News that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to hold a summit meeting with South Korea's president next month to impose a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests if his country holds talks with the United States is "encouraging," Sen. Chris Coons said Tuesday, but he's also concerned that an ambassador to South Korea has not yet been named.
"We don't have an ambassador to South Korea, and I remain concerned about the functionality of the State Department," said the Delaware Democrat and foreign relations committee member told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, after saying he was encouraged that Kim's agreement on a summit could mean diplomacy remains an option.
Coons said he does not think the hold up on confirming an ambassador for South Korea is the fault of the Senate, but instead because of the delay of nominating candidates, and he does not know why it has taken so long.
Diplomacy has always been the preferred route to resolving the country's confrontations with North Korea, said Coons, and in addressing the matter of Russian interference in U.S. elections.
"I think it's been a challenge here keeping Republicans in leadership in our Senate focused on foreign policy," said Coons. "They've had other priorities, tax reform, confirmation of judges, I understand that."
However, the fight against Russia, especially as the midterm elections get underway, should get "strong bipartisan support," said Coons.
"The idea that we haven't funded security for state election systems, when we are eight months now from the general election this November, strikes me as something we should be moving forward," said Coons.
In a more conventional administration, there would be steps to coordinate efforts with Japan, China, South Korea, even Russia to try to put together an international effort that would get clarity about the potential opening with North Korea, said Coons, and to reach a deal with North Korea.
"In the last administration in confronting a reckless and threatening nuclear program in Iran, they did succeed in putting together multilateral effort that included our European allies as well as China and Russia to get searching nuclear inspections," said Coons. "There are some challenges with that deal. It still needs to be improved, but that's the sort of engagement with our allies through diplomacy that should be possible and should be taken at this moment."
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