Vice President Mike Pence has visited several Asia-Pacific countries in recent days, hoping to solidify U.S. relationships in the region, and his trip included some time at the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea. The Washington Post reported
that the vice president wasn’t scheduled to go outside a South Korean building at the DMZ, but he said he wanted to make a point.
“I thought it was important that we went outside,” Pence told the Post
. “I thought it was important that people on the other side of the DMZ see our resolve in my face.”
I’m not at all sure what that’s supposed to mean. Does the vice president seriously believe that North Koreans, looking through binoculars and telescopes, would see his steely gaze and adopt a new posture, intimidated by Pence’s face?
As a rule, that’s not how foreign policy works. On the contrary, foreign countries recognize “resolve” when they see the United States following through on its commitments – which is why it’s a bit of a problem that Donald Trump and top members of his team told the world an aircraft carrier and its support ships – the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group – were headed towards the Korean peninsula, when in reality, they was not
The New York Times reports
that U.S. allies in South Korea, who assumed the White House was telling the truth, are not pleased.
When news broke less than two weeks ago that the Trump administration was sending the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson to the Korean Peninsula, many South Koreans feared a war with North Korea. Others cheered for Washington, calling the deployment a powerful symbol of its commitment to deterring the North.
On Wednesday, after it was revealed that the carrier strike group was actually thousands of miles away and had been heading in the opposite direction, toward the Indian Ocean, South Koreans felt bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally. […]
Compounding their anger over the Carl Vinson episode, many South Koreans were also riled at Mr. Trump for his assertion in a Wall Street Journal interview last week that the Korean Peninsula “used to be a part of China.” Although Korea was often invaded by China and forced to pay tributes to its giant neighbor, many Koreans say the notion that they were once Chinese subjects is egregiously insulting.
An Associated Press report
added this morning, “Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous. Many South Koreans are using those words to describe the president of their most important ally, rather than the leader of their archrival to the North.”
For those keeping score, after three months in office, Donald Trump has now managed to annoy and/or offend
South Korea, Great Britain, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and China, among others.
Ordinarily, it’d take years
for a president to outrage this many countries, but Trump is clearly an over-achiever.
This seems like a problem Mike Pence’s facial expressions probably won’t be able to fix.