Donald Trump reaches out to Seoul for support on North Korea, Syria following summit with Xi Jinping
President Trump reaffirms ties with South Korea’s government after US military launches missile attacks on Syria
US President Donald Trump has reached out to South Korea’s government to build solidarity with Seoul on his approach to North Korea and Syria amid differences between Washington and Beijing on both issues.
Trump “reaffirmed the strength of the United States–Republic of Korea alliance and agreed to stay in close touch regarding North Korea and other issues of mutual concern,” according to a statement released by the White House.
Trump also thanked Acting President Hwang for his support for the US military’s missile strikes on a Syrian military base on Thursday.
The announcement comes a day after Trump and Xi wrapped up two days of meetings in the US.
While the two presidents characterised their first meeting – at the US leader’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida – as a success, the two sides failed to make any progress on an approach to North Korea, which has conducted a series missile tests that have rattled South Korea, Japan and Washington.
The most recent missile test occurred a day before Trump and Xi met in Florida.
Trump’s administration is “prepared to chart our own course [regarding North Korea] if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Florida after Xi’s delegation left the US on Friday.
The US Navy’s strike on the Syrian military base could also strain ties with Beijing. The US Navy fired more than 50 missiles from destroyers patrolling the eastern Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for a chemical attack on Tuesday against civilians in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikoun.
The Chinese government has criticised most of the US’s military operations in the Middle East, including the intervention in Libya in 2011 that led to the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
On Friday, Tillerson said Xi offered Trump his understanding of the rationale behind the attack against Syria, particularly the need to halt the indiscriminate killing of children. However, that assessment didn’t reflect the tone of an editorial carried in the Chinese central government-run Global Times shortly after the attack.
“This is Trump’s first major move in international affairs, and it leaves an impression that the decision was made in haste and is not without contradictions,” the Global Times said.
A separate announcement from the White House said Trump received support from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud on the Syria issue.
“The king reaffirmed strong Saudi support for the United States’ military strike against the Sayrat Airfield in Syria and thanked the president for his courageous action,” the announcement said.