'Wild card' Trump heads into North Korea's line of sight

By Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)For the first time as US President, Donald Trump will be in Kim Jong Un's immediate neighborhood. 

The US President landed in South Korea on Tuesday, his second stop in Asia on a nearly two week-long trip, where the standoff with North Korea is likely to loom large. 

    The threat posed by North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles has been a top foreign policy priority for the Trump administration. The worry is that should Pyongyang successfully pair the two technologies, the reclusive country would have the potential to launch a devastating strike against a US city. 

    In the South Korean capital Seoul, Trump will find people who have lived with that reality for decades. 

    "It's crucial for Trump to show that he's willing to defend and protect South Korea because there's a lot of questions and concerns on the part of South Koreans about his commitment to that alliance, and that has fed fears here in South Korea that they may be abandoned," said Jean Lee, a global fellow at the Wilson Center and former Pyongyang bureau chief for The Associated Press. 

    Seoul has sat in range of North Korean artillery since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953. Experts believe that if war were to resume on the Korean Peninsula, the city would see tens of thousands of people killed in the first hours. 

    Many in South Korea, especially those who carry more liberal views, worry Trump's heated rhetoric, mocking and name-calling of North Korea's leader is exacerbating that danger. 

    A spokesman for the South Korean President's office urged citizens to warmly welcome Trump, though a handful of protests have been organized ahead of the visit. 

    "If he comes in here rattling his saber and using that sort of militant rhetoric, it's going to go down very poorly because this is the place that suffers the consequences," said John Delury, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University's Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul.

    Trump won't visit the heavily-fortified demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea -- foregoing what has been a symbolic opportunity for US commanders in chief to stare into the Hermit Kingdom -- declaring it a "little bit of a cliche."

    'Trump's the wild card, not the reassurance guy'

    By contrast, the South Korean government, led by President Moon Jae-in, will be looking to Trump for reassurance that the two countries are in this together, according to Van Jackson, a strategy fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

    "Trump's visit is a huge variable. It's a great opportunity to show a unity of purpose against North Korea and reinforce the larger US commitment to Asia, but there's also a risk of provoking North Korea," Jackson told CNN in an email. 

    "We should brace for more heated rhetoric and some attempt to reassure South Korea. For most presidents, those tasks would not be mutually exclusive. The problem is Trump's the wild card, not the reassurance guy."

    Read more at http://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/06/politics/donald-trump-north-korea-south-korea-visit/index.html