The current U.S. administration lacks a strategy on North Korea despite the growing challenge posed by the regime's nuclear and missile programs, two experts said Thursday.
In particular, the former U.S. government officials pointed to the "mixed messaging" from the White House and the State Department over whether Washington wants talks with Pyongyang.
This week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was ready to meet with the North "without precondition," but the White House retorted that now is not the time for talks.
"I find the administration just has a real problem with messaging," Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said during a forum here. "Some will say 'good cop, bad cop' is all part of a strategy. I don't get that sense. I don't feel it's that coordinated."
Klingner, who worked as the CIA's deputy division chief for Korea from 1996-2001, also noted the degree of divergence within the administration is beyond the "normal bureaucratic differences" found in any government.
"In the 24 years I've been doing Northeast Asia, I haven't been as puzzled by what U.S. policy is and also I haven't had as many particularly Korean and Japanese visitors coming and asking what is our policy," he said.
With North Korea close to acquiring a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of hitting anywhere in the U.S., policy coordination is more important than ever, according to Sue Mi Terry, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"I don't think it's some part of grand strategy of 'good cop, bad cop,'" she told the same forum. "I just simply think it's lack of coordination, which is unfortunate because in a crisis like this, you have to have really unified message, whether it's strong, hard, soft or otherwise."
Citing her time in government, which includes stints at the CIA and the White House National Security Council, she said it is "very unusual" and "not the norm."
When then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the term "sex slaves" for women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II, that took "months" of coordination and deliberation, she recalled.
Japan uses the euphemistic term "comfort women," many of whom were mobilized from its then-colony, Korea. (Yonhap)
Kim Jung-mi email@example.com
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