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Chris Hill Confirmation Hearing: Wicker vs. Hill on North Korea « The Washington Independent

So here’s the first on-panel GOP resistance to Hill: Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) takes up Brownback’s North Korea questioning. What about the “assurance” Hill gave Brownback in a public hearing? Hill says he’s reviewed the transcript. “Words are very important,” Wicker says. “Did it occur to you that perhaps you needed to get back to Sen. Brownback?”

Hill says, “I said in the testimony that when we get to the next phase, which in July [at the hearing] I thought would come” would lead to the phase where Brownback’s favored human rights envoy would be present for talks. “In retrospect, Senator,” Hill concedes, “when I realized we weren’t going to get to Phase Three, I should have gone back to Sen. Brownback.”

Wicker asks Hill to respond to a piece from The Weekly Standard that alleges Hill spoke bilaterally with the North Koreans “in defiance” of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s instructions. “This was an effort to get the start of the six-party talks going,” in the summer of 2005, he says. “She wanted the Chinese to be there. The Chinese came but the North Koreans were not there to carry on the meeting without the Chinese.” They were prepared to leave. Rice was in the air. “The audible I had to call: do I continue the meeting or do I walk out? I made a judgment to continue the meeting. At the end of the meeting, the North Koreans announced they would continue the six-party talks.” He says he remembers “quite well” that the next meeting Rice “was quite angry, but quite angry with the Chinese.” Hill says he knows “some journalists have tried to make this more dramatic” than it was. Wicker backs off after Hill says that Rice never expressed anger with him.

“I’m the first to say that the job is not done,” Hill says, pointedly reminding Wicker that Hill implemented North Korea disarmament policy, not crafted it by himself. He adds that he “really respects” Brownback’s human rights concerns. “It’s not going to be a normalization, ‘you give up the nukes and we treat you like an ally,’” but rather one in which the United States pushed North Korea on human rights, and he “regrets” the inability of the North Korean disarmament process to get to that point.

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