President Trump’s time in South Korea centers heavily around the North Korean threat.
On Nov 7, 12:18 pm local, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived at Osan Air Base in South Korea where they were greeted by a 21-gun cannon salute. From there, they proceeded to Camp Humphreys, where Trump and South Korean Prime Minister Moon Jae-in sat with troops for lunch.
“I had a choice of having a beautiful, very fancy lunch and I said no, I want to eat with the troops and we ate with the troops,” Trump stated.
After a 30 minute ride on Marine One, Trump landed at Yongsan Base in the country’s capital. From there, the President and his party made its way to the Blue House, where President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were greeted by President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook.
The two leaders stood for the national anthems of both countries and then greeted US and South Korean delegations. After entering the main building, POTUS and FLOTUS signed the Blue House guestbook, “President Moon, this is such a great honor. Thank you,” wrote President Trump.
In a large room, the two presidents sat side by side with US and South Korean flags behind them. President Moon congratulated Trump “in advance” for the one-year anniversary of his election victory and praising the economy and stock market of the US stated, “You are already making great progress on making America great again.” Continuing, Moon commended Trump for putting the North Korean issue “at the top” of his security agenda. Trump said it was an honor for him to be in South Korea, and commenting on his Asia trip stated, “There is a great spirit, it’s a great part of the world.”
At 4:30 pm local, the two leaders walked together in the gardens of the Blue House to a pavilion for tea, according to the White House.
Around 8:00 pm local time, a state dinner was held at the Blue House where President Moon stated that after a day with President Trump, he felt “as if they were old friends” and proposed a toast to the health of President Trump and the First Lady. Trump, emphasizing the “deep and enduring” partnership between the US and South Korea stated, “Tonight we celebrate South Korea’s success and we reaffirm our close friendship.”
“May freedom and peace flourish on this peninsula,” Trump concluded.
The following morning, on Nov 8, Trump attempted to make a surprise unscheduled visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. The journey was canceled, however, by bad weather. The president’s motorcade left POTUS’ hotel at 7:09 am local for Yongsan Garrison, where POTUS and his party attempted to depart for the DMZ. After nearly an hour of waiting for the fog to clear so that the president could take off, the presidential motorcade made its way back to POTUS’ hotel at 9:00 am.
President Moon was supposed to join Trump at the DMZ, according to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. According to Sanders, it would have been a “historic moment” because it would have been the first time a US and the South Korean president had visited the DMZ together.
“The effort shows the strength and importance of the alliance between the two countries,” Sanders said.
If the weather had permitted, the highlight of Trump’s time in South Korea would have perhaps been his visit to the DMZ with Prime Minister Moon. But instead, the highlight of Trump’s trip to South Korea occurred later that day, during his speech before the South Korean legislature.
Trump delivered a 35-minute address for which he received a standing ovation.
“I have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship,” Trump stated in his speech. “The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.”
Continuing, Trump juxtaposed the two Koreas in his address: “On this peninsula, we have watched the results of a tragic experiment in a laboratory of history. It is a tale of one people but two Koreas. One Korea in which the people took control of their lives and their country and chose a future of freedom and justice of civilization and incredible achievement. And another Korea in which leaders imprison their people under the banner of tyranny, fascism, and oppression. The results of this experiment are in and they are totally conclusive.”
Hailing South Korea as an example that North Korea should follow, Trump described the North as “a hell that no person deserves,” and the South as “a nation blessed with wealth, rich in culture, and deep in spirit.”
Trump also accused North Korea of pursuing “nuclear weapons with the deluded hope that it could blackmail its way to the ultimate objective.”
“And the objective we are not going to let it have,” Trump asserted. “We are not going to let him have.”
The previous day, during a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon, Trump called on North Korea to open dialogue with the US, to “do the right thing, not only for North Korea but for humanity all over the world.”
But Trump refuses talks with North Korea unless they denuclearize. North Korea, just as stubbornly, refuses any talks about denuclearization.
His speech to the National Assembly took a more aggressive tone than his words the day before.
“Do not underestimate us,” Trump directed towards North Korea. “And do not try us.”
If Trump’s pressure on North Korea leads to a war between the two countries, it has the potential to kill one million people on just the first day, according to a Stanford University assessment. Many experts believe the chances of war between US and North Korea are high, but almost none believe that Trump’s actions will lead to North Korea’s denuclearization. Even South Koreans, who have largely become desensitized to North Korea’s constant threats over the decades have recently become uneasy over the growing tensions between their Northern neighbor and the US.
A recent op-ed in the New York Times by Se-woong Koo, “Mr. Trump, I Live in South Korea, and You’re Scaring Me” explains the current change in atmosphere in South Korea: demands for survival kits have surged and sales for gas masks, canned food, and portable radios have suddenly escalated.
Trump’s arrival to South Korea was marked with rallies by both Trump supporters and protesters, the former reveling in the long alliance between the US and Korea and the latter accusing Trump of using the North Korean threat to pressure South Korea into buying more US equipment and artillery.
After Trump’s speech to the National Assembly, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited Seoul National ceremony, where they participated in a wreath-laying ceremony.
Trump left South Korea for Beijing, China earlier today, on Nov 8, where he will be hosted by President Xi Jinping. Trade and North Korea are expected to be at the top of Trump’s agenda during his time there.