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Hill’s Unexpected Visit to China

Posted January. 12, 2006 03:01,   


Christopher Hill, the chief US delegate to the six-party talks and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, will visit China on January 12 after visiting Tokyo and Seoul on January 10 and 11.

January 12 overlaps with North Korean National Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong Il’s reported visit to China.

Reports indicate that Assistant Secretary Hill’s visit is an unscheduled one. Why was his visit arranged to overlap with Kim’s visit to China? Is it a coincidence?

One U.S. administration source commented, “Assistant Secretary Hill’s visit is not unrelated with Chairman Kim’s visit to China.” A possible interpretation is that Hill was “urgently dispatched” from Washington in time for Kim’s visit.

Another source said, “Hill’s visit this time around is a ‘probing mission.’” It is said that one of the goals of Hill’s mission will be to find out what Kim intends to do about American counterfeiting charges.

The possibility that Hill and Kim might “encounter each other in China” is also drawing keen interest.

Diplomatic observers in South Korea and the U.S. said on January 11, “There is a lot of busy activity in Beijing.”

However, the general view is that Kim is likely to send his closest associates instead of meeting Hill in person.

Meanwhile, Song Min-sun, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and chief of the South Korean delegation to the six-party talks, visited China on January 9 and 10, and consulted with Wu Dawei, the Chinese deputy foreign minister and China’s chief representative at the six-party talks, on ways to resume the talks.

Song said on January 11, “Quiet consultations have been proceeding in order to resolve the issue of North Korea’s dollar counterfeiting, the obstacles in negotiations, and in order to bring about substantial progress in the second phase of the fifth round of six-party talks,” adding, “We are making efforts so that a rough timeline and agenda for the second phase of the fifth six-party talks will come out until the end of January at least.”

This remark is interpreted as meaning that there was in-depth discussion between South Korea and China.

The timing of Deputy Minister Song’s visit also attracts keen attention in that it was immediately before Chairman Kim’s visit. Although Song’s visit was not arranged in expectation of Chairman Kim’s visit, visits to China made by Chairman Kim, Assistant Secretary Hill, and Deputy Minister Song reminds one of a curious “triangle combination.”

At the center of this complex equation is China.

According to reports, China has long investigated Banco Delta Asia (BDA), a Macao-based bank fingered by the United States as having connections with North Korean money laundering, and discovered the exact truth related to the bank’s alleged connections. While the United States, North Korea and South Korea are watching closely, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on January 11 that an investigation into the bank is underway.

Jung-Ahn Kim credo@donga.com jkmas@donga.com