Former U.S. Diplomat Criticizes Trump's Handling of North Korea

Yale Law School’s former dean has a unique take on the current conflict of rhetoric between North Korea and the United States. He spent four days in talks with North Korea’s former President Kim Jong Il.

"I went with Madeleine Albright and we spent four days there and met Kim Jon Il, the current president's father and we lived in Pyeongyang and had some extensive discussions," Harold Koh, who is now the Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, said. 

Koh said the president of the United States has an obligation to tone down conversations that reach near-hostile levels.

President Donald Trump recently told reporters in response to threats from North Korea’s current President Kim Jong Un, "They will be met with fire fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

Koh, who made two separate trips for diplomatic discussions with the previous North Korean leader, said those kinds of statements are unbecoming of the Commander-in-Chief.

"We are the adults here so we should be acting like the adults and it's a little bit worrying when you can't tell the difference between the rhetoric of the president of North Korea and the President of the United States," Koh said. 

From Koh’s perspective, the most significant development over the past week has been the unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution placing crippling economic sanctions on North Korea. He said if the conversations don’t improve, and the sanctions remain in place, then North Korea will remain in the conditions of a “fourth world country.”

"When you fly from Seoul which is the city of lights to Pyeongyang, there are no lights on the runway. It's totally dark and the people are completely dispirited,” Koh said.

Koh thinks the recent calming comments from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were a result of the influence of Sung Kim, a veteran of diplomacy in the region.

Koh said he hopes that kind of calming tone somehow makes its way to President Trump so he can start work toward using the power of the alliance with Russia and China to help steer relations with North Korea in the right direction.

"This is not helpful, this is not Game of Thrones. We're not talking about fire and fury. It is the job of the American president to bring down the rhetoric and de-escalate and then to try to find common ground," Koh said.

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