Donald Trump, diplomat


The liberal Moon Jae-In was elected president of South Korea on a platform of improving relations with North Korea.  This at a time when President Trump wants to get tougher with North Korea.  Moon’s party defeated the conservative, pro-American incumbents.

President Trump reportedly played a role in bringing down our ally’s government and replacing it with one that may be harder to deal with.

Charles Krautthammer tells about how Moon’s opposition party gained big ground over his opponent because of Trump’s trademark off-the-cuff comments about South Korea.  While we were in the midst of talks over co-operation against North Korea, Trump opined that the U.S. should renegotiate its trade deal with South Korea.  He then called for South Korea to pay for the missiles that we want to place there.

This infuriated South Korean voters, who rallied around  Moon, who wants a more arms-length distance from the U.S., as well as a more conciliatory stance towards North Korea.

Read Krautthammer’s account after the jump.

Now Trump wasn’t the only factor in bringing down the government:  the current president had been impeached.  It would be natural for the country to vote out the party that had been so discredited.

But it would certainly help Trump’s presidency if he would learn to govern his tongue.  I know that supporters like it that he says what he thinks.  But now that he is president, his words carry a different weight than they did when he was just a candidate.  Especially in the field of diplomacy, every word must be carefully calculated and nuanced.  And that is not Trump’s style.

He will soon set off on his first set of international visits, meeting with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Pope.  The theme will apparently be interacting with representatives of three major world religions, a fraught atmosphere if there ever was one!  Let’s hope the president has learned something about diplomacy from the South Korea fiasco.

Photo:  Moon Jae-in, the liberal beneficiary of President Trump’s spontaneous comments on South Korea, from the Korean Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons

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Christmas tree as a “dangerous, rash act”

North Korea has backed off of its military threats, after shelling South Korean territory, but the South Koreans are still angry and defiant.  In addition to mobilizing their military, the South Koreans have resumed a practice that had been halted for seven years out of deference to the North’s sensibilities.  The South Koreans have allowed the lighting of a giant Christmas tree within sight of  communist territory.  The atheist regime is outraged.

As troops stood guard and a choir sang carols Tuesday, South Koreans lit a massive steel Christmas tree that overlooks the world’s most heavily armed border and is within sight of atheist North Korea.

The lighting of the tree after a seven-year hiatus marked a pointed return to a tradition condemned in Pyongyang as propaganda. The provocative ceremony – which needs government permission – was also a sign that President Lee Myung-bak’s administration is serious about countering the North’s aggression with measures of its own in the wake of an artillery attack that killed four South Koreans last month. . . .

Although the North has made some conciliatory gestures in recent days – indicating to a visiting U.S. governor that it might allow international inspections of its nuclear programs – Seoul appears unmoved.

Pyongyang has used a combination of aggression and reconciliation before to extract concessions from the international community, and the resurrection of the tree lighting at Aegibong is a signal that the South is ready to play hardball until it sees real change from the North. . . .

On Aegibong Peak, about a mile from the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula, marines toting rifles circled the Christmas tree as more than 100,000 twinkling lights blinked on. The brightly lit tree – topped with a cross – stood in stark relief to North Korea, where electricity is limited.

Choir members in white robes trimmed in blue and wearing red scarves and Santa Claus hats gathered beneath the steel structure draped with multicolored lights, illuminated stars and snowflakes. An audience of about 200 listened as they sang “Joy to the World” and other Christmas carols.

“I hope that Christ’s love and peace will spread to the North Korean people,” said Lee Young-hoon, a pastor of the Seoul church that organized the lighting ceremony. About 30 percent of South Koreans are Christian.

The 100-foot steel tree sits on a peak high enough for North Koreans in border towns to see it and well within reach of their country’s artillery. Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said an attack from North Korea was certainly possible but unlikely.

North Korea, officially atheist and with only a handful of sanctioned churches in Pyongyang with services for foreigners, warned that lighting the tree would constitute a “dangerous, rash act” with the potential to trigger a war.

As a precaution, dozens of armed troops took up position around the site during the lighting ceremony. Ambulances and fire trucks were parked nearby. Instructions placed on chairs at the ceremony advised participants to take cover in case of an attack.

“The danger of the enemy’s threat still exists,” the leaflet read, suggesting that participants hide behind concrete walls, crouch between chairs and move quickly to shelters in case of an attack.

The event took place uninterrupted.

via South Korean Christmas tree sign of new propaganda war | Tulsa World.

North Korea attacks South Korea

North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing two and wounding 19.  South Korea has mobilized its military and is threatening retaliation.

The massive artillery barrage launched by North Korea on Tuesday forced its southern neighbor into a state of emergency, with fighter jets put on high alert and the Seoul government threatening “stern retaliation.”

An estimated 1,700 civilian residents of the area shelled by North Korea escaped to bunkers, while South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting of security ministers. Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the island of Yeonpyeong, which lies near the disputed maritime border separating North and South Korea.

Officials said the North had fired an estimated 200 artillery shells onto Yeonpyeong, which lies in the Yellow Sea about 72 miles west of Seoul and seven miles off the North Korean mainland. Most of the shells landed on a military base, killing two South Korean marines, wounding at least 19 other people and setting more than 60 buildings ablaze.

The South returned fire with about 80 shells from its own howitzers.

In an official statement, government spokesman Hong Sang-pyo called the North’s action a “clear military provocation.” In the United States, a White House spokesman said President Obama was “outraged” by North Korea’s “provocative” action, adding that the nation stands by South Korea.

via North Korea fires artillery at South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.