All Eyes on South Korea: U.S., North Korea, China Affected by Presidential Election
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South Koreans are getting ready to vote for a new president and they're hoping the winning candidate will help ease tensions with North Korea.
A new election was called after former South Korean president Park Geun-Hye was impeached and convicted of financial bribery involving her cabinet members. The presidency has now become a "hot seat" for the five candidates running for the office.
During multiple nationwide televised debates, the candidates shared their views on many critical issues, such as legalizing gay marriage, national security and North Korea.
Front runner, Moon Jae-in, called for a "balanced diplomacy" that would enable Seoul to maintain good relations with both the United States and China—especially on the issue of Korean Peninsula security.
During the campaign rally, Moon told voters, "I think we need an agreement through multi-party diplomacy that resolves issues of North Korea's nuclear disarmament, South-North peace treaty and normalization of North Korea-US Relations. "
Also of concern is protecting South Korea from a possible North Korean missile attack. Moon says a balanced approach is needed to firmly protect the South Korea-US alliance while not damaging the country's relations with China.
China has opposed South Korea deploying the U.S. anti-missile system (THAAD), but the American and South Korean governments say it is necessary.
Lee Duk-haeng, the South Korea Unification Ministry spokesman emphasized that North Korea should know well why deploying THAAD is crucial. The deployment is in response to the North's nuclear and missile provocations. The international community could no longer bear the challenges without proper actions.
Asia expert Michael Mazza is with the American Enterprise Institute. He believes that Moon has not yet decided whether the system could be meaningful in the long run. Moon is more likely to make changes after the election.
Other presidential candidates like Ahn Cheol-Soo think priority should be given to improving the country's defense capabilities. He believes North Korea can be controlled.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his willingness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, hoping a dialogue could soften ongoing tension between the two nations.
Experts say the U.S. government shouldn't assume that talks will change North Korea's behavior.
"We've tried this in the past. Negotiations never worked," Mazza told CBN News. "To engage with the serious talk with Kim Jung Un is to sideline our South Korea allies. South Korea is on the peninsula with North Korea. They are the immediate neighbor. Any talk excludes South Korea would be such a mistake."
President Trump is relying on China to play the role of "middleman" to control and stop North Korean development of nuclear weapons and the missiles to carry them. However, experts believe long-term stability on the Korean Peninsula will depend on collaboration between the new South Korean government and its allies.
Mazza says if Moon Jae is elected president, there may be a shift in U.S. South Korea relations.
"With the Moon Jae Presidency, we are going to see greater tension between the United States and its South Korea allies. Moon's softer approach will be at odds with President Trump's owner approach."
The South Korean election is set for May 9th.
Check back with CBNNews.com for updates regarding election results.
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