The Cable

Foreign Service officer killed in Afghanistan

A State Department foreign-service officer was among the six Americans killed Saturday in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber who drove a car laden with explosives into a military convoy. 

"Our State Department family is grieving over the loss of one of our own, an exceptional young Foreign Service Officer, killed today in an IED attack in Zabul province, along with service members, a Department of Defense civilian, and Afghan civilians," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a Saturday statement.

Four other State Department personnel were injured, one critically, Kerry said. The officials along with a group of Afghans were on their way to donate books to a school in the provincial capital of Qalat when the attack occurred.

The State Department did not release the name of the foreign service officer killed but said that she had met Kerry during Kerry's trip to Kabul only last week.

"She was everything a Foreign Service Officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve, and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people," Kerry said.  She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future."

Three U.S. military personnel were killed in the attack, along with two U.S. civilians and one Afghan doctor. Another U.S. civilian was killed in a separate attack in eastern Afghanistan Saturday, the AP reported. A Taliban spokesman claimed credit for the attack in an interview with the AP. 

Kerry has been in touch with the White House, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham, his statement said. Kerry also spoke with the deceased foreign service officer's parents.

"We know too well the risks in the world today for all of our State Department personnel at home and around the world - Foreign Service, Civil Service, political appointees, locally employed staff and so many others," Kerry said. "Every day, we honor their courage and are grateful for their sacrifices, and today we do so with great sadness."

UPDATE: Speaking in Turkey Sunday, Kerry identified the  foreign service officer as 25 year old Anne Smedinghoff.

The Cable

Former top U.S. official: China getting fed up with North Korea

The Chinese government has changed its approach to North Korea and taken a tougher line out of frustration with Pyongyang, according to Kurt Campbell, the State Department's top Asia official until last month.

"The most important new ingredient [in the North Korea crisis] has been a recognition in China that their previous approach to North Korea is not bearing fruit. That they are going to have to be much clearer and much more direct with Pyongyang that what Pyongyang is doing is undermining Chinese security," Campbell told an audience at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies Thursday.

"There is a subtle shift in Chinese foreign policy. You've seen it at the U.N., you've seen it in our private conversations ... I don't think that subtle shift can be lost on Pyongyang," he said. "It's not in their strategic interest to alienate every country that surrounds them. I think they have succeeded in undermining their trust and confidence in Beijing."

In the latest apparent sign of Chinese discontent, Beijing recently rejected a North Korean request to send a diplomat envoy to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Thursday.

China has long considered North Korea a useful check against a united, pro-American Korean Peninsula. But Chinese frustration with Beijing could eventually lead to a more dramatic shift in Chinese foreign policy that would change the state of play in Northeast Asia, according to Campbell.

"It's very clear [to China]: If this is a buffer state, what is it good for?" he said.

The White House has promoted a careful dual message throughout this crisis: The United States takes North Korean provocations seriously but doesn't see North Korea's actual military moves as significant.

"They're doing that in a way so that we don't have a set of circumstances where things escalate beyond a point where it can be effectively managed," Campbell explained.

Meanwhile, there are feelers out that might pave the way for a conversation with North Korea that might provide a way out of the crisis.

"Subtle messages have been sent in every corner and in every venue that the door remains open to dialogue," Campbell said. "We have to be prepared to be open to dialogue."

Campbell also revealed that there is one senior administration who prefers the term "pivot" rather than "rebalance" to describe the shift in U.S. attention toward Asia -- President Barack Obama.

Campbell said the initial use of the term "pivot" was later replaced with the term "rebalance" because some misinterpreted the word "pivot" to mean a turn away from Europe, which was not intended as part of the policy.

"I actually think the better terminology is ‘rebalance,'" Campbell said. "And of course, initially the response was very clear from the NSS [National Security Staff in the White House] that really the term that is appropriate is ‘rebalance,' so those of us who use ‘pivot' were sent to reeducation camps and works in the fields."

But White House aides' effort to erase the use of the word "pivot" was ultimately thwarted by their own boss -- Obama.

"The irony of this, after all of this reeducation, it turns out: Who is the person who actually likes the term and the concept of the pivot?" Campbell said. "The president of the United States."