Ambassador (retired) Joseph M. DeThomas
Pennsylvania State University
Rethinking North Korea Policy Options
North Korea’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles coupled with small thermonuclear warheads that can target U.S. cities presents real problems for U.S. policy. However, it should not provoke a panicked response by the American public or more importantly U.S. leaders. The risks of war, including nuclear war in Asia are higher than they have been in decades, but those risks are caused largely by psychological blind spots in the U.S. and North Korean leadership rather than the physical realities of the situation.
For the Rethinking Seminar, Ambassador (retired) Joseph DeThomas will discuss Korean history, the lens through which the North Korean leadership views the world and the United States in particular, what they hold dear, and their goals and ambitions. He will also discuss U.S. and allied goals and options for solving the North Korean nuclear problem and the prospects for peace.
Ambassador DeThomas is a Professor of Practice at the School of International Affairs of the Pennsylvania State University. He was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service for 29 years and worked at the U.S. Department of State for 32 years. His service abroad included tours in Iran, Germany, Mexico, Ethiopia, and Austria. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Estonia from 2001-04. He also held numerous positions in Washington, D.C. over the course of three decades. This included two years of service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Non-proliferation from 1999-2001 as well as a number of other positions that dealt primarily with proliferation sensitive countries including Pakistan, India, North Korea, Iraq and Iran. Ambassador DeThomas also served on the faculty of the National War College from 2004-06.
After retiring from government service in 2006, Ambassador DeThomas directed international science engagement and threat reduction programs in more than 20 countries at CRDF Global. He returned to service in the U.S. Department of State from 2010-13 where as an advisor, he primarily worked on implementing sanction regimes to impede the development of nuclear weapons in both North Korea and Iran.