The idea of US President Donald Trump chowing down hamburgers with the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong-un, and Republic of Korea (ROK) President Moon Jae-in may, I admit, seem a little surreal but, if the next two days of Moon’s first meeting with Trump go well, it is not entirely beyond the realms of belief.
Whilst one-to-one statesman-to-statesman meetings are often overhyped, with much of the wrangling over policy being undertaken by officials behind the scenes in the months before, some tête à têtes really are important. Summits between world leaders are not necessarily a success purely based on the policies discussed, the bilateral relations agreed, or ‘the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen’ being served. No, sometimes it all just comes down to that old intangible: chemistry.
Whilst President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for East Asia are still largely unknown, his lack of foreign-policy experience and intentions to renegotiate trade and defence deals have led some to suggest that his presidency may contribute to destabilisation across the region, and particularly on the Korean Peninsula. Negative consequences for the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) economy, uncertainty over defence and heightened tensions with regards to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are all possible features of the ROK’s post-Trump future.
During his election campaign, Trump asserted that he would decrease US defence spending in the ROK and demand a greater ROK contribution to the shared costs of defence against the DPRK threat. With the cost-sharing agreement between the ROK and the US up for renegotiation in 2017, these remarks raise concerns that a Trump presidency will lead to a weakening of the alliance between the two countries and exacerbate instability on the Korean Peninsula. Continue reading →