WASHINGTON (AP) — South Korea’s new leader vowed Wednesday to stand firmly with President Donald Trump against North Korea, playing down his past advocacy of a softer approach toward the nuclear-armed nation as he made his first visit as president to Washington.
President Moon Jae-in offered an emotional tribute to Marines who fought in a fierce battle in the Korean War that helped in the mass evacuation of Korean civilians, including his own parents. Moon said that without those American sacrifices, he would not be here today.
“Together we will achieve the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program, peace on the Korean Peninsula and eventually peace in Northeast Asia,” Moon said, after laying a wreath at a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, as he began his first overseas trip since taking office last month.
A monument at Quantico commemorates the 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, when heavily outnumbered American forces fought a rearguard action against advancing Chinese communist troops that bought time for about 100,000 Korean civilians to be shipped out to safety — 14,000 of them on a single vessel that ferried out Moon’s parents. Moon was born in South Korea in 1953.
Moon was underscoring his personal commitment to the U.S.-South Korean alliance in the face of questions over whether his inclination toward engagement with North Korea despite its rapidly advancing nuclear capability could lead to strains in relations with Washington.
Moon’s conservative predecessor, who was impeached in a bribery scandal, took a hard line toward North Korea, similar to Trump. Despite Moon’s softer stance, the North’s rapid tempo of missile tests has continued, deepening U.S. fears that the American mainland could soon be within range.
Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Wednesday that the U.S. is preparing “all options” for North Korea, “because the president has made clear to us that he will not accept a nuclear power in North Korea and a threat that…