Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Christopher Hill, my favorite American diplomat 

A couple of days ago, in a post about the possibility that the North Koreans would back in steps into Libya-style transparency (and, by the way, there was a tentative deal reached today, of which more later), I mentioned that my favorite American diplomat is Christopher Hill. I like him because he says interesting and edgy things like "I'm sounding Chinese now, but we have to be patient" and because he strikes me as unusually sensible in his management of the American position in the six-party talks. Nevertheless, Hill is not well known in the United States other than to viewers of C-Span and other hardcore newshounds. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if more Chinese than Americans know who Christopher Hill is. That bold yet wild-assed guess sets up my link to this article, which talks about Hill's celebrity status in China and Japan, both of which countries are far more worried about North Korea's nuclear weapons than the United States.


By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Tue Feb 13, 03:03:00 AM:

I think they've become eager to settle on the extortion payment so they can unload some ummm... "surplus" gear and "lost" or "used up" fissionable materials on Iran before Iran's desire for it declines rapidly.

IOW - they want to double dip and maximize this deal.  

By Blogger Ken McCracken, at Tue Feb 13, 05:16:00 AM:

Hear hear, you are so right about Christopher Hill.

He is our most highly skilled diplomat, in the middle of what has appeard thus far to be a completely hopeless situation.

If he can work out a real deal here, he should be elevated to national hero status.

He gets so little of the recognition he deserves.  

By Blogger allen, at Tue Feb 13, 08:05:00 AM:

Well! John Bolton is not pleasantly impressed.

"This is a very bad deal"  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Tue Feb 13, 10:08:00 AM:

I'm not too excited. But I do agree with the basic premise that each side needs to go through a series of steps that builds the confidence of the other side that they will honor their commitments. There was no way that the Norks were going to give up their bombs before going through a trust-building exercise, and this agreement does that.

The problem with the Clinton deal is that is involved, in effect, a freeze followed by disengagement. This deal requires the permanent shut-down of their main nuclear facility in order to receive the first goodies (if I understand it properly). We will see if they do that and open it up for inspection as required. We will see if their weapons declaration makes sense, as required. If it does, there is a path out of the security dilemma (much to the relief of the Chinese, I might add).  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Tue Feb 13, 02:42:00 PM:

At this point I apply a simple test: if the grumpy boys at NRO don't like the deal, I'm interested.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Tue Feb 13, 03:05:00 PM:

Skip -

You are referring to this piece by James S. Robbins in NRO? It analyzes the deal as a win for the North Koreans, but Robbins uses assumptions about the terms of the deal (at least, I haven't seen enough of the specifics published anywhere yet, just outlines of it), so maybe he will moderate his tone as the facts are made public. Or, since his fundamental objection may be that the deal allows the North Korean regime to continue to exist, it is bad no matter what else happens. He is right that it is bad for the North Korean people in that respect, but from the standpoint of the U.S. and the other parties to the talks, it seems to keep North Korea in its box from a military standpoint and keeps the flood of potential refugees at home (China's biggest concern), provided that the verification section of the agreement has real teeth, which is the most difficult part of any arms reduction deal. Robbins should state for the purpose of clarity that there is no purely diplomatic solution available in 2007 that would result in the standing down of the current North Korean regime. So, yes, the deal kicks the can down the road in terms of not dealing with the underlying problem -- the regime -- but it appears to be a substantially better deal under much more adverse conditions (that is, the North Koreans actually do have a nuke) than the 1994 Agreed Framework. I am guessing that China's influence on North Korea was the determining factor here.  

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