If North Korea and Japan went to war, more South Koreans would back their immediate neighbor, a new poll by a state-sponsored think tank in Seoul showed.
The survey, conducted by research fellow Lee Sang Sin, was presented Wednesday as part of the Korea Institute for National Unification's 11th annual Peace Forum. Lee set out to determine the views of South Koreans at a critical juncture in Northeast Asia's power dynamics, and found they would more readily support longtime rival North Korea than fellow U.S. ally Japan should a conflict break out between the two.
"Under a rather extreme hypothetical situation in which war may break out between North Korea and Japan, 45.5 percent would choose to help North Korea, and 15.1 percent Japan," the survey, which was obtained by Newsweek, showed. "39.4 percent respond that they have no idea."
Lee also found that responses did not vary much by political party, with the right-wing Liberty Korea Party only slightly more decided on assisting either Japan or North Korea. Lee told Newsweek that the results were "not so surprising" for those following the trend in inter-Korean relations.
President Trump unexpectedly came to Joe Biden’s defense on Sunday — but only to say he was “somewhat” better than a rabid dog.
“Mr. Chairman, Joe Biden may be Sleepy and Very Slow, but he is not a ‘rabid dog,'” Trump tweeted in an apparent direct message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, following the country’s shocking attack that also said Biden should be “beaten to death with a stick.”
“He is actually somewhat better than that,” Trump wrote of the Democratic frontrunner, who has been leading in national polls but is lagging behind South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the latest Des Moines Register/CNN poll.
The commander in chief then used his tweet to push the fact that he has come further than any previous president in creating dialogue over nuclear weapons with the hostile nation.
“I am the only one who can get you where you have to be. You should act quickly, get the deal done. See you soon!” Trump tweeted.
The part where Donald Trump described Joe Biden as a step above a “rabid dog” got all the attention, but the president’s tweet to Kim Jong Un earlier this month had another significant message: Better seize the day, because tomorrow could bring a President Biden. “I am the only one who can get you where you have to be,” Trump wrote. “You should act quickly, get the deal done. See you soon!” As Stephen Biegun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea, warned last week, the window for this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reach a nuclear agreement may not remain open for long. So why, as Biegun himself emphasized during congressional testimony, is North Korea barely engaging in nuclear talks with the United States at the moment, even as the 2020 election approaches with no guarantee Trump will win again? Why is Kim standing by as the Trump Window potentially closes—and actually hastening the closure by giving the U.S. a year-end deadline to adopt a more flexible negotiating position or put at risk nearly two years of diplomacy between the countries? In recent weeks, in fact, the North Koreans have thrown all sorts of wrenches into the (albeit already gummed-up) diplomatic works, even as Trump has dangled another leader-level summit before Kim and as his administration has made other conciliatory gestures, such as postponing military exercises with South Korea. North Korean negotiators walked away in a huff from a meeting last month in Sweden with Biegun and his team without seriously discussing denuclearization or consenting to follow-up talks.
The Kim regime “now considers summits without payment for cooperation as empty diplomacy that merely helps … Trump raise domestic political support,” Leif-Eric Easley, a Korea expert at Ewha Womans University, in Seoul, told me. Apparently emboldened, this week alone Kim has twice spurned South Korea by declining an invitation to attend a regional conference and by violating a military agreement with its neighbor, making it harder for the South Korean government to do what it has done repeatedly over the past two years: act as a catalyst for diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea. Kim has also conducted a series of tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles since the spring. The not-so-subtle subtext of these provocations is that if the Trump administration doesn’t change its policies to his satisfaction by the new year, Kim could resume the tests of nuclear bombs and long-range missiles that brought the United States and North Korea to the brink of war in 2017.
With six weeks to go until the end of 2019, Biegun told lawmakers that Kim has not yet empowered his negotiators to discuss the country’s nuclear-weapons program with their American counterparts, nor agreed in writing on a suspension of nuclear and missile tests, a definition of denuclearization, or how North Korea would undertake such a process. Instead, he acknowledged that North Korea has continued advancing its nuclear arsenal by, for instance, producing more fissile material. As the North Korea scholar Robert Carlin recently wrote, “If Pyongyang has decided it has a viable option to move to full and final development of its most fearsome weapons while the U.S. sinks into months of savage internal political warfare, then East Asia, in fact the entire Western Pacific, will in a flash become more dangerous than it has been at any time since World War II.”
Donald Trump called for the population of Seoul to be moved during an Oval Office meeting when tensions between the US and North Korea were at their height, according to a new book about the president’s relations with the US military.
In Trump and his Generals: The Cost of Chaos, the national security and counter-terrorism expert Peter Bergen also gives new details of Trump’s demands that the families of US service members in South Korea be evacuated, which the North Korean regime would have interpreted as a clear move towards war. In both cases, Trump’s impetuous diktats were ignored by his top officials.
Bergen’s book, the latest in a string of accounts of the president’s erratic leadership on national security issues, is being published on Tuesday at a time when friction between Washington and Pyongyang is once more on the rise, after more than 18 months of detente and summitry. The North Korean leadership is threatening a resumption of missile tests, and a war of words between Trump and Kim Jong-un is simmering once more.
Trump has resurrected his nickname for Kim, “Rocket Man”. North Korea conducted a missile engine test at a site that it had previously mothballed, and on Monday a senior regime official called the US president a “heedless and erratic old man”.
The level of mutual hostility is still some way off from the worst period in 2017 when a conflict looked a real possibility.