“My Life as a Diplomat”: A Q&A Session with Stephen W. Bosworth

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On January 24th at the Tufts University ASEAN Auditorium, Stephen Warren Bosworth answered questions before a packed room about his life as a diplomat. So who is Stephen Bosworth? Currently, he is finishing up over a decade-long post as Dean of the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. In addition to his post as Dean, Stephen Bosworth was the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy (2009-2011), U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (1997-2000), U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines (1984-1987), and U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia (1979-1981).

Dean Bosworth began the informal Q&A session by talking about what it meant to be a diplomat. To Dean Bosworth, being a diplomat required him to learn everything about a host country in order to become an expert of that country – the history, the culture, everything. But, equally as important was the task of knowing about his own country, the United States. The goal of a diplomat, according to Dean Bosworth, was simply to explain to the host country the goals and interests of Washington D.C. and to explain to Washington D.C. the goals and interests of the host country. However, Americans, in the words of Dean Bosworth, “have a hard time understanding negotiation… people in the Regan administration refused to compromise with anything!”

Dean Bosworth responded to three direct questions regarding North Korea.

The first question was one that I asked: “Would the removal of all US forces be a prerequisite to unification and if that were to happen, how would that change the dynamics of relations between the U.S. and South Korea? Also, given the amount of economic and military assistance China has given to North Korea, in the case of a sudden collapse, is it conceivable that China could come in to fill the vacuum? What would be America’s response to this scenario?”

The answer Dean Bosworth gave was: “We should deal with North Korea as it is now and not as it could possibly be in the future… We have been waiting for North Korea to collapse for 30 years but when last I checked it still hasn’t… I would like to deal with that problem as a reality (collapse of North Korea/unification) but as of now, it is all speculation.”

The second question asked was: “How much of a hindrance is it for the U.S. not to have diplomatic relations with North Korea?”

Dean Bosworth answered by saying: “I am a great believer in the need to engage. If we don’t engage, they [North Koreans] will not want to compromise… Engagement is key for all negotiations… I am all in favor of having a mission in North Korea and we have tried several times in the past but the North Koreans simply are not interested… The North Korean regime is one of the most repressive and they don’t want Korean speaking Americans walking around in Pyongyang.”

The final question was: “Is it more important to face the human rights issue or the nuke issue in North Korea?”

Dean Bosworth answered with: “Without a doubt the human rights issue… Human rights is atrocious in North Korea but nothing can change this without some sort of momentous change… North Korea is not willing to open up at all and it seems that we are too focused on the nuke issue but as we all know there has not been any progress on that front… And with regards to the nuke issue, we need to broaden our sights… it is not a popular viewpoint but I think that we should find a way to buy out North Korea – it is a lot less expensive than what we are doing now and of course it would be much, much less expensive than a conflict.”

Photo Credit: Meredith Klein / Tufts Daily

 

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