cultural products released by the two nations since they are more affordable under the agreement as imports.
It is a lot harder to discern Trump’s true policy towards North Korea. He promotes preemptive strikes, then resigns such callings under the guise of China’s total control over the internal politics in North Korea. He has also advocated for personal talks with Kim Jung-un in hopes of solving the nuclear issue. Now, I will not bite your ear off with a step by step, thorough analysis of his policies, but I will discuss them a little here.
The biggest theme running through Trump’s North Korea policy is the myth of Chinese total control over the politics in North Korea. He, as have many other people, has made this statement without looking at the intricate intentions and goals of the North Korea-China relationship. China does not enjoy North Korea’s tests, and has even condemned them, urging North Korea to show caution in its testing. But North Korea continues to test missiles and nuclear weapons in hopes of either driving a wedge in the Beijing-Washington relationship, or to show internally how strong the military is. China is not even close to be in control of North Korean domestic politics, nor will it ever – so long as Kim Jung-un places his retention of power over his position on the international community.
Finally, talking with Kim Jung-un. Donald Trump has openly called to met with the sitting leader of North Korea, as the sitting president of the United States. If this occurs, it would be an unprecedented meeting, since most the diplomatic work between Pyongyang and Washington is done at a ministerial level, which is then reported to the president. Trump also has not examined how this meeting would be shown in the North Korean state media, which may undermine any attempt to come to negotiations with the upper hand. Now, this being said, North Korea is more likely to cooperate when it feels that its concerns are being addressed, and North Korea has always responded well when visited by a foreign dignitary; however, these changes rarely create long lasting success in solving any issue, with the security concerns returning within years of such changes. This is not to say his talks will be unsuccessful. It is unfair to him to say he would not be able to negotiate a deal with North Korea to solve the nuclear crisis, when he hasn’t even been elected yet. I will close by saying that this policy idea, discussing the issue with Kim himself, has the most reasonable chance of success in his entire platform.
So, there is an outline of Donald Trump’s policy ideas for the Korean peninsula. I have tried my best to stay unbiased – a very difficult to task conquer – which I know I have failed at doing, but I hope to have at least raised a few questions in your mind about what Donald Trump means for the Korean peninsula, and what a Trump president would do on the peninsula. I look forward to getting back into regular daily updates tomorrow, but will promise to do this for Clinton as well.