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U.S. diplomacy on N. Korea 'hollowed' by lack of capacity: senator

All Headlines 06:53 September 30, 2017

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- The United States' focus on diplomacy to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue is "hollowed" by the absence of relevant personnel, including an ambassador to South Korea, a senator said Friday.

Eight months into office, U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to name an ambassador to Seoul. The top State Department official for East Asia is also serving in an acting capacity.

"Unfortunately, the diplomatic effort is being hollowed because of a lack of capacity," Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said during a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations. "We do not have an ambassador in South Korea and we do not have a confirmed assistant secretary for the region."

Reed, a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, also pointed to what he called a "lack of coherent message."

"We have seen that from the beginning, when the president tweeted about South Korea paying for the THAAD system when in fact they did a lot of political effort to get it into the country. We have seen it in terms of the free trade agreement. All of that has presented incoherent messages in many respects," he said, referring to Trump's argument that South Korea should pay to host the U.S. missile defense system and amend its trade deal with the U.S.

The Trump administration has emphasized it will use diplomatic and economic pressure to get North Korea to back down from its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But it has also said it is prepared to use military force if necessary.

"I think the diplomatic effort is vitally important, because even though military is a must, they are preparing for some kind of operation, but this would be a much preferable way to proceed," Reed said. "And also, if it does not succeed, there is much more legitimacy for the use of force."

The senator also said diplomatic options could involve developing informal tracks and back channels to hold talks with Pyongyang and reviving multilateral talks on the North Korea issue with South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.

Official photo of Sen. Jack Reed. (Yonhap)


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