The man who almost became ambassador to South Korea just warned about US plans for North Korea

Key Points
  • Victor Cha, the man who many predicted would be Washington's next ambassador in South Korea up until recently, warned about the White House's North Korea strategy.
  • Cha wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that was published Tuesday, a few days after learning that he was no longer being considered for the ambassador post.
The man who almost became ambassador to South Korea just warned about US plans for North Korea

Korea expert Victor Cha was widely expected to be nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to Seoul. A few days after being told he was no longer in the running, the former George W. Bush advisor publicly criticized the White House's North Korea strategy.

In a Washington Post op-ed published Tuesday, Cha stressed the dangers of a preventive military strike on Pyongyang — an option believed to be favored by President Donald Trump's team.

Such a move "would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it, turning what might be a North Korean moneymaking endeavor into a vengeful effort intended to equip other bad actors against us," argued Cha.

Reports first emerged last June that Cha, currently a Georgetown University professor and senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was set to be the U.S. ambassador to South Korea — a post that's been vacant since Trump took office.

But over the weekend, the White House notified Cha that he was no longer being considered, the Financial Times reported this week. Trump's team stopped returning Cha's calls in December after the strategist made his concerns known about attacking the North, the FT continued, noting that Cha was reportedly asked whether he could help manage the evacuation of American citizens from South Korea.

North Korea wants to divide the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea

In his Tuesday op-ed, Cha acknowledged that he had shared his reservations about the strike with the administration.

Some Trump officials, Cha wrote, believe military action will force Pyongyang to the negotiating table, but that places U.S. citizens in Asia's fourth-largest economy at risk of North Korean retaliation.

"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."

Read Cha's op-ed in the Washington Post.