Donald Trump’s Sunday tweet dismissing U.S. diplomatic efforts with North Korea left experts baffled and sparked speculation Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would resign.
On Monday, the White House further undercut Tillerson’s role, doubling down on Trump’s stance that diplomacy has no place in a nuclear crisis.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders reiterated the administration’s position at a White House briefing: “Now is not the time simply to have conversations with North Korea.”
Huckabee-Sanders comments followed a whiplash weekend regarding U.S. strategy toward North Korea. On Saturday, Tillerson said the U.S. was directly communicating with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program. But by Sunday, Trump subverted that message, tweeting that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”
The back and forth has experts again questioning the president’s strategy.
William Perry, defense secretary during the Clinton administration, said: “If diplomacy prevents just one soldier from having to die on the battlefield, it is worth the energy.”
Dan Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel under Barack Obama, speculated Trump’s comments would force Tillerson to quit: “He’ll resign, today or after a brief face-saving interval.”
Former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, suggested Tillerson-Trump could be playing “good cop, bad cop” with North Korea, but added, “I fear it’s not.”
Vali Nasr, a former senior adviser to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, called Trump’s comments “astonishing,” while Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, said it was “life-or-death presidential malpractice.”
“How could any diplomat (or human) tolerate being treated as Tillerson is?” she said.