Moon Jae-in, the Fence-sitter
From the outset of his presidency, Mr. Moon Jae-in wanted to play a role of a mediator between the United States and its democratic allies on one side and Communist China and North Korea on the other.
Mr. Moon’s idea of being a neutral mediator for the resolution of international disputes doesn’t make much sense because he couldn’t be “neutral” even in the post-Cold War era as his country is an ally of the United States. That was probably why he has never been invited to play such a role by other countries in three years since he became the president of the Republic of Korea.
Only a few occasions in which Mr. Moon made a diplomatic maneuver of sorts was his voluntary efforts to arrange three meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore, Hanoi and the Korean truce village of Panmunjom. As we all know, nothing much came out of those meetings, however
His real diplomatic skills, if any, could have been used in the on-going negotiations to help settle hot disputes between the United States and China, but neither Washington nor Beijing asked for his service. Although Mr. Moon has not been critical of the United Stater on bilateral issues, he has never shown enthusiasm for the friendly ties between the two allies.
The latest case in point occurred when U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked his counterparts in Japan and South Korea to hold a meeting in Guam on August 29. Japan’s defense minister Taro Kono flew to Guam while their South Korean counterpart was absent for the meeting. The meeting had been convened to discuss the problems related to North Korea and China.
South Korea’s official excuse was that because of the worsening crisis brought on by the Covid-19, the defense minister was unable to leave his post for an overseas trip. But as cynical press commentators in Seoul pointed out that the Corona pandemic was raging in America and Japan as well.
Some pundits added that when Seoul cannot say openly “no,” to Washington, the government officials simply remain silent, lest what they say could upset the big and powerful neighbor, China.
In fact, Mr. Moon, a leftist politician, has been cozying up with Communist China since he became the President of the nation which has kept close and friendly ties with the United States since the founding of the Republic 70 years ago. And that is why Mr. Moon is often described by some pundits as a fence-sitter between Washington and Beijing.
However, the day will come sooner or later when Mr. Moon will have to come down to one side or the other for good. Otherwise, he will be like Humpty Dumpty who had a great fall after sitting on a wall. Then, we will have to change the last part of the old nursery rhyme: “All the president’s horses and all the president’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” (End)