The Foreign Policy Institute hosted a discussion betwen Vali Nasr and Antony Blinken on pressing diplomatic issues facing the United States and the world, marking the beginning of a new academic year and the continuation of its series, The Art of Diplomacy.
Nasr began by examining conflict with North Korea and the interpretation of threats from Pyongyang. Blinken noted that the US is in a difficult position as a result of Pyongyang’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. He mentioned that the Obama administration pushed back on a number of fronts—including China—a similar approach now employed by the Trump administration. Blinken dismissed the idea of launching a preemptive military operation, as Pyongyang has the capacity to launch a reprisal attack which would cause severe civilian casualties.
Next, Nasr spoke about the success of severing North Korea's diplomatic relationships with other countries. Blinken agreed with the approach and further stressed that China, which represents 90% of North Korea trade relations, remains a unique option. The US should build on its missile defense, military defense, and also create additional incentives for China to sever its trade relationship with Pyongyang, Blinken said. He added that individuals and companies trading with Pyongyang must be sanctioned.
Finally, Blinken spoke about the decline in the US-Russia relationship over the years and how Russia’s disruption of Ukrainian sovereignty contributed to the rift. Blinken concluded by emphasizing the importance of the US role in the international system and encouraged students to continue to pursue careers in foreign policy.
Antony Blinken, Herter/Nitze Distinguished Scholar at the Foreign Policy Institute and Managing Director, Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement Vali Nasr, Dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS