15 November 2019   Leave a comment

CNN is reporting that US President Trump is asking South Korea to pay 400% more than it currently does to have US troops stationed on the Korean peninsula. The request comes as the US and South Korea are reviewing the plans for scheduled military exercises which have been a constant feature of the military alliance between the two states since 1953. The US demand comes as North Korea is ratcheting up its demands for greater progress in the denuclearization process:

“‘We explicitly defined the joint military drill being planned by the U.S. and South Korea as a main factor of screwing up tensions of the Korean peninsula and the region out of control,’ the statement reads. 

“‘Despite our repeated warnings, the US and the South Korean side decided to push ahead with the military drill hostile to the DPRK at the most sensitive time,’ the statement reads. North Korea has imposed a year-end deadline for the US to come up with a strategy for reopening dialogue between the two countries; US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said ‘talks about talks’ are in the works as he headed to South Korea on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. 

“But while the statement is clear that North Korea is dissatisfied, it’s not clear what the consequences of that dissatisfaction are.”

It is unclear what North Korea is threatening. NDTV quotes a South Korean analyst about the statement’s implications: “Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at South Korea’s Sejong Institute think-tank, said the North Korean statement appeared to be aimed at justifying future military actions.”

It is also unseemly for the US to make its monetary demands public. The US declaration makes it appear as if the US forces are mercenaries. It is far better for such negotiations to be handled discreetly. It seems highly implausible that the US would pull its troops out of the Korean peninsula if South Korea refuses to pay.

President Trump hosted Turkish President Erdogan at the White House at a time when US-Turkish relations are quite tense. The US disapproves of the Turkish decision to buy Russian anti-missile systems that could compromise the effectiveness of the American top-of-the-line fighter plane, the F-35. Additionally, the Turkish decision to invade Syria placed the Kurds, an important US ally in the region, in a very dangerous situation. These disputes need to be resolved, but it is not clear that a White House visit, with all the legitimacy it confers, was the right venue to discuss those matters. Indeed, President Erdogan took the occasion to return a letter send to him by President Trump that Erdogan considered highly insulting. Despite all these controversies, it is clear that the Turkish press regards the Erdogan visit as a victory for President Erdogan.

“Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament, said Erdoğan’s remarks are meant to send a message in Turkey.

“’Erdoğan really is a very cunning politician, so he is speaking in a way, when translated into English, let’s say harmless comments,’ he said. ‘But when his loyalists listen in Turkish, in Turkey, they can be interpreted as Erdoğan dominating Trump, or even insulting Trump.’”

The relationship between President Trump and President Erdogan is mystifying, as is President Trump’s relationship with Russian President Putin, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Salman, and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

Posted November 15, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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