Retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering Wednesday decried the lack of diplomacy being used between the Trump administration and North Korea, and said he believes North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's secretive meeting with China's president was another part of Kim's efforts to "drive wedges between the United States and China."
"Diplomacy seems to have been tossed to the winds," Pickering, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George H.W. Bush and as ambassador to several countries dating back to the presidency of Richard Nixon, told CNN's "New Day" co-host Chris Cuomo.
His comments come on the heels of China's confirmation that Kim met with China President Xi Jinping, and that they had discussed North Korea's willingness to denuclearize.
President Donald Trump has announced that he has accepted Kim's invitation to meet with him, after South Korea relayed a message that the invite had been made.
"On the nuclear side and on the meeting side, if we had an attachment to real diplomacy rather than to virtual television, we should not have allowed the Chinese to find out about the president's acceptance of Kim Jong Un's invitation through an announcement by the South Koreans here in the White House," Pickering told Cuomo.
"Secondly, we should have certainly shaped things as we remember going on."
China, he added, is an ally because it has common interests with the United States, "but they don't totally overlap. Looking at the Chinese as a way of looking down the road to the future, saying we are very serious about this."
Pickering said he does think that Trump, on the South Korean trade deal, is moving in the right direction, but he has not used diplomatic measures with China, instead "implying military force."
"He was the one who said months ago, 'we'll fix this on our own,' implying military force," said Pickering of Trump. "He should have said, 'together, we can fix this particular problem and together we want to take into account your concerns, but you need to take into account ours. Here's what we will do. Here's what we want you to do.' None of that has happened. Diplomacy seems to have been tossed to the winds."
Pickering, who has also served as ambassador to Russia, also said Wednesday that he does not think Trump's decision to join allies in expelling Russian diplomats in response to a deadly nerve agent attack on British soil was enough of a response.
"I don't think it's going to move the Russians," said Pickering. "I think we are in a wonderful situation here where one side or the other has to come forward by saying this is a way through the constant expulsion of diplomats as a course of action. I was a diplomat. I know how important diplomats are."
Instead, the process will move forward if a "clear and strategic objective is reached," in demanding Russia not assassinate people around the world.
"We have been accused of doing that ourselves, so there is something here that we can put on the table as well," said Pickering. "That's an important way forward. But it is not something that, put it this way, that adds to the avoidance of potential calamity in a relationship with Russia, where the president's set of activities is clearly going to make things worse rather than better as we move ahead."
Russia, he continued has "made really bad mistakes. We need to find a way to stop that."
"We need to use that as a way to open up a set of activities that can begin to resolve our other problems with Russia," said Pickering. "They are resolvable, Chris, not something that has been cast in concrete never to be resolved."
The retired ambassador also said he believes Trump "has had a clearly soft spot in his heart" for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"If he had a plan and strategy in a way of moving ahead and a way to exploit it, it would be very helpful, but he doesn't," said Pickering. " But it doesn't. It just seems to be there. That is a question mark over that is important."
The rest of the government, however, has an "entirely different track, a demonization of Russia," he said.
"We have a bilateral split not unusual in this administration, but something that could have serious consequences if we're not careful in dealing with it and why I say this is a kind of game of chicken in which there's no exit ramp. There is no way off the highway as the two cars race at each other."
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