Colin Kahl, former National Security Advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden, speaks at the Pomerantz Center on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. As the meeting of the UN General Assembly and Security Council will take place this week, Kahl discussed issues in regards to the current administration's foreign policy. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Former national-security adviser talks North Korean diplomacy

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Colin Kahl, a former national-security adviser for Joe Biden, said the U.S. needs to reach out to South Korea to cut tension with North Korea.

By Madeleine Neal

madeleine-neal@uiowa.edu

Colin Kahl, a former national-security adviser for Joe Biden, said Trump wants to make something clear: He is not former President Obama.

Kahl discussed the future of U.S. foreign policy as part of an A. Craig Baird Forum on Contemporary Politics and Society on Monday evening in the Pomerantz Center.

Kahl has also served as a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security and a deputy assistant secretary of Defense for the Middle East. He was a counsel on foreign relations and international affairs, a fellow in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations, and he is now an associate professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.

Though Kahl said he does not think people give President Trump enough credit for his overarching vision on foreign policy, he also said Trump’s muscular, but aloof, militarism could be dangerous for the U.S.

“Who is Kim Jong-un supposed to believe?” Kahl said, referring to White House officials writing off Trump’s threats against North Korea.

Despite tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, he said the nuclear threat is nothing new.

“We’ve been living with crazy Kims for over a decade,” he said, referring to the three-generation lineage of North Korean leaders.

The only difference, he said, is the range of the missiles has gotten longer, and suddenly, there’s a direct threat.

“Is there any evidence that he [Kim Jong-un] is crazy?“ he said. “No, there’s no evidence that he’s crazy. Is he a mass murderer? Yes.”

Kahl said the toughest task for the Trump administration is not to deter Jong-un but to persuade South Koreans that Jong-un would trade Seattle for Seoul.

Trump and his administration, Kahl said, need to hug allies like the residents of South Korea when they are threatened, not scold them for being appeasers. He said danger looms if Jong-un can build wedges between the U.S. and South Korea.

Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, said that while one could argue that there’s always a lot going on in foreign policy, today’s political climate is particularly tense.

“… If North Korea were to launch missiles at Japan, or South Korea, or Guam, or any U.S. territory or ally, we would be in a position where we would have to choose,” Hagle said. “Are we going to use military action or are we going to sit by and let it happen? That’s going to be a very difficult decision, should it come.”

Another concern, Hagle said, is North Korea’s ability to sell weapons.

“[We’re] not sure what technology is and what they’ll do with it,” he said. “We have commitments to protect [allies] and to help them out in those cases.”

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Christopher Peters, who will challenge Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District seat, was in attendance and said North Korea is the U.S.’s most immediate threat.

“I don’t think that it’s Congress’ job to apply pressure to the president, but I think we certainly want to reach out to allies within the administration to hopefully get his [Trump’s] ear, and to get that message there that war in the Korean peninsula is not something that anybody should want,” Peters said. “I think you reach out to as many allies as you can.”

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