Moon must study TrumpThe first summit between President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump, scheduled for June 29 and 30 in Washington, will be an intense event.
Moon has a very different perspective toward the United States. Trump, who promotes an “America First” policy, demands allies share a larger portion of defense costs, and vows to renegotiate the free trade agreement. Trump is clearly different from all the previous U.S. presidents so far and brings a higher uncertainty.
Therefore, accurately and thoroughly understanding Trump is directly linked to the success of the summit and Moon’s diplomacy during the trip.
In order to understand him, his first overseas trip in May must be studied carefully. He demonstrates his character clearly wherever he goes and his visits all made major headlines.
The peak was the Group of 7 summit in Italy on May 26 and 27. Trump refused to make a promise to respect the Paris agreement on climate change. The other six leaders tried to persuade him but failed.
On June 1, the White House declared that it will abandon the Paris agreement. The action threatens the existence of the agreement, in which 195 countries, including the United States, agreed in 2015 to systemically reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the sake of humanity.
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said, declaring that winning the support of the Rust Belt is more important than being a global leader. For him, global leadership and responsibility appear to mean nothing.
At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Brussels on May 25, Trump was the only person who got angry. He yelled at leaders of the allies that 23 of the 28 NATO countries do not spend more than 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. “Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money” from past years and are not paying, he said.
He also declined to affirm the Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, a provision that binds all member countries to each other’s defense. It was the first time since 1949. He made clear that money is more important than the alliance based on democracy and the history of fighting together.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia on May 19, he condemned Iran, the main rival of Saudi Arabia, for supporting terrorism without solid evidence.
The criticism put serious a damper on the efforts to bring Iran back to the international community following its nuclear deal with the UN Security Council’s permanent members and Germany to suspend the nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.
After Saudi Arabia isolated its neighbor Qatar on June 4, Trump took credit for it. Saudi Arabia claimed that the reason behind its move was the suspicion that its energy-rich neighbor had supported terrorists. Trump bluntly supported the Saudis.
In fact, Saudi Arabia promised to spend $110 billion on arms purchases during Trump’s visit.
It also agreed to invest $350 billion in military equipment trades over the next 10 years and signed $55 billion in deals with U.S. defense, manufacturing and oil companies.
What’s important is that Qatar is the most important and largest military outpost of the United States in the Middle East for its geopolitical location.
About 10,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed there. Since 1992, air bases and the operations center of the U.S. Central Command have been placed in the country; the U.S. Navy fleet also makes port calls.
Among the Arab nations, Qatar was a rare member of the allied forces during the Gulf War. It is a friend of the United States that participated in NATO’s Libya bombing to bring down Muammar el-Qaddaffi in 2011.
And yet, Trump sided with the Saudis, which made him the “Business President.” He didn’t care about balance in diplomacy.
The British daily Independent reported that Trump’s failed real estate deal with Qatar in 2010 could be the reason behind his action. It shows that, for Trump, business is more important than allies and geopolitics.
And it is important to remember that the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change, crushed by Trump, are both known as the greatest achievements of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Moon must never forget that it is prohibited to mention the predecessor’s accomplishments before Trump. Diplomacy is a reality.
No matter how trivial it seems, Moon must thoroughly understand Trump’s character before sitting down with him. Only then can Moon be in the the driver’s seat.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 16, Page 32
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.