Campus & Community / News

Albright discusses North Korean blunder during appearance at DU

Madeleine Albright and Christopher Hill spoke April 13 at the University of Denver. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

North Korea’s leadership, for all its stubborn self-assuredness, may have just made a monumental error, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said April 13 at the University of Denver.

Speaking before a large crowd packed into the Cable Center, Albright said the hermit nation’s defiant April test launch of a long-range missile was meant to solidify the fledgling reign of new leader Kim Jong-un. Instead, the missile failed, and all Korean leaders did was irritate one of their few allies — China — and demonstrate their incompetence, she said.

“I don’t know where this goes from here,” she said, adding that it wouldn’t surprise her if the impoverished country tried to sell some of its missile technology.

“My sense is that they are probably the most stubborn people I’ve ever met,” she said. “They think they know how to negotiate because they are so stubborn.”

“They are a people only a mother could love,” said Christopher Hill, dean of DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies and former ambassador to South Korea and Iraq. “One objective we should have is to split North Korea from China.”

Albright recalled her first trip to North Korea as secretary of state. At the time, she said, United States intelligence on the secretive administration was limited and not entirely accurate.

“Our intelligence said (former leader) Kim Jong-il was crazy and a pervert,” she said. “He was not crazy.”

Albright grew up on the DU campus, where her father, Josef Korbel, was a professor in international relations and a founder of what is now the Korbel School.

In a broad-ranging talk with Hill, Albright reflected on her work in many parts of the world. Known largely for her efforts to resolve the conflict in the Balkans, she said the U.S. can’t afford to assume its role there is over. The area still needs diplomatic attention, she said.

And she said she was troubled by the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq. She said she isn’t against the use of military force when warranted, and she understood the need to go into Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It is beyond me to understand why we turned to Iraq,” she said.

Now, with the Iraq War only just ended and the Afghanistan War going on a decade, Albright said she feels the country is frustrated and looking to pull back not just from those engagements, but from all involvement in global policy and politics.

“I kind of get the sense that we have had it,” she said. “I am troubled if our tiredness with Afghanistan and Iraq will make us pull inside, because the world can’t function without us.”

Now a professor at Georgetown University, Albright said she relished her return to DU’s campus.

“I really do feel at home,” she said. “This is where I grew up.”

Praising the Korbel School, Albright said having a mix of professors who developed in a purely academic setting and professors who worked in the real world of international politics provides a fertile ground for ideas. The practitioners can learn from ideas developed slowly without the pressure of global affairs, and academicians can learn about how ideas can be applied practically in the outside world.

Today’s students of international relations would do well to learn from both, she said, and they would be well served to broaden their studies to include not just history and political science but also economics, health policy, environmental science and religion.

On lighter topics, Albright related how her appearance on the television show “Gilmore Girls” led to an invite to compete on TV’s “Dancing With the Stars” (she declined), and she revealed that her new book will be of particular interest to those involved in the Korbel School. The book, titled Prague Winter, recounts her father’s activities from 1937 to 1948, his work in diplomacy and even the secret police files the government kept on him. The book will be released this spring.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *