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'Victor Cha withdrawal not due to his objection to military options’

Washington’s decision to drop Victor Cha as its next US ambassador to South Korea was not due to his disagreement with the Trump administration’s consideration of a limited strike on North Korea, a diplomatic source said Friday.

Washington abandoned its plan to nominate Cha, a former director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council under the Bush administration, reportedly due to his opposition to the Trump administration’s “bloody nose” strategy on North Korea and its threat to terminate the free trade deal with Seoul.

“As far as I know, the reason Victor Cha was withdrawn was not his differing views on North Korea policy,” the source said, asking to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“I believe there were many other factors. It is extremely difficult to give a detailed answer on what other factors were,” he said. He refused to discuss his source but added that it was “credible.”

Victor Cha (Yonhap)
Victor Cha (Yonhap)

Washington’s decision to withdraw Cha as a nominee for US ambassador to South Korea sparked concerns that the Trump administration is seriously considering a “bloody nose” strike -- a limited strike on North Korea to send a message that provocations would not be tolerated -- and seeking to fill the post with a figure more hawkish than Cha.

But the likelihood of a US military option on North Korea is not high at the current stage, the source said. “At the current stage, we are focusing on resolving (the North Korea issue) peacefully.”

However, analysts believe that the Trump administration is serious about a military option amid divisions within the Trump administration over how tough the US should be against North Korea.

“It seems that there are divisions within the administration,” Bruce Klingner, a former CIA officer and a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, was quoted as saying by CNN.

The US has said that it prefers a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis, but also said that there were all options available, including military ones.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Washington sought Seoul’s understanding over the withdrawal of Victor Cha for the ambassadorship and the allies continue to cooperate on filling the long-vacant post as soon as possible.

By Ock Hyun-ju (