US a stumbling block to Korean reunification, says expert

The United States could be a stumbling block in the path of the two Koreas to reunite, said an expert, as US President Donald Trump has adopted a noncommittal tone in his diplomacy for North Korea and blamed China for inaction on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The United States could be holding back the reunification process of the Korean Peninsula because it is unwilling to let North Korea to taste blood so quickly out of concern that Kim Jong-un might go back on his word to denuclearize his country, said Jung H. Pak, a senior fellow and the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at Brookings Institution's Center for East Asia Policy Studies.

Since the historical meeting between Trump and Kim in Singapore in June, the United States has maintained the sanctions pressure on North Korea, which is discontent with the American demand for a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Last week, Trump called off a trip by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to North Korea just a day after it was announced, blaming China for his decision to cancel the trip. Previously, the US president accused China, with which the United States is fighting a trade war, of creating obstacles to his June meeting with Kim.

In a series of tweets, Trump again criticized China for a lack of movement on North Korea's denuclearization.

"President Donald J. Trump feels strongly that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese government. At the same time, we also know that China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities. This is not helpful!" said Trump in a tweet.

But Trump hailed his good relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping in another tweet. "As for the US-China trade disputes, and other differences, they will be resolved in time by President Trump and China's great President Xi Jinping. Their relationship and bond remain very strong," said Trump.

The hot-and-cold tone indicates the erratic diplomatic efforts on the North Korean problem in the recent months.

Pak said that the United States is leveraging its role in putting an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War in a peace agreement in exchange for North Korea's agreement to denuclearize completely.

But Pak believed that North Korea would not flinch in the face of the American pressure as it has a clear judgment about the international situation, saying that the US-China trade friction would divert Beijing's attention on the Korean Peninsula.

Mired in the trade spat with the United States, China would not impose sanctions on North Korea as urgently as before, according to Pak, who added that a reconciliation between the United States and China would be good to the resolution of the North Korean issue.

However, South Korea seems to depend on the United States more than China.

According to a poll conducted this year, 67 percent of South Korean people surveyed chose to support the United States in case of a war between the United States and China.

Pak said that it reflects South Korea's strong belief about its alliance with the United States, adding that China does not care about North Korean threat to Seoul and constantly uses its economic power to affect Seoul's diplomatic policy.

A 2017 poll showed that 90 percent of South Korean people surveyed hoped that the United States would defend their country when a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.

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