Four years of Donald Trump's America First policy left many countries feeling a leadership vacuum in global governance, from areas like health and environment to human rights. Trump's handling of ties with allied countries also drew serious questions about his commitment to maintaining key agreements in trade and security. So when America's new President Joe Biden said he would strengthen America's alliances around the world, there was a sense of renewed hope for global cooperation and a return to stability in diplomacy with the world's biggest power. South Korean President Moon Jae-in voiced his support for the Biden administration, saying he stands with the new U.S. leader in his endeavors and expressing hope for a return to dialogue with North Korea on peace and denuclearization.
For what we can expect from the bilateral relationship over the next four years, we turn to Ambassador Oh Joon, who has devoted his whole career to global diplomacy and standing up for human rights. He was South Korea's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2013 to 2016, also chairing the Economic and Social Council from 2015 to 2016.
He is now a Professor at Kyunghee University and the chair of Save the Children Korea. Thank you Ambassador for joining us again on the show.
1. Seoul and Washington's ties were largely tested during Trump's time as he challenged the terms of their bilateral FTA, defense-cost sharing and there was a general lack of chemistry between him and President Moon Jae-in. During your years as Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Joe Biden was Vice President. Based on your knowledge of him and his trusted circle of officials, are you optimistic about relations soon improving under the new U.S. administration?
2. When Donald Trump took office in 2017, his 'America First' policy largely undermined the strength of international institutions including the UN. How did America's retreat affect morale when it came to pursuing global goals like fighting climate change and even the Sustainable Development Goals, and what do you hope to see from Biden's UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who served as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the Obama administration?
3. While Biden has recommitted the U.S. to multilateralism, his administration is still expected to be tough on China. Do you think countries like South Korea, Australia and those in the EU will continue to face pressure from Washington and Beijing to side with them in the economic and political competition between the two? How do you think they could break out of the zero-sum equation?
4. While it's clear Joe Biden has countless domestic issues to prioritize over foreign policy, North Korea doesn't like to be forgotten, and each and every provocation is designed to deliver some kind of message. The North launched countless provocations during your time at the UN including dozens of missiles, 2 nuclear tests, and a submarine-launched ballistic missile. Just before Biden took office, the regime held a massive military parade earlier this month and claimed to have the world's deadliest weapon a new SLBM. What message do you think the North is trying to convey, and do you think they're warming up for a bigger, attention-grabbing provocation?
5. You worked closely with some of Biden's recently appointed foreign policy and diplomacy handlers who worked under the Obama administration, including Samantha Power. Obama's strategic patience strategy, however, was criticized for being too passive. How do you think Biden's officials are going to approach the denuclearisation issue, and interact with the North Koreans?
6. Denuclearisation talks traditionally proceeded in the form of Six Party Talks, and South Korea and the United States stood united in their stance. However, the talks between Trump and Kim in 2018 exclusively involved the United States and North Korea. Even President Moon Jae-in left the room when the three leaders randomly met up at the inter-Korean border. Do you think the Biden administration will take a more multilateral approach to resolving the North Korea issue? Also, what would be your advice on negotiating the terms of denuclearisation, which was quite literally the deal breaker in Hanoi?
7. Trump didn't really raise the issue of human rights in North Korea while he was in office. He said Kim is a leader who loves his people. In fact, U.S. humanitarian assistance suffered a significant decline when the Trump administration imposed a prohibition on travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea in 2017. Do you think the Biden administration will restore emphasis on improving human rights in the North, and perhaps work with Seoul on humanitarian assistance?
8. As South Korea and the U.S. face common challenges, what are other key areas of global governance they should collaborate closely on?
We'll wrap up the interview here, Ambassador. That was Oh Joon, Professor at Kyunghee University, who served as South Korea's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Thank you for your time.