As the Doomsday Clock ticks toward thermonuclear Armageddon, relations between South Korean and the United States have taken on increased importance. United against a pudgy despot, Washington and Seoul must always know what each other is thinking.
But if South Korean President Moon Jae-In calls the U.S. Embassy, an ambassador won't answer. President Trump never named one.
"It's a huge deal. First of all, when you think about the stakes in play over in North Korea, we absolutely need someone there who is representing us interest," says Harry Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest. "This should've been one of the first appointments of the Trump administration. I can't imagine why it wasn't."
Disagreeing with Kazianis is difficult, and blaming anyone except Trump is impossible. While the president made sure to nominate the executive of the Los Angeles Dodgers as ambassador to France and the owner of the New York Jets as ambassador to England, he skipped over the Korean peninsula completely.
One doesn't need an advanced degree in Asian studies to recognize this as a failure of foreign policy foresight. But there's no need for hysteria either. The U.S. has a diplomatic ace in Seoul.
While there's no ambassador at their post in South Korea, Marc Knapper currently serves as the Chargé d'Affaires. More than a place holder, the Chargé d'Affaires can do most anything an ambassador can. No Senate confirmation required.
A quick review of Knapper's profile suggests he'd do well in a crisis. The diplomat previously served in South Korea for over half a decade. Before that, he manned posts for the State Department in Baghdad, Tokyo, and Hanoi.
What's more, Knapper has traveled to North Korea to inspect nuclear facilities twice. And to boot, the diplomat speaks Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese.
To be sure, Trump needs to nominate and the Senate needs to confirm an ambassador as soon as they all return to Washington from summer vacation. For instance, Kazianis suggest Victor Cha, a former George W. Bush foreign policy advisor.
Until then, if Seoul or Pyongyang call the American embassy, the Chargé d'Affaires will answer.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.