Nuclear Deterrents Not Needed in Asia, Ambassador Hill Says

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Despite the threats posed by North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear capabilities, there is no need for countries in the region to consider developing their own nuclear deterrents, says Ambassador Christopher Hill, head of the U.S. delegation to the Six-Party Talks and assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

The United States and the rest of the world need not and should not accept a nuclear North Korea, but using diplomacy and denying the Pyongyang government the financial and technological resources it needs to further its nuclear ambitions should be pursued vigorously, he said.

Hill made his comments during a keynote address October 13 at a conference sponsored by Foreign Policy Magazine and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Pyongyang must be made to understand that it made a "fundamental mistake" in defying the international community by conducting nuclear and missile tests, Hill said.  He emphasized that the international community must respond in a united way and that any U.N. resolution addressing North Korea’s intransigence must have "some teeth to it." (See related article.)

The assistant secretary said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be traveling October 17-22 to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul to discuss implementation of cooperative, effective methods for dealing with Pyongyang.

Hill dismissed arguments that North Korea’s recent belligerence is a response to what it perceives to be threats from the outside world.

North Korea makes threats "every day of the week," he said.  "It’s the nature of how they deal with people."

North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs have been operative for roughly 30 years and are derived from a state that "feeds on its own propaganda of paranoia," the ambassador said.  In past decades, North Korea "thrived on a sense of isolation," Hill said, but that policy has been failing the country in recent times.  Compounding the problem, he said, is a North Korean bureaucracy that has become "calcified."

Nonetheless, change could come unexpectedly within North Korea, Hill said, adding that it is important "to be very respectful of all the things we don’t know" about North Korea.

Hill said the path to joining the international community is still open to North Korea, noting that Pyongyang signed a declaration of principles on September 19, 2005, in which it promised to end its nuclear weapons program and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.   And while it has been "a long 13 months" waiting for implementation, he said, it was not an inordinate amount of time in the annals of diplomacy. (See related article.)

For more information, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.