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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 7)

2017/09/07 07:02

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Discourtesy of Trump

US leader should mind tweets, stop passing buck

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday when North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, "South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!"

   This tweet is beyond doubt a rebuke to President Moon Jae-in since it is well-known he has been backing dialogue for the resolution of North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

It is not just insulting to Moon but to the Korean people as well because he represents Korea. Even though the U.S. is a key ally to Korea, the two nations are separate sovereignties and, even between allies, a level of courtesy should be adhered to. Trump ignored it. He mocked the Koreans as he referred to South Korea rather than Moon by name in that tweet. Grammatically, he should have written "South Koreans" and "North Koreans."

   Then, adding insult to injury is the fact that it was the U.S. president who should take the blame. Trump himself is flip-flopping and swinging like a pendulum from one extreme to another in dealing with the North. Literally, one day he threatens to shower the North with fire and fury, while on the next he praises its leader Kim Jong-un for a brief lull leading to his next misadventure.

Trump's political case of schizophrenia has disaffected his staff. During his meeting with Defense Minister Song Young-moo after the North's Sept. 29 long-range missile test, U.S. Secretary of State James Mattis rebutted his boss by accident by confirming that force was not an option.

The day before, Trump got angry with the North's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan and withdrew his bona fide gesture to the North. Mattis was called in, obviously got upbraided for countering his boss and corrected himself, telling the press the North would face "total annihilation."

   In short, Trump himself doesn't know what he wants, rotating between appeasement and threats of force. With the boss engaged in perpetual changes of heart, one can't blame Mattis and other subordinates for being in disarray.

The lapse in the current effort to bring the North's nuclear and missile challenge under control is attributed to Trump's zigzagging policy. His tweet about Moon and Korea is a gimmick to distract the blame from him and is nothing less than an attempt to scapegoat them.

Trump should stop relying on street-smart one-upmanship dating to his days as a wheeling-and-dealing developer in New York and show some statecraft that befits his job to lead the effort to handle any coming disaster with the nuclear-armed North Korea. The way he has behaved, it may not be too long before it is hard to distinguish which poses the greater threat - Trump's unpredictability or Kim Jong-un's predilection for missiles and nukes.