Miller Unpacks U.S.-South Korean Relations

Media Coverage | June 26, 2017

In an article for Al Jazeera, EWI Senior Fellow Jonathan Berkshire Miller weighed in on the state of South Korea-U.S. relations ahead of U.S. President Trump's meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in later this week in Washington. 

The geopolitical backdrop of Moon's visit is framed around an increasingly provocative regime in North Korea and an administration in the U.S. that seems focused on forcibly changing the calculus of Pyongyang's decision to develop and maintain a nuclear weapons program. The stakes will be especially high because Moon—a progressive with dovish tendencies towards Pyongyang—is looking to demonstrate unity with President Trump without sacrificing his own policy goals of engaging the North diplomatically. There are also valid concerns in Seoul on Trump's protectionist rhetoric and his desire to amend—or maybe even withdraw from—the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

During Moon's election campaign, his rivals from both the conservative and progressive sides launched salvos at him outlining his dubious approach to dealing with North Korea and his sceptical take on the U.S.-South Korea alliance remaining at the core of Seoul's security ethos. They questioned Moon's flip-flopping on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea and his pledge to "review" the decision.

Despite THAAD being already deployed and operational, Moon has now made good in some sense on that pledge through his suspension—pending a probe's findings—on the deployment of an additional four missile launchers (there are already two launchers active and operational).

Washington's position, before the Moon-Trump meeting, is that Seoul's change of heart on THAAD is not only upsetting the operational effectiveness of the missile defence system (which is aimed to both defend South Korea and the more than 30,000 US troops in the country) but also is simultaneously weakening the credibility of the deterrence value of the US-Korea alliance. Moreover, some reports have indicated that Trump himself is "furious" over Moon's decision to suspend the full deployment of the launchers.

Read the full article here at Al Jazeera.