China, North Korea will ‘continuously test’ resolve of U.S.-South Korea alliance, ex-commander warns

China, North Korea will ‘continuously test’ resolve of U.S.-South Korea alliance, ex-commander warns

North Korea and China will “continuously test the resolve” of the U.S.-South Korea alliance, according to the former commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, who described the 69-year-old partnership in remarks over the weekend as the “textbook” example of the vital role long-standing alliances play in maintaining America’s strength as a global power.

Former Adm. Harry Harris, who headed U.S. Indo-Pacific Command from 2015 to 2018 and later served as American ambassador to South Korea, told a summit in Seoul that Washington should continue to “hope for diplomacy,” but stressed that “dialogue and military readiness must go hand-in-hand.”

“The quest for dialogue with North Korea must never be made at the expense of the ability to respond to threats from the North,” said Mr. Harris, who was among a slate of prominent U.S. figures, including former President Donald Trump, who spoke at the Aug. 11-15 summit that focused on efforts to achieve world peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

“We must not relax sanctions or reduce joint military exercises just to get North Korea to come to the negotiating table,” Mr. Harris said. “This is a fool’s errand. If exercises and sanctions are reduced as an outcome of negotiations … fine … that’s why we have negotiations. But don’t give them away beforehand.”

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, told the gathering that his strategy of keeping the “toughest pressure” on Pyongyang, while simultaneously “offering unprecedented outreach and engagement,” resulted in historic summits in 2018 and 2019 with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that exposed how the dangerous paradigm surrounding the isolated nation could be shifted.

“Everyone said that my approach was going to get us into a war. But no, my approach is what kept us out of war,” Mr. Trump said in a videotaped address. “I was proud to become the first American president to meet with the leader of North Korea.

“For the duration of my term, Chairman Kim kept the pledge to me that he made at our first summit to cease all long-range missile testing, and he did that. The entire world was much more secure as a result… The region was safe and the world was calm because America was strong and respected. Indeed, we were stronger than ever before, not only on North Korea, but also on many other critical issues, including China.”

Mr. Trump went on to express remorse over the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, describing the development last month as a “horrible loss for the entire planet.”

“He will be missed,” Mr. Trump said. “I want to express my profound condolences to his family and to all of the people of Japan. With the help of many of you here today, Prime Minister Abe’s dream of a free and open Indo-Pacific will live on.”

The remarks were a poignant moment at the summit that was organized by leaders of the Unification movement and featured a range of discussion events and speeches weighing in on evolving international efforts to address threats emanating from China, North Korea and Russia.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Vice President Dan Quayle and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were among a slate of American political leaders who participated or provided remarks. A host of others from around the world were also on hand, including Slovak politician Jan Figel, a former European Union special envoy for the promotion of religious freedom.

Mr. Pence emphasized the need for world leaders to stand up for religious freedom, specifically citing oppression by the governments of China and North Korea.

“We believe that every human being should have the freedom to live, to work, to worship according to the dictates of their conscience,” the former vice president said. “With one voice, we condemn the repression of Christians and Jews and Muslims and religious minorities taking place in North Korea and China.”

Former Taiwanese Vice President and feminist activist Annette Lu called on world leaders to stand for peace at a moment when Taiwan is threatened by the China. The government in Beijing, formally known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), claims sovereignty over the Western-backed island democracy.

China, said Ms. Lu, “has to be honest to the reality that ever since [Taiwan’s] establishment in 1949 the PRC has never ruled Taiwan.”

But she also suggested the dynamics are nuanced between the two. “Taiwan stands for peace and justice and has always been friendly with other countries, including China,” Ms. Lu said, adding that disputes could be resolved if China were to shift its posture toward Taiwan from “unification to integration.”

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also homed in on Taiwan, expressing concern that the U.S. and Western allies have been “ambiguous” in their “commitment to helping the people of Taiwan preserve their democracy.”

Mr. Harper told the summit that issues of international peace and security writ-large have “undergone a sea-change” over the past year, with the most prominent example being Russian President “Vladimir Putin’s brutal, unprovoked, full-scale, invasion of Ukraine.”

“The top line story in much of the global media has been about … the unity of purpose of the democratic world … in opposition to Putin’s invasion,” Mr. Harper said. “This obscures what should be the real lesson of this crisis: Unity and strength after a war has begun is important … but it is far more important to show strength in peacetime, through deterrence.”

His comments dovetailed with a message Mr. Pompeo conveyed in an interview with The Washington Times on the sidelines of the summit. The former secretary of state sharply criticized the current U.S. administration, claiming an “absence of resolve” in its foreign policy invites aggression from adversaries around the world.

“Deterrence depends on both capabilities and intention, and the administration has not shown the intention to protect the things that matter,” said Mr. Pompeo, who asserted that China, especially, has grown emboldened to advance its interests vis-a-vis Taiwan with confidence that Washington will seek to avoid confrontation.

The gathering in South Korea — officially titled “Summit 2022 and Leadership Conference” — was sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation. The federation was co-founded by Hak Ja Han Moon, the leader of the Unification Church and wife of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The two devoted their lives to the promotion of world peace and the reunification of the Korean Peninsula — an undergirding premise of the movement that grew from the Unification Church that Rev. Moon founded in 1954. The movement has evolved through the decades into a global spiritual movement and an affiliated commercial empire comprising hundreds of ventures in more than a half-dozen countries, including hospitals, universities and newspapers, including The Washington Times.

In a notable development, a North Korean organization sent Rev. Moon’s family a condolence telegram during the summit in Seoul, recognizing the upcoming 10th anniversary of his death. The message of sympathy from the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee indicated Pyongyang maintains good relations with the Unification movement, which once operated vehicle production and hotel businesses in North Korea, according to Kyodo News, a Japanese news agency.

The agency noted that Rev. Moon, who was born in present-day North Korea, was a staunch anti-Communist who founded the political group International Federation for Victory over Communism in South Korea and Japan in 1968. While he promoted the group for decades, Rev. Moon also engaged in outreach to North Korea, visiting and holding talks with North Korean regime founder Kim Il Sung in 1991.

The necessity of nuanced diplomacy and alliances in dealing with Pyongyang was a theme touched on by several speakers over the weekend.

Mr. Harris reminded the gathering in Seoul that “North Korea stands out as the only nation this century to test nuclear weapons,” and said the country is “ruled with an iron fist by a brutal dictator who values his pursuit for power over the prosperity and welfare of his own people.”  

“Pyongyang’s unrelenting pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them … and the North’s unmitigated aggression towards the South, should concern us all,” said Mr. Harris, who stressed that “the U.S. stands firmly with South Korea and is fully committed to the alliance.”

“Diplomacy and diplomats matter,” he said. “Alliances matter.”

While Mr. Harris rebuked the current administration for not moving quickly enough in nominating an ambassador to South Korea — Ambassador Philip Goldberg was confirmed in May — he praised the Biden White House’s recently released Indo-Pacific Strategy.

“It recognizes that America’s single greatest asymmetric strength is our network of alliances and partnerships,” the former admiral said. “The president makes alliances the centerpiece of his foreign policy. To this I say, bravo.”