Bracing for all possibilities

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Bracing for all possibilities

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unsurprisingly outshined her Republican rival Donald Trump on the foreign affairs front, sending a strong message to people at home and abroad. She reassured “our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them” and that the American word to global commitments should be “good.”

Trump reiterated his criticism that traditional allies like Japan and South Korea weren’t paying enough for U.S. defense services, saying “They do not pay us what they should be paying us and we are losing a fortune.”

In their first televised showdown closely watched by not only viewers at home but elsewhere around the world, Clinton reaffirmed commitments to the allies. The tycoon-turned-politician demanded “a fair share” and business approach to defense alliances based on crass calculation. The traditional Korea-U.S. alliance will likely stay intact if Clinton becomes the next American president. But defense costs could emerge as a thorny diplomatic issue if Trump is elected. Our bilateral relationship could shake if talks do not turn out well.

Both candidates considered North Korean nuclear development a serious threat, but differed in their approach. “I can’t take anything off the table,”
said Trump in the debate, but nevertheless bluntly suggested China should solve the problem “for us” as “China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea … China should go into North Korea,” he said. The former state secretary emphasized the power of a multilateral diplomatic solution, reminding viewers how international endeavors helped bring Iran to accept the nuclear pact and cease its weapons program. “I spent 18 months putting together the sanctions against Iran so that we could force them to the negotiating table.” If Clinton gets into the White House, the Washington policy of sustaining hard-line sanctions until Pyongyang yields and returns to the negotiating table won’t likely change much.

The two candidates clashed over various issues in the domestic economy, trade deals, race, terrorism, and national security. Hillary overall presented herself more ready and confident and the CNN poll placed the Democratic nominee safely ahead of her Republican rival by 62 percent to 27 percent. The two contestants still face two more TV debates and we can never really know the results until Election Day. Seoul must be prepared for all possibilities.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 28, Page 30
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