President Donald Trump marked his final night in Seoul with a speech to South Korea's National Assembly that highlighted a tightened joint South Korean-American grip on North Korea.
“In this Republic, the people have done what no dictator ever could — you took, with the help of the United States, responsibility for yourselves and ownership of your future,” Trump said to the Assembly.
Trump implied that South Korean success hinges on a weakened and controlled Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
“The more successful South Korea becomes, the more decisively you discredit the dark fantasy at the heart of the Kim regime,” Trump said.
The president's verbal salvo against Kim Jong Un's regime showed no signs of slowing down, as he directly called out the North Korean dictator, warning: “Do not underestimate us, and do not try us.”
While delivering a hard line on North Korea, Trump made a point to celebrate “a long friendship between” the U.S. and the Republic of Korea. There was a recurring call to the unity between the countries, a relationship that may seem weak in comparison to Trump's relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, notably more of a pacifist than Abe or Trump, could be desperate to prove himself to his fellow leaders, senior Brookings fellow Mark O'Hanlon said.
“Poor President Moon is playing catch-up ball because everyone acknowledges that he's not bonding quite as much with Donald Trump as the rest of the region,” O'Hanlon stated. "So that's almost as if the pressure is on Moon to deliver a stronger relationship.
The speech comes just a day after Trump tweeted that he and Moon “will figure it all out,” though the specifics of those plans remains to be seen.
Tensions have risen between Kim and President Trump in the first 10 months of his presidency. A more even-tempered approach to nuclear proliferation featuring calm, calculated action — which Trump attempted to deliver Tuesday night — could allow many surrounding Asian nations to let out a breath of relief.
South Korea was the second stop on a 12-day tour, five-country tour throughout Asia. Next on the docket for Trump is China, where he's anticipated to square off with President Xi Jinping on several points, including opioids, trade, and tighter control of North Korea.