Fletcher in the News

Can Sec.Kerry Influence Chinese Policy Toward North Korea, Asks Prof. Martel

Boston Herald

William C. Martel is Associate Professor of International Security Studies at The Fletcher School, Tufts University.

North Korea puts Kerry to test

Secretary of State John F. Kerry is getting mixed reviews in his first high-stakes test as North Korea brazenly threatens a nucĀ­lear showdown — a challenge that highlights the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the nation’s newly minted top diplomat, experts say.

“If you wanted a champion for peace and stability, somebody who has a sophistication and savvy, we couldn’t have a better person than John Kerry in the mix,” said Charles Stith, a Boston University professor and former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania.

With North Korea apparently poised to launch a missile test, Kerry traveled East to gain China’s support in convincing its unruly neighbor, headed by volatile young leader Kim Jong Un, to back down. …

… “You can tell this is not his comfort space,” said Gary Schmitt of Washington’s American Enterprise Institute of Kerry’s handling of relations with China. “You are struck by how much more at ease he is talking about European and Middle Eastern affairs and issues as opposed to Asia.”

There is hope a partnership with China could produce results, regardless of what headway Kerry makes personally, said William Martel, associate professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

“The popular myth in the media is that it’s the persuasive skills of diplomats that fundamentally change the dynamics of international policies. I’ve never believed that,” Martel said. “I think the big issue is this question of whether North Korea’s behavior has been so reckless, so dangerous and so provocative, it might lead to a change in thinking in Beijing that they need to recalibrate their policies.”

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