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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 27, 2002

North Korea's revelation no surprise to journalists

 •  For journalists, patriotism isn't about being uncritical

By John Griffin

"North Korea saved us," quipped Linda Deutsch, the veteran Associated Press legal affairs correspondent, in answer to a question about the Bush administration policy toward Iraq.

She was speaking before a Honolulu Community-Media Council lunch last week. But it led me to wonder how the revelations about North Korea's continuing nuclear weapons program was going down with the Jefferson Fellows on their working trip to Washington, D.C., Seattle and Tokyo.

The "Jeffs" — this time 11 journalists from as many Asian countries, and two American news people — generally were cool to critical on the idea of any American unilateral invasion of Iraq. In Washington, they also were hit with news of the Bali bombing and the sniping killings in the D.C. area.

So I asked about such events in an e-mail to their group, led by East-West Center media program coordinator Dennis Donahue. He reported back:

"There was little surprise (among the fellows) that North Korea was continuing its nuclear development program. Most said they would have been surprised if it did not continue it ...

"The larger, and largely unanswered, question is why did they own up to the activity (and to the kidnapping of Japanese citizens). The predominant opinion was that North Korea needed a new bargaining chip, and the nuclear program was it."

On the Bali bombing, Asian fellows say that those who will suffer most in the long run are the people of that Hindu island within Muslim Indonesia. That's in contrast to the Western press view that focuses on Australian and American casualties of the attack.

That made me wonder again about what would be the impact of a Bali-like terrorist bombing in Waikiki or some other crowded tourism spot in Hawai'i.

John Griffin, former editor of The Advertiser's editorial pages, is a frequent contributor.