President Trump is arranging for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It is to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam, a meeting place that holds deep significance to many American veterans.
Ahead of the meeting, the President has been actively praising the murderous dictator. Examples abound, including this recent tweet:
This is the time when one looks to regional allies. People who share borders with a hostile country can apply economic pressure and can aid in staging for potential actions. They provide some of the threats which are expected to balance benefits offered during negotiation.
Our two primary allies in the region are South Korea and Japan. This is not an ideal situation.
First, tensions are high between both countries and the United States. Japan is concerned about the construction of a new base in Okinawa the and trade threats which are causing rising tensions with the country which, as recently as two years ago, was the most supportive of President Trump in the international arena. South Korea, on the other hand, has a populace which has grown increasingly distrustful of President Trump, after multiple concessions during the prior NK summit and Trump’s tariff actions against them; and they feel they have been extorted into paying more money for U.S. troop upkeep at their bases, particularly at a time when those troops are not participating in joint operations.
“South Koreans have already seen Trump’s childish behavior many times,” an editorial writer for the conservative Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s most-read newspaper, wrote in a column Friday about Woodward’s book, comparing the president to a “rugby ball that could bounce anywhere” if not watched by others.AP
Equally important, however, is the fact that tensions are high between South Korea and Japan.
Japan’s abuses of Korea during the period during and immediately preceding World War II are well documented. Because the crimes were so widespread, the Japanese response after WWII ended their imperialism was to effectively pay restitution to the entire South Korean government. The details of that restitution were laid out in the Treaty on Basic Relations between the two countries, signed in 1964.
Under the arrangement, Japan sent millions of dollars in loans and grants to South Korea, building it from a weak nation into an economic powerhouse. The Japanese, in turn, got what amounted to a clean slate.
In late October, all of that changed with a ruling by the South Korean Supreme Court.
“We have a court saying a corporation is responsible for forced labor and that restitution must be paid, no matter what governments have agreed,” said Christopher Gerteis, a Japan expert and associate professor of history at SOAS University of London.New York Times
The result set off a flurry of new cases by South Korean individuals against Japanese companies, as well as bringing back into focus the cases of South Korean “comfort women”, victims of forced prostitution for the Japanese military.
The relations between the two countries are generally acknowledged to be the worst they’ve been since the signing of the Treaty on Basic Relations, with the South Korean President pressing for in-person apologies to South Korean “comfort women” by the current state figurehead Emperor of Japan in his position as the son of the WWII leader, as noted in the Straits Times.
Recent articles in Defense News even address concerns about possible military actions between the two U.S. allies based on recent arguments over air and sea radar usage.
The U.S. should be focusing its efforts on calming the waters between the U.S.’s two strongest regional allies, then focusing on pressuring NK to abide by human rights standards before negotiating to increase their presence on the world stage.
Instead, we’re going into the second summit holding very few cards, with our regional support upset both with us and each other.