President Trump Mentions FTA Renegotiation and North Korea Cooperation In First Phone Call with President Moon

This phone call would have likely been much more interesting if President Trump would have repeated his demand for Seoul to pay for the deployment of the THAAD system to Korea:

U.S. President Donald Trump raised the topic of renegotiating a free trade deal with South Korea first before mentioning cooperation on the North Korean nuclear front in a recent phone conversation with Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s new president, an informed official here said Saturday.

“President Trump, during the phone conversation, first delivered congratulatory remarks, then said the FTA should be renegotiated for the mutual interest of both countries,” an official at Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea’s presidential office, told Yonhap News Agency Saturday.

Moon and Trump spoke over the phone on Wednesday, vowing to maintain close cooperation in handling North Korea’s nuclear threats.

The official, who was next to Moon as he spoke with Trump, also said the U.S. president mentioned the trade issue “in a light fashion, mentioning it on a principle level” and added that the “focus was on the North Korean nuclear issue.”

Moon reportedly did not offer a particular reply to Trump’s mentioning of renegotiating the trade deal.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Korea Times Equates President Trump with Kim Jong-un

You have got to like how the Korea Times equates President Trump with someone like Kim Jong-un who maintains a system of slave labor camps, regularly threatens to turn Seoul into a Sea of Fire, carries out mass executions of political rivals to include his own uncle and older brother, and is the chief person responsible for the suffering and poverty of North Koreans:

Media Report Claims President Trump “Screamed” at National Security Advisor Over THAAD in Korea Comments

It looks like the honeymoon for Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster is over if the media is to be believed:

McMaster’s allies and adversaries inside the White House tell me that Trump is disillusioned with him. This professional military officer has failed to read the president  — by not giving him a chance to ask questions during briefings, at times even lecturing Trump.

Presented with the evidence of this buyer’s remorse, the White House on Sunday evening issued a statement from Trump: “I couldn’t be happier with H.R. He’s doing a terrific job.”

Other White House officials however tell me this is not the sentiment the president has expressed recently in private. Trump was livid, according to three White House officials, after reading in the Wall Street Journal that McMaster had called his South Korean counterpart to assure him that the president’s threat to make that country pay for a new missile defense system was not official policy. These officials say Trump screamed at McMaster on a phone call, accusing him of undercutting efforts to get South Korea to pay its fair share.  [Bloomberg]

You can read more at the link, but who knows what the real story is when this is all sourced from anonymous leaks from officials in the White House probably eager to undercut General McMaster’s influence with President Trump.

Korea Times Chief Editorial Writer Advocates For Paying More to US For THAAD

Oh Young-jin over at the Korea Times seems to have a better understanding of President Trump than the rest of Korea:

Let’s calm ourselves down.

It’s exasperating to hear U.S. President Trump demand South Korea pay $1 billion for a missile interceptor owned and operated by the U.S. After all, the two allies cut a deal by which Korea provided land for a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, while the U.S. paid for the rest ― hardware and maintenance.

It’s tempting to shout back at Trump and tell him that we don’t want it so he can take it back.

But here are some sobering questions.

Can we defend ourselves without U.S. forces? The South excels the North in the size of economy many times and is more than double it in terms of population. So the answer to this question is yes, we can.

But if so, what extra cost would we have to pay for their absence? Billions of dollars would be needed to make up for the U.S. Forces Korea with its 28,000 American troops stationed here. They serve as a tripwire to bring in bigger and more powerful reinforcements ― the so-called extended deterrence (nuclear umbrella) included ― from the U.S. in the event of a war. The tab for this is uncountable because it has worked as the bedrock for Korea’s sense of security for decades.

Would you be willing to pay that extra cost? The bulk of the budget for welfare, infrastructure and other key state affairs would have to be diverted to cover our own defense spending. This means bigger tax bills for fewer services. Then, the security void that would be created by the U.S. withdrawal would have foreign investors rethink their plans involving Korea.

THAAD can turn this chain of hypotheses into reality. (……….) Now, it is important to think of how Trumpian arithmetic works.

Trump is a “successful” businessman and showbiz celebrity.

Therefore, he shuns money-losing businesses and sticks to the “beneficiary-pays” principle. This characteristic reflects his demand for Korea’s THAAD payment as he sees the U.S. as a benefactor and Korea as a beneficiary so he thinks it is natural for Seoul to pay.  [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but Mr. Oh advocates for paying Trump off by having a pro-rated cost for use of the THAAD system each year. This gets back to my belief this whole topic is about the USFK cost sharing negotiations next year which President Trump wants the Korean government to understand they need to pay more for advanced US capabilities.

By the way I still love Mr. Oh’s email:  

H.R. McMaster Clarifies President Trump’s Statement About THAAD Cost Sharing

As I figured the statement made by President Trump in regards to South Korea paying for THAAD is related to upcoming US-ROK cost sharing negotiations:

H.R. McMaster

National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said Sunday that the U.S. will indeed pay for the roughly $1 billion THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, amid neighboring North Korea’s repeated ballistic test launches.

“What I told our South Korean counterpart is until any renegotiation, that the deals in place, we’ll adhere to our word,” McMaster told “Fox News Sunday.”

He spoke days after President Trump said South Korea should pay for the anti-missile system and hours after Seoul said that McMaster had assured its chief national security officer, Kim Kwan-jin, about the deal.

“The last thing I would ever do is contradict the president of the United States,” McMaster also told Fox News. “And that’s not what it was. What the president has asked us to do, is to look across all of our alliances and to have appropriate burden sharing-responsibility sharing. We’re looking at that with our great ally South Korea, we’re looking at that with NATO.”  [Fox News]

You can read more at the link.

South Korean Politicians and Public Respond Very Negatively to Paying for THAAD Deployment

The comment by President Trump that he wants South Korea to pay for the THAAD deployment is not going over very well in South Korea as one would expect.  Here is how many citizens feel about paying for a system intended to protect them:

The top five presidential candidates on Friday sit in the last televised debate hosted by the National Election Broadcasting Debate Commission. (From left) Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea, Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party, Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party, Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party and Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party. Yonhap

“We’re already upset about THAAD being deployed in our town, and now they want us to pay for it, too? South Korea can’t pay, so just send it back to the US,” said Lim Soon-boon, 61, on Apr. 28. “At first, the US said it would be paying for the deployment, so it’s ridiculous for them to start asking us to pay for it now.” Lim is head of the women’s association in Soseong Village, Chojeon Township, Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province, where the THAAD missile defense system is being deployed. “I’m grateful to Trump for bringing us to the realization that the US’s ultimate goal was to sell THAAD to South Korea,” said Bae Mi-yeong, 39, a Seongju resident.

On the day that US President Donald Trump asked South Korea to pay US$1 billion to deploy THAAD and South Korea’s Defense Ministry rejected the request, a group chatroom on KakaoTalk that is used by more than 800 residents of Seongju was filled with comments about “bastards selling out the country” and “morons in the Defense Ministry.”

“It seems as if not a single thing has gone right with the THAAD deployment. It doesn’t make sense for the Defense Ministry to deny that when the US president is openly asking for US$1 billion,” said Kim Chung-hwan, 57, co-chair of the Seongju Committee Fighting for the Cancellation of the THAAD Deployment. “Is South Korea a colony that has to cough up cash whenever the US wants it to?” asked Park Hee-ju, 48, who is a member of the Gimcheon city council as well as co-chair of the Gimcheon Civic Action Committee Against the THAAD Deployment.  [Hankyoreh]

Here is what the Presidential candidates had to say about paying for THAAD with most of them as expected taking the populist we are not paying for THAAD stance:

Presidential candidates on Friday argued over Washington’s pressure on Seoul to pay for a US missile defense system to be stationed on the peninsula.

The top five candidates sat in a televised debated hosted by the National Election Broadcasting Debate Commission, the last debate to be held prior to the election on May 9.

The session started off with liberal candidates raising objections to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and its deployment process.

“We have to tell (the US) to take THAAD back as we will not pay for it, for the sake of our nation’s dignity,” said Sim Sang-jeung of the progressive minority Justice Party.  (…….)  Front-runner Moon Jae-in of the main liberal Democratic Party of Korea, partly agreed with Sim’s argument.

“We have lost bargaining power over the issue because several parties and candidates unconditionally consented (to THAAD),” Moon said.

But he took a more moderate stance, claiming that the detailed discussions should be handed over to the incoming government.

“More diplomatic discussion and public consultation is required,” he said.

“Also, the billion-dollar amount is a huge financial burden upon the South Korean government, so a parliamentary ratification is necessary (to decide on the payment).”  Korea Herald]

There was at least one candidate that actually analyzed Trump’s remarks instead of taking a populist stance:

“I believe that President Trump has other purposes in mentioning (the THAAD expenses),” said Yoo.

“It has already been agreed that (Seoul) would not pay (for the deployment), so when I become president, I will talk (with the US) so that we won’t have to pay.”  [Korea Herald]

Mr. Yoo is likely right that President Trump has other purposes with the THAAD comment which I think may have been intended to set conditions for USFK cost sharing negotiations.  Korea will likely not end up paying for the THAAD deployment, but I would be surprised if they don’t end up paying more for USFK cost sharing once the current agreement ends next year.

North Korea Launches Missile That Fails Again After Launch

Maybe there is something to the claims that the US is launching a cyber and electronic warfare campaign against North Korean missiles because they sure are having a lot of failures over the past year:

North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Saturday, which apparently exploded minutes after liftoff, according to South Korean and U.S. militaries.

“North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Pukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province) in the northeastern direction at around 5:30 a.m today,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. “It is estimated to have failed.”

The U.S. Pacific Command also said it detected the launch from an airfield there.

“The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” its spokesman Cmdr. Dave Benham said. “The North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

Considering the subdued reaction from the US military and government I think it is safe to say this was not an ICBM test which President Trump has voiced before would be a red line with North Korea. Here is what President Trump had to say in response to the failed launch:

Trump is definitely conducting the charm offensive with Chinese President Xi considering all the positive comments he has made about him and even rebuffed a phone call from the Taiwanese President this week.

President Trump Continues to Put Pressure on Kim Jong-un

Here is the latest on what President Trump has to say in regards to the North Korean nuclear issue:

US President Donald Trump has paid North Korean leader a Kim Jong-un a strange, back-handed compliment – while at the same time warned the two countries are on the verge of a “major, major conflict”.

In an interview, the US leader admitted some grudging respect for Kim, referring to when the North Korean became leader of his secretive country in 2011.

“He’s 27 years old,” said Trump. “His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age,” he said.

“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.

But that was as far as the praise went.

In a chilling warning that the world could be on the verge of a catastrophic war, Trump added: “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.

His warning came after the US in recent days pushed for North Korea not to carry out major new weapons tests.

The US has said it will talk directly with Kim to ensure North Korea got rid of any nuclear weapons.  [Yahoo News]

You can read more at the link.