South Korean president Moon Jae-in has shuffled his security advisers in a bid to keep alive his campaign to formally end the Korean war and denuclearize the peninsula.
While Washington-centric pundits focus on the erratic diplomacy of President Trump and the brinksmanship of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Moon is the most impressive of the three leaders. While dealing with two outsized egos, Moon has kept diplomacy focused on the idea of formally ending the Korean war (which actually ended in 1953) as the first step toward denuclearization.
The NIS has buttressed Moon’s diplomacy. For example, the NIS has shot down unfounded rumors about Kim Jong-un’s health.
With leaders as mercurial as Trump and Kim, there’s no telling when negotiations might begin again. The United States may have a new president in a year. Moon’s latest moves indicate he will continue to coax the North and the United States to the bargaining table.
He promoted Suh Hooh, the director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), to be his national security adviser.
Moon’s pick of Suh as his top security adviser is seen by some observers as heralding a shift in his approach in the tumultuous peace drive. Suh has expertise on the North Korea issue and reportedly has a relatively wide network of personal ties with officials in the communist neighbor.
The president picked former lawmaker Park Jie-won — to lead the NIS. Park was chief presidential secretary to late President Kim Dae-jung, who had a historic summit in 2000 with the North’s then leader Kim Jong-il.
From the Seoul daily The Hankyoreh comes the latest from the Blue House, as South Korea’s presidential residence is known.
President Moon Jae-in, responding to belligerent moves by North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, plans to shake up his national security team.
“It’s not a matter of ‘whether or not’ to replace the foreign affairs and national security lineup, but one of ‘when and with whom,’” a Blue House senior official said on June 24. This indicates plans to demonstrate the commitment to improving inter-Korean relations with a full-scale shakeup including not only the position of the unification minister — recently vacated by Kim Yeon-chul — but also those of National Intelligence Service (NIS) director and Blue House National Security Office director.
Moon, a liberal elected in 2017, has sought to depoliticize the agency, which has a long history of being aligned with his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye.
In June 2018 three former NIS directors (Lee Byung-kee, Lee Byung-ho, and Nam Jae-joon) who served in the Park administration were found guilty of bribery, related to the 2016 Park Geun-hye scandals. They illegally transferred money from the NIS budget to Park’s presidential office without any approval or oversight from the National Assembly. This illegally obtained money was used by Park and her associates for private use and to pay bribes.
John Bolton’s tell-all memoir is dismissive of South Korean President Moon Jae-in for seeking to coax President Trump into a denuclearization agreement with North. The fact that South Korea had an independent position toward its nuclear-armed neighbor annoyed Bolton, who expected South Korean deference.
But President Moon, elected a platform of reconciliation with North Korea, actually sought to deliver what most Korean voters want: a formal end to the Korean war and denuclearization of the peninsula.
Now Moon is returning Bolton’s disfavor by trashing the book.
Chung Eui-yong, national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, accused Bolton of “being inaccurate” in his memoir and “distorting the reality.” “Unilaterally revealing discussions made based on mutual trust among states violates the fundamental principles of diplomacy and could undermine future negotiations,” Chung said in a statement via a presidential spokesman. Chung did not specify which parts of Bolton’s memoir he claimed were inaccurate or distorted.
A bitter dispute between South Korea and Japan over compensation for Korean victims of Japan’s war crimes escalated last week when Seoul announced that it would terminate a 2016 bilateral agreement with Tokyo to share classified military intelligence. The unprecedented move drew howls of outrage from US officials and analysts that were reflected in a Washington Post headline stating that the decision “was a blow to US security interests.”
But for South Korean president Moon Jae-In, the move is a declaration of independence from a U.S.-brokered alliance with Japan. Moon, who is trying to coax North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il and President Trump into a denuclearization deal, is asserting national pride over long-standing security agreements that ignore Korean interests.
Moon’s move was supported by Yoo Kang-moon, an analyst for Hankyoreh, a leading Seoul daily.
After Donald Trump became president of the US, American leadership dried up. Trump’s emphasis on “America first” caused the value of alliances in many parts of the world to plummet. Rather than complimenting the South Korea-US alliance, Trump has grumbled about the money being spent on maintaining the American troop presence there and on carrying out joint military exercises. Trump has disregarded Japan’s attempt to revise its “peace constitution” and its movement down the road toward militarism. Japan’s military expansion recalls its history of aggression, which cannot coexist with friendly relations with South Korea. At the very least, there are already indications that trilateral security cooperation among South Korea, Japan, and the US is coming undone.
The howls of protest from the hawks of Washington and Japan come from the same sources who worry about Moon’s steadfast denuclearization diplomacy. They want to maintain the status quo in northwest Asia, while Moon recognizes that dependence on the United States during the reign of Trump is risky.
South Korea seeks to build a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula by improving inter-Korean relations and through cooperation with China and the US. Japan seeks to join the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy, aimed at containing China, while throwing off the shackles of its peace constitution and becoming a military power. South Korea-Japan relations have been stranded in that process, and their exact coordinates remain unknown.
South Korea standing up for itself isn’t a bad thing.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is in South Korea meeting with President Moon Jae-in. Moon is trying to coax Trump into an agreement with North Korea that will end the Korea war and gradually denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
Ahead of his visit to Cheong Wa Dae, Coats and South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Suh Hoon discussed ways to break the continued impasse in nuclear talks after last month’s failed Hanoi summit, two sources with direct knowledge of the talks said.