As we move past the first 100 days of the Trump administration, focus has started to fall upon President Donald Trump’s Asian foreign policy.
Although many think tanks have not yet evaluated the results of President Barack Obama’s “Pivot to Asia,” they have broadly agreed on its necessity. Now that withdrawal from the TPP has been settled, the major issues concerning the US Asian foreign policy at this time are continuing to maintain the strong military alliance between the United States, Japan, and South Korea and whether or not to oppose the threat of North Korea.
In South Korea, a new president has been elected who wants to revolt against the United States. Speaking in front of his supporters, President Moon Jae-in’s recent remark of “Which president will stand up to America?” can sound as being anti-American and is still fresh in our memories. What is it the new president of South Korea wants to say to President Trump?
President Jae-in has pledged his commitment to easing tensions with North Korea. This path puts President Jae-in in opposition with America’s hardline policy on North Korea and the United Nations’ resolution to impose economic sanctions against the recluse nation. At a parade just after his inauguration, the new president declared his intention to begin talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if the circumstances were right. It will be interesting to see if he can follow through on his promise. With the international community continuing to put pressure on North Korea, President Jae-in’s statements signify a huge difference between his plans and that of the United States which has only hinted at the possibility of negations with North Korea. In what way is South Korea putting pressure on North Korea? Even if talks between the two countries never actually happen, the act itself by President Jae-in’s administration of attempting dialogue without applying pressure is contrary to the Security Council Resolution and could make them the enemies of the world.
President Jae-in has also persisted in pushing his anti-Japanese agenda, suggesting his country withdraws from the Japan-South Korea Agreement on the “Comfort Women” Issue. Were this to happen, it would be an obvious violation of an international treaty as the agreement states that it is “final and irreversible.” South Korea has broken numerous promises before, so it is understandable that the Trump administration would be bothered by this.
South Korea is sparking feelings of victimization and anti-Japanese sentiments among its citizens with its “map of comfort women statues.” Already unnecessary within the country itself, the South Korean government has recent released an international version of this map, expanding such brainwashing abroad. Not only displaying the location of the statues, but of monuments as well, the government propaganda has spread its tentacles to the US, Germany, Australia, and elsewhere. The comfort women issue is between Japan and South Korea, and other nations have no interest in being dragged into a problem with which they have no involvement.
However, the more pressing issue is that the agreement was made a reality through mediation by the United States. Far from just refusing to remove the comfort woman statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul as per the agreement, the South Korean government is accelerating the installation of more such statues and monuments. Violating an international treaty is already a huge issue, but President Jae-in’s trampling of the goodwill of his ally in the United States cannot be said to be anything but a complete revolt against America.
South Korea’s escalation of anti-American and Anti-Japanese sentiment will likely cause the relationship between Japan and South Korea to cool even further and force President Trump to make difficult decisions about his Asian foreign policy.