Is Trump Getting Ready to Sell Out South Korea and Japan?

Is Trump Getting Ready to Sell Out South Korea and Japan?

Is Trump Getting Ready to Sell Out South Korea and Japan?

“He truly believes that ‘free rider’ stuff he’s been saying since the 1980s,” says Van Jackson, author of On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War. “He thinks we’re being taken to the cleaners by our allies, he doesn’t get the security value of alliances or forward military presence, and the only acceptable redress for his grievance is maximal rent-seeking.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, on a recent visit here, said South Korea “is a wealthy country and could and should pay more to help offset the cost of defense,” but “we’re not threatening our allies over this.” Jackson, who now lectures at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, says he would be “willing to bet Trump pulls a troop withdrawal stunt sometime in the next year if South Korea doesn’t make some huge concessions.”

The issue arouses intense fears and debate among South Koreans. Not only conservatives but also middle-of-the-roaders who supported President Moon Jae-in in the Candlelight Revolution of 2016 and 2017 are increasingly disillusioned by his policy of appeasing North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in the quest for reconciliation. And the concern intensifies as the American defensive shield appears to be threatened.

At a rally Saturday in central Seoul, several hundred thousand people waving American and South Korean flags shouted slogans denouncing Moon.

There, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the parents of Otto Warmbier, who was jailed in North Korea nearly four years ago for stealing a poster near the end of a brief tourist trip to Pyongyang, described their son’s torture before he was sent home to die in June 2017. “We look forward to working with you to solve the problem of North Korea,” said Fred Warmbier, whose words were translated over mega-loudspeakers to thunderous applause. “What we need to do is to change the regime in North Korea. That’s why we’re here today.”

In the crowd, Ahn Chang, who had been jailed for refusing to leave a government office while protesting Moon’s policies, worried about whatever Trump will do. “I am very afraid he will pull out troops,” says Ahn. “Unlike typical U.S. presidents, he’s against this whole Korean-American alliance. If he pulled out troops, we are left alone to fight.”

Ahn believes South Korean leftists have fallen for North Korean propaganda and won’t stand up against attack from the North. “The leftists are brain-washed,” he says. “We are already losing because of the lies they were telling to the people.”

Moon’s real stance, however, may be somewhat ambivalent. On Friday, his government announced it would not take the controversial step of withdrawing from its deal for exchanging military intelligence information with Japan, as it had threatened to do. A Moon spokesman said South Korea would remain committed to GSOMIA (an acronym pronounced Gee-soh-mee-ya, for General Security of Military Intelligence Agreement) for the sake of “national interest.”

“He truly believes that ‘free rider’ stuff he’s been saying since the 1980s,” says Van Jackson, author of On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War. “He thinks we’re being taken to the cleaners by our allies, he doesn’t get the security value of alliances or forward military presence, and the only acceptable redress for his grievance is maximal rent-seeking.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, on a recent visit here, said South Korea “is a wealthy country and could and should pay more to help offset the cost of defense,” but “we’re not threatening our allies over this.” Jackson, who now lectures at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, says he would be “willing to bet Trump pulls a troop withdrawal stunt sometime in the next year if South Korea doesn’t make some huge concessions.”

The issue arouses intense fears and debate among South Koreans. Not only conservatives but also middle-of-the-roaders who supported President Moon Jae-in in the Candlelight Revolution of 2016 and 2017 are increasingly disillusioned by his policy of appeasing North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in the quest for reconciliation. And the concern intensifies as the American defensive shield appears to be threatened.

At a rally Saturday in central Seoul, several hundred thousand people waving American and South Korean flags shouted slogans denouncing Moon.

There, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the parents of Otto Warmbier, who was jailed in North Korea nearly four years ago for stealing a poster near the end of a brief tourist trip to Pyongyang, described their son’s torture before he was sent home to die in June 2017. “We look forward to working with you to solve the problem of North Korea,” said Fred Warmbier, whose words were translated over mega-loudspeakers to thunderous applause. “What we need to do is to change the regime in North Korea. That’s why we’re here today.”

In the crowd, Ahn Chang, who had been jailed for refusing to leave a government office while protesting Moon’s policies, worried about whatever Trump will do. “I am very afraid he will pull out troops,” says Ahn. “Unlike typical U.S. presidents, he’s against this whole Korean-American alliance. If he pulled out troops, we are left alone to fight.”

Ahn believes South Korean leftists have fallen for North Korean propaganda and won’t stand up against attack from the North. “The leftists are brain-washed,” he says. “We are already losing because of the lies they were telling to the people.”

Moon’s real stance, however, may be somewhat ambivalent. On Friday, his government announced it would not take the controversial step of withdrawing from its deal for exchanging military intelligence information with Japan, as it had threatened to do. A Moon spokesman said South Korea would remain committed to GSOMIA (an acronym pronounced Gee-soh-mee-ya, for General Security of Military Intelligence Agreement) for the sake of “national interest.”