U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Wednesday that Washington was waiting for a North Korean move “in the next few days” to end an impasse over Pyongyang’s promise to provide a complete declaration of its nuclear programs. Washington says the North so far failed to do so, missing a deadline that expired at the end of last year. Hill said the U.S. had hoped to resolve the issue by the end of March, which did not happen. “We are very concerned about time,” he said in Seoul after meeting South Korean diplomats. [IHT]
It’s not completely clear whether Hill actually thinks the North Koreans will give him something or whether he’s stating that the White House has finally grown a pair and lost patience.
“So we’ll have to see whether we can hear anything new from the DPRK (North Korea) on this, really in the next few days,” he said. [BBC]
From this report, it seems more likely that Hill is simply expressing impatience, although he did not articulate a deadline. Hill spoke from Seoul, where he’s meeting officials in the new South Korean government. In a novel development for this decade, Hill and the South Koreans presented a commendably united front in rebuffing a North Korean effort to sideline Seoul and demand bilateral talks with the United States. Both seem to sense that North Korea is looking for imagined provocations to stall for a few more months, and neither seems interested in entertaining that. Hill treated the North’s rhetoric with a combination of ridicule and frustrated resignation, which is also a hint.
Earlier in the day, the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling communist party, warned that the Lee administration will face “irrevocable catastrophic consequences” if it takes a hard-line policy on the North. It called President Lee a “traitor” and “U.S. sycophant.” The criticism came a couple of days after the North threatened to turn South Korea into “ashes” if it plans a preemptive military strike.
Hill expected no significant impact on the six-way talks. “I don’t think I will take fire extinguisher with me to the next set of talks,” he said. “It doesn’t really make any difference.” [Yonhap, via the Hanky]