Trump’s NK pol­icy lacks co­her­ence

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Kather­ine Hyun­jung Lee Hyun­jun­glee2017@u.north­west­ The Korea Times has part­nered with North­west­ern Univer­sity’s Medill School of Jour­nal­ism in Evanston, Illi­nois, in the United States, un­der which grad­u­ate jour­nal­ism stu­dents at Medill’s news­roo

WASH­ING­TON, D.C. — The Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lack of co­her­ence in deal­ing with North Korea sig­nals dan­ger for the United States and even the world, a sea­soned ex­pert on East Asian poli­cies said.

“Trump’s in­flam­ma­tory re­marks and tweets that di­rectly chal­lenged North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had been un­fore­seen and amounted to an ex­tremely risky course of ac­tion,” Jonathan Pol­lack, a lead­ing East Asia pol­icy scholar at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, said in a re­cent in­ter­view with the Medill News Ser­vice.

“Words like the ones that Trump used have an in­her­ent pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing mis­con­strued,” Pol­lack said. “There may be ac­tions be­ing taken by oth­ers that re­ally were not some­how the in­tended pur­pose.”

Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly, is widely seen to es­tab­lish a more rig­or­ous op­er­a­tion at the White House and a co­her­ent po­si­tion on North Korea. Kelly, a re­tired Ma­rine gen­eral, has yet to take a po­lit­i­cal stancere­gard­ingNorthKorea.

Ac­cord­ing to Pol­lack, Trump’s threats about North Korea could start a con­flict that would be “cat­a­strophic.”

“Fun­da­men­tally, I think the core goal for now has to be to avoid any pos­si­ble risk on the penin­sula,” Pol­lack said. “That’s why any­thing that im­plies the U.S. might un­der­take uni­lat­eral ac­tion, even if the U.S. was not pre­pared to do that, even that kind of loose talk, is wor­ry­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Pol­lack, the South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in is tak­ing a “re­al­ist turn.” “De­spite the ideas that might be at the core of his be­liefs, he’s shown a lot of re­al­ism in lots of cir­cum­stances,” Pol­lack said.

“On the level of se­nior of­fi­cials just be­fore Trump’s level, they’re find­ing a way to main­tain bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and many of the ac­tions they’re tak­ing — most re­cently the de­ci­sion to pro­ceed more quickly with the THAAD de­ploy­ment — are steps that I would not have an­tic­i­pated Moon be­ing will­ing to take when he came into of­fice.”

An­other prob­lem, Pol­lack said, is the con­tin­u­ing turnover of White House staff, most re­cently the dis­missal of chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non, one of Trump’s clos­est ad­vis­ers. Ban­non’s sur­prise de­par­ture came just a week af­ter Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial warn­ing that he would re­spond to North Korean provo­ca­tions with “fire and fury,” which raised fears of cas­cad­ing threats.

While it is un­clear what role Ban­non played in ad­vis­ing Trump on na­tional se­cu­rity, Pol­lack said Ban­non’s po­si­tion was sen­si­ble — there is no fea­si­ble mil­i­tary op­tion in deal­ing with North Korea.

Mean­while, the Brook­ing’s ex­pert stressed Trump needs to speed up the process of nam­ing Wash­ing­ton’s top en­voy to Seoul to bet­ter han­dle North Korea-re­lated is­sues.

More than seven months af­ter tak­ing of­fice, Trump hasn’t named Wash­ing­ton’s am­bas­sador to South Korea.

Pol­lack said that con­firm­ing an am­bas­sador who has the con­fi­dence of the White House and the State Depart­ment would be a cru­cial step in defin­ing U.S. pol­icy.

“We have this very in­com­plete process right now,” Pol­lack said. “The ob­vi­ous dan­gers of a real cri­sis on the penin­sula should not be min­i­mized. You re­ally need to have all the rel­e­vant peo­ple in place to have a fully func­tion­ing pol­icy process.”

Jonathan Pol­lack

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