Rice backs Obamas 2-pronged approach on North Korea
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed support Tuesday for the Obama administration’s two-pronged approach to North Korea — combining a show of military strength and diplomatic efforts.
“I can only support strongly what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama are trying to do. It is obviously a situation in which there are dangers and which one wants to be very concerned... The combination of the show of strength by the U.S. and our great ally Korea and intensive diplomatic efforts underway is precisely the right way to handle this,” Rice said at the 2010 Global Women Leader’s Conference at the Shilla Hotel.
Amid tension on the peninsula, Rice said the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs continue to be valuable at this time. China earlier proposed holding a special meeting of negotiators for the six-party talks, but Japan, South Korea and the U.S. were cool to the idea.
“The six-party talks were opportunities for regional powers to deal with the North Korea issue in a cooperative way, rather than one that set up one against the other. I think that was very valuable and may indeed continue to be valuable in this latest situation... The talks were a way to deal with the difficult North Korean regime and if that is a helpful format perhaps it can be used but I leave the determination of that to the administration,” Rice said.
Asked whether the Bush administration ever considered a military option against North Korea during her time as secretary of state, Rice said, “The President of the U.S. never takes any options off the table... (But) we were completely committed to a diplomatic course in the situation with North Korea.”
Now a professor of political science at Stanford University, Rice also talked extensively about the inextricable links between women empowerment and democracy.
“One of my proudest moments as secretary of state was when Kuwait women, just as they were given the right to vote, gave me a T-shirt ‘half a democracy is not a democracy at all.’ It sums up the proposition that democracy without full empowerment of women is indeed not democracy,” she said.
Women empowerment, whether in education, political rights, economics or health, is at the core of greater prosperity and freedom for countries.
“We should leave behind all of these ideas that somehow there are corners of the world where it’s okay that women are treated as second class citizens or worse. It is a strong moral cause that every man, woman child should live in freedom; and that women have to be a part of that freedom,” Rice said.
As secretary of state, Rice often had to deal with male leaders in traditional societies. One particularly memorable experience was meeting with a Shia cleric, who wouldn’t even shake her hand because she was a woman.
“At the end of our difficult meeting, he said, ‘I would like you to meet my 13-year-old granddaughter.’ She came out, all covered up, and said in English, ‘Hello, I’ve seen you on TV and I want to be a foreign minister too.’ Her grandfather just beamed. This very prejudiced man sees something different for his granddaughter’s future,” she said.
Korea’s rapid pace of economic development and improvements in the role of women has impressed Rice, who recalled her first visit in 1988.
“It was a place that was no one would have thought as being in top ranks of economies and women were barely visible in higher ranks of government and corporate world. But that is changing rapidly. We are all impatient and we should be. If we accept the world as it is, we are not exercising responsibility to make the world as it should be. I am also impatient, but change is coming,” she said.