Ex-Trump pick for ambassador warns against preemptive North Korea strike
The man President Donald Trump had until recently picked to be U.S. ambassador to South Korea warned Tuesday against even a limited preemptive strike against North Korea, predicting that such a move could set-off an uncontrollably escalating conflict.
“There is a point at which hope must give in to logic. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind?” Victor Cha, a Georgetown University professor who served in the administration of George W. Bush, wrote in The Washington Post. “And if Kim is unpredictable, impulsive and bordering on irrational, how can we control the escalation ladder, which is premised on an adversary’s rational understanding of signals and deterrence?”
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The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Cha’s name was removed from consideration for the ambassador job in South Korea after a December meeting in which he raised concerns about a so-called “bloody nose” strike against the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un, one intended to demonstrate U.S. willingness to use military force. Cha also voiced objections to the president’s threats to pull the U.S. out of a bilateral trade agreement with South Korea.
While Cha’s formal nomination to be ambassador to South Korea had not yet been sent to the Senate, the White House had conducted security and financial background checks on him and had notified Seoul in December of the president’s plans to nominate him. The South Korean government had approved Cha as the president’s pick.
Instead of a preemptive nuclear strike, Cha prescribed a U.S. approach that continues to build economic and global political pressures on the Kim regime while increasing U.S. military readiness in the region, as well as that of U.S. allies Japan and South Korea. Any preemptive strike, Cha wrote, would endanger the roughly 320,000 Americans in Japan and South Korea on any given day, the “putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power.”
“The answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike. Instead, there is a forceful military option available that can address the threat without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans,” Cha wrote. “When I was under consideration for a position in this administration, I shared some of these views.”
January 31, 2018 at 09:31AM