Former ambassador speaks about North Korea nuclear issues

Charlotte Lang

A former United States ambassador spoke about the nation’s history with North Korea in a Tuesday afternoon event sponsored by the Colorado State University Office of International Programs.

Vice Provost of International Studies Kathleen Fairfax introduced former U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, who was also the head of the U.S. delegation in the six-party talks on North Korean nuclear issues. 


As part of the six-party talks, Hill took part in attempts to resolve North Korea’s nuclear crisis during the Bush administration, Fairfax said.

In regards to North Korea’s nuclear history, Hill said that it’s a labor of love to try and deal with the problem.

“What is diplomacy?” Hill asked. “It’s trying to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do.”

Hill said the U.S. has been trying to convince the North Korean government that its nation can have a better future without nuclear weapons.

Hill said the U.S. has a lot of options for how to handle North Korea, but it doesn’t have the option of walking away or being indifferent because North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a threat to the whole international regime.

“It’s a big deal, and I think we need to stick with it,” Hill said. 

Hill said it’s important to understand that the North Koreans didn’t decide to build nuclear weapons due to either President Donald Trump or former President Bush. Instead, it goes back to the 1960s.

What is diplomacy? It’s trying to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do.” -Former U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill

“For people who think they need nuclear weapons because they need to prevent the U.S. from invading them, I submit to you that it’s a serious problem and much more of an offensive approach than it is a defensive,” Hill said. “They want nuclear weapons because they want to create a circumstance where the U.S. chooses not to have U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula.”

Hill asked for people to consider how North Korea would use nuclear weapons. 

Essentially, North Korea creates nuclear weapons and tells the U.S. that if troops help the South Koreans in resisting them, they will hold U.S. civilians at risk, Hill said. North Korea will create a circumstance where, if the U.S. gets involved with North Korea and South Korea’s business, citizens in places like Los Angeles will be at risk of a nuclear attack.


With this risk, a future president might pull U.S. troops from that area. This would result in the U.S. having troops in only one Asian country — Japan. Eventually, this can lead to a complete lack of U.S. presence in Asia, Hill said.

When Hill got involved, it was the second term of the Bush administration. Before this time, the U.S. engaged in meetings and intel collection of North Korea’s work on nuclear experiments and whether they had finalized either a plutonium or uranium weapon.

Eventually, the six-party talks happened. During these talks, six countries negotiated ways to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear programs. According to the Arms Control Association, “North Korea pledged to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.”

Hill went on to speak about more current issues with North Korea, such as the recent appearance of solid-fuel missiles. With liquid fuel, the U.S. has time to review the weapon and take it out on the launchpad if need be. With solid-fuel missiles, the time for this opportunity is cut down quite a bit.

“In the fall and winter months of 2017, Americans … suddenly became worried about how we were going to handle nuclear war,” Hill said.

This led to a series of meetings between Trump and Kim Jong-un.

While North Korea claimed to commit to denuclearization, Hill said Trump had bought into North Korean language by referring to these issues as “hostile war games.”

Other meetings also led to situations where North Korea is still firing short-range solid-fuel missiles. The president has said he wants U.S. troops to come home, and 28,000 American troops are incapable of working with South Koreans due to agreements with North Korea not to do so, Hill said.

“I submit to you we are nowhere on North Korea,” Hill said. “When you hear the president or Washington say we’re on track, we’re not on track.”

Charlotte Lang can be reached at or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.