No stranger to less-than-friendly leaders: Next US ambassador to PH was special envoy on N. Korea
October 21, 2016 3:27 PMhttp://www.interaksyon.com/article/133552/no-stranger-to-less-than-friendly-leaders-next-us-ambassador-to-ph-was-special-envoy-on-n--korea
MANILA - The incoming United States ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Y. Kim, faces a huge challenge given the hostile rhetoric of President Duterte toward America, but his entry into the picture could help cool the temperature and ease anxieties over the feared fallout from those remarks, Sen. Richard Gordon said Friday.
And, if the credentials of the American diplomat of Korean descent were the basis for assessing how he will fare in Duterte country, there's much to commend Sung Y. Kim in terms of knowledge, crisis management and diplomatic patience and savvy in thriving in difficult climes.
Kim was serving as Special Representative for North Korea Policy and concurrent Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea when he was nominated in May this year to be ambassador to Manila, to replace Philip Goldberg who was ending his tour of duty.
If confirmed, Kim will be the first diplomat of Asian heritage to serve as American ambassador to Manila, the US' ex-colony, former host of its largest bases outside the mainland, and partner in a 65-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty.
Sung Kim was once ambassador to South Korea and, in his job as special envoy on North Korean policy, has acquired experience in engaging the legendary colorful leaders at Pyongyang and their grim adventures in threatening the West and their neighbors.
Senator Gordon, who was the first chairman of the post-bases management of the sprawling Subic naval base, lamented how "the communication lines, the trust, appear to have been broken" going into the last few months of outgoing Ambassador Goldberg, who had presided over a robust period in US-Philippine relations – during which Washington provided quick logistical help after super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), and a UN court ruled in Manila's favor in its case against Beijing in the South China Sea.
Such robust ties took a backseat, it appears, after Goldberg became target of Duterte's ire when the Davao City mayor was campaigning for the May 9 presidential elections.
Goldberg was quoted among those who reacted after a video went viral showing Duterte in one caucus talking about his standoff with Davao prison inmates who held hostage an Australian missionary. Duterte explained later he meant no disrespect to women or the missionary, but was bashed by critics for his remarks. He later lashed out at Goldberg for commenting on what he considered a "malicious spin" by rival camps, even though the US diplomat's remarks were also just couched in general terms about the need to respect women.
"So now, we have a new ambassador; let's hope he won't get into a diplomatic mess," Gordon said in a telephone interview with InterAksyon.
Gordon was earlier reported as having advised some US embassy officials to weigh more carefully – and be sensitive to the unspoken words – the comments of Duterte in Beijing, where he signalled a pivot toward China and a veering away from traditional ally America.
Senator Gordon expressed hope that incoming ambassador Sung Y. Kim could signal a "fresh start" as he begins his tour of duty in Manila. Goldberg ends his tour next week.
In an interview in 2013 with The Politic.org, Sung Kim was asked what he deemed the greatest challenges of working in the Foreign Service.
His reply: "While some issues and bilateral relationships may be easier than others, there's no such thing as drive-through diplomacy. Negotiations, in particular, can be protracted, even painful processes.
"Often there seems to be a correlation between the level of difficulty and the importance of any issue. For instance, the way forward on the North Korean nuclear issue may one of our greatest diplomatic challenges, but it is vital that we continue our efforts given what is at stake. The importance of ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the Asia-Pacific region cannot be overstated."
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