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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 9)

All Headlines 07:01 November 09, 2018

After US elections
Watch out for impact on Washington's policy on Korea

President Donald Trump's Republican Party, which currently controls both chambers of Congress, has lost control of the House of Representatives but kept the Senate in midterm elections Tuesday. This is the first time for the Democrats to take the House in eight years.

President Trump is likely to face tougher checks from the Democrats on major policies, such as immigration, taxes, healthcare and trade. Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi vowed to restore the Constitution's checks and balances against the Trump administration.

The elections coincided with news of the postponement of a high-level U.S.-North Korea meeting that was scheduled to take place in New York, Thursday. There had been much expectation for the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the North's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, to close the gap in nuclear negotiations and settle the details for a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But the meeting was canceled abruptly at the last minute, sparking concerns the two sides were experiencing difficulties in their negotiations. Pyongyang has called for the easing of sanctions and has been reluctant to comply with the U.S. demand for a list of its nuclear weapons, and other steps for accelerating its denuclearization.

The delay in U.S.-North Korea talks could affect the peace process on the Korean Peninsula and inter-Korean economic cooperation that President Moon Jae-in has strongly pushed for. While Moon is still pursuing Kim's visit to Seoul within the year, Trump said during a post-election press conference he expected a second meeting with Kim will take place sometime early next year. He added he was in no rush and "sanctions are still on," urging North Korea to be responsive. The high-level meeting should be rearranged at an early date so the U.S.-North Korea talks do not lose momentum.

Trump is expected to keep his policy on the North, but could face further gridlock in Congress if the Democrats keep putting the brakes on his administration with a view to winning the presidential race in 2020. This could affect the pace of Trump's North Korea policy.

It is urgent for Seoul to prepare for the uncertainties that may rise in the wake of the election. It would be timely to expedite parliamentary exchanges with the U.S. to promote communication on key bilateral issues in the alliance and in trade, such as revisions to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
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