exp victor cha on north korea sanctions_00004021
Washington CNN  — 

A former candidate to be the Trump administration’s ambassador to South Korea has issued a direct challenge to the White House over its consideration of a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.

The long rumored candidate to be US ambassador to South Korea, Victor Cha, will no longer be nominated, according to a senior administration official and a person familiar with the situation. The reversal, sources tell CNN, was driven by a disagreement over a “bloody nose” strike against Pyongyang.

Cha, a widely respected academic and former Bush administration official, said in a Washington Post op-ed Monday that the answer to the “real and unprecedented threats” North Korea presents is not, “as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike.”

Instead, Cha laid out what he called “a forceful military option available that can address the threat without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans.”

The prospect of a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea has split the Trump administration’s most senior national security staff, sources tell CNN, with military leaders – including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Dunford, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – expressing concern about the prospect.

Sources tell CNN that Cha’s op-ed was meant as a direct message to advocates of a possible strike inside the National Security Council, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

One person familiar with the tug of war over Cha’s candidacy told CNN that the decision to pull his name from contention was partly an effort to avoid Cha becoming a pawn in the spat between the White House, State Department and Pentagon about the wisdom of a “bloody nose” strike.

Multiple White House officials did not respond to requests for comment. The Washington Post was first to report that Cha’s nomination was no longer expected.

The policy difference over a pre-emptive strike drove the White House decision not to formally nominate Cha to be ambassador to South Korea, sources tell CNN, leaving the position unfilled even as tensions between the Trump administration and Pyongyang have raised fears of a nuclear confrontation.

Speaking during his first State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, President Donald Trump highlighted the dangers Pyongyang poses.