[Herald Interview] US deputy governor upholds S. Korea-US alliance, FTA

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Sept 26, 2017 - 16:29
  • Updated : Sept 26, 2017 - 20:44

US President Donald Trump‘s use of personal communications channels to voice views on North Korea is a cause of concern, state of Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib says. 

“I have had the privilege of being briefed by the Council on Foreign Relations and nobody that I know of in the diplomatic or foreign relations community believes it is helpful for President Trump to be using his personal communication channel in this fashion in resolving this conflict,” said Habib, who is a CFR member, while sitting at a cafe in southern Seoul. 

“While the president does have broad powers, it is important that his statements and policy positions be delivered in conjunction with the advice of experts and allies,” he told The Korea Herald on Monday.

“Overall, he should communicate with South Korea (on this issue) and use our relationship with China to promote regional stability,” he stressed.

Habib’s visit here comes amid escalating inter-Korean military tensions on the back of the ongoing war of words between Pyongyang and Washington. Recent media reports have underlined some foreigners’ reluctance to set foot in South Korea at the moment.

“The trip brings a tremendous sense of solidarity (between South Korea and the US),” he added.

The lieutenant governor has been fully blind since he was 8 years old, following a battle with cancer. But this has not hampered his drive. He rose to the position of lieutenant governor for the US state of Washington earlier this year. He previously served in the state senate from 2015, after two years in the US House of Representatives and graduating from Yale Law School.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee led a delegation here two years ago, Habib said, adding that South Korea has been kind to him and the delegation throughout his weeklong trip.

“His trip was a shorter one, but left a powerful impression on him and his staff. It was his intention to build off of that successful trip,” he said.

The US state delegation led by Habib visited North Jeolla Province, which has been upholding a sisterly relationship with the US’ 13th most populous state for two decades. His visit to Korea ended Monday with a tour of the Samsung Electronics headquarters in Gangnam.

Habib’s worries also extend to uncertainties looming over the South Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. Trump has called for the renegotiation of the agreement, hinting at the US’ withdrawal from the pact.

“In Washington, South Korea is our fourth-largest trading partner after China, Japan and Canada, whom we share borders with,” he said. “(The Washington state) economy is extremely dependent on international trade and the idea of going back on our trade relationships with our allies makes no sense for us.”

“It particularly makes no sense when (South Korea and the US) have a common adversary, cause and mission for peace and stability,” added Habib.

Habib also shed light on the role of those with Korean heritage within the state government, as Washington shares a deep bond with Korean immigrants.

“Cindy Ryu is the first Korean-American to be a mayor in the US and now she is a state legislator (in Washington),” he said.

“There are a lot of prominent leaders within our country who make Korean people proud.”

By Jung Min-kyung (