UPDATE : 2018.10.18 THU 16:30
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Ex-CIA official warns of friction in S. Korea-U.S. summit

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump could hit a snag over North Korea when they meet in Seoul this week, a former CIA official said Monday.

Jung Pak, former portfolio manager at the CIA's East Asia and Pacific Mission Center, said the two leaders could come away from Tuesday's summit with a divergence on how to handle the threat of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

"First, Trump and Moon do not have a close personal relationship," she wrote in comments to reporters. "I think that Moon's dual-track approach to North Korea -- pursuing engagement with Pyongyang, even as his administration steps up the pressure, including the most recent unilateral sanctions -- is likely to cause some friction in the summit meeting."

Pak, currently the Korea chair at the Brookings Institution, said Trump is still expected to reinforce the U.S. commitment to the bilateral alliance and praise South Korea's rise.

"Trump's trip to South Korea is an excellent opportunity to showcase the strength of the alliance relationship," she noted. "I am concerned about the potential for divergence, however, given Washington's repeated comments alluding to military strike options against North Korea and South Korea's desire to maintain peace and find ways to engage with the North."

Trade is also likely to figure prominently in the summit.

"While I am hopeful that Trump will appreciate the visit to (U.S. military base) Camp Humphreys -- a key symbol of South Korea bearing the costs of the alliance -- it is unlikely to mollify Trump's stance on (the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement) and his insistence on addressing trade imbalances," Pak said.

Jung Pak, SK-Korea Foundation chair in Korea studies at the Brookings Institution, speaks to reporters at the institution in Washington on Oct. 12, 2017. (Yonhap)

Hwi Won  edt@koeapost.com

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