South Korea’s Uncertain Future In Trump’s Deal With North Korea

President Donald J. Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sit together.

by Dena Leichnitz with Richard Cameron


The summit between North Korean President, Kim Jong Un and The POTUS, Donald Trump took place today and though a formal agreement has not been issued there was some discussion of what might eventually be part of an agreement. The main subject of media attention was the full removal of nuclear weapons from North Korea.

There were other matters broached that profoundly affect the security of South Korea even though South Korea was not there to discuss their future with their hostile neighbor to the North. One of the things that was discussed was the suspension of the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.

Trump said the “war games” would be put on hold as long as the denuclearization process appears to be going well. “But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money,” Trump said. “Plus, I think it’s very provocative.”

The problem is that as long as denuclearization “appears” to be going well, then America according to some observers, could  back out on its treaty with South Korea, putting South Korea at risk for an attack by North Korea. 

According to Julian Borger with the Guardian who was in Singapore, both the South Korean government and U.S. forces in the region appear to have been taken by surprise by Trump’s declared suspension of joint exercises.

U.S. forces in Korea said they had not received updated guidance on the matter. “In coordination with our ROK [Republic of Korea] partners, we will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance,” a spokesperson told Reuters.

South Koreans had their own thoughts about the news from the summit. Among them were those of Noh Jung, a hospital administrator in Seoul, who indicated that she had low expectations for the summit. “Trump and Kim met because they both want something from each other,” Noh said. “It’s a global issue for sure and a happy thing, but… I’m not sure how much South Korea will be able to profit from the event,” she added.

There can be no mere “appearances” of it going well, America has to know 100 percent that North Korea is abiding by the agreement to get rid of all its nuclear arms. This would not the first time North Korea has agreed to get rid of all its nuclear weapons, it did so in 1994 under Clinton and 2005 under George W. Bush, both times it failed.

CNBC’s reporter on Asian affairs, Nyshka Chandran outlines the history and the critical nature of this interaction with the North Koreans in this manner:

In 1994, President Bill Clinton’s administration and North Korea signed a deal known as the Agreed Framework. Under the terms, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for U.S. construction of light-water nuclear reactors, heavy fuel, normalized relations and formal assurances against the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

In 2005, multilateral discussions among China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. — known as the Six-Party Talks — seemed to take a step forward when North Korea pledged to abandon its existing nuclear programs…The deal appeared to be a diplomatic win for the U.S. administration of George W. Bush. Then in 2006, Pyongyang launched its first nuclear test.

Trump also raised the specter of disengagement of American troops on the peninsula,

“I want to get our soldiers out,” he said. “I want to bring our soldiers back home. We have, right now, 32,000 soldiers in South Korea. And I’d like to be able to bring them back home. But that’s not part of the equation right now. At some point I hope it will be, but not right now.”

Flag of South Korea

Both of these ideas independently are controversial, together they spell disaster for South Korea, if for no other reason than it gives the impression America is shifting allegiance from the peaceful democratic republic of South Korea to a dictatorship that abuses, terrorizes and kills its own citizens. 

While Trump said the removal of troops is not on the table right now, it does give North Korea hope that one day the U.S will dramatically alter our relationship with South Korea and in so doing, create a strategic incentive to for North Korea to reunify the peninsula by force. 

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had this to say about the removal of the troops from South Korea: “The one thing that I would violently disagree with is removing our troops,”,  he said on NBC’s “Today” show. “I can’t imagine I would vote for any agreement that requires us to withdraw our forces because that would destabilize Asia.” He went on to say: “That’s what China wants. That doesn’t make the world more peaceful, it makes it more dangerous.”

In the end North Korea gets to look like the good guy, South Korea gets betrayed and the U.S. is left in precarious position of aligning itself with one of the world greatest thugs. Compounding the problem are statements such as this from Trump:

He’s got a great personality. He’s a funny guy, he’s very smart, he’s a great negotiator. He loves his people,  not that I’m surprised “by that,” Trump said. “I think that we have the start of an amazing deal. We’re going to denuke North Korea.”

Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer Courtesy of CNBC.com

Such statements are reckless and give the world the overall impression America is siding with North Korea on the world stage and rejecting its long term ally – and exactly for what is unclear. 

Would North Korea agree to finally reunify with South Korea? Or is Senator Schumer right when he says:

the document Trump and Kim signed  [was] “short on details.” Schumer warned that North Korea could “backtrack on vague commitments as soon as it is in its interests.”

“There is a great fear now that Chairman Kim, having won a major concession from the United States — meeting with our president — may not go any further,” he said on the Senate floor.

Because the “document was short on details” this leaves South Korea wondering what the U.S has in store for it. And while South Korea is seen by some to possess an overall superior military in comparison to North Korea, how does the equation, the balance of military strength change and will Kim then become emboldened to strike? 

No one knows for certain. All that is certain is that Americans were applauding Kim Jong Un today and that itself is a very disconcerting thought.

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