Nov. 8 (UPI) — U.S. President Donald Trump delivered a 34-minute speech before South Korea’s National Assembly on Wednesday, reaffirming a longtime alliance “forged in war,” while warning North Korea against a “fatal miscalculation.”
Trump made the speech, met with 20 instances of applause from Korean lawmakers, only hours after plans to visit the demilitarized zone were foiled by bad weather.
Trump, who arrived slightly late at Seoul’s parliament, praised the U.S. alliance with South Korea and the South Koreans who built “something miraculous” after the devastation of the 1950-53 Korean War.
“We fought together and triumphed,” Trump said, acknowledging the tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers who died as well as the “hundreds of thousands” of South Korean soldiers who died while fighting on the frontlines against North Korea and China.
“They are heroes,” he added.
Trump’s speech took a surprising turn when his focus shifted to the “prison state” of North Korea, and the human rights situation in the Kim Jong Un regime.
The president’s previous speeches and remarks regarding North Korea concentrated on its weapons of mass destruction — but on Wednesday Trump took the time to outline his concerns about the people of North Korea.
North Korean workers toil away in “terrible conditions,” Trump said, pointing out ordinary citizens are forced to volunteer during months-long mass mobilization movements.
Trump also said only “50 percent of North Korean families” live in homes with electricity, adding North Korean children under the age of 5 suffer from “stunted growth due to malnutrition.”
“And yet in 2012, 2013 the regime spent an estimated $200 million” on Kim idolization and statue construction, Trump said.
The president also called the regime “twisted” for punishing generations of families for the actions of a single family member, and for carrying out torture in prison camps.
“Christians and others praying are now detained, tortured and in many cases executed,” Trump said, adding North Korean women are forced to undergo abortions after conceiving children with a Chinese father.
Trump pointed out the problems with the regime reflect its insecurities about South Korea’s success.
South Korea’s prosperity “creates panic for the North Korean regime” and exposes Pyongyang’s weaknesses, Trump said.
“Western and South Korean music are banned,” the president said. “Possession of foreign media is punishable by death.”
Human rights activists and defectors, including former North Korea diplomat Thae Yong-ho, have said foreign media could play a key role in breaking the regime’s control over its population.
It was unclear on Wednesday, however, whether Trump’s tackling of the topic indicated a U.S. interest in aiding organizations already infiltrating North Korea with thumb drives loaded with music or movies.
Trump also said the isolation of North Korea is not helped by its development of nuclear weapons, which it has pursued “illegally” and in defiance of every assurance.
Any North Korea aspiration to threaten the United States and its allies with weapons would lead to a “fatal miscalculation,” Trump said, adding North Korea’s weapons do not help its future plans for survival.
Trump also said he supports complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, while calling on China and Russia to help.
“Now is the time for strength,” the president said, adding his administration is different from those of previous presidents.
“If we want peace, we must stand strong,” Trump said, while pointing out a nuclear-powered submarine is to be deployed at an appropriate location.
Trump’s speech also affirmed his respect for South Korea, possibly to put to rest concerns in Seoul the president did not value the alliance or was engaging in “Korea passing,” or ignoring Seoul when arriving at crucial decisions on North Korea.
South Korea’s Speaker of the National Assembly Chung Sye-kyun praised Trump on Wednesday for showing “through his actions” a willingness to address North Korea’s nuclear crisis and for standing together in deterring Pyongyang’s weapons threats.
Trump was the first U.S. president to make a parliamentary address in Seoul in nearly 25 years.