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Seoul should cope with harder-line U.S. Congress

Posted November. 07, 2014 06:03,   


The U.S. Republican Party has gained control of Congress by winning majority seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in Tuesday`s midterm elections. The GOP is expected to put pressure on a lame-duck President Barack Obama for tax cuts, industrial deregulations and defense budget increases. Obama vowed to work with a new Congress led by Republicans during the final two years of his presidency, accepting the reality in which it would be difficult for him to push for his policy without compromises. South Korea should closely study the impact of the U.S. election results on Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula to be able to actively cope with changing regional environments.

The U.S. economy is showing a recovery these days, growing 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 3.5 percent in the third quarter. A good economy usually benefits the ruling party. However, it was different this time. The real economy is not as good as the indexes. American voters turned their back on Obama`s soft leadership, as he failed to show determination on the Islamic State jihadist groups issues. A greater Republican voice could result in a harder U.S. stance in diplomacy and security.

Although North Korea is overshadowed by other issues in the United States, it is likely that Washington will step up its pressure on the North because the Republican Party is critical of Pyongyang`s nuclear and missile development and its dire human rights situation. It is likely that H.R. 1771, a bill calling for improving the enforcement of sanctions on the North that the Democratic Party refused to introduce to the Senate, will pass the upper house. The bill`s passage will certainly trigger Pyongyang`s resistance. South Korea, which has to seek both to secure deterrence against the North and increase exchanges with it, should have meticulous coordination with Washington.

As the GOP also actively seeks to check China`s expansion, the discussions for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system to the South could carry more weight. While Seoul and Washington are seeking the deployment of the missile defense system to cope with Pyongyang`s nuclear and missile threats, Beijing is protesting the plan, claiming that it is aimed at strengthening anti-China surveillance. An intensifying confrontation between the United States and China could put South Korea into a dilemma, as Seoul has to maintain friendly ties with both rivals. The Republican Party`s support of Japan`s rise as a military power adds burdens to South Korea.

Obama will embark on a week-long trip to China, Myanmar and Australia next Monday. He is expected to have a summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye during his trip to the region. Both allies should further strengthen their alliance and cooperation against North Korea.