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Korea-US Relations - Trump

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Donald Trump was very critical of America’s military allies South Korea and Japan, accusing them of not bearing enough of the financial burden for forces stationed in their countries. Trump suggested he would pull troops and allow allies in the region to develop their own nuclear weapons if they did not agree to pay the US more for protection. He also denounced the U.S./South Korea free trade agreement as unfair to American companies and workers.

Trump’s surprising election victory shocked and concerned many Koreans who were following the results. Most South Koreans were gravely concerned about Donald Trump becoming the next head of state of the US. A poll conducted by a Chinese daily newspaper shows that 93% percent of South Koreans said they preferred Clinton over Trump, the highest approval rating out of 7 countries surveyed. Based on Trump's controversial comments in the past, his administration may test the waters of the two countries' security cooperation.

Trump's stance on North Korea and its threat to peace and regional stability presents even more ambiguity. During the presidential race, Trump spoke out on North Korea, saying that he was willing to sit down for talks with the regime's leader Kim Jong-un. However, many analysts doubt he had a substantive policy line on Pyongyang. The chances of denuclearization on North Korea's part are low, as the regime's ultimate goal is to gain recognition as a nuclear state. The international community will not accept that, of course, so it is difficult to have meaningful negotiations in this situation. North Korea is actually following a schedule of its own. It will continue to pursue the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles that can attack America. So the friction on the peninsula won't decrease, it will intensify.

Dr. Kim Byoung-joo, the head of Seoul-based KL&P consulting, said Trump attacked the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement during his campaign. “An agreement is an agreement, but it has been renegotiated once, but if it has to again, it will really send a negative message in terms of the image of the U.S., who may be a promise breaker.”

The South Korean foreign minister said he expected the next U.S. government will stay on course and make sure the Seoul-Washington alliance will continue to pressure North Korea. Minister Yun Byung-se made the remarks at the National Assembly in a meeting with the ruling Saenuri Party.

US President-elect Donald Trump pledged his commitment to defending South Korea under an existing security alliance during a phone call with South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Thursday, her office said. Trump had said during the election campaign he would be willing to withdraw US military stationed in South Korea unless Seoul paid a greater share of the cost of the deployment. There are about 28,500 US troops based in South Korea in combined defense against North Korea. Trump said: “We will be steadfast and strong with respect to working with you to protect against the instability in North Korea,” the presidential Blue House said. The official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party said on 10 NOvember 2016 the US wish for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program “is only a fantasy of a bygone era.”

A South Korean delegation returned from the United States 20 November 2016 after meeting with the transition team of President-elect Donald Trump. According to Seoul's deputy national security adviser Cho Tae-yong, who led that team, Washington was set to take a tough stance towards North Korea. Cho said the Trump team's stance towards the North doesn't differ much from that of the Obama Administration as Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons violates UNSC resolutions and goes against the international community. He described the 4-day discussions with Trump's key national security advisors "productive," as they focused on a Seoul-Washington alliance based on trust.

Trump indicated his intention to renegotiate what he considered unfair trade deals that put American industries at a global competitive disadvantage. After taking office in January he immediately pulled out of the multilateral Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, and U.S. trade officials are looking for ways to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.) Trump also was highly critical of the US, South Korea bilateral free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) as a “job killing deal” that “doubled our trade deficit with South Korea and destroyed nearly 100,000 American jobs."

The US Trade Representative (USTR) recommended reconsideration of the KORUS FTA due to the rising trade deficit between the South Korea and the US. The report noted that US exports to South Korea in 2016 were down $1.2 billion from 2011, the year before the free trade agreement went into effect, while imports of South Korean goods increased by $13 billion. If an emerging market does exactly what the IMF identifies as being the key steps they could take to prevent a financial crisis in their country, they will be the most likely to be targeted for currency manipulation charges by the US Congress.

Controversy raged in South Korea over Trump's mistaken assertion, made in April 2017 in a Wall Street Journal interview, that “Korea actually used to be a part of China". In an interview with the Wall Street Journal held on 12 April 2017 [but reported 21 April], Trump described his recent summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping and said: “He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years… and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that… it’s not so easy.”

Cho June-hyuck, a spokesman of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a briefing 20 April 2017, “It is a clear historical fact recognized by the international community, which cannot by denied by anyone, that Korea was not a part of China over the past several thousands of years of history of Korea-China relations.”

Donald Trump expressed strong determination 14 July 2017 to renegotiate the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement(FTA), calling the KORUS pact a “horrible deal.” He said that the U.S. had a “bad deal with South Korea.” He said the U.S. protects South Korea but is losing 40 billion dollars a year with Korea on trade. He then said Washington had just started negotiations with Seoul. But the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) did not call for a "renegotiation" of its free trade agreement with South Korea, when it requested a special Joint Committee meeting on the trade deal.

The U.S.’ chief delegate to talks with South Korea on renewing a cost-sharing deal for stationing U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula said 19 November 2019 that Seoul’s proposals were not responsive to the U.S. request for "fair and equitable burden sharing.” James DeHart made the remark in a news briefing after wrapping up the third round of defense cost-sharing negotiations in Seoul. The meeting ended abruptly around an hour after the talks began at 10 am. The two-day talks began in Seoul were initially scheduled to continue until 5 p.m. Tuesday. DeHart said the U.S. delegation cut short the talks in order to give the Korean side some time to reconsider. He said he hopes to put forward new proposals that would enable both sides to work towards a mutually acceptable agreement in the spirit of their “great alliance.” The chief delegate added that the U.S. looks forward to resuming negotiations "when the Korean side is ready to work on the basis of partnership on the basis of mutual trust."

Washington reportedly demanded a five fold increase in Seoul's contribution, totaling some five billion dollars to cover expenditures related to the allies' combined military exercises and support for the U.S. troops' families. Under the current one-year Special Measures Agreement(SMA), set to expire on December 31, Seoul agreed to pay 1.04 trillion won or over 870 million dollars.

Donald Trump slammed South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's black comedy "Parasite," which recently won four Oscars including best picture. During a rally in Colorado Springs on 20 February 2020, Trump began by asking, "By the way, how bad were the Academy Awards this year?" He continued by saying, "the winner is a movie from South Korea," adding, "We've got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of that, they give them the best movie of the year. Was it good? I don't know." He then said "Can we get 'Gone with the Wind' back, please? 'Sunset Boulevard'? So many great movies."

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 14:44:40 ZULU