Former U.S. President Barack Obama met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea on Monday to discuss North Korea. The brief meeting followed Obama’s speaking engagement at the Fourth Congress of Indonesian Diaspora in Jakarta and Asian Leadership Conference. The meeting came a day after Moon returned from Washington, D.C., where he attended joint meetings with current U.S. President Donald Trump. Moon sought Obama’s aid in establishing a healthier dialogue with President Trump.
The occasion was marked by the current uncomfortable reality underlying South Korea’s relationship with the United States, North Korea, and China. As the peninsula nation continues to confront long-time nemesis North Korea, it finds itself in a balancing act between China and the United States as they compete for regional and global influence.
China imposed economic sanctions on South Korean firms for South Korea allowing the United States to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in its territory. In the joint meeting with Moon, Trump expressed his dismay with current economic agreements between the United States and South Korea. Trump blamed the perceived ineptness of the trade deals with South Korea on Obama.
Trump particularly highlighted the shortcomings of the United States position in trade agreements with South Korea in the auto and steel industries. These are assertions that Trump has held for several years that predate his presidency.
Obama used the trip to southeast Asia to defend the policies of his presidency against Trump’s latest ambivalence towards those policies and to reassure Moon that diplomatic discourse with North Korea is the recommended course of action to pursue. Obama also took direct aim at Trump over the Paris Climate Accord, stating that “in Paris, we came together around the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change — an agreement that, even with the temporary absence of American leadership, will still give our children a fighting chance.”
Obama reassured Moon that he could navigate the Korean missile crisis by telling him, “with the people’s support you can do anything.”
Russian and Chinese diplomats convened to release a joint statement imploring the United States, South Korea, and North Korea to embrace a de-escalation plan. The statement voiced concerns from the two powers.
It stated, “The deployment… of THAAD will cause serious harm to the strategic security interests of regional states, including Russia and China.”
The statement was released proceeding talks between China’s President Xi and Russia’s President Putin at the Kremlin.
Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, accompanied him on his trip to Southeast Asia.
[Featured Image by Achmad Ibrahim/AP Images]