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'A Country Rather Than a Problem'

Christopher Hill at the Asia Society.
by Stephanie Valera
3 February 2009

NEW YORK, February 3, 2009 - Amid speculation that he would be named the next Ambassador to Iraq, Ambassador Christopher Hill
spoke at Asia Society to review his role as lead US negotiator in the
Six-Party talks aimed finding a peaceful resolution to North Korea's
nuclear weapons program. Summing up the challenges he faced, Hill told
the audience, "From a diplomatic point of view, you've got to somehow
address this problem, and make the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic
of Korea] a country rather than a problem."

Hill underlined the importance of the Six-Party talks in ending the
production of plutonium in North Korea, and spoke more generally of
their role in fostering direct communication and smaller dialogues
between East Asian neighbors and the US. While North Korea "has not
understood that ultimately its security and its well-being depend on
good relations with neighbors," he said, the talks have nevertheless
improved regional relationships. Hill stated, "The US-China
relationship, I would say, is a better relationship, thanks to the
North Koreans ... the US and China have been working on very concrete
things, not just a dialogue, but things we try to get done vis-à-vis

When asked to make recommendations to the new administration's
representative, Hill highlighted the importance of patience when
dealing with both North Korea and interagency communications, saying,
"In some ways dealing with the North Koreans was good preparation for
some of the interagency discussions," and vice-versa.

Before he reached the position of Assistant Secretary of State for
East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Hill's regional focus had been in
Europe. He closed his remarks by challenging the idea that Asia's
"historical endowment" is more intractable than other regions in the
world, stating, "Frankly, anyone who has really studied European
history must be in total awe at what Europe has been able to do in
terms of bringing the continent together, and I don't see any reason
why this can't be accomplished in Northeast Asia."

Reported by Leah Thompson