Looking back on Trump’s trip to Korea

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Looking back on Trump’s trip to Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump concluded a successful two-day state visit to Korea on Wednesday, and issued a CEO-like joint press release with Korea that focused on gains in trade, investment and arms sales.

It was released some eight hours after Trump departed for China, the third leg of his Asia trip. President Moon Jae-in also departed for Indonesia on Wednesday.

The press released generally reflected the points raised in the two presidents’ joint press conference on Tuesday, and touched upon the sensitive issues of the cost-sharing of troops and the free trade agreement (FTA).

In the joint press release, Trump noted that the Korea-U.S. alliance “remains a linchpin for security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.”

Trump and Moon also reiterated their intent “to boost trilateral security cooperation with Japan for enhanced deterrence and defense against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” including through trilateral exercises on missile warning and anti-submarine warfare, as well as to expand information sharing and to enhance joint response capabilities against the North Korean threat.

Trump also acknowledged the revision to the guidelines on payload restrictions on Korean ballistic missiles and highlighted the successful deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.

Prior to Trump’s visit, in a move to get diplomatic relations on Beijing back on track following a yearlong standoff over the American Thaad battery deployment to Korea, the Moon Jae-in administration assuaged China’s concern in three security issues.

It said it is not seeking to join a U.S.-led missile defense regime in the region, it does not plan on additional deployment of Thaad batteries and it will not enter a trilateral military alliance with the United States and Japan.

Trump and Moon also agreed to strengthen “defensive posture and capabilities through the acquisition of advanced military equipment and the enhanced deployment of United States strategic military assets in and around the Republic [of Korea] on a rotational basis.”

It pointed out that Trump and Moon “acknowledged the desire for equitable cost sharing” of U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea and noted the more than $9 billion contribution by Korea for expansion of the Camp Humphreys U.S. garrison. Such talks on defense cost-sharing measures, it said, will continue through upcoming Special Measures Agreement discussions.

While the 1,500-word statement highlighted North Korea and security issues, a good portion of the report emphasizes numbers, brands and products, like a CEO performance report.

Seoul made more than $13 billion in military purchases over the past three years from the United States in an effort to modernize its military.

And Korea plans to substantially increase defense spending by 2022, according to the statement, including on F-35A stealth fighters, AH-64E Apache heavy attack helicopters, Global Hawk high-altitude UAVs and Aegis combat systems.

Trump gave support for Korea’s “acquisition and development of highly advanced military assets, including advanced reconnaissance systems.”

The release also focused heavily on economics, trade and investment agreements.

Trump underscored the need to rebalance the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Korea and achieve “expanded, balanced and reciprocal trade,” toned down from the president’s previous harshly critical remarks on the trade deal.

Likewise, during Trump’s visit, 42 Korean companies announced their intent to implement 64 projects valued at $17.3 billion in the United States over the next four years to 2021, according to the release.

On Wednesday, 24 Korean companies announced plans to purchase $57.5 billion in U.S. goods and services, including $22.8 billion in energy purchases.

It noted that Korea’s foreign direct investment in the United States nearly doubled to $38.8 billion in 2016 compared to $19.7 billion in 2011 - making it the second largest Asian source of foreign direct investment into the United States. Korean companies likewise support nearly 52,000 U.S. jobs.

A separate White House statement Wednesday on the president’s trip to Korea emphasized that the two leaders “praised robust Korean investment in the United States, which will result in thousands of jobs for Americans.”

BY SARAH KIM, JOINT PRESS CORPS [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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