From Korea, former Korean army soldier and Bombs + Dollars contributing analyst Daniel Kim explains how Koreans think of Trump’s trip.
What do you personally think of Trump’s Asia trip so far, and what has the Korean press said?
It was a very remarkable and important trip. His first trip to Japan was successful because Prime Minister Abe was treating him and his cabinet as kind of royal family. Trump, regardless of Japan’s treatments, has left Japan lots of messages of which he wanted to say about trade deals and North Korea solutions. His trip in Korea was shorter than his in Japan, yet the trip for him here was much more meaningful.
Unlike lots of expectations (actually worries) about him of the press, he has been behaving well with concerned vernaculars to deal with the president Moon. The Korean press and many Korean supporters are excited and grateful for his visiting to be honest. Conservative media like the Choson Ilbo and other conservative newspapers are evaluating Moon and Trump’s meeting as a particular milestone as they have made sure that ROK-US alliance is utterly solid and unbreakable by abolishing the restriction on Korean missile developments in 38 years.
For 38 years, Korea has not been able to develop and produce heavy bombs like the American MOAB (mothers of all bomb), bunkerbusters, JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition), etc, due to restrictions that regulate both weights of the warheads and effective range. However, now the weight restriction is lifted and the restrictions on distance were loosened.
Furthermore, another agreement to make our alliance great was to let Korea allocate more U.S strategical weapons including tactical nukes, nuclear power generated submarines, and even Global Hawks (Airborne Early Warning). Although these agreements were just made yesterday, they are good enough to be praised especially in the eyes of conservatives.
The greatest doubt about President Moon from conservatives was on national security related to Korea-US Alliance. However, due to the new agreements announced at the meeting, many conservatives are quite surprised and relieved to see what have happened. Still, we do not know that Korea will really deploy new high tech weapons yet, but if that takes in place, Moon is going to make conservatives his supporters.
How significant is the sale or development of nuclear submarines to Korea?
Trump has claimed that he would make Korea and Japan pay more on their defense for the alliance with the United States. Well, actually that is not surprising anymore as we all have heard the phrase for a long time. So this new arms deal based on the new agreement of Korean defense could be argued to be indirectly meaning the increased budget on our alliance. Trump sells his arms deals to the public as a way to help the American economy. But the new arms are great for Korea, too, as they enhance our defenses. Some of them are even more advanced that what the U.S. sells to Japan. The more we pay, the more things we get. This is as simple as that sentence.
As a conservative who has opposed President Moon, is your view on Moon Jae-in changing?
Not just myself, but also many conservatives do not argue about his actions this time. Yes, I was surprised at his behaviors towards Trump and the United States. I have to apologize that I have blamed him for “Korea Passing” because Trump himself has denied it and Moon’s recent deals confirm that I was wrong.
Interestingly, now some Moon supporters also changed their views on Trump. They consider him as a good guy now because he’s been careful with his words at least here in Korea. Trump has expressed his negative view on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement; however, he has not said anything like we have to break it during his trip but only mentioned FTA was not satisfying enough for the U.S.
I can say that if Moon is going to make new military assets take place as he promised, I am willing to support him and the ruling party when it truly happens.
Maybe Moon is really like the former president Roh Moo-hyun, whom he served as an advisor. Roh sounded liked he did not America in his speeches, but actually Roh fell in line with the Bush (II) administration on a lot of actual points of policy. Roh was considering to deploy two combat divisions of ROK Army to Iraq as a request of Bush. But there were too many revolts against his plan, so he yielded and sent only non-combat troops. In this case, probably Moon is a scary guy because he strategically used extreme leftists to get elected. Then, on Trump’s arrival he blocked left-wing protesters with various police cars and 15,000 riot police officers while affording a more prominent position to patriotic demonstrators welcoming Trump.
Feature photo from Korean government (Presidential Security Service and Hyoja-dong Studio).