Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Meanwhile in Korea

You might have been wondering why we suddenly have all this ominous news out of Korea, with rattling sabers and carrier battle groups mysteriously moving around the Pacific. Part of it may be Trump's fault, but another part is that right now South Korea has no leadership. After a year-long ordeal which pretty much blocked normal governance, South Korea's president has been impeached for corruption. Quite the debacle. So whatever else is going on in Washington, they are floundering partly because they are getting no help from our South Korean allies. But that should end soon:
With three weeks to go to the May 9 election, the campaign has shaped into a two-way race. Moon Jae-in, a 64-year-old human rights lawyer of the leftist Democratic Party, which holds the most seats in Parliament, was initially thought to be a shoo-in to succeed Ms. Park. But Ahn Cheol-soo, 55, a former physician who made a fortune in software, has surged in the polls, in part because many voters appear to believe he is better suited to deal with the North Korean threat.

The candidates have advanced similar programs: Both have promised reforms; both have emphasized the importance of the alliance with the United States while stressing the need for dialogue with the North. Yet many South Koreans, especially conservatives, seem to think that Mr. Ahn would be more likely to work well with the Trump administration than the left-leaning Mr. Moon. One key issue is the planned American deployment of an antimissile system known as Thaad. Both candidates initially opposed the deployment, but Mr. Ahn now says it would be “irresponsible” for the next president to reverse the decision of the preceding administration.
Whoever wins the election, it should help matters a lot to have an actual South Korean president. Firm South Korean opposition to any act of violence steered both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations away from bombing North Korea and toward living with their craziness.

During his campaign Trump talked about pulling out of South Korea and leaving them to defend themselves. After all their economy is about 50 times the size of the North's, and while the North is still struggling to build missiles that work, the South regularly launches its own satellites. No talk of that now. In office a combination of Trump's belligerence and the power of the diplomatic/military/status quo complex will surely keep him from following through on withdrawing American forces, as on every other interesting thing he ever talked about.

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