Reinforcing U.S. alliance will be on Biden's everyday agenda through cabinet: McDonough

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Joe Biden will work every day to strengthen his country’s relationship with its key allies, such as South Korea, as he promised, former U.S. National Security Adviser Dennis McDonough said Thursday.

McDonough noted Biden may not be able to personally take charge of the issue on a daily basis, but that his cabinet members will.

“When you think about the fact, ‘Well, is this gonna be on the president’s to-do list every day?’ Not necessarily,” said McDonough in a webinar hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“I mean, in all candor, he’s going to be dealing with a pandemic and he’s going to be dealing with the economy, but it’s going to be on his agenda every day in as much as he’s directing those cabinet members to make real his promises to the allies on behalf of the alliances — to reinvest and reinvigorate U.S. priority in those,” he added.

The captured image from the website of the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows former U.S. National Security Adviser Dennis McDonough speaking in a webinar hosted by the Washington-based think tank on Nov. 19, 2020. (Yonhap)

McDonough also served as the chief of staff of the National Security Council (NSC) of former President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Biden.

The former national security adviser noted the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic dislocation, along with climate change and racial injustice in the U.S., will take up much of the new administration’s time in the early stage.

“Obviously, the first three that we mentioned do have Northeast Asia implications, and so I think it’s important to think about it in that way,” he told the webinar.

Still, he insisted Biden has already proven his resolve to strengthen his country’s alliance with South Korea and other allies when he accepted a congratulatory phone call from South Korean President Moon Jae-in and made it public.

“I think it’s really important that, for example, Seoul understand that of all the things the president-elect has to deal with right now, he really wanted to prioritize that — receiving the kind of congratulations from the president of South Korea,” said McDonough.

“It’s meant to be a very important signal and I hope it’s interpreted as that,” he added.

In an oped contributed to Yonhap News Agency just before the Nov. 3 presidential election, Biden said he will “stand with South Korea, strengthening our alliance to safeguard peace in East Asia and beyond.”

McDonough reiterated that once inaugurated on Jan. 20, Biden will “really be pushing on his cabinet representatives to get out there to make those promises real.”

As a piece of advice for the incoming U.S. administration, the former national security adviser highlighted the possibility of North Korea trying to test the new administration and the latter’s need to prevent such an incident.

“When I say, for example, North Korea trying to assert itself onto the agenda of the United Stats and that requiring discipline on the side of the United States, what I mean there is twofold. One is, it requires the discipline of great professional…in the NSC and through all of U.S. government, staying on top of what is happening, coordinating the whole U.S. government and then communicating clearly with our allies,” said McDonough.

“But it also means not letting the North Koreans dictate the terms of the dialogue, or the debate or the discussion. And so that’s going to require discipline, too, and for all that, you need a really experienced set of professionals in the NSC,” he added.