Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA chief Mike Pompeo caught the world by surprise, and injected even more uncertainty into May’s historic summit between the U.S. President and North Korean leader Kim Kong Un.
Pompeo has been one of the most hawkish voices on North Korea’s escalating missile and nuclear tests and is unlikely to inspire confidence in a regime wary of American capriciousness regarding international pacts. In July, he suggested that regime change would be a positive development welcomed by the North Korean people and has refused to condemn preemptive military action.
“It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today,” Pompeo told a panel at the Aspen Security Forum. “I am hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this system.”
This view differs pointedly from Tillerson, who in April insisted, “We do not seek a collapse of the regime,” and was so keen to reach a negotiated settlement that in December offered a meeting without preconditions: “Let’s just meet — we can talk about the weather if you want,” he said.
Those dovish overtures ultimately helped sideline Tillerson in the formation of North Korean policy, further evidenced by his unfortunate statement, “We’re a long ways from negotiations,” just hours before Trump accepted Kim’s summit invitation.
Read More: Why President Trump Fired Rex Tillerson
The victory of North Korea hawks in the administration was presaged by veteran diplomat Victor Cha, who was dropped from consideration for U.S. ambassador supposedly over his staunch criticism of the preemptive strike option. It also likely stoked South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s frantic reengagement with the Kim regime. Rumors of Tillerson’s replacement by Pompeo were being discussed by South Korea’s intelligence services in January, according to documents seen by TIME.
Now the fear for liberals is that mustachioed diplomat John Bolton — the ultra-hawkish former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., who has voiced support for preemptive war with both North Korea and Iran — may soon replace current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
Moon’s urgency has been manifest: In a matter of weeks he agreed to march under a united Korea flag at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, dispatched envoys to Pyongyang to meet Kim, agreed his own face-to-face talks in April, and brokered the Trump summit.
“I think President Moon was concerned both by the potential for a North Korean provocation or attack during the Olympics as well as potential for a U.S. preventive attack, so that he eagerly grasped at the olive branch offered during Kim Jong Un’s annual New Year’s Day speech,” says Bruce Klingner, a Northeast Asia expert at the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation.
It is not just Pompeo’s views on North Korea that are problematic, though. The new Secretary of State has also been a …read more
Source:: Time – World