Did North Korea Renege? Watch Chris Hill Not Say!
Two days ago, I posted about a Tokyo Shimbun report that the North Koreans said they’d only include three sites around Yongbyon in their disclosure. If true, that means the North Koreans have renounced this deal, and it’s game over.
Also two days ago, Chris Hill held an on-the-record briefing at the State Department, and Chris Hill’s skill at schmoozing a mostly admiring media while telling them (and us) almost nothing was a wonder to see. There’s no money quote I can really give you here, because the efforts of a few determined journalists to get Hill to clarify what the North Koreans actually said at Shenyang were long and tortuous. Clearly, Hill became irritated with it. Here’s just a small sample, but watch or read the whole thing yourself.
QUESTION: Well, okay, that’s what I didn’t — but you talked about — that there were elements there and you kind of dismissed the Japanese newspaper report as talking about the opening statement. But I never really got a sense from your answer as to what the North Korean position was at the end of those meetings.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That’s because I didn’t want to tell you what their position was because they’re — (laughter) — you know, it’s not for me to stand here and tell you about the North Korean position.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: But I can tell you our position. But I did feel it was worth mentioning that the press reports — I didn’t say “Japanese,” by the way — the press reports concerned opening statements in Shenyang.
QUESTION: So you think that they’ve moved beyond those opening statements —
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: (Laughter.) I think we have a basis for moving forward —
Video of the full briefing here:
The fun parts are the first question at 4:45, a second attempt to actually get an answer out of Hill at 9:25, and a third attempt by a British journalist at 19:10 to press Hill on uranium and the scope of what North Korea is willing to disclose. If the North Koreans really aren’t living up to their commitments, Hill isn’t even preparing the public or sending so much as a veiled public warning to the North Koreans. Full transcript here. Since then, however, Hill has spoken of trying to impose a bit of structure on this never-ending process.
The U.S. government said it wants a six-nation agreement to be reached next month for North Korea to declare and disable its nuclear weapons program by the end of this year.
“We are really going to try to get to this in early September,” Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters in Washington yesterday. [Bloomberg]
Since the chances of that are virtually nil, the interesting question is how we will react to North Korea’s likely failure to agree to those basics … again. Every stage is a new negotiation that requires us to make new concessions.
Other low points are the idea of us delegating the monitoring and verification to the Russians (6:50), Hill’s inability to clarify what the North Koreans must do to get off the terrorism list, and the absolutely vapid questions from most of the European and South Korean journalists, focusing mainly on meetings of personalities.