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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 6)

All News 07:03 November 06, 2020

Post-election strategy
: Korea, US need to strengthen alliance

Democratic candidate Joe Biden is favored to win the knife-edge U.S. presidential election although President Donald Trump is refusing to acknowledge his defeat. What they must do now is to accept the results of the poll to avoid any further chaos and confusion caused by the hotly contested race. Trump particularly should not go to the Supreme Court to stop vote counting and claim a victory.

Biden's win, if officially declared, will mean an end to the four years of Trump's rule which has been marred by his unilateralism and protectionism. Trump's "America first" agenda has left America alone without making American great again. The self-serving president has invited criticism for undermining democracy and destroying long-established international norms.

Now, the new president is required to restore democracy and rebuild a new world order based on multilateralism and reciprocity. There are high expectations that Biden will bring about significant changes for the better as he has advocated for free trade and mutual prosperity. He also needs to regain America's global leadership which has been weakened by the Trump administration over the last four years. It is also imperative to recover the superpower's lost credibility.

The expected power transition in the U.S. will have a huge impact on its allies including South Korea. Under the new leadership, Washington will have to redefine its alliance with Seoul. In fact, the bilateral alliance has been damaged ― to a large degree ― by Trump's America-centric attitude. Trump has made an excessive demand for Korea to pay far more for the upkeep of U.S. troops stationed here. He even threatened to withdraw them from Korea, viewing the alliance only from a financial perspective without considering its strategic importance.

In this context, it is noteworthy what Biden said late last month: "As president, I'll stand with South Korea, strengthening our alliance to safeguard peace in East Asia and beyond." In an article contributed to Korea's semiofficial Yonhap News Agency, he pledged not to extort Seoul with reckless threats to remove U.S. troops. We hope that Biden will keep his promise to consolidate the partnership with its Asian ally for mutual benefit.

The two countries also must step up cooperation in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. Biden's North Korea policy will be much different from Trump's top-down approach toward achieving the North's denuclearization through summits. What is somewhat worrisome is that Biden is likely to inherit the Obama administration's policy of "strategic patience" which relied on international sanctions, rather than dialogue, to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arsenal. However, he has said that he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the condition that the North scraps its nuclear weapons programs.

To be sure, the U.S. leadership change will greatly affect President Moon Jae-in's peace initiative on the Korean Peninsula. That is why Moon should draft a new strategy to work more closely with the incoming U.S. president to defuse tensions in Northeast Asia and improve inter-Korean ties. Seoul also needs to map out measures to cope with many other challenges such as the Washington-Beijing conflicts over trade, technology and security which will likely be aggravated down the road.

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