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US rhetoric masks absence of fresh North Korea policy

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


South Korea’s unification minister (MOU) warned on April 10 that any US strike on North Korea would put “the safety of the public” at risk. A day later, Seoul’s defence (MND) and foreign (MFA) ministries dismissed rumours on local social media of an imminent war crisis as “overblown” and “groundless”, respectively. Moon Jae-in, the liberal opposition candidate whom most polls predict will win the May 9 snap presidential election, said he does not expect a US pre-emptive strike on the North. However, Moon also warned Washington that South Korea is “the concerned party” which “owns” peninsula-related matters, including the nuclear issue.


  • Experienced military professionals in Trump’s cabinet and National Security Council are a restraining influence.
  • South Korea and Japan, being in the front line, will counsel their US protector against any action that might imperil their security.
  • If Moon Jae-in is elected, his desire to re-engage the North will clash with Trump’s hard-line attitude and narrow nuclear focus.
  • After his smooth -- if insubstantial -- summit with Xi, Trump’s threatened unilateralism on North Korea is likely to stop at sanctions.

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