Thursday, January 11, 2018

US Policy in Korea

I attended at conference on Korea this week and learned the following information from the discussions.  With Chatham House rules I cannot identify the conference or the participants.  But I think the information discussed provides important information and insights into our Korea foreign policy.

1.  north Korea is the most important foreign policy issue for President Trump and he is deeply engaged in the policy process with his Korea team. His policy is maximum pressure and engagement.

2.  President Trump has made over 200 phone calls to world leaders and key influencers with the main subject being north Korea.  He has had over 20 calls and meetings with President Xi in which north Korea was the main topic of discussion in addition to multiple calls and engagements with President Moon and Prime Minister Abe.

3.  President Trump meets with his Korea team routinely for 2-3 hour long discussions of north Korea policy.

4.  There is an administration policy and strategy and while it is obviously close hold we are seeing elements of the strategy through statements, tweets, and actions so we should pay attention.

5.  One of the key elements of the strategy is President Trump's desire to undo the notion that there is no military option in north Korea (which undercuts our diplomatic efforts when people make such statements) and instead he has sought to raise the credibility of our military actions to ensure that Kim Jong-un knows that we are capable and if he threatens, we truly have the will to use military force appropriately.  There is frustration with think tanks and pundits and analysts who continually state there is no good military option as that undermines our strategy. 

6.  The President's tweets illustrate the range of actions he is willing to take.  He is willing to meet with Kim Jong-un but he also will not hesitate to use military force if necessary to defend the US.

7.  Finally, we should recall that during the campaign north Korea was not an issue.  However, during the transition the President recognized the importance of the threat and has made north Korea his number one foreign policy priority.

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