WASHINGTON – While discussing the rationality of North Korea’s supreme leader with a State Department official on Tuesday, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) described Kim Jong-un as a “young, plump, immature kid.”
“Does (Kim) appreciate our response if we were to do some of the things we’re talking about?” DeSantis asked while discussing the recent threats that President Trump and Kim have hurled back and forth. “I mean he’s a young, plump, immature kid, and we don’t have enough information on him, it seems, because of the nature of the regime.”
State Department Deputy Secretary John J. Sullivan deferred specific questions on the level of Kim’s rationality to intelligence agencies, but he said that the State Department is assuming that the U.S. is dealing with a rational leader. He also said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s campaign to influence decision-making from the communist nation will have its effect, noting the recent UN Security Council resolution. Those sanctions against North Korea had the support of China and Russia.
Sullivan touched on a number of hot-button issues during the discussion before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. DeSantis, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, asked if it’s safe to assume that Cuba was directly involved or had full knowledge of the recently revealed acoustic attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. At least 16 U.S. diplomats were treated for injuries and symptoms ranging from hearing loss to mild head trauma beginning in late 2016.
“That’s certainly a reasonable suspicion,” Sullivan said, noting that his wife is a Cuban-American. “I don’t know that, but it’s a reasonable suspicion. … (My wife) told me last night: ‘They know.’ As a United States government official, I don’t know that.”
DeSantis said he hopes the State Department is weighing a response to the attack because “this is unacceptable.”
Sullivan also reaffirmed the president’s long-stated commitment to moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump has pitched himself as the most pro-Israeli president to ever be elected and has vowed to make the move, which could have major implications for relations with the Palestinian Authority. In May, Trump signed a waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act forestalling the move, but said the embassy relocation is inevitable.
“The decision on when to move it is a strategic and tactical decision that the president himself in consultation with the secretary will have to make, but the president has been quite clear in his commitment,” Sullivan said.
DeSantis also pressed Sullivan on the Taylor Force Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), which prohibits certain aid to the West Bank and Gaza unless the State Department verifies that the Palestinian Authority is taking steps to end violence against Israel and the U.S. and has cut off payments to the families of terrorists. Sullivan said he doesn’t know if the administration has taken a policy stance on the Taylor Force Act, but “I will say that we at the State Department are certainly opposed to all of those things that you’ve just said that the Palestinian Authority does.”
Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.) asked Sullivan how the administration is working to bring women more into the fold at the State Department, which he claimed was a priority for the Obama administration. According to The Guardian, 80 percent of Trump’s nominations for top federal jobs have been men, creating an unprecedented imbalance. Both chambers recently passed the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017, a bill meant to increase women’s presence in peace negotiations.
“I think the senior advisor to the president, Ivanka Trump, would strongly reaffirm that that’s the policy, as the president would,” Sullivan said. “We’re committed to that at the Department of State.”
“One thing I would note for you, congressman, is one thing that’s astounded me is in talking about diversity at the State Department,” he added. “The number of women we have in the Foreign Service and the Civil Service has actually decreased, particularly at the senior level over the last eight years or so. We’ve got to do a better job at promoting women at the State Department and in our Foreign Service, and we’re committed to it.”