World

Concerns, uncertainty as Trump visits Korea

All eyes on US president as he starts South Korean leg of Asia trip tomorrow


With growing fears that the brash-talking Donald Trump could provoke North Korea when he visits Seoul tomorrow, experts have urged the South Korean government to seek clarification on US policy towards Pyongyang and prevent any miscalculation that could light the fuse of war.

There are also worries that North Korea, which has ruled out talks to abandon nuclear weapons, could launch a ballistic missile while President Trump is here.

Mr Trump, who had previously traded insults and threats with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will visit the new US military base, Camp Humphreys, in Pyeongtaek tomorrow. This will be followed by a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae In and a joint press conference.

Mr Moon will host a state banquet featuring K-pop performances to welcome Mr Trump, whose state visit to South Korea is the first in 25 years for a US president.

All eyes will be on Mr Trump when he speaks at South Korea's National Assembly on Wednesday. This is a rare opportunity for him to directly address the North Korean issue, which will dominate his Asia tour, although some fear he may say something provocative that could push the region to the brink of war.

Sogang University's international relations professor Kim Jae Chun hopes that both Mr Trump and Mr Kim would "exercise caution" and refrain from ratcheting up tensions.

"Many Koreans are worried about the rhetoric coming from Mr Trump. He will stand firm against North Korea and issue warnings against provocations from Mr Kim, but I think he will scale down on his hostile, war-like rhetoric... as a sign of goodwill to South Korea."

It is also crucial for both the US and South Korea to iron out differences in their approach towards North Korea, said Prof Kim, adding that Washington is worried about Seoul leaning towards appeasement while Seoul fears that Washington favours military action.

In the lead-up to the visit, there have been rallies on the streets, with some civil groups welcoming Mr Trump and others protesting with slogans like "No Trump, No War".

Yesterday, presidential spokesman Park Soo Hyun urged South Koreans to join the government in "warmly welcoming" Mr Trump so his state visit can serve to elevate US-Korea ties to a "great alliance".

Mr Trump will spend about 24 hours in South Korea - the shortest leg of his Asian tour.

He will visit the National Cemetery in Seoul on Wednesday before flying off to China.

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