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Seoul prepares for the first summit with President Trump

Seoul prepares for the first summit with President Trump

Posted June. 15, 2017 07:16,   

Updated June. 15, 2017 07:36

The South Korean presidential office and the Foreign Ministry are preparing for various scenarios to be ready for possible surprise activities by U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s first summit with the U.S. leader.

The presidential office is coordinating diverse matters related to the summit including not only agendas but also protocol and messaging in working-level preparatory meetings for the Seoul-Washington summit, which are presided over by Presidential Chief of Staff Lim Jong-seok and National Security Office chief Chung Ui-yong. “By carefully examining the issues and outcome of President Trump’s summit talks with other heads of state that took place previously, we are meticulously preparing for the summit on matters ranging from handshaking between the two leaders to their paths,” a source in the South Korean government said.

President Trump’s handshaking became a hot topic of conversation in all of his summits with other leaders. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Trump “Shall we shake hands?” while sitting side by side in the U.S.-Germany summit in March, President Trump ignored as if he did not hear the offer. He shook hands with Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe holding the latter’s hand for 19 seconds. He also held a hand of British Prime Minister Theresa May by one hand and patted the back of her hand by the other hand, but critics called his behavior a "diplomatic gaffe."

Then, French President Emmanuel Macron made thorough preparation to counter the U.S. president’s aggressive handshaking. During their summit, President Macron and President Trump strongly gripped each other’s hand, and the U.S. leader was seen lightly frowning as if his hand hurt. “We cannot clearly disclose the method at this point, but we are preparing a way for ‘normal handshaking’ between President Moon and President Trump as well," the government source said.

It is also burdensome to see President Trump’s past practice of disclosing what is discussed at summit talks to the media or via Twitter in violation of diplomatic practice. There is also a possibility that the U.S. leader abruptly mentions tough agendas such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system or the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and publicize the discussions. For this reason, the South Korean diplomatic authority plans to publicize to the media remarks by the two leaders as accurately and transparently as possible.

Kyung-Im Woo woohaha@donga.com · Sang-Jun Han alwaysj@donga.com