Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Nuclear Arms Talks Part of a Day’s Work For Professor

From Georgetown professor to United States peace broker, Victor Cha’s past three years have been a whirlwind.

Cha, who is on leave from his position as associate professor of Asian studies in the School of Foreign Service, has served as director for Asian affairs at the

National Security Council since his appointment by President Bush in December 2004.

Although his office only moved a few miles farther into the heart of Washington, D.C., Cha’s professional life has changed drastically, from grading papers in his office on the sixth floor of the ICC to representing the United States in the North Korean denuclearization talks in Beijing last month.

Cha has emerged as one of the Bush administration’s top experts on North Korea, serving as a complementary negotiator with Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill. Cha played a critical role in securing the Feb. 13 six-party agreement that required the North Korean government to deactivate its main nuclear reactor.

He said that he often has to separate the positions that he held as a professor from his official diplomatic stance.

“While I have my own views as an academic, when I’m in the White House I work for the president. I’m there to implement his views and his policies,” Cha said. “The direction that policy goes in is the result of his views and the National Security Advisor’s views.”

This is not the first time that Cha has taken a leave of absence from Georgetown. In 1998, Cha accepted a year-long fellowship at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. Cha used his time at Stanford to write a book about the United States-Korea-Japan security alliance, and also made the acquaintance of then-Stanford Provost Condoleezza Rice. Six years later, while Rice was serving as Bush’s National Security Advisor, Cha was appointed to his current post at the NSC.

“My view has always been that you can be skeptical of intentions, of whether a country is serious about diplomacy,” Cha said. “At the same time, you have to be practical about things. You can’t be ideological.”

School of Foreign Service Dean Robert Gallucci describes Cha, who has been at Georgetown since 1996, as a “star teacher,” and said that he values Cha’s scholarship and foreign policy analysis.

“Not only is his work intelligent and balanced, but it also reflects the fact that he is a rigorous social scientist,” Gallucci said. “That is one of the highest compliments I can pay.”

Cha said that he thinks many of his experiences in the White House will contribute to his research and teaching when he returns to Georgetown in a few years.

“Regardless of how many theories you study, you can always be enlightened by having actually practiced the topic,” he said.

Gallucci, who came to Georgetown after serving as a lead negotiator in a 1994 round of talks with North Korea, knows firsthand the type of knowledge that scholars bring back to academia from their work in government.

“It is possible that you will acquire substantive knowledge in government, but what you really bring back is an appreciation for how government works,” Gallucci said. “You learn how very intelligent, talented people can make mistakes, and you understand the impact of long hours and travel.”

Even so, working in the White House is not all about negotiating treaties and meetings that last into the wee hours of the morning. Cha recalled how one afternoon, when he was sitting in his West Wing office, he received an e-mail from the president’s secretary asking if Cha wanted to see the latest James Bond movie, “Casino Royale,” with Bush.

Cha telephoned the secretary to ask why she was making the offer, as he wa s swamped with work.

“The president wants some staff to watch it with him” was her reply, Cha said.

An hour later, Cha was seated with the president in the White House’s Family Theater room eating popcorn and watching Bond practice his own brand of international relations.

Cha said that it was a nice gesture of appreciation from the president to his staff.

They “work hard, but don’t always get the credit they deserve,” he said.

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