South Korean officials nervous about Trump’s speech at National Assembly

Posted on : 2017-11-04 17:56 KST Modified on : 2017-11-04 17:56 KST
Concerns grow that the US President will raise tensions with NK, renew attack on KORUS FTA
 in which he referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. (AP/Yonhap News)
in which he referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. (AP/Yonhap News)

The part of US President Donald Trump’s visit to South Korea about which Seoul is most nervous is his address at the National Assembly, which is scheduled for the morning of Nov. 8. Depending on what Trump says during the address, his message to North Korea could send shockwaves across the Korean Peninsula, and the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) could also come under attack. While the Blue House played up the fact that “this will be President Trump’s only opportunity to deliver a major policy address while he is visiting South Korea, China and Japan” when it announced the schedule of Trump’s address at the National Assembly, government officials now seem anxious about the tenor of the message he will deliver when he finally stands at the podium in the National Assembly.

The White House has announced that Trump is planning to urge the international community to help maximize pressure against North Korea during his address at the National Assembly. It added that the KORUS FTA will be a key subject of discussion during Trump’s visit to South Korea. On Nov. 2, the prevailing mood among figures both inside and outside the government was one of concern, rather than expectation.

“The ‘war of words’ between North Korea and the US has reached the critical point,” said one government official, who warned that more of Trump’s unique belligerence could provoke North Korea and worsen the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

“I’m worried that Trump will continue to send a hardline message against North Korea and that the South Korean government’s response will come across as breaking up a fight,” said one diplomatic source. Another concern was that Trump might “appear as if he’s aggressively threatening the South Korean public by bringing up the issue of the KORUS FTA.”

The Blue House and the Foreign Ministry are reportedly continuing to work with the US to ensure that Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly this past September – when he spoke of “totally destroy[ing]” North Korea and called Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” – will not be repeated in the National Assembly.

The Blue House and the National Assembly are paying particular attention to protocol for Trump, who will be the first US president to deliver an address in the National Assembly in 24 years, since Bill Clinton spoke there in July 1993. The Blue House’s Security Service, the National Assembly’s Security Planning Bureau and the White House Secret Service are working together to draw up a security plan for Trump’s state visit. They are also trying to arrange an opportunity for Trump to meet with National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun and the floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties before his address.

US President Donald Trump’s now-infamous speech at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19
US President Donald Trump’s now-infamous speech at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19

By Kim Ji-eun and Song Ho-jin, staff reporters

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