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At SIEPR Summit, Condoleezza Rice addresses plans for Trump's talks with North Korean leader

Mar 9 2018

Condoleezza Rice talks about plans for President Trump to meet with North Korea's leader at the 2018 SIEPR Economic Summit.

Photo by Steve Castillo

A day after President Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice expressed worry that the administration is ill-prepared for such talks.

“My biggest fear isn't that they're meeting,” Rice said Friday during the annual Economic Summit put on by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). “My biggest concern is that the North Koreans extract some concessions without giving up very much because the nuances aren't well understood.”

Rice, a professor of political science at Stanford, said she was surprised to learn that Trump accepted an invitation from Kim to discuss denuclearizing North Korea, and speculated that the announcement took many in his administration off-guard, as well.

“It's rather rare that if you're a despicable, adversarial regime that your first meeting with the U.S. is with the president,” said Rice, who is also the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

Rice said the current makeup of the State Department is lacking expertise on North Korea — a deficit that needs to be corrected immediately.

She said the Trump administration needs to “find someone who actually knows something about North Korea. They need to get a team in place.”

To the extent possible, she said, Trump should “make this a photo op” to guard against detailed negotiations that could be counterproductive — or harmful — to American interests.

In her remarks and during a conversation afterward with SIEPR Director Mark Duggan, Rice shared a wide-ranging perspective on global security, what she called an “assault” on free trade, the importance of promoting human rights around the world, the benefits of globalization and the importance of supporting America’s allies.

Rice railed against the political trends toward populism, nativism, isolationism and protectionism, calling them “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” that threaten to weaken America’s global leadership. Globalization, she said, will help ensure international security and  economic stability.

“We haven’t wrecked it yet,” she said. “It’s a question of whether we’re going to re-engage.”

More details of Rice’s presentation and more highlights from the SIEPR Economic Summit will be posted soon.