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U.S. experts lashes out at Trump's remarks about THAAD, FTA with S. Korea

2017/04/29 03:48

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, April 28 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's demand that South Korea pay for the U.S. THAAD missile defense battery being installed in the country is "inflammatory, ignorant and no way to treat an ally," an American expert said Friday.

Trump made the demand in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, despite an agreement reached between the two countries last year that the U.S. military will fund the deployment as long as Seoul agrees to host it and provides land for it.

The remark rattled an ally trying to work together with the U.S. to tackle the growing nuclear and missile threats from the North. Many South Koreans expressed anger and bewilderment, raising calls for scrapping the deployment altogether.

During the interview with Reuters, Trump also denounced the free trade agreement with South Korea as "unacceptable" and a "horrible deal made by Hillary" Clinton, and said he would "renegotiate that deal or terminate it."

   On North Korea, Trump said that there could be a "major, major conflict with North Korea."

   "Trump's comments on Korea in his interview with Reuters were inflammatory, ignorant and no way to treat an ally," Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said.

"On THAAD, as I understand it, the terms of the US deployment as USFK had agreed with the ROK are: the ROK would provide the land and the infrastructure and USFK would pay for the actual deployment and operating expenses," he said. "It is bad faith to 'bait and switch' and change the terms after the fact."

   With regard to the trade deal, Manning also said that Trump was wrong on all counts, noting that the agreement was first negotiated by the administration of former President George W. Bush, and former President Barack Obama actually renegotiated and tightened the deal to get congressional approval.

"A good part of the bilateral trade deficit is the result of slow growth in South Korea and a weak Won. In any case, it is absurd to say that a $28 billion trade deficit in a $17 trillion US economy is 'destroying America,'" he said.

Ken Gause, a Korea expert at CNA Corp. in Washington, also said he was "perplexed" by Trump's remarks, pointing out that they made "little sense from the U.S. position given the need to keep South Korea focused on the North Korea problem."

   "They, however, probably make Beijing happy," he said.

The remarks will likely play well for South Korean presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in, the expert said, adding that Moon will likely push for policies that are "more closely aligned with Chinese than U.S. equities."

   "Forcing South Korea to pay for THAAD will likely undermine the deal supporting its deployment at a minimum, it will put a strain on the relationship. Once THAAD is out of the way, China can use the abrogation of the FTA to begin to resurrect its close economic relationship with Seoul," he said.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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