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Ambassador candidate dropped by Trump administration warns against preventive strikes on North Korea

Right before President Trump started to deliver his first State of the Union address, The Washington Post published an op-ed by Victor Cha, a Georgetown University professor and now-former Trump administration candidate for ambassador to South Korea, who warned that “force will be necessary to deal with North Korea if it attacks first, but not through a preventive strike that could start a nuclear war.”

The op-ed challenges Trump administration officials who have suggested the best way to get North Korea to ditch its missile program and nuclear weapons would be a preventive military strike. Cha said that while he was under consideration for the ambassadorship, he was vocal that such a strike would only delay the building of those programs and weapons, which are “buried in deep, unknown places impenetrable to bunker-busting bombs.” He also said he understands why the Trump officials believe “a military strike would shock Pyongyang into appreciating U.S. strength,” but “there is a point at which hope must give in to logic. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind?”

Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warned that should North Korea attack South Korea, it will affect not just South Koreans but also Americans living in the country. “To be clear: The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power,” he wrote. What needs to be put in place is a coercive strategy that puts sustained “U.S., regional, and global pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize.” For more on Cha’s plan, visit The Washington Post.