Former U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill said he doesn’t know when or how the demise of the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will come about, but he believes it is inevitable. When it happens, he said, “we need to make sure that China, [South Korea] and the U.S. all understand what we’re going to do.”
Mr. Hill spoke Wednesday at a regional security conference hosted by The Washington Times in Seoul, where officials from the South Korean government office for reunification say they are pursuing small steps and confidence-building measures with North Korea.
Relations between the two Koreas occur mainly through the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is inside the demilitarized zone that has divided the two nations for more than 60 years. Lee Duk-haeng, a senior policy officer in the ministry, said, “Our view is that if we reconnect the ecosystem between the two Koreas, it will channel into peaceful exchanges.”
Kim Jong Un has made overtures in recent months suggesting an openness for diplomatic engagement with Seoul, but he has spent much of the past three years threatening the South militarily.
Mr. Hill said that Washington and Seoul should be finding ways to convince Beijing that its support of North Korea is a barrier to wider international integration. He also said efforts should be made to draw Japan into the conversation as well.
For some, the comments felt like a throwback to the late 2000s. As U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the time, Mr. Hill headed the Obama administration’s first effort to breathe life into stalled six-party talks aimed at steering North Korea away from developing nuclear weapons. The effort foundered in 2009 when Pyongyang carried out an underground nuclear test, defying warnings from the international community.
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