Former US Ambassador To South Korea Alexander Vershbow: President Trump’s Rhetoric With North Korea Could Lead Them to Pull The Trigger First

(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Files)

Audio clip:

Alexander Vershbow, former Ambassador to South Korea spoke with Brian Kilmeade about being worried the members of Trump Administration are not on the same page on how to handle North Korea with the President calling for military action while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis are calling for diplomacy.

Listen here for the full interview:

Ambassador Vershbow on why he is worried the Trump Administration are not on the same page dealing with North Korea

(VERSHBOW) I'm worried that the administration isn't all on the same page on this issue. On the one hand we hear Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis saying that the goal remains a diplomatic solution and they've actually done a good job in mobilizing a lot of international pressure on North Korea more than ever before with the sanctions with China and others cutting their economic ties to North Korea so they're hurting but I don't think we found the way to get them to fully give up their nukes and you know it's about matter of regime survival and the administration hasn't said it could accept anything less than the full elimination of their nuclear weapons and missile programs. And then you get the President saying diplomacy is a waste of time and that only one thing works which obviously he means military force. If he's bluffing he puts our credibility on the line yet if you use force you potentially lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in South Korea who you know live very close to the North Korean border and a couple hundred thousand Americans who live in South Korea so I think we need to figure out a diplomatic strategy that can deescalate which may mean freezing their programs as a first step ,we should never give up on getting rid of the program altogether but I think we need a freeze as a first step to cool everything down, get them to stop improving their programs, stop testing and then we can get on with the task of fully denuclearizing North Korea which has to be the goal, we can't let them keep these things indefinitely.

Ambassador Vershbow on Ambassador Chris Hill saying President Trump's comments on North Korea seem like they were written by the North Koreans themselves.

(VERSHBOW) Well he has been competing pretty well with the North Koreans for very inflammatory rhetoric and I think this is a time when he has to be the mature adult in this kind of tit for tat with when it comes to rhetoric. Focus on getting an outcome that reduces the threat and ultimately leads to eliminating it. You are not going to eliminate it overnight but if we can stop their ability to improve the missiles that can now just barely reach our territory, get them to stop testing the nuclear weapons themselves we at least draw a line and then from there we can try to eliminate it. The rhetoric doesn't help.

Ambassador Vershbow on the dangers of President Trump and his administration playing good cop, bad cop with North Korea

(VERSHBOW) If it is a good cop bad cop you have to eventually define an outcome, you can't maintain this indefinitely or you are going to lead to the North Koreans getting even more paranoid than they already are and they could pull the trigger first and we could certainly wipe them out but the costs of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula would be unacceptable.