North Korea's refusal to return to six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear program is frustrating veteran diplomats. And it has about twenty Washington, D-C, high-school students talking. VOA's Andrew Baroch reports the teenagers recently took part in what's called a crisis simulation on North Korea -- an academic exercise sponsored by a prestigious college graduate school.
Once a year, students at the School for Advanced International Studies, known by the acronym SAIS [pron: CICE, rhymes with vice] invite a group of inner-city high school students for a day-long conference at the Washington campus. Students at this graduate school for foreign policy are mostly in their mid-to-late twenties. Many are studying to be diplomats, and they helped the teenagers understand and analyze real-world crises. Bonnie Wilson, the associate dean for student affairs at SAIS, oversees the work.
They have been coaching the kids for the past two or three months, going into the actual schools. There are five inner-city high schools involved in this. Our students go in teams to coach them so they are prepared. It's heart-warming when you see it, and you see the excitement of the young high school students and you see the excitement of our students. It's a rich learning experience in the fullest sense of the word.
SAIS dean Bonnie Wilson says she hopes the high school students are gaining real insights into the art of diplomacy.
What we hope these young people are learning, besides the excitement of international affairs, is the importance of negotiation, the importance of being able to form an argument and articulate your positions, the importance of diplomacy, the importance of constructing policies on the basis of regional considerations and policy considerations, and above all, recognizing the importance of working together.
In the crisis simulation, students were divided into negotiating teams, representing the United States, Japan, China, South Korea and North Korea -- the six nations involved in the nuclear talks. The teams were sent to different conference rooms to develop a position on handling the North Korean nuclear threat. Seventeen-year old David Graham, a student at one of the high schools -- representing the team from Japan -- was asked how he would develop a strategy dealing with the North Korean dictatorship.
You gotta put yourself into their mindset and decide how they're going to react to stuff and how you're going to form your actions so they react the way you want them to react.
David says has had experience in simulations like this.
World history class started with some stuff last year. My U-S history teacher is also the 'model U-N' coach at school so we're involved in that and that's how we came here. We recently went to a conference at Banneker [High School], and the subject was the genocide in Sudan.
Annabelle Vos [voss] is one of the graduate students at SAIS.
They're smart kids. They really are. Sometimes, they really surprise us. They'll come up with facts and figures, and we're just, like, 'Wait, we're studying this stuff and we have no clue.'
Ms. Vos says this particular crisis is difficult to resolve because of the nature of the North Korean regime.
The point is there's a lot of uncertainty because North Korea is so closed and information in North Korea is so limited.
Another SAIS student, Levi Tillemann [LEE-vye TILL-eh-man], sits with two teenagers representing South Korea and announces the team's objectives:
Our primary objective is that we are to resolve any conflicts that arise on the peninsula peacefully and to maintain peace in the northeast Asia region and also to strengthen our military relationship with Japan because we believe it will have a stabilizing effect on the region.
Mr. Tillemann asked high-school student Gerald McCullough [mu-CULL-uh], a representative of South Korea, what he'd do if North Korea threaten a nuclear strike.
In case of those measures, we will pull out their humanitarian aid and monetary aid.
That was a good answer. As you can see, I have a top-notch negotiating team, and we're pretty confident we have a good chance of achieving our objectives.
But by the end of the day, none of the high school teams was able to pressure teenagers representing North Korea to give up their nuclear program. Some students were honored for their negotiating skills with gift certificates to a book and music store. But the crisis simulation in the Washington, D.C., school for diplomats ended like the real-life crisis in Asia so far: no resolution and no end in sight.