Home » Second Trump Presidency Could Render Yoon’s Foreign Policy Keynote Null and Void

Second Trump Presidency Could Render Yoon’s Foreign Policy Keynote Null and Void

With Trump holding a 10-point lead over Biden in the latest polls, the current administration in South Korea must reckon with what a second term for Trump would mean for it.

The disconcerting rise of former President Donald Trump as he seeks to return to the White House in next year’s US presidential election is deeply troubling US allies, including South Korea.

“The possibility that the former president will win next year’s election has capitals across the globe on edge,” wrote the Wall Street Journal.

“Foreign leaders recognize that a second term for Trump would be even more extreme and chaotic than his first term,” was the assessment of Foreign Affairs.

Trump leads Joe Biden 52% to 42% in a hypothetical matchup released on Sunday by the Washington Post and ABC News, which surveyed 1,006 people.In other hypothetical matchups conducted since August, Trump had generally been within 2 points of Biden, but this time he led by 10 points, well above the margin of error (plus or minus 3.5 points).

However, according to a poll of 1,000 people released the same day by NBC, the two are still neck-and-neck at 46% each.Trump has solidified his lead in the Republican primary, the first hurdle to the general election. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Sept. 13 showed him with 62% support among Republicans, a 50-point lead over the runner-up, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.While an upset in the Republican primary, which will begin casting ballots in January, is not entirely out of the question, it seems unlikely.These developments have the world waiting with bated breath to see how a second round of Trump will affect their countries.

If Trump’s return to power becomes a reality, the diplomatic legacy that Biden has built during his nearly three years in office could be reset overnight.Biden has been uniting like-minded democratic allies to confront the threat of Russia and the challenges posed by China. However, during his presidency (January 2017-January 2021), Trump’s “America First” rhetoric had at times antagonized allies and prodded them to shoulder more economic burdens.

Trump’s unilateralism has come up for discussion again following an interview with NBC that aired on Sept. 17. When asked if he, like Biden, would send US troops to defend Taiwan, he pussyfooted the question, responding, “I won’t say. I won’t say,” because “if I said, I’m giving away – you know, only stupid people are going to give that.”He also reiterated his claim that he would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and put an end to the war in Ukraine within 24 hours.

While Trump hasn’t elaborated on the specifics of how he would address the issue, his characterization of Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping as “geniuses” or “brilliant” suggests that if he returns to the White House, he could reverse course on the Taiwan Strait (China) and the war in Ukraine (Russia), which could have a profound impact on the future of the international order.

Biden has so far tried to confront Russia by strengthening NATO in Europe and to encircle China in East Asia through a trilateral alliance of South Korea, the US, and Japan, AUKUS, and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

Since taking office, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration has been responsive to these US initiatives, taking a hard line on North Korea from the start, improving relations with South Korea and Japan by making unilateral concessions on sensitive historical issues in March, and taking the first step toward a trilateral alliance with the US, Japan, and South Korea at the Camp David summit in August.

But if Trump were to return, the basic premises that made all of these policies possible could be pulled out like a rug beneath one’s feet.

Washington’s Korean Peninsula policy is also expected to undergo a drastic shift.

First, the US will likely ramp up its pressure on South Korea. It is all but certain that Trump, who during his tenure as president demanded a fivefold increase in South Korea’s military cost-sharing with the US, will once again call for a sharp increase in payments from South Korea.

If Trump is reelected, defense cost negotiations that are likely to take place in 2025, the first year of Trump’s second term, will pose a significant challenge to South Korea.

This has already been signaled by the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation’s recommendation that the US should “make burden-sharing a central part of US defense strategy,” in its policy mandate report released in July.During this process, Trump may use the potential withdrawal or downsizing of US Forces Korea as a bargaining chip.

In his memoir, former White House national security advisor John Bolton, who was in charge of US security policy during the Trump administration, summarized Trump as saying that the US should “threaten to withdraw all US forces” from South Korea and Japan in order to elicit more payments from the two countries. Former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper also revealed that former US State Secretary Mike Pompeo advised Trump to make the withdrawal of US forces from South Korea his “second-term priority.

”Trump has taken the stance that joint military exercises between South Korea and the US are a waste of money, and that South Korea should pay the price of strategic asset deployment.

Considering this, the Washington Declaration from April, which strengthened US commitment to extended deterrence toward South Korea and was touted as the Yoon administration’s greatest diplomatic accomplishment, may become all but void in the event of a second Trump presidency.Resuming dialogue with North Korea is another key issue.

While Trump touted his three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as his top achievements, Washington’s North Korea policy shifted significantly following the “no-deal” summit in Hanoi, so whether dialogue with North Korea will resume remains uncertain.

While predicting that Trump would try to meet again with Kim and resume talks, Frank Aum, a senior expert at the United States Institute of Peace, estimated that Kim would try not to deal with the Yoon administration and exclude South Korea from any dialogue between North Korea and the US, adding that recent efforts among South Korea, the US and Japan to institutionalize security cooperation will be directly threatened.

Ultimately, if Trump returns to the White House, the security structure constructed by the Biden administration and Yoon administration, including trilateral cooperation among South Korea, the US and Japan, stronger sanctions against North Korea, large-scale joint drills between South Korea and the US, and frequent strategic asset deployment, is highly likely to be scrapped.

In the worst-case scenario, both the US and North Korea — South Korea’s top partner and antagonist concerning security issues — may turn away from South Korea, pushing the country towards unprecedented hardship.Experts also warn that Trumpism may return as a force much more powerful than its previous incarnation in the event of a second Trump presidency.

In an essay he wrote for Foreign Affairs, Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner predicted that, unlike during his first presidential bid, Trump would receive support from lawmakers more loyal to Trumpism than to Republican Party leadership.

Others analyze that Trump’s four years as president provided him with useful experience he can refer back to in order to prevail over bureaucrats opposing his radical policies, something he lacked as a novice politician and administrator during his first presidency.

Source : HANI