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Asia's Game of Thrones
Moon Wins in South Korea

After nine years of conservative rule and a months-long political vacuum, a left-of-center president will be taking power in South Korea—and that could spell trouble for Trump’s Korea policy. Financial Times reports:

Exit polls showed Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer, with over 41 per cent of the vote in Tuesday’s historic election, almost twice the share of his closest rival.

“Today’s sweeping victory is the result of our people’s desperate wish for a regime change,” the 64-year-old Mr Moon said as the result become apparent. “I will realise the two main tasks people desire — reform and national unity.” […]

While Donald Trump, US president, has warned of the risk of a “major, major conflict with North Korea”, Mr Moon, a former special forces operative, has promised a new approach to North Korea, based on engagement with Mr Kim’s regime as well as increased pressure.

On Tuesday, he said that South Korea needed to play a more active diplomatic role on North Korea — an issue on which it has been increasingly marginalised by the US and China amid a power vacuum in Seoul.

Moon’s foreign policy views are already sparking fears of a rift opening up with the United States. Moon is an advocate of the old “Sunshine Policy” of economic engagement with North Korea, a skeptic of U.S. hawkishness toward Pyongyang, and an opponent of the THAAD missile defense system. He recently wrote that Seoul needs to “learn to say no to America,” and the events of recent days—with the U.S. military controversially rushing THAAD into place while Trump grandstands about making the South Koreans pay for it—no doubt helped his case.

Still, it is unclear whether Moon can make a full return to the engagement policies of a decade ago. For one, the installment of THAAD is a fait accompli; although Moon has promised to review the deployment, he has shied away from promises to reverse it. And in the nine years since the liberals last held power, public opinion has shifted alongside the deteriorating security situation. As Scott Snyder notes in Forbes, South Korean polls reveal high support for the U.S. security alliance, high anxiety about the relationship with China, and low expectations about the prospects of engaging with the North. As a more practical constraint, Moon’s cabinet choices will be subject to the approval of a National Assembly his party does not control; it is unlikely, then, that he will select anti-U.S. ideologues who would fundamentally change course.

This does not mean that the U.S. should be unconcerned about Moon’s posture. He will certainly explore deeper engagement with Pyongyang, potentially undermining Trump’s push to turn up the heat via increased sanctions. And any more conflicting signals from Trump are likely to be exploited by the new administration to argue that Seoul should go its own way rather than following Washington’s lead in confronting Pyongyang.

Moon is set to be inaugurated tomorrow, so whatever changes he may bring could come quite soon. Let’s hope that the Trump administration is already building bridges.

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  • Dhako

    Aah, the wishful thinking is still continuing in the TAI, I see. In other words, keep telling yourself about how “solidly” the new government of South-Korean is with the new Regime in Washington, and soon you will find out how out-to-lunch you really are about what is being in the works in South-Korea. That is all I have to say about this. Which means, lets wait before the reality of new South-Korea hits you in the face. For that would be a delicious sight to behold, not that I think it will at all lessen your “attachment” of strategical wishful thinking where Asia is concern. But still it will be a good opportunity to laugh at the sheer inability for the folks in TAI to really read the “strategical tea-leaves” of this fast changing Asian continent, even if their livelihood is dependent on it.

    • ——————————

      Sorry Grasshopper, but it is you who is “out-to-lunch”…and contracted trichinosis from the Mu Shu pork.
      SK is not going to drop the US for a 3rd-world, communist, paper tiger who does absolutely nothing for humanity….

      • Dhako

        Aah we seemed to have the “considered wisdom” of those mouth-breathing Trump’s supporters. What in the world we could do without them beggars belief I suppose. Not, dear ninny. See to it to make yourself scarce for no one needs to insult their intelligence with your kind of spleen.

        • ——————————

          Grasshopper, you are a bit laconic today!
          The paper tiger must be having a rice shortage today and can’t pay you your 1 rice per word if you write too much.

          Sorry Grasshopper…maybe more rice tomorrow….

  • KremlinKryptonite

    Just as I predicted, a split conservative vote let Moon win. Although the vote was primarily split between Hong and Ahn, the centrist who attracted many conservatives as well, and there were certainly several other lesser contenders, too.
    However, Moon most definitely does not have a mandate, so it is unclear if he will actually double down on the failed policies of the liberal party here 1998-2008 and the disaster called “sunshine policy” which allowed NK to develop and test a nuclear weapon.

    Also, the protesters are already out here in City Hall, Jonggak, and Gwanghwamun. They have a very mixed message. Some of them are there to congratulate him, but urge him not to be a lapdog of the Kim regime as the party had been 1998-2008.
    Others are there calling for him to be impeached, saying that he is likely unfit to hold office due to quite possibly having early dementia and for posting a pornographic image to his social media (porn is technically illegal here, but generally not enforced other than child porn of course). However, he did do it, and he does get caught sleeping often in meetings, misspelled his own name, and has written the wrong date on several occasions

    • Dhako

      How much do you want to bet that the new government of South-Korea will not be announcing soon a “major announcement” about its position towards the THAAD system? And secondly, how much do you put on your confidence, that, the new government of South-Korea will not soon “indicating” a tangible strategical tilt towards China and North-Korea (as opposed to Washington). And, in fact, would you bet against the fact, that, the Mr Moon first overseas trip will be to Beijing (not to Washington)? Lets see how you would put your chips where your mouth is.

      • Isaiah6020

        Oh sweetie. THAAD is a done deal. Once it is there, it is pretty much in perpetuity. Will some kind of statement be made? Who knows, who cares. It’s there. Deal with it. As for first overseas trip, of course it will probably be to Beijing. So what? China is close and controls North Korea. That’s where I would go if I were him. As for tangible strategic tilts, what does that mean? Define your terms and than I can play Nostradamus for you.

        • Dhako

          On the THAAD System being in perpetuity, I beg to differ. In fact, it’s now will be up for a serious discussion it never had, properly. And you will see soon enough. As for the strategical tilt on the part of South Korea new government, you will see soon enough the kind it is and what its terms are.

          • Isaiah6020

            That’s all pretty open ended my friended. So you have nothing concrete to offer and all you got for me is: Wait and see, you just wait and see.
            That’s not persuasive. Devil is in the details, details you are failing to provide.

          • Dhako

            Well, you said the THAAD System was in perpetuity. And I in turn retort back by saying, not by a long shot. Hence, we shall soon enough see as to whether the THAAD is here indefinitely (as you hold). Or whether the thinking in South-Korea’s newly elected government is in line with my argument, and therefore, the new government will finally “reveal” its card about what they intent to do about the THAAD system along the lines of “re-opening” (or re-litigating, if you like) that strategical file, all over again.

      • KremlinKryptonite

        If you had read my post more closely, Dhako, you would’ve picked up on the fact that I’m not predicting what he will do, quite the opposite. It’s very unclear here at in the wee hours of the morning the day after.
        What I can tell you is that China right now is most hated country in Korea (yes, just overtook Japan a couple months ago) because Koreans don’t appreciate the economic warfare waged against them by the CCP, on behalf of Pyongyang. So, trying to snuggle up to General Secretary Xi would not be a smart political move atm.

        • ——————————

          Your just swing at air KK.
          He is just a troll for the paper tiger…AKA the PRC.

          No one at TAI takes him seriously…more like a joke….

        • Dhako

          Again, I beg to differ in here. And in fact I would go as far as to suggest that, now will be the time the new government will play its card when the winning is still very much in the minds of the folks, whereby they will get a benefit of the doubt (or the political honey-moon if you like) provided, he returns from Beijing with the “goodies”. And, I am sure Uncle Xi, will be suitably “generous” to his new friend in Seoul by making all of the previous economical difference between China and South-Korea the thing of the past. But, we shall see. However, whatever the case may be, the South-Koreans, have effectively, change thew table (at least strategically) in this election. And soon you will see the fruit of it. Not that the denizens who writes for this parish will ever get a clue about it. Which is a pity, considering, they styled themselves as US’s strategical thinkers. And, yet, in Asia, they are all at see. Lets hope long that may continue, least of all, it afford us a genuine mirth of how out of their depth, some of the best and the brightest strategical theoreticians of the US really are in a serious way.

    • Suzy Dixon

      Oh my god that is funny. He misspelled his own name and wrong dates, etc?

      • KremlinKryptonite
        • Suzy Dixon

          Oh my goodness! The collage of him passed out at all of those events would be enough for me. That’s almost as bad as Hillary being thrown in the back of a van for her heat stroke/pneumonia/Parkinson’s

          • Unelected Leader

            Trump’s pervy comments > Moon Cake passing out > HRC “we came. we saw. he died” psycho quote. On another note, if he pursues the lunatic sunshine policy then at least your job will be more interesting.

          • KremlinKryptonite

            Hmm, well I mostly study Chinese political and especially military developments. Although, I must admit that these past few weeks I have thought about that – selfishly.
            But I only allowed myself to think about it for a few fleeting moments. The damage done by the liberal party here between 1998-2008 has been beyond disastrous. And now I have a wife here. All the more reason why I would rather not see Moon double down on failed policies. By the way, did you just make that up, or are you already aware that his opponents here do call him Moon Cake haha? And obvious swipe for being a perceived Beijing/Pyongyang stooge.

          • Unelected Leader

            Awe haha. But that sounds like a job I’d love to have. But you’re there because you are helping the Korean military then or what?

          • KremlinKryptonite

            Not exactly. I’m working for the Farragut Technical Analysis Center which is part of the ONI. But really I’m working for the state department here, as I’m more of a liaison between ONI and the State Department’s INR (Bureau of Intelligence and Research).

            I’m actually forbade from having any direct professional connection with the Korean military due to the nature of my job. Indeed, even in the joint operations center, there are documents classified as “American Eyes Only”

            Maybe you should join? You have a degree, correct? You can go straight to Officer Candidate School. Your local navy recruiter likely isnt an officer recruiter, but they can put you in touch with one.
            The way it works, your most likely going to get your file looked at if you list something they need as your top pick (which are pilots and NFOs right now). So, you could put NFO as your first choice and intel as your second. You’ll have to take the ASTB as well the OAR though for aviation. Say you get rejected from NFO due to vision then you can fall back on intel.

          • Unelected Leader

            Well I definitely don’t have the vision to be a pilot or an NFO, but I wonder how hard the OAR and ASTB are ?

          • KremlinKryptonite

            Well you can still put it as your top choice to ensure that the board will look at your file. The OAR isn’t too bad. It’s similar to the LSAT with reading comp, logic games, and then there’s some math and a mechanical assessment.
            I’ve never taken the ASTB, but my brother in law is an NFO. He said its like playing pong on Atari. You’ll have a joystick and throttle to work, and you have to keep the reticle on a target. Basic hand eye coordination stuff.

          • Unelected Leader

            Well I’ll definitely consider it. I’m making decent money now, but not really in a career you know. I’m 26, so what’s the age limit though? And should you be sharing all of the info you do on here lol?

          • KremlinKryptonite

            OK so you need to make a decision and pull the trigger before you turn 27 because that’s the cut off for NFOs. As for me, I’m an engineer and most of my work requires that sort of training. The catch is that I have to adhere to INR’s security standards (even more strict) because I work with and for them here..so no personally identifiable social media for me. Nothing. The wife can’t even mention me on her social media. And for any hackers reading, this device is purely for reading news and entertainment. I never use this device for work, it never connects to a network used for for work, it’s never on proximity to devices used for work, and I use a good VPN on top of that for redundancy.
            Now, if all bureaucrats and politicians followed the same protocols it would be very difficult to hack anything from the Pentagon to Podestas work emails.

    • D4x

      Does SoKo’s National Assembly have any real power, beyond cabinet approval, over the Presidency?

      • KremlinKryptonite

        Well they certainly do, and they obviously just impeached a president. If you mean foreign policy-wise, however, then it’s very much like the United States. The president has vast latitude and deference to make foreign-policy

        • D4x

          TY, and, I did mean domestic policy. Seems doubtful they would go for another impeachment, what with the PeyongChang Olympics starting in nine months. I would think Moon and the new National Assembly will be focused on stability, in order to have a successful Winter Olympics.

          • KremlinKryptonite

            That’s a good observation. The Olympics and security for it are of utmost concern. Remember, the Kim regime launched a terror attack and blew up Korean Air 858 in ’87 to try and scare tourists from the ’88 Olympics.
            As for the legislature, no one has a majority, and if Hong’s Conservative party and Ahn’s People’s Party unite they’ll have 147 votes to the Democrats 120, and elections are years away.

          • D4x

            My understanding is that the North Korea regime did not want it’s citizens seeing the wealth of SoKo in 1988. My thought has been the much greater contrast in 2018 is partly behind all these weapons tests. (Not that anyone should try to read Kim Jong Un’s mind) TY!

  • tellourstory

    Ah, good more appeasement–whoops, I mean “engagement”. ‘Cause that ALWAYS makes things better, right?

    Also, “Seoul needs to learn to say no to America.” Music to my ears. Hopefully, this guy will be so utterly anti-American and so lavishly pro-Pyongyang that the US will finally have to reconsider its strategy in South Korea. Whatever we’ve been doing sure isn’t working ’cause we’re still there 64 years later.

    Instead, we should let South Korea go nuclear and leave as soon as the bomb(s) are developed. While that’s going on, the US should give Japan a timetable for withdrawal and tell them to rearm ASAP. In addition, we should allow them to develop nukes as well. The Japanese are understandably sensitive about the issue, so it’s up to them if they follow through on it or not. Once the timetable expires, we leave. If the South Koreans are willing to elect a guy that wants to play footsie with Pyongyang after numerous missile tests and a hydrogen bomb detonation then that tells me they’re not worried about their current situation. If they don’t care, why should we?

    After that, we should allow Poland to go nuclear instead of sending more troops there. I’ve been reading from the Poles themselves that they would much rather have nukes than US soldiers as a deterrent and I agree with them. Let Poland go nuclear, shelter the others under its umbrella and get our troops out of Europe for good. That way, Europe is free to lift the sanctions on Russia and openly trade with them again instead of cutting deals with them under the table–you know, the way you treat any country that’s a major “threat” to you. Again, if they don’t care, why should we?

    Usually, I try to be more charitable and look on the bright side, but I’m really fed up with all of this nonsense. Our entire foreign policy strategy in Asia is ridiculous. Our alliance with NATO, where Turkey’s Erdogan threatens Europe with refugees, bombs the Kurds and increasingly ties itself to Russia, is beyond parody. It’s borderline insanity and it reads like an episode of South Park.

    It’s time, in fact past time, for Uncle Sugar Daddy to go home.

    • Dhako

      I couldn’t have said it better (at least the going home part). As for the nuke side of your argument, well, it’s not so swell of an idea. But once your “alleged” Uncle Sugar Daddy go home (per your desire) especially from East Asia in general, then lets say, those nations will come to some sort of “understanding” of the kind their peace will hinge on. And I sure, since, they were there long before Madison’s Republic was a nothing but empty continents teeming with brute barbarians of the kind the original inhabitants of North America were allegedly said to be, then, these Asian countries (with their intermingling cultures and common civilizational root) will find a communal harmony from their historical wisdom. So, the best bet for you (and those who think like you) would be to “persuade” the likes of Trump, that, USA, has been nothing but chump that was taking for a ride by others when it comes to Asia’s security umbrella in which US provides. And I am sure, Trump, being a “American First” kind of a politician, he will at least nod along with your suggestion. And then who knows, you may even go down history as the man who “wised up” the US in-terms of how others were in the business of free-riding their US’s Sugar Daddy for their own interests without paying for it (or even given a thank you kind of gratitude in return for service rendered for them).

  • Dhako

    Not wanting to hijack this post, but I see in the news wire that Jim Comey of the FBI was fired by Trump. And what was it they said about Nixon when he fired Mr Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation. Also, Mr Comey, actually said to Congress that he was investigating the Trump team for possible collusion with the Russians. And here I am in London, wondering what does all these means?

    Perhaps, our Walter of the TAI could bring himself to put on his “scholarly gown” (and his half-moon reading glasses) for the service of exonerating the Trump’s team of any impropriety in here. Or at least he could tell us how that little escapade in Syria on the part of Mr Trump, genuinely demolished any thought that Trump was nothing but a Russian’s stooge. And this late act of “the night of long knifes” for Trump’s troublesome investigator by the name of Mr Comey is nothing to which to write home about it.

    • Unelected Leader

      Comey was getting hammered from both sides, bud. Hillary is blaming him for her defeat (LOOL) and conservatives are angry because he said she broke the law but then didn recommend an indictment.

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