Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday warned that President Biden is making “dangerous moves” on North Korea and his lack of a coherent response to Pyongyang’s provocations jeopardizes American credibility with allies who want “leadership from the United States.”
“I’m concerned that the United States is returning to an Obama-era policy of ‘Strategic Patience’ 2.0,’” Mr. Pompeo told an audience of dignitaries from South Korea and Japan at a virtual gathering Saturday that included remarks from other former high-level U.S. diplomats and lawmakers.
Mr. Pompeo referred to years of waffling on North Korea by the former Bush and Obama administrations, prior to the Trump-era escalation of sanctions and other pressure on Pyongyang led to historic denuclearization summits between former President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
While the summits ultimately fell short of delivering an agreement for North Korea to relinquish its nuclear weapons arsenal, and U.S.-North Korea talks have since been stalled for more than two years, Mr. Pompeo warned that the Biden administration is now essentially handing a victory to Pyongyang.
“Choosing to firmly pursue neither pressure nor diplomacy will give Chairman Kim and his regime more opportunity to build out its arsenal,” the former secretary of state said, pointing to unsettling recent indications of new movement afoot at North Korea‘s infamous Yongbyon nuclear research facility.
“If the Biden Administration continues dithering, it will only give the regime more time to undermine sanctions,” Mr. Pompeo said about Pyongyang’s clandestine development of nuclear weapons in violation of decades of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
He also pointed to North Korea‘s recent claims to have successfully tested long-range cruise missiles” — tests last week that were followed by the circulation of eye-opening images purportedly showing the North Korean launch of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) from a railcar.
“They are testing the Biden Administration on how it will respond,” said Mr. Pompeo.
Thus far, the administration has remained largely silent in the face of the new provocations that have rattled U.S. allies South Korea and Japan. While Mr. Biden has kept in place existing sanctions against Pyongyang, it has not added new ones. However, it has gone forward with U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises that have triggered threats of escalation from the Kim regime.
All the while, the administration‘s new Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim has expressed hope for a resumption of talks with the regime, most recently asserting during a Sept. 13 meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Tokyo that, “we hope [North Korea] will respond positively to our multiple offers to meet without preconditions.”
Analysts characterize the current approach as tantamount to a reboot of the so-called “Strategic Patience” policy that Washington embraced initially during the final years of the George W. Bush administration and then carried on throughout the Obama era. The approach revolves around avoiding direct escalation while continuing sanctions and making offers to hold “working-level” dialogues that avoid rewarding the regime with any major diplomatic overtures.
The Trump administration engaged in an alternative approach of ramping up “maximum pressure” before spearheading top-level diplomacy with Mr. Kim himself. Mr. Pompeo, who was integral to that approach — first as CIA director and then as secretary of state — lashed out at the current administration’s posture on Saturday. “A strategy of ‘Strategic Patience 2.0’ will weaken our credibility with allies and partners throughout the world who want to see leadership from the United States,” he said. “It says North Korea isn’t a priority for us.”
Pushing for freedom
The former secretary of state’s remarks came at the inaugural event of “Think Tank 2022,” an initiative sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), a global non-government organization that operates in general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon participated in an event officially launching “Think Tank 2022” in May. Mrs. Moon, the widow of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is the leader of the Unification movement that grew from the Unification Church the Rev. Moon founded in 1954 — a year after the war between North and South Korea was frozen by a U.S.-backed armistice. She and her late husband devoted their lives to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula and to the promotion of world peace. They founded The Washington Times in 1982.
Mr. Pompeo, who praised the work of Mrs. Moon during Saturday’s event, focused a portion of his remarks on the virtues of “religious freedom,” calling it “the most fundamental of all human rights,” and asserting that its promotion is “crucial to peace in Northeast Asia.”
In a roughly 30 minute speech, he reflected on his efforts to promote religious freedom as secretary of state, noting that it was America’s “first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who once wrote: ‘Almighty God has created the mind free. No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry, or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief.’”
“When people are free to talk about the most consequential ideas, societies can find the best way forward,” Mr. Pompeo said. “When people see their neighbors worshipping peacefully, they gain tolerance for different viewpoints. When churches, mosques, and synagogues are free to engage in their neighborhoods, bonds of community are made stronger.”
He went on to emphasize the absence of religious freedom in North Korea, asserting that some 50,000 to 70,000 people are currently in prison in North Korea “just for being Christians.”
Mr. Pompeo also focused on China, citing the “contrast” between American respect for religious freedom and the “Chinese Communist Party’s soul-crushing deprivations.”
“You know what I mean,” he said. “We see brutal treatment of Falun Gong practitioners and Tibetan Buddhists. We read of churches forced to replace displays of the Ten Commandments with quotations from General Secretary Xi. We read reports of Party officials recruiting children to become informants against their churchgoing parents. And of course, we all know the truth about the sickening genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.”
“[The Chinese Communist Party] cannot abide the idea that the Chinese people would find their identity or their meaning in life in God,” the former secretary of state added. “Party leaders believe the Party alone should command the loyalties of the human heart. But little do they know that their suppression of faith is bound to backfire. Crippling religious freedom only creates more curiosity about faith and distrust of the regime.”
Growing China threat
U.S.-China tensions have risen since the Trump-era push to rally regional democracies to counter Beijing’s rise as an autocratic global power.
Mr. Pompeo broadly praised the Biden administration for embracing aspects of that push during recent months. Most notably, Mr. Biden has picked up where Mr. Trump left off in promoting the so-called “Quad” alignment of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia, the most powerful democracies of the Indo-Pacific.
The president is slated to hold a first-ever in-person summit of leaders from the Quad countries on Sept. 24 at the White House.
But Mr. Pompeo suggested Washington should be more focused on threats posed by China, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. “Make no mistake, China is a destabilizing force for this region,” he said, adding that Beijing is becoming “more aggressive” toward Taiwan, and noting that China has recently been found to be “constructing approximately 250 new nuclear missile silos.”
“What kind of message does that send to the region?” asked Mr. Pompeo, who criticized Mr. Biden‘s posture toward such developments, asserting that the administration has “made no effort to address Chinese nuclear weapons.”
Mr. Pompeo added that China also “continues to turn a blind eye to North Korea’s sanctions evasion,” behavior that he said “undermines the maximum pressure campaign that was successful in helping Chairman Kim come to the negotiating table.”
Organizers have described “Think Tank 2022” as a “global network of experts in all sectors and fields” that will work to encourage international efforts to promote peace around the North Korea issue. During Saturday’s event, Mr. Pompeo and other former U.S. officials repeatedly emphasized the depth of ongoing U.S. support for South Korea, Japan and other allies in the region.
Future events slated for the coming months are expected to feature other high-level dignitaries. In May, the initiative’s launch featured David Beasley, the executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian organization.
Away from Mr. Pompeo‘s prepared remarks, Saturday’s event featured panel discussions in which former high-level U.S., South Korean and Japanese diplomats exchanged views with the former secretary of state.
Former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Abe Nobuyasu was among the dignitaries on the Japanese panel, while former South Korean Minister of Unification Kim Yeon-chul and longtime South Korean diplomat Ho-Jin Lee were among the dignitaries on the South Korean panel.
The American panel featured former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Congressman Dan Burton, as well as former Assistant Secretary of State fo East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill and former CIA official and longtime U.S. diplomatic advisor Joseph DeTrani.