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Thursday, 15 March 2018

New U.S. Secretary of State could complicate peace talks with North Korea – Experts

New U.S. Secretary of State could complicate peace talks with North Korea – Experts

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

Experts say the recent appointment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo, known for his hawkish position on foreign policy, as the new U.S. secretary of state is President Donald Trump’s attempt to flex muscles at possible talks with North Korea.

Trump said Tuesday morning that he decided to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with Pompeo, who served as the CIA director in the Trump administration until the latest announcement.

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Following Pyongyang’s apparent policy U-turn since the beginning of the year, Trump is expected to hold a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May, the first meeting between leaders of the two nations.

Experts also suggested that as the top U.S. diplomat, Pompeo’s harsh rhetoric against China could prove to be problematic in future peace talks between the U.S. and North Korea, as Washington may need continued support from Beijing.

David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University, told Sputnik: “former President Barack] Obama was criticised for his pivot toward Asia but in many ways this is what Trump has done.

“He has made China a major trade and economic enemy and North Korea is a major focus of conflict bordering on military action.

“I see little change here with Pompeo taking over. In fact, he may complicate possible talks with North Korea which will require the Chinese to cooperate.”

Pompeo said on Monday that the Trump administration is prepared and engaged in pushing back against the Chinese threats so that the United States can have a good relationship with China in a way that the world desperately needs.

Professor Schultz expects increased tension with China during Pompeo’s tenure.

“How the new secretary of state tries to push China while also trying to do talks with North Korea will be interesting to watch.

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“If he does not change his rhetoric toward China (and I see no indication that he or Trump will), expect that there will be increased tensions with China and also expect perhaps more trade tariffs on China,” he said.

Chinese scholars argued that Pompeo may have little impact on U.S.-China relations because Trump likes to take direct control of U.S. policies.

“I think Mike Pompeo may not have a lot of impact on Sino-U.S. relations. Trump himself has a lot of direct influence here.

“North Korean nuclear issues and trade issues are both top concerns for Trump and both involve Sino-U.S. relations.

“Trump still has a decent relationship with Xi, especially after Chinese cooperation on sanctions issues has forced Kim to seek to talk to the U.S.,” Zhang Baohui, director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, told Sputnik.

Zhang believes Pompeo was picked because Trump sees him as a similar deal maker.

“It is possible that Trump chose Pompeo because he needs a “strong” person as U.S. secretary of state for possible discussions with North Korea. Trump is a good deal maker.

“He understands that too many preconditions for the negotiations will kill the possibility of a deal. I think Trump will pursue practical strategies in his negotiations with North Korea,” he said.

Other U.S. experts suggested that the personnel choice for assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific could have a bigger impact on US foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific Region.

“As an Asia specialist, I am particularly interested in what will happen to Susan Thornton’s nomination as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

“It was controversial from the beginning, since whether one approves of her record or not … her career makes her part of the very swamp Trump promised to drain,” June Teufel Dreyer, a political science professor at the University of Miami, told Sputnik.

Dreyer added that Thornton reportedly was Tillerson’s choice as assistant secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

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