Bad Reviews For Trump’s Korea Policy Except in, um, Korea.
The Weekly Standard ^ | April 18, 2017 | Ethan Epstein
Posted on 4/19/2017, 3:43:53 PM by 2ndDivisionVet
The notices are in, and they’re brutal. Donald Trump’s nascent North Korea policy—announcing the end of “strategic patience” (Barack Obama’s code for sitting around and doing nothing about the North’s pursuit of nuclear weapons), leaning on China to rein in Pyongyang, strengthening sanctions, and issuing ambiguous threats about possible military strikes—is being panned by American foreign policy experts and journalists.
The New York Times bemoans Trump’s “recklessness.” Ishaan Tharoor, a Washington Post blogger with the modest remit of covering the entire world, warns of the “dangers” of Trump’s policies. Even Ian Buruma, an expert on Dutch politics most famous for his bizarre attacks on the exceptionally brave Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has weighed in on Trump’s approach to North Korea: Apparently it “plays into North Korea’s hands.”
And yet, the Trump approach is receiving plaudits precisely where it matters most: in South Korea.
South Korea, perhaps because its population is among the world’s oldest, remains a country dominated by print newspapers, which are highly influential. An official affiliated with the country’s dominant conservative party estimates to me that more than half of Koreans still read a daily newspaper. And those newspapers’ editorial boards have praised Trump’s North Korea policy.
The Dong-a Ilbo, citing the Roman adage, “if you want peace, prepare for war,” warns American and South Korean officials not to take a military strike off the table: A “‘no preemptive strike’ message would adversely affect the U.S. deterrence on the North’s reckless provocation and send a wrong signal to Pyongyang,” the newspaper argues. Earlier this month, the same newspaper praised the move to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, an action that, if enacted, will automatically reimpose several harsh sanctions on the regime. Meanwhile, the Hankuk Ilbo celebrated Vice President Mike Pence’s recent visit to South Korea, hailing two “very important outcomes”: a reaffirmation of the strong ties between South Korea and the United States, and Pence’s “clear message” to Beijing that it must do more to stop North Korea. The Chosun Ilbo, meanwhile, the country’s highest circulation daily, while cautioning against a pre-emptive strike, warns against pursuing the kind of diplomatic approach beloved by American journalists and self-proclaimed wonks:
The North Korean nuclear impasse began in the early 1990s and has since gone through a vicious cycle of heightening tensions leading to talks and rewards, only to be followed by the North reneging on all its promises and ratcheting up tensions again. This was partly due to the U.S.’ focus on short-term, easily publicized achievements rather than seeking fundamental changes. The pattern must not be repeated
At the same time, left-wing presidential candidate Moon Jae-in (the South will elect a new president on May 9), who supports “engagement” with North Korea, has suffered from recent slippage in the polls. He’s losing ground to a centrist candidate who is making loud noises about his tough approach on Pyongyang and lambasting Moon’s weakness on the issue.
Could South Koreans know something that Ian Buruma doesn’t?