Stephen Bosworth, former U.S. envoy to North Korea, dies at 76

Staff Report

Stephen Bosworth, a veteran U.S. diplomat who for many years headed Washington’s engagement with North Korea, has died. He was 76.

Bosworth served as ambassador to South Korea from 1997 until 2001. In 2009 he was named special representative for North Korean policy, a position in which he was “tireless” in his work, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Tuesday.

Bosworth advocated engagement with North Korea but was quoted as saying privately he doubted South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy toward Pyongyang would reap rewards.

In March 2015, Bosworth spoke of his worry over North Korean officials’ continued pursuit of nuclear weapons — an effort that brought new international fears on Wednesday after Pyongyang said it had conducted its first successful test of a hydrogen bomb.

“They are unconstrained,” he told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency at that time. “At least in the past, when we’ve been talking to them, they had not been conducting tests and they had frozen the programs that we knew about. . . . Now they have no constraints at all.

“I think all the experts agree that in five years, they could have many more nuclear weapons than they might have now.”

In his statement, Kerry called Bosworth one of Washington’s “most capable and admired diplomats.”

His “unique brand of diplomacy blended with the gravitas of a statesman and the timing of a comedian,” Kerry said.

Bosworth’s career placed him center stage at several major junctures in world history. As American ambassador to the Philippines, he was credited with persuading President Ferdinand Marcos to leave office in 1986 and accept exile in Hawaii amid a popular uprising. The episode led to the restoration of democracy in the impoverished nation.

“Stephen wound up playing a key role in that historic transition,” Kerry said.

Bosworth’s death on Sunday was announced by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, which he headed until recently.