Trump's former pick for South Korea ambassador warns against preemptive strike

Trump's former pick for South Korea ambassador warns against preemptive strike
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President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE's reported one-time pick for ambassador to South Korea is warning the administration against a preemptive strike on North Korea.

Victor Cha, a prominent expert on North Korea, warned a conflict on the Korean peninsula would likely kill thousands of Americans and do nothing to lessen the threat from North Korea, in an op-ed in The Washington Post on Tuesday.

"Some may argue that U.S. casualties and even a wider war on the Korean Peninsula are risks worth taking, given what is at stake," he wrote. "But a strike (even a large one) would only delay North Korea’s missile-building and nuclear programs, which are buried in deep, unknown places impenetrable to bunker-busting bombs.

"A strike also would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it, turning what might be a North Korean moneymaking endeavor into a vengeful effort intended to equip other bad actors against us," he added.

Cha until recently was under consideration to serve as Trump's ambassador to South Korea.


His op-ed, though, was published hours after the Post reported that the administration had decided not to nominate him after Cha expressed disagreement in private over policy toward North Korea.

Trump has repeatedly threatened the possibility of taking military action against North Korea, including potentially a preemptive strike. He used a speech before the United Nations General Assembly last year to warn that he would "totally destroy" the North if it threatened the U.S. or its allies.

Cha, a professor at Georgetown University and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said even a small-scale strike could lead to unforeseen consequences.

"If Kim [Jong Un, the North Korean leader] 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?" he wrote.

Cha said the U.S. should continue to develop military options for dealing with North Korea. But, he said, those options should only be used to counter a first strike from Pyongyang.

He called on Washington to focus on strengthening the international pressure campaign against North Korea.