Today’s visiting fireman at the Watson Institute is under more pressure than most.
Christopher Hill, between East and West
Our man in East Asia, Christopher R. Hill, negotiating North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, is evidently having a tougher time with the Bush principals in Washington than with the Pyongyang end of the wobbly old “axis of evil.” David Sanger in the New York Times yesterday wrote that Bush administration support has “wavered” for the Hill-crafted deal that would take North Korea off the state terrorism hit list in return for a final dismantling of its now abandoned nuclear program. In Washington, Sanger writes, it is Hill, the asssistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, who is feeling abandoned by President Bush and Secretary of State Rice — and beset by the opposition of Vice President Cheney and former UN Ambassador John Bolton, on the lookout for “appeasement.” It was Cheney, by implication, who has cleared for publication what sounds like awkward video evidence that North Korean technicians were working around the Syrian nuclear plant that Israel blew up last September.
There’s no abandonment, no appeasement in the conversation here. But there’s a short course on diplomatic chess in three dimensions — between Middle and Far East, between Rice and Cheney for the president’s ear, between the rise of China as the “second agent of development” in Asia and the forseeable end of a century of American hegemony in the Pacific Rim.