Relations between the United States and South Korea had their beginnings at the end of World War ll in 1945 when the US occupied the south end of the peninsula and the Soviet Union took the north end pending planned national elections. The two sides could not agree on the type of government (Washington was for a democracy and Moscow favored communism;) hence, an election never took place, resulting in the United Nations recognizing South Korea (Republic of Korea) as the legitimate government.
In 1950, North Korea invaded the ROK and the US sent its military to South Korea to help them fight against the communist invasion. By 1953, the war ended in a stalemate, but the US troops remained, and in 1954, both countries signed the ROK/US Mutual Security Agreement, a pact to defend each other in case of foreign attacks. In reality, this was more of a one-sided agreement. South Korea feared another invasion from North Korea and the presence of the US military hindered such plans.
Post-Korean War, the ROK was ravaged. Its per capita GDP plunged to $64, lower than the African nation of Congo, which was then the poorest. Millions of people were injured, killed and separated from their families. The United States was its single biggest contributor, giving its Asian ally a total of $64 billion in grants, aids, and loans from 1948 to 1978. Its economy grew rapidly in the 1960s and today, it is the fourth biggest economy in Asia, and is a member of the OECD and the G20.
Image source Wikimedia
The ties that bind Seoul and Washington have remained strong. Trade between the two countries reached an estimated $144.6 billion in 2016, and Korea is the US’ sixth biggest goods trading partner. Seoul has the second largest contingent of US military personnel, numbering around 23,500 troops.
But 2017 brought in new leaders for the two nations. President Trump took office in January and President Moon Jae-in in May, and one is as different from the other as night is from day. Trump has shown himself to be a racist, misogynist, and favoring isolationism. Moon is a former student activist and human rights lawyer.
Already, some issues are possible areas of contention. While Trump is aggressively hostile against North Korea and threatens to attack it, Moon, a champion of human and civil rights, prefers the soft approach by engaging in talks to reach an agreement.
On the US’ bilateral trade agreement, Trump wants a renegotiation of the KORUS Free Trade Agreement to reduce US’ trade deficit. He has been quoted as saying that the US is losing $40 billion a year on ROK in trade. The White House Chief Executive has also demanded cost sharing on defense spending with Asian allies and talks on the Special Measures Agreement have begun. During his campaign period, Trump was quite vocal in his criticism of the nation’s expenses for the US troops stationed in allied countries.
South Korea’s show of independence from its benefactor was evident in the High Court’s ruling on the lawsuit that former comfort women brought against the ROK government. The women, now in their 70s, claim that they were forced into prostitution for the US military with the tacit consent of their officials. They won their case and Seoul’s court has ordered the government to pay them damages. While the United States was not a party to the suit, and embassy officials would not comment on it, this is the first official acknowledgment that American soldiers are not as faultless as they are portrayed to be.
What hasn’t changed is its arrogance towards Japan. Japan has taken to heart its war crimes and the atrocities its army has committed against the comfort women of World War ll. It has given billions in aid and compensation and offered numerous apologies to the women. But South Korea’s leaders, past and present, never stop asking for more.
The recent case involving their own government selling their own women to US soldiers should make them realize that they should clean up their own backyard instead of throwing garbage on to other countries.
Kim Jong-un is hosting a dinner for two South Korean delegates, the first time officials from Seoul have met the North Korean leader since he took office in 2011, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
The dinner has been confirmed by a South Korean presidential spokesman.
The South Korean delegation is in Pyongyang for rare talks partly aimed at restarting dialogue between North Korea and the US.
Relations between North Korea and South Korea have warmed following the PyeongChang Winter Games.
In an unprecedented move the delegation includes two ministerial-level envoys – intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security adviser Chung Eui-yong.
According to the North Korean state radio, the delegation was met by Ri Son-gwon, North Korea’s reunification chief, who led talks in the weeks before the Winter Olympics.
During the two-day visit, the South Korean group will focus on establishing conditions for talks aimed at getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons as well as dialogue between the US and Pyongyang.
Chung Eui-yong had earlier told a press briefing he would deliver President Moon Jae-in’s “resolution to maintain the dialogue and improvement in relations between the South and the North… [and] to denuclearize the Korean peninsula”.
On March 3, President Donald Trump said that the US would be prepared to meet North Korea, but reiterated that Pyongyang would first have to “denuke”.
However, North Korea – which has said it wants to talk to the US – said it was “preposterous” for the US to insist on preconditions.
It’s remains unclear who would represent the US in any such meeting.
The top US diplomat on North Korea Joseph Yun announced his decision to retire earlier last week, a departure which could hamper the Trump administration.
The relationship between the US and North Korea were particularly tense before the Winter Olympics, with both countries repeatedly threatening each other with total destruction.
The US has distanced itself from the North Korean overtures during the Games.
VP Mike Pence has said there is “no daylight” between the US and its regional allies on the need to “continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program.
Choi Soon-sil was accused of using her presidential connections to pressure conglomerates – including electronics giant Samsung and retail group Lotte – for millions of dollars in donations to two non-profit foundations she controlled.
She is already serving a three year jail term for a separate charge of corruption, after she was found guilty of using her position to solicit favors for her daughter.
Park Geun-hye meanwhile has been accused of colluding with Choi Soon-sil. She is currently in custody, with a verdict expected later this year.
The court has also found Shin Dong-bin, chairman of the Lotte Group, guilty of offering bribes to Choi Soon-sil, and jailed him for two years and six months.
President Park Geun-hye was officially ousted in March 2017, following parliament’s decision to impeach her. She was the country’s first democratically-elected president to be forced from office.
After losing her presidential immunity, Park Geun-hye was charged with bribery, abusing state power and leaking state secrets, and her trial began in May.
South Korean and North Korean athletes entered under the same flag during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
North Korea ice hockey player Chung Gum Hwang and South Korean bobsledder Won Yun-jong were joint flagbearers.
Olympic president Thomas Bach has declared: “We are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us.”
Russian athletes came in under the neutral Olympic flag during the ceremony.
Russia is banned from the Games, and the forthcoming Paralympics, as a consequence of the 2016 McLaren report which claimed more than 1,000 of its sportspeople benefitted from state-sponsored doping.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) invited 169 Russians who have met the anti-doping criteria to compete as independent athletes and their team will be known as the ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’.
An estimated 35,000 spectators inside the Olympic Stadium were given seat warmers, wind shields, hats and gloves with temperatures as low as -6C during the two hour-long ceremony.
Senior political figures from North Korea and the United States – two of the countries at the center of the political row – were both present.
Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, was sat one row behind VP Mike Pence in the VIP section.
South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in shook hands with Kim Yo-jong and said at the ceremony: “I would like to take this opportunity to convey greetings and a message of friendship from the people of Korea.
“The Seoul 1988 Summer Games paved the way for reconciliation between east and west – breaking down the wall of the Cold War. Thirty years after hosting the Summer Games, the Pyeongchang Olympics has commenced with a hope for peace from everyone around the world.
“It was with an ardent desire that the people of Korea aspired to host the Winter Games, the only divided nation in the world. It mirrors the Olympic spirit in its pursuit of peace.”
North Korea announced it was to send a delegation to Pyeongchang in January after it met its South counterparts in their first high-level talks in more than two years.
The North Korean team consists of 22 athletes who will compete in five sports, although their women’s ice hockey players will compete in a unified Korean team. They played together for the first time on February 4 in their only practice match, which they lost 3-1 to Sweden.
The ‘wow moments’ in the ceremony included the formation of the Olympic Rings made up of 1,218 drones – a Guinness World Record for drones used in a performance – and 100 skiers.
There was also ‘the vision of peace in the sky’ which was a constellation inside the arena, while ‘the balance of yin and yang’ saw Korean drummers perform in unison before forming the South Korea flag. And the center of the stadium was lit up in the eye-catching ‘link to the world’ segment.
It all culminated in the ceremony centerpiece, which was the traditional lighting of the Olympic flame. That saw the final torchbearer Yuna Kim, who won Olympic ice skating gold in 2010, at the top of a slope light the flame as 30 fire rings ascended towards the white moon-shaped porcelain cauldron.
Believed to have been born in 1987, Kim Yo-jong is the youngest daughter of late leader Kim Jong-il and is Kim Jong-un’s full sister. She is about four years younger than her brother and is said to be very close to him.
Kim Yo-jong is reportedly married to the son of Choe Ryong-hae, the powerful party secretary.
She has been in the spotlight sporadically in recent years, with her main job being to protect her brother’s image via her role in the party’s propaganda department.
Kim Yo-jong remains blacklisted by the United States over alleged links to human rights abuses in North Korea.
It would be the first by a direct member of the Kim dynasty.
Chang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un’s uncle and brother in law of Kim Jong-il, did travel to South Korea but did not belong to the Baekdu blood line, which is considered significant.
North Korea’s head of state Kim Yong-nam will go to PyeongChang this week for the Winter Olympics.
Kim Yong-nam, 90, is the most senior official to ever visit South Korea.
North Korea confirmed his attendance at the opening ceremony, set for February 9.
Both Koreas will march under one flag at the opening ceremony.
Although Kim Yong-nam’s attendance at the Winter Olympics signals a thaw in relations between the Koreas, experts say it is unlikely to have any impact on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Kim Yong-nam will be in South Korea for a three-day visit and will lead a 22-member delegation.
He has seen the rule of all three North Korean leaders in his career.
Kim Yong-nam is the ceremonial head of state who receives credentials from foreign diplomats in Pyongyang. As such, he is usually responsible for sending condolences or congratulatory messages to foreign leaders.
He has been the president of North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, since 1998.
Unlike North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-nam has traveled abroad on official visits. In August 2017, he travelled to Iran to attend President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration ceremony for his second term in office.
Kim Yong-nam also attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
He is said to be a loyal follower of the top leadership.
“As Kim is known to be acting and speaking under the country’s guidance, he makes no mistakes. That’s why he could keep his high-level post in a country where political purges are common,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted one North Korean defector as saying.
South Korea has said it will seek high-level talks with the North Korean delegation during the visit, Yonhap reported.
Kim Yong-nam’s attendance at the opening ceremony will also put him in the company of Vice President Mike Pence, at a point of high tension with Washington over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
On February 4, the Washington Post reported that Fred Warmbier, whose son Otto Warmbier was jailed by North Korea and died days after returning to the United States, would attend the opening ceremony as a guest of VP Mike Pence.
Fred Warmbier and his wife, Cindy, were guests of President Donald Trump at last week’s State of the Union address.
On February 5, North Korea proposed sending an art troupe to the Games by ferry, a move that would require an exemption from bilateral sanctions.
According to South Korea’s unification ministry, Pyongyang proposed that its delegation use the Mangyongbong 92, a ferry that usually operates between North Korea and Russia, for transportation and as accommodation for the group.
All North Korean ships have been banned from entering South Korean ports since 2010.
South Korean ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a press conference: “We’re seeking to apply an exemption… to support a successful hosting of the Olympics.”
On February 4, the united Korean women’s ice hockey team played its first match, but lost the friendly against Sweden 1-3.
The outing was the first and only practice match for the newly minted Korean squad.
As well as the ice hockey players, North Korean athletes will compete in skiing and figure skating events. It is also sending hundreds of delegates, cheerleaders and performers.
North Korea currently faces growing international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs after it conducted a series of missile tests designed to demonstrate its nuclear capability.
Its participation in the Olympics, which run from February 9 to 25, was an unexpected warming of ties.
Meanwhile, although South Korea and the US have agreed to delay the annual big joint military exercises which always enrage North Korea, they will still go ahead at the end of the Paralympics.
North Korea and South Korea will march together under a single “unified Korea” flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
In rare talks at the truce village of Panmunjom, the two Koreas also agreed to field a joint women’s ice hockey team.
These are the first high-level talks between North Korea and South Korea in more than two years.
It marks a thaw in relations that began in the new year when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered to send a team to the games.
The games will take place between February 9 and 25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
If the plans are realized, a hundreds-strong North Korean delegation – including 230 cheerleaders, 140 orchestral musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes – could cross into South Korea via the land border to attend the Winter Olympics.
It will mean the opening of the cross border road for the first time in almost two years.
The two Koreas have also agreed to field a joint team for the sport of women’s ice hockey. It would be the first time athletes from both Koreas have competed together in the same team at an Olympic Games.
North Korea has also agreed to send a smaller, 150-member delegation to the Paralympics in March.
The agreement will have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on January 20, because North Korea has missed registration deadlines or failed to qualify.
South Korea will also need to find ways to host the North Korean delegation without violating UN Security Council sanctions outlawing cash transfers to Pyongyang and blacklisting certain senior North Korean officials.
South Korea’s hockey coach and conservative newspapers have expressed concern about the prospect of a united hockey team, saying it could damage South Korea’s chances of winning a medal.
Tens of thousands of people are said to have signed online petitions urging South Korean President Moon Jae-in to scrap the plan.
However, the president told South Korean Olympic athletes on January 17 that North Korea’s participation in the Games would help improve inter-Korean relations.
President Moon Jae-in has said the Olympic agreement could pave the way for the nuclear issue to be addressed and lead to dialogue between North Korea and the US, according to Yonhap news agency in Seoul.
North Korea has accepted South Korea’s proposal to hold military talks to defuse border tension, after their first high-level meeting in two years.
It will also send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games taking place in South Korea in February.
According to the South Korean government, an agreement was also reached to reinstate a military hotline suspended two years ago.
However, the North Korean delegation was negative on the subject of denuclearization, South Korea added.
The US gave a cautious welcome to the meeting.
The state department said the United States remained in close consultations with South Korean officials who would ensure North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics did not violate UN sanctions.
After a day of negotiations, both Koreas issued a joint statement which confirmed they had agreed to hold military talks on defusing military tension.
North Korea also agreed to send a National Olympic Committee delegation, athletes, cheerleaders, art performers, spectators, a taekwondo demonstration team and media to the games, while South Korea would provide the necessary amenities and facilities.
The statement also referred to exchanges in other, unspecified areas and other high-level talks to improve relations, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.
South Korea asked North Korea to end any hostile acts that might raise tension, while the North agreed there was a need to guarantee a peaceful environment on the peninsula, a statement from the South’s government said.
The South also proposed that athletes from both Koreas march together at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang as they did at the 2006 Winter Olympics. It also pushed for the reunion of family members separated by the Korean War – a highly emotional issue for both countries – to take place during the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls in the middle of the Games.
South Korea said it would consider temporarily lifting relevant sanctions, in co-ordination with the UN, to facilitate North Korea’s participation in the Olympics.
North Korea’s reaction to these proposals is not known.
In his opening remarks, the head of North Korea’s delegation, Ri Son-gwon, was fairly neutral. He said he hoped the talks would bring a “good gift” for the new year and that his country had a “serious and sincere stance”.
Talks were held in the Panmunjom “peace village” in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the border.
Five senior officials on each side attended and the leaders of both were said to have watched the talks via a CCTV feed.
In his New Year address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had said he was considering sending a team to the Olympics. South Korea’s Olympics chief had said last year that North Korea’s athletes would be welcome.
Following Kim Jong-un’s overture, South Korea then proposed high-level talks to discuss North Korea’s participation, but the North only agreed to the talks after the US and the South agreed to delay their joint military exercises until after the Olympics. North Korea sees the annual drills as a rehearsal for war.
Some critics in the US see North Korea’s move as an attempt to divide the US-South Korea alliance.
In a New Year speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said a nuclear launch button is “always on my table” and warned the US it will never be able to start a war.
Kim Jong-un said the entire US was within range of North Korean nuclear weapons, adding: “This is reality, not a threat.”
However, he also offered a potential olive branch to South Korea, suggesting he was “open to dialogue”.
Kim Jong-un also announced that North Korea may also send a team to the Winter Olympics in Seoul.
When asked by reporters to respond to Kim Jong-un’s latest threats, President Donald Trump said: “We’ll see, we’ll see.”
President Trump was speaking at the sidelines of New Year’s Eve celebrations at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
North Korea has come under increased criticism and sanctions over the past year because of its nuclear weapons program and repeated testing of conventional missiles.
During the time, North Korea claimed to have a fully deployable nuclear weapon, though there is still some international skepticism about its true capacity to carry out such an attack.
In his televised speech, Kim Jong-un re-emphasized his focus on the weapons program, but implied the country still has a few stages left to go before achieving its ambitions. North Korea must “mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles and speed up their deployment”, he said.
Kin Jong-un also said they would not use their weapons unless they felt that peace was threatened.
While his language against the United States remained tough, Kim Jong-un did not employ his typically antagonistic tone when speaking about his neighbors in South Korea.
He said: “The year 2018 is a significant year for both the North and the South, with the North marking the 70th anniversary of its birth and the South hosting the Winter Olympics.
“We should melt the frozen North-South relations, thus adorning this meaningful year as a year to be specially recorded in the history of the nation.”
A spokesperson for South Korean President Moon Hae-in said their office had “always stated our willingness to talk with North Korea at anytime and anywhere”.
“We hope the two Koreas will sit down and find a solution to lower tensions and establish peace on the Korean peninsula.”
Kim Jong-un also said he would also consider sending a delegation to the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February – a gesture which South Korea has previously suggested would be welcome.
“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people and we wish the Games will be a success,” he said.
“Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility.”
Lee Hee-beom, the president of the PyeongChang Games’ organizing committee, told South Korea’s news agency Yonhap he was delighted to hear of the potential participation.
He said: “[The committee] enthusiastically welcomes it. It’s like a New Year’s gift.”
The only two North Korean athletes who qualified for the Games are figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik.
Although North Korea has missed the official deadline to confirm their participation, the skaters could still compete with an invitation by the International Olympic Committee.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in last month suggested delaying an annual joint military drill with US troops until after the Games. North Korea usually denounces any such exercises as a rehearsal for war.
According to a statement from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the North Korean soldier made it across by passing through the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom, which is the only portion of the DMZ where both forces stand face-to-face.
“He crossed from a North Korea post towards our Freedom House [a building on the South Korean side of the border],” the statement said.
The soldier was hit in the arm and shoulder by gunfire, it added.
According to South Korean media this is only the third defection across the JSA since the end of the Cold War. The last time a soldier crossed was in 2007, and before that in 1998.
The number of North Koreans defecting to the South in the first two-thirds of this year dropped by 13% compared with 2016.
According to South Korean officials, from January to August 2017, 780 North Koreans escaped to South Korea.
The fall is believed to be a result of tighter government surveillance and reinforced border security by both North Korea and China.
The majority of the defectors flee via China, which has the longest border with North Korea that is easier to cross than the heavily protected Demilitarized Zone.
South Korea says more than 30,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
Municipalities should create an environment where their citizens can live happily.
Brookhaven does not currently seem to have such common sense.
A bronze statue called the “Statue of Peace” will debut in a Brookhaven city park on June 30th. The name sounds quite nice, but there are two big problems with this statue.
Park risks becoming a place for political propaganda
On the 19th, “Reporter Newspaper” reported on some citizen’s opposition to the statue’s installation. Looking at the photos featured in this article, few people are likely to imagine a normal park where children run around. In a beautiful green environment, a mysterious statue of a girl is suddenly about to appear.
This statue is modeled after women called comfort women. Comfort women are women who care for soldiers fighting on the front lines during a war. In other words, these women provide sexual services to soldiers. Their purpose is to resolve unfulfilled desires and to help soldiers concentrate on battle. The statue to debut in Brookhaven is modeled after Korean women who provided services to Japanese soldiers during World War II.
“It is compatible with the theme and imagery of the memorial”. This statement was made by Burke Brennan, the city’s spokesperson. Does he mean to say that “women who provide sexual services” are the appropriate theme for a quiet green place?
Furthermore, the comfort women topic sparking discussion actually violates South Korea’s international pledge. The problem of comfort women has long created a rift in South Korean-Japanese diplomatic relations. However, almost one and a half years ago, South Korea and Japan signed an international treaty. They put a stop to the issue of comfort women, which had become a wall between the two countries. They signed an international pledge stating that Japan would once again pay reparations to South Korea and issue an official apology, and that neither country would ever again bring up this topic. But establishing a comfort woman statue in support of South Koreans’ claims will increase tension between South Korea and Japan. By getting involved in this political dispute, Brookhaven is about to once again divide these two Asian countries. There will likely be less visitors to the park because of the installation of this statue. One can imagine the strange scenario of the park being visited only by South Koreans.
South Korean prostitution encroaches on US
New York, Texas, Georgia, Indiana. These are places where South Korean prostitutes have been exposed. The Department of State report on the eradication of human trafficking stated that at 25%, Korean women made up the largest percentage of foreign female prostitutes in the US. One rumor raises concern that wave may have reached Brookhaven. That rumor involves the close relationship of a certain strip club and a South Korean organization in Atlanta.
There is no one in Brookhaven who doesn’t know about this club, called “Pink Pony.” Strip clubs are prohibited in this city, but Pink Pony has remained in business by paying the police something called a “patrol fee.” At the beginning of this year, a prostitution incident involving Pink Pony occurred in the neighboring Sandy Springs. Also, the South Korean organization in Atlanta has only one goal. That is to establish a statue for comfort women. They actually tried to have a statue installed in Atlanta, but were refused and failed.
Pink Pony is given special permission to operate illegally, and then a comfort woman statue is suddenly installed in a city with a calm atmosphere. What these two things have in common is this Atlanta South Korean organization. It is difficult to explain this as a coincidence.
South Korea’s sports minister had suggested a joint ice hockey team – even going as far as to suggest they might allow the north to host skiing events – to help make the 2018 games a “peace Olympics”.
President Moon Jae-in, who advocates greater dialogue with South Korea’s neighbors, then put forward the idea of a wider unified Olympic squad.
How Chang Un said the games should not be used for political purposes, adding: “As an expert of the Olympics, it is a little late to be talking about co-hosting. It’s easy to talk about co-hosting, but it is never easy to solve practical problems for that. It’s the same for forming a joint team for ice hockey.”
South Korean officials have said they continue to be open to the idea.
The two sides remain technically at war as the fighting at the end of the Korean War in 1953 did not end with a peace treaty. Tensions have risen recently following repeated missiles tests carried out by Pyongyang.
The US has also ramped up its military presence in the region, conducting drills with Japan as well as South Korea, and is installing a controversial missile defense system in South Korea, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
However, South Korea recently said it was suspending the further deployment of the system until an environmental assessment was completed.
Experts fear the tests indicate progress towards North Korea’s ultimate goal of putting a nuclear warhead on a missile.
The latest firing, however, does not violate the UN Security Council’s resolutions against the North, as those resolutions only ban ballistic missile launches, reported South Korean news agency Yonhap.
South Korean military spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said the latest launch showed the North “likely wanted to show off its ability to precisely target a large warship” after recent military drills involving US aircraft carriers and South Korean troops.
“By testing different types of missiles, North Korea also appears to be aiming to secure the upper hand in relations with South Korea and the United States,” Roh Jae-cheon told reporters.
Anti-ship cruise missiles are guided missiles which generally skim the water. In 2012, North Korea displayed several such weapons known as Styx.
North Korea has also previously unsuccessfully tested anti-ship ballistic missiles, experts believe.
Last week the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution to impose targeted sanctions on certain North Korean officials and state entities.
The US has also ramped up its military presence in the region, conducting drills with Japan as well as South Korea, and is installing a controversial missile defense system in South Korea, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
However, South Korea said on June 7 it was suspending the further deployment of the system until an environmental assessment is completed.
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?
Photo source: www.salon.com
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.
A record turnout is predicted, with numbers boosted by younger voters, as South Koreans choose from 13 candidates.
Polls close at 20:00 local time, with the winner expected to be announced soon after. The new leader is likely to be sworn-in on May 10.
Heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula in recent weeks have made the perennial worries over the South’s volatile neighbor a key issue.
Moon Jae-in, of the Democratic Party of Korea, has advocated greater dialogue with North Korea while maintaining pressure and sanctions.
Both Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo have urged President Donald Trump to cool his rhetoric towards North Korea after his administration suggested it could take military action over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
However, Hong Joon-pyo of the conservative governing Liberty Korea Party has attacked Moon Jae-in’s approach, saying last week that the election was a “war of regime choices”.
North Korea state media said it favored a return to an earlier era of communication and co-operation known as the Sunshine policy, seen as an endorsement of Moon Jae-in who was part of the previous South Korean government which promoted that policy.
All the candidates are promising to protect the fragile recovery in the country’s economy – the fourth largest in Asia – and to bring down youth unemployment, which remains stubbornly high.
There have been vows to reform the family-run conglomerates – chaebols – which dominate the domestic economy.
Whoever wins will have to tackle ties with China, which retaliated economically over the deployment of a US missile defense system in South Korea.
China also strongly opposes the system, believing it interferes with the security of its own military operations. On May 2, Beijing demanded the deployment be halted.
China would “firmly take necessary measures to uphold our interests”, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
However, Geng Shuang welcomed President Trump’s suggestion of meeting Kim Jong-un, saying China had “always believed that dialogue and consultation… is the only realistic and viable way to achieve denuclearization”.
When the announcement of the THAAD deployment was made last year, North Korea promised a physical response, with state media expressing the “unwavering will of our army to deal a ruthless retaliatory strike”.
A spokesman for the US forces based in South Korea said THAAD now had “the ability to defend the Republic of Korea”.
However, the system only has “initial intercept capability”, a US defense official told AFP. It will be strengthened later this year as more parts of the system arrive.
Experts fear North Korea could be planning more tests – it has marked some key anniversaries in the past with nuclear tests or missile launches.
However, South Korea’s defense ministry said “no unusual development had been detected”.
Image source Wikimedia
Instead, Pyongyang conducted a large live-fire drill around the city of Wonsan, South Korea said.
“Our military is closely monitoring the North Korean military’s movement,” the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
North Korea conducted a failed ballistic missile test on April 16, prompting VP Mike Pence to warn it not to “test” President Donald Trump.
In an unusual move, the entire Senate has been asked to attend a briefing on North Korea on April 26 at the White House.
The USS Michigan docked at South Korea’s Busan port on April 25, in what it called a routine visit. It is a nuclear-powered submarine carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 60 special operations troops and mini-subs, reported the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
The submarine is expected to take part in military exercises with the Carl Vinson warship group, which the US said it was dispatching to North Korea earlier this month to “maintain readiness” in the region.
At the time, President Trump said that he was sending an “armada” to the region and that the US had submarines which were “very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier”.
North Korea reacted angrily to the aircraft carrier deployment, threatening to sink it and launch a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike” against what it called US aggression.
However, the US warships caused some confusion and attracted mockery when it emerged that they actually sailed in the opposite direction, away from North Korea, after the announcement. However, US Navy officials said they are now proceeding to the region as ordered.
China is North Korea’s only ally and main trading partner – and the US has been urging Beijing to help put pressure on Pyongyang.
China’s President Xi Jinping spoke to President Donald Trump on April 24, urging all sides to “maintain restraint and avoid actions that would increase tensions”.
Meanwhile South Korea and China – North Korea’s closest ally – have warned of more stringent sanctions if Pyongyang conducts more missile tests.
Image source Wikimedia
The Carl Vinson Strike Group comprises an aircraft carrier and other warships. The warship was due to make port calls in Australia but instead has been diverted from Singapore to the west Pacific, where it recently conducted exercises with the South Korean Navy.
“We will hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions,” said the foreign ministry statement quoted by KCNA.
“The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US,” it said.
The US naval deployment showed North Korea had been right to develop nuclear weapons capability for use in self defense or in a pre-emptive strike, the statement added.
On April 10, China’s envoy for the Korean peninsula, Wu Dawei met with South Korea’s foreign minister and top nuclear envoy.
This test came from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan and will be seen as a response to annual military drills under way between the US and South Korea, which North Korea sees as preparation for an attack on it.
North Korea is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the US, and has previously claimed it had successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads so they can fit on missiles.
However, most experts believe the North is still some time away from being able to realize such a goal.
Last weekend, North Korea conducted a rocket engine test that its leader Kim Jong-un claimed was a breakthrough in its rocket technology. This has not been confirmed by independent experts.
The move came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Japan, South Korea and China for talks on North Korea’s recent actions, including its two most recent nuclear tests.
South Korea’s opposition seeks the impeachment of acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn over his decisions on the country’s corruption scandal.
The interim leader decided not to extend a special prosecutor’s investigation which involves his predecessor, President Park Geun-hye.
Prosecutors want more time to question her over the scandal.
Park Geun-hye is awaiting a separate ruling on her December impeachment from the constitutional court.
She is still technically president, though she has been stripped of her powers while the constitutional court decides her fate. As long as she remains president, she is immune from prosecution.
However, the wider corruption investigation which emerged from the scandal will now end on February 28, before special prosecutors have the opportunity to question Park Geun-hye.
Any further investigation will fall to individual state prosecutors.
Image source Wikipedia
Hwang Kyo-ahn, who remains prime minister while he sits in for the president, said that continuing the investigation is not in the best interests of the nation.
His spokesman said: “After much deliberation [the acting president] has decided that it would be best for country’s stability to not extend the special investigation and for the prosecutors to take over.”
Choo Mi-ae, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, said Hwang Kyo-ahn’s decision indicated he was trying “to become Park’s shield to protect her and her associates”.
Park Geun-hye was impeached weeks after her old friend Choi Soon-sil was arrested.
In a written statement on February 27, Park Geun-hye maintained her innocence, but said she had “belated regret, that I should have been more cautious with my trust in her.”
Choi Soon-sil is accused of using her presidential connections to pressure companies for millions of dollars in donations to two non-profit foundations she controlled. President Park Geun-hye is alleged to have been personally involved.
On November 20, Choi Soon-sil was charged with various offences, including abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud, leading to the wider investigation.
Samsung vice-president was also arrested in connection with the probe.
The company is accused of giving donations to non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-sil in exchange for government favors.
Park Geun-hye’s case at the constitutional court also heard the final arguments on February 27. It is not known when the final verdict will be delivered.
The court may reject Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, restoring her powers and returning the country to its status quo.
If, however they uphold the parliament’s decision, a presidential election must be held.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets calling on ousted President Park Geun-hye to step down immediately, rather than continue to fight her impeachment in the constitutional court.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has said any use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response.
He spoke in South Korea, where he had been reaffirming US support, before flying to Tokyo.
James Mattis also reconfirmed plans to deploy a US missile defense system in South Korea later this year.
North Korea’s repeated missile and nuclear tests and aggressive statements continue to alarm and anger the region.
Image source Wikimedia
The US has a considerable military presence in South Korea and Japan, as part of a post-war defense deal. There are just under 28,500 US troops in the country, for which Seoul pays about $900 million annually.
President Donald Trump has previously said he wants both South Korea and Japan to pay more towards maintaining that presence.
According to the Pentagon, James Mattis used his visit to reassure South Korea that the Trump administration “remains steadfast” in its “iron-clad” defense commitments to the region.
Speaking after talks at the defense ministry with his South Korean counterpart Han Min-koo, James Mattis told reporters that “any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming”.
North Korea conducted its fifth test of a nuclear device in 2016, and claims it is capable of carrying out a nuclear attack on the US, though experts are still unconvinced its technology has progressed that far.
After visiting South Korea, James Mattis flew to Japan, where there are a further 50,000 US soldiers plus their dependants and support staff in Japan. The US paid about $5.5 billion for its Japanese bases in 2016, with Japan paying a further $4 billion.
Defense secretary James Mattis is visiting South Korea on the first foreign trip by a senior official in the Trump administration.
James Mattis is expected to use the visit to reassure Seoul of continuing US commitment to security deals in the face of threats from North Korea.
While campaigning, Donald Trump accused South Korea and Japan of not paying enough for US military support.
Donald Trump also suggested they could be allowed to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.
Both Japan and South Korea rejected this idea.
Image source Wikimedia
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump also said he was willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, contradicting longstanding US, South Korean and Japanese policy.
James Mattis will be in South Korea until February 3, and will hold talks with his Korean counterpart, Han Min-koo, among other officials.
The Pentagon said the visit would “underscore the commitment of the United States to our enduring alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea, and further strengthen US-Japan-Republic of Korea security cooperation”.
James Mattis told reporters he would discuss the planned deployment of a US missile defence system in South Korea, and North Korea’s nuclear program.
His visit comes amid increasing threats from North Korea that it is ready to test-fire a new intercontinental ballistic missile at any time.
Under the Obama administration, the US and South Korea agreed to the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to defend the South from North Korean missiles.
However, the move has angered China, which says it threatens its own security and goes “far beyond the defense needs of the Korean peninsula”.
There are just under 28,500 US military personnel based in South Korea, as part of a post-war arrangement. South Korea pays about $900 million annually towards the deployment.
On February 3, James Mattis will travel to Japan, for talks with Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.
There are a further 50,000 soldiers plus their dependents and support staff in Japan. The US pays about $5.5 billion for its Japanese bases in 2016, with Japan paying a further $4 billion.