Trump talks the talk

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Trump talks the talk

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn reconfirmed the strength of the Korea-U.S. alliance in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump. In a 30-minute talk, Hwang, who has been serving as acting president since President Park Geun-hye was impeached over an abuse of power scandal, pointed out the need to reinforce the comprehensive strategic alliance. In response, Trump said the United States will always go along with South Korea.

Trump’s first dialogue with his counterpart in South Korea since his inauguration on Jan. 20 seems to be somewhat belated. Nevertheless, the conversation carries great significance as it marks the first talk between the two leaders despite all the uncertainties facing South Korea after the presidential impeachment. The conversation also showed Seoul-Washington ties being successfully maintained regardless of our domestic political situation. In particular, the fact that the Trump administration first wanted the conversation translates into Washington’s determination to put the brakes on North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats down the road.

What attracts our special attention is that the conversation took place when the North’s nuclear threats pose a substantial danger to the security of Northeast Asia. North Korea launched over 30 ballistic missiles last year following two nuclear tests the same year. Military experts forecast that the North will deploy nuclear missiles capable of being used in battle this year, as seen in the remarks by senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official Choe Kwang-il, who said Wednesday that the country is ready to test-fire intercontinental ballistic missiles.

We hope that the telephone conversation serves as leverage to establish a real deterrence against the North’s threats as epitomized by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s latest threat to push the entire Korean Peninsula into “a hell of fire.” Trump expressed an intention to closely consult with Seoul over strategies to counter the North’s nuclear and missile threats.

Trump’s defense secretary James Mattis visits Seoul on Feb. 2. Mattis, a retired Marine general, chose South Korea as his first destination for an overseas trip after taking office. Of course, there remains the issue of raising our contribution to maintaining U.S. forces. In the current situation, preventing North Korean provocations is more important — even if that means an increase in our share of our defense costs. South Korea and the United States have been maintaining blood ties since the Korean War to safeguard our democracy. Both sides must not forget that.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 31, Page 26
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