DONALD TRUMP ARRIVED arrived South Korea this morning vowing to “figure it all out” with his counterpart Moon Jae-in, despite the two allies’ differences on how to deal with the nuclear-armed North.
As tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons programme have soared, the US president has traded personal insults and threats of war with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but the South’s capital and its 10 million inhabitants would be on the front line of any conflict.
On Twitter, Trump described Moon as “a fine gentleman”, adding: “We will figure it all out!”
The tone was in marked contrast to a previous Trump tweet in which he accused Moon, who has backed engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table, of “appeasement”.
Trump arrived from Japan, where he secured Tokyo’s full support for Washington’s stance that “all options are on the table” regarding Pyongyang, and declaring its nuclear ambitions “a threat to the civilised world and international peace and stability”.
He enjoyed three days with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling him “wonderful” after a round of golf and describing US-Japan ties as “really extraordinary”.
Trump’s relationship with Moon, a former human rights lawyer, is noticeably cooler, stoking concerns about the decades-old alliance and fears in Seoul that it could be sidelined by the US in favour of Tokyo.
But at Camp Humphreys, where US forces stationed in the country have moved their headquarters from downtown Seoul, the two men sought a rapprochement.
“Ultimately, it will all work out” on North Korea, said Trump. “It always works out. It has to work out.”
And Moon, whose parents were evacuated from the North on a US ship during the Korean War, was abundant in his praise for the United States.
“They say one knows a true friend when one is in need,” he told Trump.
The United States is a true friend who has been with us and has bled with us in our time of need.
South Korea is rolling out the red carpet for Trump as it seeks messages of assurance about the alliance and US resolve.
But while Trump has threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury”, Moon is mindful that much of Seoul is within range of the North’s artillery and in an address to parliament last week demanded: “There should be no military action on the peninsula without our prior consent.”
In an editorial Tuesday ahead of Trump’s arrival, the Korea Times said of the US president: “His ‘rhetorical bombs’ say it all.”
“However calm Koreans are reported to be about the Trump-Kim war of words, we cherish our lives as much as Americans do theirs and feel scared by the outlook of war,” it added.