U.S. Special Envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth, who visited Seoul on Sunday to discuss North Korea's uranium enrichment program, does not go to work every morning at the State Department. His main job is the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston. He usually spends his time at the dean's office looking for ways to improve the school if there are no pressing issues he must deal with involving North Korea.
A look at his letter of greeting posted on the university's website shows just how much attention he pays to the creation of the academic curriculum and to the education of the graduate school's students.
Since he was given his part-time job of special envoy for North Korea policy in February, Bosworth has stopped by the State Department only when something urgent came up. I pointed out the potential problems of the part-time arrangement when Bosworth was appointed, but at that time, officials in the Obama administration said there would be no problems with the arrangement, since he would be discussing the issues regularly by phone and e-mail.
Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was appointed at the same time as Bosworth and exercises a great deal of control over issues involving the Afghan conflict. The fact that Bosworth serves his role part-time suggests that the North Korean nuclear issue ranks low among the priorities of the Obama administration. The U.S. president actually presides over meetings of the National Security Council almost every month to deal with Afghanistan, but the North Korean nuclear issue does not get the same attention. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited experts on Korean affairs to Washington D.C. in August to hear their views, the event was treated as a major news event.
A third North Korean nuclear crisis is unfolding now that Pyongyang has unveiled a facility that holds some 2,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium and claimed to be building an experimental light-water nuclear reactor. In these circumstances, 100 years will not be enough to resolve the crisis at the current rate of Bosworth's trips.
Of course the nuclear crisis will not be resolved simply by appointing a full-time envoy. But changes are needed. Bosworth must choose between his jobs. That would at least show that serious efforts are being made to find a solution. We have reached a point where we can no longer entrust the fate of the Korean Peninsula to a part-time envoy.
By Lee Ha-won, the Chosun Ilbo's correspondent in Washington