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Korea-US summit will focus on reaffirming alliance: Moon

President refrains from dealing with THAAD issue in detail in Washington later this week

President Moon Jae-in on Monday said that his priority in the upcoming Korea-US summit is to reconfirm the bilateral alliance in general, not to discuss the disputed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense issue in detail.

The South Korean state chief thereby drew a line to the burgeoning calls, especially from the US political circles, to swiftly fix the timeline for the full deployment of THAAD on the Korean Peninsula.

“President Moon said that in the upcoming summit, he shall not cling to the outcome of individual agendas but rather focus on building up friendship and trust with President Donald Trump,” said Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Soo-hyun in a briefing.

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

“Based on (the renewed trust), the president vowed to further strengthen the Korea-US alliance and to discuss joint measures for North Korea‘s nuclear problems.”

The Korea-US summit, which is to take place in Washington from June 29-30, will be the first official overseas trip for Moon, as well as a key variable for the nation’s policy regarding belligerent North Korea.

Seeking advice for the upcoming diplomatic event, Moon earlier on the day met with former South Korean ambassadors to the US.

“The Korea-US summit is taking place earlier than expected,” President Moon told the participants, highlighting the prolonged vacuum in the nation’s summit diplomacy caused by the ouster of his predecessor Park Geun-hye.

The former senior diplomats mostly agreed that the summit should place top priority on underlining the significance of the bilateral alliance.

“The attendees advised (President Moon) to focus on the larger theme, instead of discussing pending issues in full details,” Park said.

Calls, and expectations, have been rising from both in Seoul and Washington that Moon and Trump should come out of their first summit with a concrete agreement on the THAAD deployment schedule, agreed by their predecessors and now facing uncertainty under new leaders.

A group of 18 senators, led by Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia Chairman Cory Gardner, submitted a joint statement to Trump on Friday, local time. The written statement came shortly after a separate group of senators announced a resolution welcoming the visit of the South Korean state chief.

A THAAD launcher (Yonhap)
A THAAD launcher (Yonhap)

“We ask you to offer a firm assurance to President Moon that the bonds of our historic alliance are unbreakable and that the US is fully committed to our defense treaty obligations with South Korea,” the letter said.

Stressing that a full range of multilateral sanctions are needed to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations, the senators called for a swift and full deployment of THAAD on the Korean Peninsula.

Of the six THAAD launchers, two have been installed while the remaining four are pending due to an environmental impact evaluation.

“We ask you to reiterate to President Moon that the decision to deploy THAAD was an alliance decision, and protects both US troops and millions of South Korean citizens, while not posing any threat to South Korea’s neighbors,” the letter said.

Since the swearing-in of Moon as president, there have been some concerns that the plan to install the anti-missile battery here may undergo setbacks.

The fact that the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae ordered the Defense Ministry to implement a full-fledged environmental review on the THAAD site further boosted such speculations.

But Moon has repeatedly denied such claims, especially during his recent set of interviews with the US media, stressing that he was not seeking for a fundamental chance in the deployment plan.

“The decision to deploy was made by the previous administration and I have made it clear that I will not take the installment decision lightly,” Moon told CBS in an interview last week.

“But the (environmental) assessment does not mean that we will postpose or reverse the deployment.”

The president‘s stance was also echoed by Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, who is to assist the president during the Washington visit.

“My government has no intention to basically reverse the commitments made in the spirit of the ROK-US alliance,” the minister said during a luncheon at the J-CSIS Forum.

“The deployment of THAAD was an alliance decision, so will we, as alliance, continue to collaborate on the basis of mutual trust.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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