U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor: What Allies and Partners Need to Know - March 19
Welcome to the U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor where every week we track the “who,” “what,” and “so what” for the new U.S. administration and Congress. This week the Monitor looks at Biden officials’ Asia-Pacific tour and new developments in relations with North Korea. It also features a video interview on Biden’s democracy promotion initiatives and the people who are running them. Sign up here to receive the newsletter every Friday in your inbox.
As part of their regional tour of the Asia-Pacific, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in South Korea on Wednesday. In statements in Seoul, Blinken declared the North Korean nuclear and missile programs “a threat to the region and to the world” and called for the denuclearization of North Korea. The visit to South Korea came days after reports of so-far unsuccessful attempts by the Biden administration to reach out to Pyongyang appeared in the press. Such outreach efforts had been ongoing since mid-February and included contacts to North Korea’s mission to the United Nations but have thus far been met with silence. According to U.S. officials, there has been no meaningful diplomatic contact between the two countries in more than 12 months, including much of the last year of the Trump presidency. Meanwhile, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent out a threatening statement to coincide with the arrival of the U.S. officials in Seoul and joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises in the region. In her statement, Kim Yo-jong, warned the U.S. administration that, if it “wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.” Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence services have reportedly assessed that North Korea could again be preparing to restart weapons and missile tests after a three year hiatus.
GMF’s editorial director Rachel Tausendfreund talks to Jonathan Katz, director of Democracy Initiatives at GMF and former deputy assistant administrator at USAID about what to expect from Samantha Power at USAID, as well as other key figures and goals of the Biden administration’s democracy agenda. Watch the 20-minute video.
Who to Watch
Stefanie Tompkins was sworn in on March 15 as the 23rd director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s legendary research division. Tompkins, who received degrees in geology and geophysics from Princeton University and a doctorate in geology from Brown University, returned to the agency following a previous stint from 2007 to 2017. During that time, she held multiple positions, such as deputy director of the Strategic Technology Office, DARPA chief of staff, and director of the Defense Sciences Offices. From 2018 until now, Tompkins, who is also a former military intelligence officer, served as the vice president for research and technology transfer at Colorado School of Mines. Earlier in her career, she worked for 10 years in the private sector as a senior scientist and later assistant vice-president and line manager at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
Symone D. Sanders is the chief spokesperson and a senior advisor for Vice President Kamala Harris. Sanders is the former chair of the Coalition of Juvenile Justice Emerging Leaders Committee and former member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, where she worked to raise the profile of young voices in the fight for juvenile justice reform. In 2016, she served as the national press secretary for the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. During the Trump presidency, she was a frequent political analyst and commentator for CNN. In 2018/19, she served as a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School and the University of Southern California’s Center for the Political Future. Her early decision to sign on as a senior adviser with Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2019 surprised some in the progressive wing of the party and was much discussed in Washington.
What to Read
Katherine Tai Confirmed as Biden’s Trade Representative, Yuka Hayashi, Wall Street Journal.
“The Senate confirmed Katherine Tai as President Biden’s U.S. trade representative on Wednesday, putting a career government lawyer in charge of a trade policy that aims to maintain a tough stance on China and protect U.S. jobs.”
Haaland becomes first-ever Native American in presidential Cabinet, Anthony Adragna and Ben Lefebvre, Politico.
“Haaland's rise from poverty to Congress and now to President Joe Biden's cabinet ushers in a new chapter for the agency that once sought to extinguish the cultural identity of Native American […]. As head of the Interior Department, she will oversee the agency that not only guides the federal government's relations with tribes, but manages 20 percent of the U.S. land and nearly a quarter of the nation's oil and gas production.”
Biden under pressure to tap fewer political ambassadors than Trump, Obama, Anita Kumar and Nahal Toosi, Politico.
“Every presidency starts with the politically well-connected clamoring for all types of coveted positions [and] the jockeying for ambassadorships in cities from Paris to Tokyo always tops the list. […] But after the perception of corruption around nominees grew during the Trump years, Biden is being pressed to appoint more career diplomats.”
Culture Wars Leave Biden’s Health Leadership Posts Vacant, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times.
“Nearly two months into the Biden administration, in the thick of the worst public health crisis in a century, the Department of Health and Human Services remains largely leaderless, with President Biden’s nominees to run the sprawling agency under concerted attack from Republicans over abortion and gender politics.”
Top U.S. officials strike a critical tone toward China during a visit to Japan, Lara Jakes, Motoko Rich and John Ismay, The New York Times.
“After the Japanese defense minister, Nobuo Kishi, referred to an ‘increasingly tense security environment’ at the start of a meeting on Tuesday, the two U.S. officials, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, offered reassurance. […] Taken together, the Americans’ statements amounted to the most explicit admonishment in recent years by U.S. diplomats of Chinese provocations toward Japan and the rest of the region.”
U.S.-Chinese Rivalry Is a Battle Over Values, Hal Brands and Zack Cooper, Foreign Affairs.
“As the administration prepares for its first high-level meeting with Chinese officials this week, it has clearly embraced the view that the Washington-Beijing rivalry is driven by competing ideals and systems of government as much as by competing interests.”
Climate Offers a Glimmer of Hope for U.S.-China Cooperation, Melinda Liu, Foreign Policy.
In recent weeks, the Sino-U.S. relationship has been dominated by strident disagreements over trade, human rights, and Pacific security […] But in both Washington and Beijing, the climate portfolio is edging back into the limelight after a four-year-long hibernation. […] Xie Zhenhua will be the [Chinese] counterpart to John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate. And in the past, the two senior diplomats have enjoyed a close working relationship.”
Biden: Putin will ‘pay a price’ for interfering in 2020 election, Quint Forgey, Politico.
“President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin will ‘pay a price’ in the wake of a new report from the U.S. intelligence community that concluded the Kremlin interfered in the 2020 White House race.”
Vaccines Can Mend US-EU Ties, Melvyn B. Krauss, Project Syndicate.
“There is no doubt about US President Joe Biden’s desire to revitalize ties with Europe, which is why his administration must help the Europeans in their moment of need. The fastest way to do this – and to strengthen the transatlantic relationship – is US-European joint production of vaccines in Europe.”
The Biden Agenda Doesn’t Run Through Washington, Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic.
“Biden could advance both his agenda and his political interests by channeling his policies through major metropolitan areas, without relying on states as his principal partners, as previous White Houses have traditionally done. Cities and their inner suburbs need an immediate lifeline from Washington to stabilize their finances after the devastation of the pandemic. But once those communities regain their balance, they could become crucial allies for Biden.”
What’s Happening @GMF
- What to Watch: GMF Experts Weigh in as U.S. and China Prepare to Meet in Alaska by GMF Experts (Article)
- Experts React: The Quad Leaders Meet for the First Time by GMF Experts (Article)
- Germany’s Last Chance to Partner with the United States in Leadership? By Liana Fix and Steven Keil (Article)
- Human Rights and Democracy in the Age of Digital Transformation and COVID-19 (Event Video)
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.