For immediate release
October 18, 2006
Chad Campbell, NPR



Washington, D.C.; October 18, 2006 – Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill offered his assessment today of the possibility that North Korea could conduct a second nuclear test.

In an interview with Steve Inskeep on NPR's Morning Edition, the chief U.S. negotiator on North Korea said, "There are some indications, but you know I would caution people not to put too much stock in that.... we do not have any indications that it's going to happen imminently."

Hill's comments came in a telephone interview from Tokyo, where he is traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In the same interview, Hill amplified Rice's comments that the United States was prepared to use the "full range" of deterrents to defend Japan against North Korea.

"North Korea needs to understand that when it attacks treaty allies of the United States it indeed risks very much being at war with the United States," Hill said.

Transcript of the interview is below. All excerpts must be credited to NPR’s Morning Edition. Audio of the interview is available at


STEVE INSKEEP: What did Secretary of State Rice mean when she said that the United States is ready to use its "full range of deterrents" against North Korea?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, I think she was making the point that we have a treaty relationship with Japan and we are therefore treaty bound to defend Japan. 

INSKEEP: Does North Korea need to understand that if it were to launch a nuclear attack against one of its neighbors that it could face a nuclear attack by the United States

HILL: Well, I think North Korea needs to understand that when it attacks treaty allies of the United States it indeed risks very much being at war with the United States

INSKEEP: Now, Ambassador, what have you learned about the possibility that North Korea might conduct a second nuclear test?

HILL: You know, there are a lot of rumors about this. Obviously there is some indications.  But, you know, I would caution people not to put too much stock in that.  We have always felt that the North Koreans could conduct a test when they wanted to, but I am -- we do not have any indication that it's going to happen imminently.

INSKEEP: What do you do if there is a second nuclear test?

HILL: I don't want to speculate on what would be done, but I would call your attention to the fact that the Security Council resolution concludes with a sentence that the Security Council will remain seized with the matter.  So I suspect another test would trigger at the very least a discussion in the Security Council.  And you know, there are additional measures that could be taken.  Again, I don't want to speculate, because at this point it's hypothetical.

MR. INSKEEP:  Now, let's talk about China.  What specifically can China do at this moment to bring more pressure on the North Korean regime?

MR. HILL:  Well, as you know, China is North Korea's major economic partner.  So China does have some leverage; and we do know that China is very, very concerned about the situation.  They've had a very close relationship with North Korea over the years.  North Korea depends on them for their daily bread.  And I think the Chinese are going to look very hard at what they should be doing.

INSKEEP: They've also said that they're not going to take any steps that would lead to a catastrophe, as they see it.

HILL: Well, I think China is concerned -- and we are concerned -- that we not do -- take steps that could escalate this. We're not looking for a crisis.  We're looking for a solution.

     So we are in very close contact with the Chinese, and we look forward to continuing that in a couple of days when Secretary Rice arrives there.

INSKEEP: Now, Ambassador, as you talk to North Korea's neighbors, do you think that it is important to construct some way -- some face-saving way for North Korea to back down?

HILL: Well, I think it's very important to keep a path open to negotiation.  And I think it's very important to make clear to the North Koreans that that path is still open.

     Now, I don't think we should be, you know, setting out new inducements for them to follow on this path, because that agreement, as it is -- as it is currently written and as it would be implemented -- has a lot of benefits for North Korea.  And let's see if the North Koreans will understand that they are not going to get away with becoming a nuclear weapons state.  In fact, that is really very much of a dead end for them. 

INSKEEP: When they demand things like direct talks with the United States, it's tempting to wonder if part of what they're seeking is simply some show of respect.

HILL: Well, you know, it was with that in mind that during the six-party talks last year I spent a lot of time in direct talks with the North Koreans, in direct face-to-face negotiations.

     I can't believe they want more of these face-to-face negotiations.  I think the real problem is they've been engaged in these weapons programs for 30 years and they're just having a hard time convincing themselves that they should give them up.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that they want the confrontation?

HILL: Well, I think this is a country, this a leadership, that has to a great extent depended on this kind of brinksmanship. I think they kind of appreciate the limelight, I'm sorry to say. And so I think they see out of brinksmanship a possibility of gaining advantage for their country. And I think the task for the United States and its partners in the region is to make very clear that this is a very wrong headed approach.