Denouncing President Donald Trump for intensifying "fears of warfare on the Korean Peninsula," tens of thousands of South Koreans rallied in front of the U.S. embassy in Seoul on Tuesday to protest Trump's arrival, hoisting signals that sent an unambiguous message: "closed up and get out."
The peaceful demonstrations against the U.S. president--who has threatened to unleash "fire and fury" upon South Korea's northern neighbor, a movement that could endanger countless lives--are expected to carry on by Wednesday when Trump is programmed to deliver a speech on North Korea.
"The war-threatening, weapons seller Trump is not welcome here, particularly as he needs that South Korea pay more to sponsor U.S. troops and put aside land for futile weapons such as the THAAD missile security system," Choi Eun-a of the Korean Alliance for Progressive Movements--one of the more than 200 groups engaging in protests during Trump's two-day visit--said in an announcement.
Even as Trump seemed to tone down his militaristic rhetoric using a call on Tuesday for North Korea to do peace talks and "make a bargain," the U.S. and South Korea participated in a joint military exercise that could simply be viewed as a "major show of force"--one which may further ratchet up tensions and worldwide concerns of nuclear battle.
During the next few days, "three US aircraft carriers, followed closely by guided-missile destroyers and submarines, will be convoying a mock battle in the waters in the area," CNN reported on Tuesday. "It's probably the show of power by the U.S. forces will probably be seen by North Korea as a direct provocation."
During a press conference with President Moon Jae-in, Trump was explicit about the purpose of the military exercise--among several that have taken place in the Pacific region over the past several months.
"I think we're bestowing great strength," Trump said. "We delivered three of the most significant aircraft carriers from the world [to the Korean Peninsula] plus a nuclear submarine can be set."
It's this sort of sampling of the army might that hundreds of South Koreans gathered on Tuesday to reject, echoing calls from other world powers for the U.S. to negotiate peace with North Korea.