U.S. President Donald Trump announced his national security strategy on December 18, noting that the U.S. faces an extraordinarily dangerous world and that it will put top priority on the rights and interests of the American people. The U.S. government’s new national security strategy is seen as the “Trump doctrine” that clarifies an America first policy and the importance of economic security. Here is Professor Kim Hyun-wook of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy to explain the new strategy in more detail.
The national security strategy is a document that explains how a new U.S. administration will deal with the nation’s security and diplomacy. The keyword of the Trump government’s new national security strategy is an “America-first policy.” Under the policy, the U.S. will seek to safeguard its interests and values by protecting the homeland, promoting American prosperity and preserving peace through strength.
In the 68-page document, the term “North Korea” appears as many as 17 times, indicating that the Trump government perceives North Korea very seriously. The report criticized North Korea for starving its own people but spending hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. In the report, the U.S. says that it will respond with overwhelming force to North Korean aggression and improve options to compel the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The document says the U.S. will respond firmly to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles, which pose a grave threat to the U.S. For now, it doesn’t seem the U.S. will opt for dialogue or give up its efforts toward North Korea’s denuclearization. I imagine the U.S. will continue with its hardline stance on Pyongyang amid prolonged confrontation between the two sides.
In the document, the U.S. branded China and Russia as “revisionist” powers and pointed out that those countries erode American security and prosperity and undermine the international order led by the U.S. It described China as its competitor and signaled its will to keep China in check. This attitude shows a contrast to former President Barack Obama’s move to regard Beijing as Washington’s partner.
The U.S. says that revisionist powers like China and Russia use technology, propaganda and coercion to shape a world opposed to U.S. interests and values. In fact, China is attempting to take the lead in establishing global order through its economic development, while Russia is taking foreign territories, even disregarding international law and norms, as seen in its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The U.S. believes that China and Russia are challenging American influence, and it seems to be determined to put more pressure on them to maintain its supremacy.
Regarding Trump’s national security strategy, the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. said that Washington is hoping for a partnership with Beijing on one hand, while confronting it on the other hand. It warned that the U.S. and China would win together if they cooperate but both would lose if they confront each other. But the U.S. is expected to take the most aggressive economic measures against China. If that happens, trade disputes will erupt between the two superpowers and there will also be setbacks in their concerted efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.
Even before the start of the Trump government, the U.S. saw China as a threat and criticized China for its military modernization and the issues surrounding the artificial island built by China in the South China Sea. At present, the U.S. is using the North Korean problem as an important means of condemning China. It stresses that China should be responsible for North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, urging Beijing to play a more active role in persuading the North to give up its nuclear ambitions. As North Korean provocations continue, the U.S. puts the blame on Beijing and tries to impose economic sanctions on China. If the U.S. continues to employ its tough policy toward China, dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. will become a slimmer possibility.
On December 15, three days before the U.S. announced its national security strategy, the U.S. and North Korea clashed over Pyongyang’s denuclearization and the recognition of its status as a nuclear weapons state in a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly called for North Korea’s denuclearization, but North Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Ja Song-nam refuted the calls, stressing the need to recognize his nation as a nuclear power. There had been expectations that North Korea and the U.S. might engage in dialogue before long, but experts predict that such dialogue is unlikely anytime soon.
In a diplomatic effort to gain international recognition as a nuclear power, the North Korean Ambassador to the U.N. showed his nation’s position that Pyongyang is now a nuclear weapons state and will become a responsible nuclear power that will never proliferate or export nuclear weapons. But Tillerson expressed his view that the U.S. would not acknowledge it but continue to get tough on North Korea until the North abandons its nuclear weapons program. As you can see, the two sides are poles apart: the U.S. wants North Korea’s denuclearization, and North Korea wants the U.S. to recognize it as a nuclear power. The recent U.N. Security Council meeting only revealed that the two sides showed no signs of narrowing their differing views.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made an all-out effort to advance his nation’s nuclear and missile capabilities. Since Kim came to power in 2011, North Korea has made dozens of nuclear and missile provocations, including four nuclear tests. Most recently, on November 29, Pyongyang declared the completion of its nuclear force through the successful test launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile. In the meantime, though, North Korean society is facing strong international sanctions and pressure. Analysts are saying that it isn’t easy for North Korea and the U.S. to find a common ground because they are in sharp disagreement over Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
North Korea will likely continue to insist on the acknowledgement of its nuclear power status. But it is also expected to make diplomatic efforts to seek dialogue during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. But what if the U.S. doesn’t respond to it? North Korea may launch additional provocations to manipulate the situation to its own advantage, hoping that the U.S. will engage in dialogue with the North. But if the two sides continue to lock horns, tension on the Korean Peninsula will only intensify. I’m deeply worried about that possibility.
In its new national security strategy, the U.S. defined China and Russia as competitors and revisionist forces, and North Korea as a rogue regime. In this situation, if North Korea goes ahead with another missile test in a move to strengthen its nuclear force, it will be hard to expect dialogue and regional security will be unstable yet again.
While North Korea and the U.S. remain apart on security issues, South Korea could utilize next year’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics. If South Korea and the U.S. decide not to hold their annual combined military exercises during the Olympics but agree to postpone them, and if North Korea doesn’t make any provocation during the period, we may not see North Korean provocations for up to two months. That would be the so-called “freeze-to-freeze” situation proposed by China. With North Korean provocations suspended during the Olympics, South Korea may ask China to act as a mediator. In other words, South Korea could use the Olympics as good opportunity to turn the situation around.
With involved countries’ views and interests conflicting over the North Korean nuclear issue, the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Games should hopefully provide a clue to the solution to the security problem.
[Interview] Defector Runs Clothing Alteration Shop to Design New Future
A clothing alteration shop is located in Imae-dong in Seongnam City, southeast of Seoul. The small shop, less than 16 square meters in size, is well known for its ability to mend clothes. The person who runs the shop is North Korean defector Lee Su-in. Lee opened the shop in September last year. It was the first time for her to run her own business, so she faced many difficulties. But her customers gave her great strength and encouragement.
Once customers have their clothes altered at my shop, they come again, bringing five, ten more pieces with them. Some even brought 20 dresses. They really like my service. Many of them have become regular customers now. When I happen to meet them on the street, they say hello to me and ask me how I’m doing. When I say things are fine, some tell me that I’m a very hardworking person. The warm compliments are of great encouragement to me.
Lee came from Hamheung in North Korea’s Hamgyeong Province. After she arrived in South Korea in 2006, she did all sorts of jobs, working at restaurants, factories and farms. She used a sewing machine only briefly when she worked at a curtain company, but she was greatly interested in sewing as she had been praised for being good at needlework since childhood. Lee thought that needlework would be her lifetime job, which she would be able to do even when she is old. She decided to invest her money she had earned for two years in learning how to use a sewing machine. First, she bought a machine for 700-thousand won, which is about 630 US dollars. She asked one of her friends to teach her, instead of attending a private learning institute.
I lived in Bundang, southeast of Seoul, and I went all the way to Ilsan, northwest of Seoul, to ask my friend to teach me how to use a sewing machine. She told me to give her a written promise not to give up. I had to commute a long way. After about three months, she seemed to be impressed by my persistence. She said she had expected that I would quit halfway through. One year passed. Then, she said I was amazing, but I said I wasn’t. I explained to her that I had to learn something because I had already invested my money. I was able to learn the skill, but my severance pay and unemployment benefit were gone.
Lee spent all her savings while learning how to use the sewing machine. She had to work quickly, as she ran out of money. She chose to get a job, rather than starting her own business. She didn’t want to rush things, as she would be able to use the skill for the rest of her life. So, she worked at a company to earn a living. After work, she practiced repairing clothes to master basic skills. She lived an intense life, trying to make the most of each hour in the day, as she was inspired by the lives of South Korean people.
When I was little, I saw scenes of South Korean college students holding protests and the troops firing tear gas shells on TV. That was the education I received about South Korea. After resettling in the South, however, I found the reality was different. It appeared that South Korean people lived comfortably, but I felt they were in the middle of war. One day, I went to Dongdaemun, where middle-aged men were hurriedly running through narrow alleys or riding motorcycles. It felt like a war without guns. The scene made me realize a lot of things.
In 2016, she was finally able to open her own dress repair shop. There are numerous customers now because the shop became famous through word of mouth. But it was difficult for her to even pay the rent for the first three months. One day, she happened to make an apron for her daughter, and that turned out to be a new business opportunity.
My daughter works as a barista. She said she needed an apron and asked me if I could make one for her. I went to Dongdaemun with her and checked every design to find out the most appropriate one. Many students saw my daughter’s apron and asked her where she got it. As she said her mom made it, they asked me to make the same aprons for them. I wanted to sell more, so I advertised my apron on the Internet. Orders poured in. I can sell my apron for half price, compared to similar products, because I haven’t hired any workers. Only my husband and I are working on it. These days, students working as baristas who participate in contests order 100 pieces at a time.
Lee purchases good-quality fabric at the market herself and make aprons, just as requested by customers. She takes pre-orders and makes products later, and that is why customers are mostly satisfied with the outcome. If a customer is displeased with anything, including the size, she re-makes the product without complaining. That’s the way she builds trust with her customers. It comes as little surprise that she receives a stream of orders, even without any particular promotional activities.
I add leather to the fabric. Synthetic leather tends to fade or peel off, but my apron is different since it uses real leather. Sometimes, I put the owner’s initials on the apron. It is special, isn’t it? It becomes their own apron. In general, aprons only come in two sizes—XL and M. But the size of my apron varies, depending on body types and height. That’s why customers like my product.
Lee repairs clothes and makes other items as well, including aprons, which are drawing a positive response. Encouraged by the upbeat result, she is designing bibs and hoods for babies as she looks to expand her product range. In this way, she is nurturing her dream little by little.
One morning, I saw a toddler, about three years of age, passing by. The child was wearing a cute hat, but it was rather thin. I thought I could make a thick hat instead. Now, I’m wondering how to make a pretty hat that would fit babies comfortably. At the current shop, I mostly mend clothes. But it is too small and I need more space. My embroidery machine takes up a lot of space in this small shop. I am considering moving to a larger store in the future.