North Korea’s Foreign Ministry has released a statement demanding that President Trump replace Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as his lead negotiator in nuclear talks with the country. According to the North Koreans, they want to deal with someone more “mature” than Pompeo. The ministry further criticized Pompeo’s “reckless remarks” and “self-indulgence.” North Korea also recently announced that it had tested a new tactical weapon.
While Pompeo has been Trump’s lead negotiator with North Korea, he hasn’t been without criticism in the US either. His brand of foreign policy is hawkish in the extreme, as witnessed by his statements on Iran, Venezuela, and Libya. There seemingly isn’t a country in the world Pompeo isn’t willing to go to war with, or at least to rattle sabers with. Rather than being the country’s top diplomat, Pompeo’s tough talk appears intended more to back other countries into a corner to fight rather than to engage in any sort of meaningful diplomacy. “My way or the highway” isn’t a diplomatic maneuver that’s likely to succeed.
Pompeo’s actions risk undermining all the positive efforts President Trump has made in defusing tensions on the North Korean peninsula. While the first two years of Trump’s tenure saw great strides made toward reconciliation with North Korea, recent months have seen both Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton becoming increasingly hawkish with countries around the world.
Bolton in particular has ramped up his bellicosity, recently enacting further sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela. Bolton is also widely believed to have scuttled President Trump’s recent nuclear talks with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi. Unfortunately this is just the latest example of Trump picking uber-hawkish policymakers who counteract his stated policy goals and failing to rein them in. From former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to Pompeo to Bolton, Trump’s foreign policy staff picks are doing more to undermine his foreign policy than anything else.