January 23, 2017 10:52
Korea is unlikely to be able to forge vital ties with new U.S. President Donald Trump amid the power vacuum here until at least July.
"Even if a presidential election is held in April or May, the new president wouldn't be able to visit Washington in the first half of the year," a government source here said Sunday.
A diplomatic source said it would take considerable time to arrange a summit schedule after President Park Geun-hye's impeachment trial, even if it is rejected by the Constitutional Court, since Trump's summit schedule is already filling up fast.
The first realistic chance for the new Korean president to meet Trump will be at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany in July, and there will be little time for in-depth talks on the sidelines.
Due to its precarious situation at the edge of the U.S. sphere of influence in Northeast Asia, Seoul has traditionally pushed for a summit with new U.S. presidents as soon as they were sworn in.
In 2001, President Kim Dae-jung visited Washington in March to meet George W. Bush. In 2009, Lee Myung-bak waited until June to meet Barack Obama.
Another worry is that no new U.S. ambassador to Seoul has been appointed yet while former ambassador Mark Lippert, who is close to Obama, left Korea to coincide with Trump's inauguration on Friday.
It could take more than six months for a new envoy to arrive after a congressional confirmation hearing.
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