US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster gives a briefing at the White House National Security Council on Nov. 2. (Xinhua/Yonhap News)
In response to South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa’s negative remarks about deploying additional THAAD batteries, joining the US missile defense network or entering a military alliance with the US and Japan, US National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said on Nov. 2 he doesn’t “think that South Korea would give up its sovereignty in those three areas.”
During an interview at the White House with the Hankyoreh and 10 other media outlets from the five countries that US President Donald Trump will be visiting on his trip to Asia, McMaster said that he did not think that Kang’s statements had been “definitive” enough to call them policy principles. McMaster’s interview took place the day before Trump was scheduled to embark on his trip to Asia.
McMaster’s remarks imply his understanding that Kang’s remarks were an inevitable part of South Korea and China reaching an agreement about THAAD while simultaneously warning about the potential weakening of South Korea’s military cooperation with the US and Japan.
“I think what’s important is that China…is no longer punishing South Korea for defending itself, which I always thought didn’t make any sense,” McMaster went on to say. “What the situation calls for on the peninsula is punishment of North Korea, sanctions against North Korea – not on South Korea.”
“I think what China may be realizing as well is that it makes more sense…to prioritize its relationship with South Korea over its relationship with North Korea, which is…not only a dangerous state but a failing state at the same time,” McMaster said. “And so we welcome the news that China was lifting sanctions over South Korea.”
In regard to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program, McMaster stated, “The President will consult with leaders across the region to understand better what more we can do to resolve this crisis short of war,” and explained that the US would resolve the crisis without going to war by further isolating the North Korean regime. “What President Trump has asked us is to ask the countries of the region: Don’t feel constrained by the UN Security Council resolutions; feel free to do more to increase the diplomatic and economic isolation of North Korea.”
When asked whether Trump would be discussing military options with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, McMaster said that the two leaders “will feel compelled…to talk about the potential for military efforts within the alliance and involving other partners in the region” and that it “would be irresponsible” for them not to do so. “The reason why that topic must be on the agenda is because of the behavior of this rogue regime and the threat that Kim Jong‐un poses” to South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the US. “So it’s important for the leaders to discuss that. Our militaries, as you know, work every day at being prepared to respond to [North Korean] aggression.”
In regard to direct dialogue with North Korea, McMaster said that “the United States is talking a lot about North Korea…but not talking with North Korea.”
During the regular press briefing on the same day, McMaster said that re-designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism is “something that’s under consideration” as part of the overall strategy for North Korea. “At the present stage, they don’t seem to be considering this very seriously,” said a diplomatic source in Washington.
In an earlier interview with YTN, McMaster said the US launching a military strike on its own was an unimaginable scenario and that, if there is an attack by North Korea, Trump will be thinking of South Korea first and foremost.
In a response to McMaster’s comments about [Kang’s] remarks about the principle of the “three no’s (no to a trilateral military alliance with the US and Japan, no to being part of the US missile defense system, and no to further THAAD deployments),” a senior official at the Blue House said, “The principle of the ‘three nos’ is not a promise we made to China, but more of a statement that this has been our position thus far. The US apparently regards this as a promise to China, but I think we’ll be able to clear that up.”
When asked about McMaster’s claim that Trump and Moon will be discussing the military option during their summit, the official said, “My understanding is that that hasn’t been discussed as an agenda item for the summit meeting.”
By Yi Yong-in, Washington correspondent and Seong Yeon-cheol, staff reporter
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