(ANTIMEDIA) South Korea — More drills are being conducted off the Korean Peninsula in a continuing show of force by the U.S., Japan, and the currently leaderless South Korea. These drills are aimed at getting Kim Jong-un to back off from his nuclear ambitions, the mainstream narrative goes, but South Korea’s likely next president just had some surprising warnings for the United States.
Moon Jae-in, 64, is a former human rights lawyer who was once chief of staff for South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun. Barring a major upset, Moon will become the south’s new leader Tuesday, and his views on how to handle the North Korea situation differ greatly from the Trump administration’s.
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In an interview that ran Tuesday, Moon told the Washington Post he thinks South Korea should “take the lead on matters on the Korean Peninsula,” and that it isn’t right that the fate of Koreans, whether north or south, is being decided by outside forces.
“I do not see it as desirable for South Korea to take the back seat and watch discussions between the U.S. and China,” he said, adding that if he’s elected — and were he allowed to take charge of negotiations — talks with Kim Jong-un wouldn’t happen until he had “fully consulted” ally the United States.
On the subject of those hypothetical negotiations, Moon said they will never take place if the north continues to refuse to give ground on the nuclear front:
“I could sit down with Kim Jong Un, but I will not meet him for the sake of meeting him. I will meet Kim Jong Un when preconditions of resolving the nuclear issue are assured.”
Moon views the current U.S.-led strategy to tame Kim-Jong un as only escalating an already tense situation — a situation not all helped by the expedited deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea, a move critics argue has made it all but impossible for a peaceful solution to be reached.
South Koreans are losing trust in the United States, and a great way for the U.S. to gain that trust back is to provide a show of faith — by stepping back and allowing South Korea to try to directly negotiate with Kim Jong-un.
“If South Korea can have more time to process this matter democratically,” Moon told the Washington Post, “the U.S. will gain a higher level of trust from South Koreans and, therefore, the alliance between the two nations will become even stronger.”
Of the democratic process, Moon notes that the THAAD deployment came at a time of great political and regional unrest for South Korea and that such a move would never be made in the U.S. without congressional involvement:
“Would it happen this way in the United States? Could the administration make a unilateral decision without following democratic procedures, without ratification or agreement by Congress?”
Moon stressed that he isn’t saying that, as president, he would insist the Trump administration hand off the primary negotiating duty to him — only that he disagrees with the current policy in the region. Moon says the U.S.-South Korea partnership is of the highest strategic value.
“I believe the alliance between the two nations is the most important foundation for our diplomacy and national security,” he told the Post. “South Korea was able to build its national security thanks to the U.S., and the two nations will work together on the North Korean nuclear issue.”
It’s unclear if the Trump administration will heed Moon Jae-in’s warnings about dealing with North Korea, but the entire region’s stability may depend on it.