Trump must consult Seoul over any actions on N. Korea

The USS Carl Vinson supercarrier arrives at a port in Busan, 15 March. The Carl Vinson U.S. Navy Strike Group, which includes the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), is moving toward the Korean peninsula to provide a ‘show of force’ against North Korea in the wake of North Korean ballistic missile tests and reported increased activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site. / EPA-Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

The U.S. Donald Trump administration must have prior consultation with Seoul before taking any confrontational actions concerning North Korea, including launching a preemptive strike, South Korean politicians said.

The politicians, including presidential candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), said Seoul is directly involved in the North Korean issue, noting that any actions taken by Washington will have a direct impact on the Korean Peninsula.

The demand for prior consultation comes amid tensions following the surprise U.S. missile attack on Syria on Thursday night, which was seen as a powerful message to rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran, that the U.S. can take military action against them at any time.

The U.S. also signaled during its summit with China on Thursday and Friday that it would continue a hard-line policy on Pyongyang unless the Kim Jong-un regime changes its attitude.

“South Korea should be the owner of North Korean issues and take the lead in dealing with them rather than letting neighboring countries such as the U.S. and China manage them,” Moon told reporters, Saturday, referring to the outcome of the summit talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“The U.S. is talking about various possibilities regarding its confrontational actions on the North. The U.S. must consult with South Korea before whatever measure it takes,” he said.

Moon added that it is improper to hastily interpret Washington’s references to various possibilities as an indication of the will to use military force.

The conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP) spokesman Jeong Jun-kil also said, “The U.S. should keenly consult with South Korea that has a direct stake in security issues of the Korean Peninsula.”

Apparently in line with Washington’s hard-line policy on the North, U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham told the AFP, Sunday, that a U.S. Navy strike group led by the nuclear-powered Carl Vinson carrier is being deployed to waters close to the peninsula to rein in increasing nuclear threats by North Korea.

“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” Benham said.

After the U.S.-China summit at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear during a briefing, Friday, that “North Korea’s posture has to change before there’s any basis for dialogue or discussions” and that the U.S. is “prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us.”

Tillerson did not elaborate on what kinds of unilateral measures his country can take, but the comment was construed as meaning all options, including the use of military force as well as economic and diplomatic sanctions.

But the talks were almost completely overshadowed by Washington’s Tomahawk missile strikes in response to Syria’s use of deadly chemical weapons against civilians earlier this week.

The attack was construed as Trump also sending a message to Pyongyang and Beijing that the U.S. may act in the same way unless the North abandons its nuclear ambition or China reins in the North.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the attack “sends a very strong signal not just to Syria but throughout the world.”

But Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said it is unlikely for Washington to actually launch military attacks on the Kim Jong-un regime, given that the North possesses nuclear capabilities unlike Syria and that China and Russia are strongly opposed to such attacks.

“By talking about military options, the U.S. government is trying to divert American people’s attention from a complex situation in its domestic politics,” Yang said. “South Korea should be active in taking diplomatic steps whenever the U.S. mentions preemptive strikes on the North, but the nation is not doing that. This is a problem.”

Yang added that Seoul and Washington are in an alliance, which means the two sides should share ideas on dealing with the North.

“Whichever measures ― dialogue or military option ― are taken, the U.S. should share its strategies and philosophy with South Korea,” he said. “If not, it is not an alliance.”

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