By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 30, 2008
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wants people to know: The Bush administration's policy toward North Korea has been carefully coordinated and developed by many people at different agencies.
That might come as a surprise to many insiders, who have complained for months that Rice and her chief negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, have kept many skeptics of the diplomatic effort in the dark as they maneuvered to keep disarmament talks with North Korea alive.
It also might come as a surprise to Hill, who is quoted in an upcoming book, "Meltdown," by Mike Chinoy, as saying: "Some of this minimal paperwork business is coming directly from the secretary. She said, 'Bring it only to me.' "
Hill appeared to be confirming what already has appeared in various news reports, and is amply documented in Chinoy's book -- that Rice and Hill keep the circle of knowledge about his dealmaking tightly held.
During the early years of the administration, factions for and against engagement with North Korea battled each other and policy toward North Korea was often stalemated. But now many skeptics of the process complain that they feel frozen out or ignored, which allows Hill to have much greater flexibility to strike deals.
In a recent interview with the Weekly Standard, released this week by the State Department, Rice disputed Hill's comment when she was asked about it.
"That wouldn't happen to be accurate," Rice told reporter Steve Hayes. "I don't know what he's referring to. . . . I don't cut out people of my team. . . . So this has been very much an administration effort."
Rice added: "Now, I do not believe this is an issue about hard-liners and not hard-liners. This is an issue about how to deal with a very difficult and, in fact, ugly situation, which is you have a terrible regime that, for 30 years, has pursued nuclear weapons and has them."