October 31, 2019 14:05
U.S. President Donald Trump is obsessed with the notion that South Korea is somehow stiffing him. He has harped on it since his election campaign, and he simply cannot seem to be disabused of this nonsense.
Just after his inauguration in 2017, he claimed South Korea "has been a major abuser. China, South Korea... they both rip us off left and right." The claim is revealed in an explosive new book, "Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis," by Guy Snodgrass, a former chief speechwriter and communications director to the former U.S. defense secretary, that details futile attempts by the "adults in the room" to control the increasingly unhinged commander-in-chief. In 2018, Trump condemned the South Korea-U.S. alliance as a "losing deal," and his then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with whom he promptly fell out, said Trump thought the alliance was one of the worst for America, according to the book.
Since then not a week has gone by without Trump spouting this ill-informed drivel and boasting how much money much he is saving Americans by getting tough on South Korea. It is unclear why he has singled out South Korea, but hearing yet another first-hand account of what he thinks about one of America's closest allies makes one wonder why he holds a personal grudge. Just a few months ago, Trump said, "There's one country, I don't want to say it, I don't want to embarrass anybody... I called the country. I called and said, listen, no good." Of course he was referring to South Korea, as everybody knew.
Now the U.S. is demanding five times more money than before for the upkeep of 28,500 American troops stationed here. At the same time Trump claims North Korea's missiles are not a problem, since they are aimed at South Korea and not the U.S. Alarmingly, all the adults have left the room, with even his hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton out of the picture. Who can guarantee there will be no repeat of his impulsive withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria?
But the South Korean government's diplomatic and security policies are practically all aimed at achieving one goal: warming up to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Trump is a key player in that game. The Kim Jong-un show cannot air without Trump, which is why the government here is trying so hard to appease him, claiming despite all the insults that he "achieved a tremendous breakthrough in world history" and offering to nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Of course it is vitally important to maintain good relations with the leader of the world's most powerful country. But the problem is that the government here is not focused on the national interest and the safety of its people but on a political show. Instead of trying to correct Trump's distorted view of South Korea by any means at their disposal, this country's diplomats are reduced to either sniveling or doing nothing.
We are entering a twilight zone with the president of the U.S. calling South Korea a "major abuser" while China and Russia display increasing aggression around its airspace and South Korean football players are bashed around in North Korea. This is not diplomacy, it is howling incompetence.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com