Protecting peace with powerHis first visit to South Korea was a short 24 hours, but nevertheless fruitful. U.S. President Donald Trump assured the Korean people that he was committed to the longstanding alliance between the two countries. His visit had been awaited with unease and anxiety. From his past harsh and outspoken words on trade imbalances and need for bigger defense burden-sharing, many had feared he would demand dramatic changes in the bilateral free trade deal and cause resentment among Koreans during the televised media conference and his address to the National Assembly.
But Trump surprised everyone by being a gentleman — using a respectful tone and manners. He showed sincerity to demonstrate a strong alliance with Korea.
Standing at the podium at the National Assembly on Wednesday as the first U.S. president to do so in 24 years, he spoke highly of South Korea’s achievements and alliance between the two countries. He chose tactful language and a diplomatic solution to North Korean nuclear crisis, and none of the “rocket man” ridicule and “fire and fury” threats. “A sky-top view of this peninsula shows a nation of dazzling light in the South and a mass of impenetrable darkness in the North,” he said in the address.
Pointing out the stark economic disparities of the two Koreas since the war, he said, “Considering the misery wrought by the North Korean dictatorship, it is no surprise that it has been forced to take increasingly desperate measures to prevent its people from understanding this brutal contrast.” No foreign leader has so accurately understood and defined the status quo of the two Koreas.
Yet his message to Pyongyang was crystal-clear: “Do not underestimate us, and do not try us.”
“I want peace through strength,” he went on to say, and warned Pyongyang that it would be a “fatal miscalculation” if it interpreted the past restraint of the United States as weakness.
Trump quenched doubts about Korea’s alliance with the United States. Many experts questioned whether Washington would come to South Korea’s defense at the risk of stoking a nuclear-tipped missile attack to the U.S. mainland from North Korea. Seoul and Washington each benefited from Trump’s visit. Moon played the best host. He flew to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, where Trump headed immediately upon landing in Korea, to greet the U.S. visitor. Such genuine hospitality would have warmed any visitor. The two must use the momentum to build on their mutual trust and jointly find solutions to the North Korean issues.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 9, Page 30