Sam Nunn: Pentagon may have to take the lead in Asian diplomacy

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Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson listens as right as former Georgia senator Sam Nunn introduces him on Capitol Hill in January. AP/Steve Helber

As Rex Tillerson, the understaffed U.S. secretary of state, wings his way to Asia for crucial visits to Japan, South Korea and China, Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) dropped in on former U.S. senator Sam Nunn.

Nunn said the recent spate of missile launches by North Korea, coupled with last week’s successful ouster of the president of South Korea, has created a dicey diplomatic situation. In his interview, Nunn recommended direct, if informal, talks with North Korea.

Which prompted this particular exchange toward the end:

O’Hayer: “Is the Trump administration staffed and ready to do that?”

 

Nunn: “If this was an easy problem, it would have been solved in the previous administration. So I don’t think anybody could wave a wand and solve it.

 

“But no, they don’t have a staff. There’s not a deputy secretary of state right now. I’m sure that Rex Tillerson needs a good bit of help, and the Defense Department is much better organized and so forth, so they’re probably going to have to take more of a lead here.

 

“But talking to the North Koreans informally, I think is very important….”

Think of the import of this. Nunn certainly isn’t questioning the competence of Tillerson. The former Georgia senator introduced him at his January hearing before a Senate committee.

But Nunn appears to be saying that the diplomatic arm of the world’s most powerful nation has become so hamstrung by the Trump administration’s lack of urgency when it comes to staffing that the U.S. military could be required to step in and walk point.

This is no small thing.


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