North Korea

Depending on Trump, President Moon Jae-in is Probably Doomed

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

We've all had our share of bad ideas in our lives, but South Korean President Moon Jae-in's decision to wed his administration to the whims of Donald Trump is difficult to relate to.

President Moon Jae-in is visiting the White House tomorrow and Bloomberg reports that he plans to use the opportunity to beg Trump to reengage with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The South Korean leader is slated to visit the White House on Thursday in a bid to rescue talks thrown into doubt when Trump walked away from his Feb. 28 summit with Kim in Hanoi, saying North Korea wasn’t making sufficient commitments to give up its nuclear weapons. [...]

His approval rating fell to a record low of 41 percent last week, according to Gallup Korea, compared with 83 percent in the wake of his first meeting with Kim last April. [...]

Moon will probably use the meeting to continue to press for relaxing sanctions to resume stalled inter-Korean economic projects such as joint factory park and mountain resort -- even through waivers could be revoked.

President Moon Jae-in is an untenable position because he's not only depending on the whims of Trump, he's also proposing a bad idea.

Economically engaging with the North without any progress toward disarmament or at least political reform means freely engaging with a regime that works political prisoners to death in labor camps; where millions live in squalid poverty to afford the cost of a massive military and a nuclear weapons program.

Moon Jae-in obviously has his own domestic politics to consider, but there are times when he appears even more eager to give Kim Jong-un everything he wants than Trump is.

For what it's worth, the Washington Post reports that South Korea officials blame National Security Adviser John Bolton for the breakdown in talks, but I don't believe it's that simple.

Moon Chung-in, a Yonsei University professor and an adviser to Moon who stressed he was speaking in a personal capacity, said that many in Seoul blamed the summit impasse on Bolton, a staunch opponent of diplomatic talks before joining the administration.

“We all thought there was something wrong. Our suspicions arose with John Bolton’s behavior,” Moon Chung-in said, describing how Bolton canceled a visit to South Korea ahead of the Hanoi summit.

“There is widespread understanding that Mr. John Bolton [must] have played a very, very negative role,” Moon Chung-in said.

It's probably true that John Bolton is a bad influence, but it's also true that Trump is a rogue actor who flies by the seat of his pants.

  • muselet

    In fairness, South Korea is well within range of North Korea’s missiles (hell, it’s within range of a North Korean slingshot). Moon Jae-in finds himself stuck between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, so of course he’s going to try to broker some sort of peace deal, even one that gives Kim everything he wants.

    John Bolton almost certainly threw sand in the gears, but he probably wasn’t responsible for the breakdown of negotiations. Kim badly overplayed his hand and even Trump realized the talks were going nowhere.

    I’m honestly not sure which would be worse, Moon succeeding in convincing Trump to continue negotiating with Kim or Moon failing to convince Turmp. Either outcome could go horribly wrong.

    –alopecia

  • katanahamon

    Well, all he needs to do is give Rump some nice beachfront property to build a casino on…