The newly elected president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in will be visiting the White House on June 29 and 30. This will be the first U.S. trip of the South Korean leader after his election.
Mr. Moon Jae-in will be having dinner with President Trump and his wife, Melania, at the White House on Thursday evening. The leaders of the two nations will be having their meeting on Friday.
Expected to be included in the talks are the South Korea-U.S. trade relations, the threats from North Korea and the issue of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system that the U.S. Army deployed in South Korea.
This defense system has strained the relationship between China and South Korea, which affected the lives of Koreans residing in China as well as a variety of South Korean businesses. The presence of the defense system also angered North Korean leaders.
Accord Between Trump and Moon Jae-in
Media speculates that President Trump and President Moon Jae-in will be in good terms, even if the two nations are having trade differences, as both have the same idea on how to approach North Korea. The two leaders think they should put more pressure on North Korea and later engage with the country when the conditions are right.
They also want to build a stronger relationship. The U.S. needs to have stronger ties with a significant leader in the East Asian region because China has not been able to exercise some political and economic control over Pyongyang. Both nations want to peacefully resolve the crisis over the isolationist country’s missile and nuclear programs.
Problematic Trade Relations
There is an existing KORUS (Korea-U.S.) trade pact that’s already five years old. During an interview in April, President Trump called it unacceptable and horrible. He added that he would either terminate the pact or renegotiate it.
The KORUS took effect in 2012. Since then, the trade deficit of U.S. goods with South Korea has doubled. In 2011 the deficit was only $13.2 billion. In 2016, it has ballooned to $27.7 billion. The forecast was for U.S. exports to reach $30 billion by 2016.
On Wednesday, June 28, when President Moon Jae-in was speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he said that under his administration, factors that limit competition, like price regulations and barriers to market entry would be re-evaluated. He added that his government would wipe out unfair trade practices.
The Issue of THAAD
In March, the United States deployed the THAAD system in South Korea. The issue revolving around this defense system could be a sticking point in this Friday’s talks. Two launchers were already in place. However, four more launchers were recently brought into South Korea. The original two were brought in before the election. Pentagon had secretly brought in the additional four launchers late in May.
President Moon Jae-in ordered the delay of their installation two weeks ago until a full environmental review has been conducted. His action drew the ire of President Trump. Mr. Moon Jae-in said that his defense chief, who also served during the term of deposed president Park Geun-hye, failed to inform him about the four new THAAD launchers.
Analysts are still optimistic that the two presidents will find common ground. They are both concerned about the welfare of the 28,000 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea to help protect the country. The U.S. military has been stationed in the country for more than six decades after the end of the Korean War.
President Moon Jae-in does not have much exposure to the U.S. He does not speak English. His parents however were helped by the U.S. military to flee North Korea during the war.