Uneasiness grows in Seoul over Trump’s remark over arms sales

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Sept 6, 2017 - 18:01
  • Updated : Sept 6, 2017 - 18:01

After US President Donald Trump’s recent tweets about his approval of selling military equipment to South Korea, a sense of uneasiness is growing here over what some see as the US leader’s attempts to use the ongoing security crisis as an opportunity to sell weapons.

In a tweet posted Tuesday, Trump said he has allowed South Korea and Japan to purchase “a substantially increased amount” of sophisticated US military equipment to counter North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile threats. 

US President Donald Trump (AP-Yonhap)

His comment came a day after his phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, during which Trump, according to another tweet and an official White House press statement, gave his “conceptual approval” for the purchase of military weapons and equipment worth billions of dollars by South Korea.

But South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said there was no new arms deal discussed. What the two leaders covered during their phone conversation was the way for South Korea to adopt the US’ sophisticated weapons and technology in response to evolving military threats from the North, it said.

“There was no such conversation about purchasing weaponry during the phone call,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said Tuesday, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

In an official statement released after the talks, Cheong Wa Dae said Moon and Trump agreed in principle to continue their consultations over the adoption of US sophisticated weapon systems and military technology.

The conversation between two leaders took place after Pyongyang detonated a purported missile-ready hydrogen bomb Sunday, escalating military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It was meant to reassure South Koreans that the US, South Korea’s top ally, is committed to providing an extended nuclear umbrella as promised and is closely consulting with Seoul to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

During Sunday’s phone call, Trump agreed to remove the payload limits on South Korea’s ballistic missiles, allowing Seoul to deploy missiles that could destroy the North’s underground military facilities and wartime commands.

“Does President Trump want to use North Korea’s nuclear test as an opportunity to sell arms to South Korea?” said Rep. Park Jie-won of the People’s Party, referring to the White House comment about “conceptual approval” for the purchase of a weapons system by South Korea.

According to military analysts, the “conceptual approval” indicates that the US government may simplify its administrative process of selling its weapons systems to other countries, adding that the measure might accelerate the delivery process of purchased weapons.

Among the options to be considered are the additional purchases of F-35A stealth fighters and a battery of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. Deploying the PAC-3 intercepting system might be also on the table, the experts noted.