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America's top diplomat to North Korea joins mass exodus from State Department

The Trump administration’s disregard for diplomacy is driving career diplomats to flee.
 

By Caroline Orr - February 27, 2018
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U.S. special representative for North Korea policy Joseph Yun
U.S. special representative for North Korea policy Joseph Yun

The State Department’s top diplomat on North Korea is resigning this week, reflecting ongoing frustration with the Trump administration’s disregard for diplomacy.

Joseph Yun, who has served as the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy since October 2016, told CNN on Monday night that he will retire at the end of the week after more than three decades of service in the State Department.

Citing a source familiar with Yun’s thinking, the Washington Post reported that his resignation “reflects the widespread frustration within the State Department at diplomats’ relative lack of power in the Trump administration.”

His departure comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, which have been exacerbated by Trump’s reckless blunder and inflammatory tweets.

As Trump’s dangerous rhetoric and brinkmanship worsened relations with North Korea, Yun continued to advocate for dialogue. However, as the Washington Post noted, those efforts were “stymied by a president who has threatened to rain ‘fire and fury’ down on the North Korean leader, whom Trump has derided as ‘little rocket man.'”

Yun played an integral role in securing the release of American college student Otto Warmbier, who was detained in North Korea for 17 months. He traveled with the medical team that went to North Korea to pick Warmbier up last June.

Yun’s resignation is just the latest sign of the Trump administration’s dysfunctional approach to diplomacy, which has resulted in a mass exodus of career diplomats.

Last month, Trump’s pick for ambassador to South Korea withdrew his name from consideration because of disagreements with the administration’s policies.

According to a report released in January, 60 percent of the State Department’s’ top-ranking career diplomats have left since Trump took office, and the number of people looking to join the foreign service has fallen by half.

More than a year into Trump’s presidency, the State Department still has 41 embassies without confirmed ambassadors.

It seems that Trump’s embrace of tweet-based “diplomacy” isn’t sitting very well with people who actually understand statecraft — nor with our allies like Germany, which now views Trump as a greater threat than North Korea.


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