Madeleine Albright at CSIS Foreign Policy Forum

Washington, DC – Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) Advisory Board member and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed the North Korea crisis and her experiences as a top U.S. diplomat with Minister Kyung-wha Kang (Republic of Korea) and Victor Cha (Senior Adviser & Korea Chair, CSIS).


Albright on North Korea

Secretary Albright opened with her thoughts on how the relationship between Washington and Pyongyang has evolved in recent years. She emphasized that the relationship between the two countries has never been easy, and described how the U.S. and Kim Jong Il had discussed production of nuclear materials, Japanese and South Korean actions in the region, and whether U.S. was staying true to its promises. When Albright served as US ambassador to the United Nations, North Korea was threatening to pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. However,   when she served as Secretary of State, the U.S. and North Korea managed to sign a mutual “no-hostile-intent agreement”, which she believes was a remarkable step forward. According to Secretary Albright, the Washington-Pyongyang relationship took a turn when the Bush administration opted for a more aggressive and unwavering approach towards the North Korean regime.


Hopes for Future Diplomacy

Albright and Minister Kang both agreed on the direction that the U.S. and the international community should pursue when dealing with Kim Jong Un. Both believe that the pursuit of diplomatic strategies should be a top priority; Albright added that the U.S government should aim to “lower the temperature” and calm its rhetoric in order to get a conversation started. Albright is a staunch believer that there is room for peaceful diplomacy, however she acknowledges that time is running out. When asked about whether economic sanctions were working on North Korea, Albright responded by reiterating the need for a concerted effort from the international community to achieve multilateral consensus. The former Secretary of State also believes that the Chinese and Russians should be involved due to their proximity and economic interest in the region. Although the impact of sanctions is not immediately apparent, Albright is optimistic about their potential to pressure the North Korean government holistically.


Secretary of State: The Female Perspective

As the first female Secretary of State, Albright recalls how she managed to overcome the social pressures that came with the position. “I had more problems with the men in our own government”, Albright said jokingly. During discussions at the principals committee, Albright found herself taking over by demanding respect and speaking up. In addition, she assured the public that her gender did not prevent her from dealing with foreign diplomats. She stated, “if they were to have foreign policy discussions with the U.S., they had to go through me.” With Minister Kang present, Secretary Albright took the opportunity to share some advice. She assured her that if she is knowledgeable about the issues, speaks up early in meetings, surrounds herself with the best minds, and listens to outsider opinions, her life as the top South Korean diplomat will be full of successes and accomplishments.