Hill on de­fen­sive over N. Korea; Brown­back may block

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY NI­CHOLAS KRALEV

Christo­pher Hill, Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­nee to be am­bas­sador to Iraq, had an easy Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing on March 25, but may still be blocked by a Repub­li­can se­na­tor who claims Mr. Hill in a prior post broke his word to raise hu­man rights is­sues with North Korea.

Sen. Sam Brown­back, Kansas Repub­li­can, told The Wash­ing­ton Times last month that he in­tended to put a hold on Mr. Hill’s nom­i­na­tion, be­cause he did not ful­fill his prom­ise to in­clude the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s en­voy for hu­man rights in North Korea in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the com­mu­nist state.

Mr. Hill said on March 25 that he in­tended to do that dur­ing the third phase of six-na­tion talks on Py­ongyang’s nu­clear pro­grams, but that that phase was not reached while he was as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for East Asian and Pa­cific af­fairs.

“I told Se­na­tor Brown­back that, when we got to that stage . . ., I would be pre­pared to sup­port the cre­ation of a hu­man rights track within the nor­mal­iza­tion talks” with North Korea, Mr. Hill said told the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee. “The prob­lem was that we weren’t able to get be­yond phase two.” He in­sisted, how­ever, that he never promised to in­clude the hu­man rights en­voy, Jay Le­fkowitz, in strictly nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Mr. Hill’s re­sponse did not sat­isfy Mr. Brown­back, who said later on the Se­nate floor that he still in­tended to ob­ject to the nom­i­na­tion. He also quoted an un­named in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial as say­ing that Mr. Hill “side­tracked and by­passed” the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity dur­ing his deal­ings with the North.

Sum­ming up Mr. Hill’s record as the lead ne­go­tia­tor in the six­party talks, Mr. Brown­back said: “Taken all to­gether, this is an un­for­tu­nate legacy for Am­bas­sador Hill. Bro­ken com­mit­ments to Congress, free­lanc­ing diplo­macy, dis­re­gard­ing hu­man rights, and giv­ing up key lever­age to [North Korea] in ex­change for in­sub­stan­tial ges­tures.” He ended by say­ing, “Mr. Pres­i­dent, I do not ac­qui­esce to this nom­i­na­tion.”

Al­though the six-party talks started as nu­clear-fo­cused, the plan was to broaden the scope to var­i­ous mat­ters hav­ing to do with es­tab­lish­ing nor­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton.

Ac­cord­ing to the tran­script of a July 31 Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing, Mr. Hill told Mr. Brown­back af­ter talk­ing about the ne­go­ti­a­tions’ third stage: “I would be happy to in­vite [Mr. Le­fkowitz] to all fu­ture ne­go­ti­at­ing ses­sions with North Korea.”

Be­cause Mr. Brown­back is not a mem­ber of the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, he asked Sen. Richard G. Lu­gar, In­di­ana Repub­li­can and the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing mem­ber, to raise the is­sue dur­ing last week’s hear­ing. Sen. Roger Wicker, Mis­sis­sippi Repub­li­can, also pur­sued the mat­ter.

An­other Repub­li­can, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, asked Mr. Hill about what role Richard C. Hol­brooke, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Afghanistan and Pak­istan, might have had in ar­rang­ing Mr. Hill’s first sub­stan­tive one-onone meet­ing with his North Korean coun­ter­part in Berlin in Jan­uary 2007.

Mr. Hill de­nied that Mr. Hol­brooke, a per­sonal friend for whom the nom­i­nee worked in Bos­nia in the 1990s, had helped or­ga­nize the meet­ing. Be­cause the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted to keep the ses­sion se­cret, Mr. Hill said he needed a cover to jus­tify trav­el­ing to Ger­many. He asked Mr. Hol­brooke, who was af­fil­i­ated with the Amer­i­can Academy of Ger­many, to in­vite him to give a speech.

Democrats, mean­while, sought to de­fend Mr. Hill’s lack of ex­pe­ri­ence in the Mid­dle East.

Sen. John Kerry, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat and com­mit­tee chair­man, asked the nom­i­nee about sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the Balkans and Iraq.

“In many re­spects, Iraq is unique, but the prob­lems that Iraq faces are not unique. We’ve seen th­ese prob­lems else­where and, in­deed, I did see them in the Balkans,” Mr. Hill said, re­fer­ring to “prob­lems along the Kur­dish Re­gional Gov­ern­ment bound­ary and the dis­putes of those ter­ri­to­ries.”

“I saw a lot of th­ese types of prob­lems in Bos­nia, deal­ing with the [Bos­ni­ans] and the Serb en­tity there,” he said. “I also saw them in deal­ing with how to man­age some of the in­ter­nal is­sues, some of the in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ties that were in Kosovo, the Serb com­mu­ni­ties there and the Al­ba­nian com­mu­ni­ties.”

Eli Lake con­trib­uted to this re­port.


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