January 30, 2017 – Acting South Korean leader Hwang Kyo-ahn has asked U.S. President Donald Trump to visit as soon as possible, Hwang’s office said today, after the pair had their first official discussion over the phone earlier in the day.
According to a press statement out of Seoul, Trump insisted his country’s relationship with South Korea would be “better than ever before,” and expressed his hope of a meeting with Hwang soon.
The 30-minute phone conversation came amid speculation that Trump’s tough stance on trade, immigration and military spending abroad could alienate global partners.
The two nations cemented their bond during the 1950-53 Korean War, while ongoing tensions with North Korea have kept the allies close.
With around 30,000 American troops based in the South, a Seoul-Washington agreement to deploy a THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile system on the peninsula this year has upset the country’s neighbors including China.
South Korea reiterated its support for THAAD despite some domestic concerns over hurting ties with Beijing — particularly among opposition lawmakers.
Prime Minister Hwang has been serving as president since Park Geun-hye’s impeachment last December, meaning Seoul could potentially adopt a very different foreign policy under a new government later this year.
Reflecting the importance the Trump administration has placed on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is making the South his first overseas destination since taking up his new job.
Mattis is scheduled to arrive on Thursday before heading to Japan.