The visit to Seoul was a salute to reconciliation and a display of power from the president of the United States and a formal state visit that pointedly left out the United States’ most important ally in Asia.
“This is a very humbling and exciting moment,” Mr. Trump said in a speech prepared for a joint meeting of Congress earlier on Tuesday.
A few days earlier, Mr. Trump had visited China, where he spoke of “the bond of friendship and friendship that exists between our two countries.” He then traveled on to Vietnam, where he spoke of “how far our nations have come together in upholding the rule of law, in a culture of law, in economic integration, and in our humanity and warm embrace of each other’s neighbors.”
Read the full text of Mr. Trump’s address here.
That aside, Tuesday night’s speech was far more pointed. It stated that the U.S. commitment to Korean freedom was “all the more critical in the hour of growing danger from North Korea’s reckless and illegal program of missile and nuclear development.”
There are good reasons to be skeptical of this vow, as the North has never signed any treaty to guarantee the security of South Korea, a position supported by South Korea’s two communist neighbors — China and Russia.
“The South Korean Republic and the Republic of Korea and the United States all share a common history and have freedom,” Mr. Trump said.
Rather than fighting to defend South Korea’s democratic government from North Korean aggression, they were “fighting against the enemy across the border,” he said.
In contrast, Mr. Trump said that “America has embraced the opportunity to work with all nations to impose sanctions on North Korea, with the sole purpose of strengthening diplomacy and economic pressure to achieve our shared goal of a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons and nuclear threats.”
The president began his speech on a sober note, noting that the strength of a people depends “not on what we have received from others but on what we have given to each other, and it is in this spirit that we gather tonight.”