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Reason behind Hill’s Frequent Visits to China

Posted July. 12, 2005 03:15,   


With North Korea finally back to the six-party talks, curiosity is mounting on the factors that made it possible for U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan to agree on the resumption of the talks.

A source from the U.S. administration attributed the success to the diplomatic ability of Mr. Hill and background assistance from former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The source said on the phone yesterday in an interview with Dong-A Ilbo that Mr. Hill secretly made contact with North Korea using all possible means for the past six months and urged its return to the negotiating table.

Mr. Hill has visited Beijing several times this year. He paid a visit to China on February 17, and made yet another visit in April. The apparent purpose was to exchange and adjust opinions with China on the possible solutions to the North Korean nuclear issue, but the hidden intention was to make unofficial contact with North Korea.

He brought all possible channels he has in Beijing into play. Intelligence agents in the U.S. embassy in Beijing and his other personal friends in the Chinese capital attempted to contact one of Mr. Kim’s colleagues who was visiting Beijing. Over the process, he let China work as a messenger rather than make direct contact with Pyongyang so that he wouldn’t generate any misunderstanding from China or South Korea.

The source said, “It is possible that one of Mr. Hill’s aides visited North Korea or talked to an official at the North Korean embassy in Beijing or one of Mr. Kim’s aides from North Korea.”

What made his diplomatic activities possible was the U.S. administration’s full confidence in him. Mr. Hill’s side underlined his status in Washington to North Korea by saying, “[Mr. Hill] will not be bound [to what he is told from Washington and be pressured by hawks to just read instructions at the negotiating table] like his predecessor James Kelly did.” Pyongyang is likely to have changed its attitude by recognizing Mr. Hill’s influence.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kissinger is known to have assisted Mr. Hill from outside of the administration. As he appreciates realistic diplomacy, he urged high ranking U.S. officials to seek peaceful solutions to the nuclear issue through talks with North Korea. His numerable old colleagues and followers in Washington’s foreign affairs and security departments also supported this view.

Mr. Kissinger, with U.S. special envoy for the North Korean issues Joseph DeTrani, also hosted a dinner for North Korean delegates to U.N. last month when the two countries contacted through a channel in New York.

Jung-Ahn Kim credo@donga.com