Revamp the security lineupPresident-elect Joe Biden has started designating officials for key posts in a new U.S. administration. Tony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, will be nominated as his secretary of state, Jake Sullivan, a former national security advisor to Biden when he was vice president, will be his national security advisor, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, will be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Michèle Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense for policy under President Barack Obama, is expected to serve as defense secretary.
Thanks to their time as key officials in the U.S. Department of Defense in the Obama administration, they are well versed in Korean Peninsula issues compared to their counterparts in President Donald Trump’s administration. After the General Services Administration on Monday informed Biden of its readiness to begin the formal transition process, things will finally speed up.
Though a modest and friendly person, Secretary of State-designate Blinken is stern about North Korea. Unless North Korea reaches denuclearization, the United States must continue sanctions, he said. Blinken takes the position that Washington can ease sanctions in return for at least a partial dismantlement of the North’s nuclear weapons. He once called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “one of the worst tyrants” and North Korea the “worst concentration camp.”
Such views are in sharp contrast with the Moon Jae-in administration’s. In a meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo in Seoul shortly after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January 2016, Blinken emphasized the significance of the Korea-U.S. alliance. In the meeting, he stressed the need to persuade and pressure China, which was demonstrating double standards on the denuclearization of North Korea.
In a contributing post to the Washington Post in April 2018 — shortly before the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore — National Security Advisor-designate Sullivan mentioned North Korea’s longstanding strategy of making a promise first and breaking it later. Such attitudes toward North Korea are quite different from the dovish position of Unification Minister Lee In-young.
Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador-designate to the United Nations, consistently raised the issue of human rights in Africa when she served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2013 to 2017. If she is appointed U.S. ambassador to the UN, she will most likely raise human rights issues in North Korea. Flournoy, the defense secretary-designate, also prioritizes the Korea-U.S. alliance but maintains hostility toward China. They are all critical of Pyongyang and Beijing.
Given such drastic differences from the Trump administration, the Moon Jae-in administration needs to shift its diplomacy and security policy by a considerable degree, not to mention a need to replace Moon’s diplomatic and security aides. Nevertheless, the government is doing nothing. It stuck with Trump instead of building connections with the Biden camp. The government must recruit people capable of maximizing our national interest between America and China while reinforcing the alliance regardless of their ideology. When it comes to national security, there should be no divide between ruling and opposition parties.