SEOUL – U.S. President Donald Trump told South Korea’s acting president Saturday that he conveyed to Chinese President Xi Jinping, in their just-ended summit, the U.S. intention to proceed with deployment of an advanced anti-missile defense system in South Korea to counter the North’s threats.
Trump made the remarks while briefing Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn by telephone on the results of his two-day summit with Xi in Florida that ended Friday, according to Hwang’s office.
The U.S. president also told Hwang that he and Xi devoted a considerable amount of time to discussing issues of the Korean Peninsula, including the North Korean nuclear issue.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, deployment of which began in March, is designed to intercept ballistic missiles flying at high altitudes inside and outside the atmosphere,
China has strongly opposed deployment of the THAAD system so close to its borders, saying it could undermine its security interests and destroy the strategic balance of the region.
After the Trump-Xi summit, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that the two leaders “agreed to increase cooperation and work with the international community to convince (North Korea) to peacefully resolve the (nuclear) issue and abandon its illicit weapons programs.”
Prior to the summit, Trump had spoken by phone with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and discussed North Korea, but there was no such pre-summit phone conversation with Hwang, sparking concerns in South Korea that Trump was not as interested in hearing Seoul’s views.
In an editorial published Saturday, The Korea Times blasted the move.
“Even though there is no president in Korea at the moment after Park Geun-hye was removed from office last month, Trump should have communicated with the acting president over security issues on the Korean Peninsula.
“Since North Korea is a key topic of the U.S.-China summit, Trump should have talked to Hwang about the background of the summit and how he plans to persuade China to play a more active role in sanctioning Pyongyang over military provocations,” it said.
It cited other “worrisome signs that (South) Korea does not carry as much importance as some other countries in the Trump White House,” noting that the U.S. leader has named his ambassadors to Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow, but not Seoul.
South Korean media has coined the term “Korea passing” to describe the country’s supposed diplomatic isolation in the Trump era, though the Foreign Ministry has called that groundless.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit on April 16, while Tillerson visited Seoul last month and Defense Secretary James Mattis in February.
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