President Trump deserves “big credit” for talks between South Korea and North Korea this week, South Korean president Moon Jae-in told reporters Wednesday. “I want to show my gratitude,” he said.
For the first time since December of 2015, representatives of the governments in Pyongyang and Seoul convened on Tuesday. In the border village of Panmunjom, the two governments agreed to resolve future disputes with dialogue, not military action, and North Korea pledged to send a delegation of athletes and a popular cheerleading squad to the Olympics next month in South Korea.
Moon’s genuflection toward Trump was seen as a strategic move back home, where some have questioned whether he was bending too much to the will of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whose request for talks was interpreted by some as an attempt to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, D.C.
But Moon signaled Wednesday that he remains united with the U.S. by agreeing with Trump’s own assessment for why the talks happened.
He also pledged support for the top U.S. goal in the region, the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea.
“The two issues — improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue — cannot be separated,” Moon said. “If the North provokes again or does not show sincerity on revising its nuclear problem, the international community will continue to apply even stronger sanctions and pressure.”
Moon is no stranger to lavishing Trump with obsequious praise. When Trump visited in November, Moon threw him a banquet and praised his “great progress on making America great again.”
Given Moon’s credentials as a former human-rights lawyer who was elected on a pledge to pursue a less confrontational approach with North Korea, it’s unclear if he really believes his praise of Trump. But that doesn’t matter as much as whether it works. And clearly, it does.
Proof came Wednesday when Trump, who has previously called diplomacy a waste of time, told Moon in a phone call that the U.S. could sit down with North Korea “at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.” In the same call, Moon thanked Trump for his “leadership in making the talks possible.”