World

Obama Meets With South Korean Leader Days After Trump

| by Robert Fowler

Former U.S. President Barack Obama may be out of office, but world leaders continue to seek his counsel. After speaking at a forum on Asian affairs, Obama informally met with newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

On July 3, Obama addressed the specter of North Korea's nuclear weapons program during a speaking slot at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea. The former president urged international cooperation to pressure North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to come to the negotiating table.

"We should be under no illusions that there is some silver bullet and solve this problem right away," Obama said during the conference. "But I do think that a good dialogue has opened up between the U.S. and China around this issue, and my hope is that the current administration is continuing that. I think it is also important for us to maintain the kinds of strong application of sanctions."

After the conference, Obama met with Moon. The South Korean president had recently returned from a diplomatic trip to Washington, D.C.

On June 30, Moon and current U.S. President Donald Trump held a joint press conference at the White House Rose Garden. Trump signaled that his administration was eager to see both China and South Korea increase pressure on North Korea, CNN reports.

"The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed," Trump said. "And, frankly, that patience is over."

"The North Korean dictatorship has no regard for the safety and security of its people or its neighbors and has no respect for human life -- and that's been proven over and over again," Trump added, referencing the coma and subsequent death of American student Otto Warmbier under North Korean detention.

The Trump administration has taken a stern posture towards China in relation to North Korea. On June 29, the Treasury Department slapped new sanctions on a Chinese bank and several Chinese citizens for allegedly helping facilitate North Korea's nuclear program.

"We are in no way targeting China with these actions," asserted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to The Hill. "This is about North Korea and how serious we are taking this."

During the Rose Garden press conference, Trump also called on Moon to help renegotiate a bilateral trade deal between the U.S. and South Korea.

"It's been a rough deal for the United States but I think that it will be much different for the United States," Trump said. The president added that he was "encouraged by President Moon's assurances that he will work to create a level playing field so that American workers and businesses and especially automakers can have a fair shake at dealing with South Korea."

On July 1, Moon pushed back against Trump's comments on trade during his own press conference. The South Korean president asserted that Trump's promises on the  South Korea-U.S. FTA trade deal had not been agreed upon beforehand.

"President Trump spoke about renegotiation without an agreement -- perhaps he could not be satisfied with that agreement alone," Moon told reporters, according to The Hankyoreh. "It was outside of what was agreed upon."

Obama's meeting with Moon lasted 40 minutes. The South Korean president reportedly asked Obama for advice on how to collaborate with Trump to curb the North Korean threat, The Korea Herald reports.

"President Trump and I agreed to continue to apply sanctions and pressure to resolve the North's nuclear and missile issues, while pursuing dialogue in parallel," Moon said in a statement through his press secretary, Yoon Young-chan.

"Obama said that as many South Koreans hope for his success, Moon would no doubt meet the people's expectations, quoting former President Abraham Lincoln who he said he respects the most that with the people's support you can do anything," Yoon added.

Sources: CNN, The HankyorehThe Hill, The Korea Herald / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, Korea.net/Wikimedia Commons, Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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