Trump’s victory causes dismay

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Trump’s victory causes dismay

With Republican candidate Donald J. Trump’s election as the next U.S. president, Korea is already uneasy over what potential changes he may bring about in foreign policy and security issues in the region.

Korean government officials and experts alike have been calling to immediately establish ties with Trump’s team to convey Seoul’s position on foreign affairs and security issues while he is still forming policies.

President Park Geun-hye convened a meeting of the National Security Council following Trump’s election and said, “The United States is our ally and the Korea-U.S. relationship has a large impact on our foreign affairs, security and economy, so we need to thoroughly review how to develop and deepen relations with the Trump administration.”

She ordered her foreign affairs and security branches to establish cooperative relations with Trump’s transitional team, taking into consideration the serious nuclear and missile threat posed by North Korea.

The Korean government congratulated Trump on being elected as the 45th president of the United States, said the Blue House through a press release.

Park sent a congratulatory letter to Trump on his victory on Wednesday, saying she looks forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation to advance the Korea-U.S. alliance and resolve the North Korea nuclear issue.

Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se said he believes a Trump administration will maintain Washington’s policy of pressuring Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile program and will continue to put emphasis on the South Korea-U.S. military alliance.

Since the real estate mogul paraded onto the electoral scene in June 2015, Koreans have been wary of what a Trump presidency means for its alliance with the United States because of controversial proposals he has made during his campaign.

Trump claimed that as president he would withdraw U.S. troops from Korea unless Seoul pays more, ignoring that it already pays around half the cost. He has also questioned Washington’s extended nuclear umbrella in the region, suggesting Seoul should have its own nuclear weapons to fend off Pyongyang, though he indicated he is open to meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“No matter which candidate is elected president, I believe we share the same position on the Korea-U.S. alliance and the North Korea nuclear issue,” Yun said during a government and ruling party meeting at the National Assembly to discuss the impact of the U.S. election on Korea’s economy, diplomacy and security situation.

“Trump has said the biggest problem facing the world economy is the nuclear threat and his foreign affairs and security advisers have also recognized this importance,” said Yun. “The next U.S. administration is expected to maintain a policy of pressure and sanctions against North Korea.”

“We need to build dialogue channels with the Trump campaign,” Chung Jin-suk, the floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, said in a party meeting.

“From what I see historically on foreign affairs and security issues,” said J. James Kim, a research fellow with the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, “there have been quite a few cases where candidates have said they would do one thing but when they carried out their actual policies, they took a difference stance. President Barack Obama said in 2008 he would scrap Nafta (North American Free Trade Agreement) and President Jimmy Carter said he would withdraw U.S. troops from Korea [in the late 1970s]. There’s not much that we can predict. We can worry, and I understand why, but there is no guarantee he will do as he said.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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