South Korea

South Korea: Focus on Trump's stance on North

US President Donald Trump during a speech in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC.
US President Donald Trump during a speech in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL • All eyes will be on United States President Donald Trump when he delivers a speech in South Korea's Parliament during his state visit next week, with South Koreans hoping to know if he has a definitive stance on North Korea.

While there are hopes of a message of peace, analysts said Mr Trump will most likely seek to exert further pressure on Pyongyang while reaffirming US commitment to Seoul's defence.

"He will probably deliver a very tough message and repeat the position that all options are on the table," said Dr Choi Kang of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies think-tank.

Mr Trump will deliver the speech on Nov 8, a day after a summit with his South Korean counterpart, Mr Moon Jae In - their third meeting so far.

This will be closely watched for potential cracks in the two sides' united front against the North and whether they can reach agreement on issues like the renegotiation of a free trade agreement and the return of wartime operational control from the US to South Korea.

Currently, the US has operational control of both American and Korean troops in South Korea if war breaks out, but Mr Moon's administration wants this control to be transferred to Seoul within his term, meaning before 2022.

UNPREDICTABLE TRUMP

The Korean government will be very nervous while ready to welcome him as well as they can, but the problem is the totally unpredictable nature of Mr Trump's character.

DR CHOI KANG, of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Dr Choi said: "The Korean government will be very nervous while ready to welcome him as well as they can, but the problem is the totally unpredictable nature of Mr Trump's character."

North Korea will also be closely monitoring the visit and waiting to launch its next provocation, he said. The regime last fired a missile on Sept 15.

During his two-day stay, Mr Trump is expected to visit Camp Humphreys, a new major US base in Pyeongtaek, a port city 70km south of Seoul.

 
 

Experts said South Korea will be eager to show its significant contribution to the US-Korean defence burden-sharing deal and ease pressure from the American leader to pay more.

It is not known yet if Mr Trump will visit the heavily guarded demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas. When asked about it last week, he declined to reveal his decision but said it will be a surprise.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'Focus on Trump's stance on North'. Print Edition | Subscribe