Jane VaynmanVictor Cha heads back to G-town

It is fun to read about powerful people, pulling the strings, making things happen, while keeping out of the limelight. Victor Cha for example, who does not say much but has been getting some headline billing in the press.

I rather enjoyed the Washington Post article last week on Victor Cha leaving his post as the Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council to return to Georgetown.

Cha, 45, will return to Georgetown this week, but his government service has had unusual impact, especially for an ivory-tower academic with no experience in policymaking.

He arrived at the White House with a reputation as an advocate for a tough approach to negotiations with North Korea—what he called “hawk engagement”—but in the end he drafted the crucial memo that helped persuade President Bush earlier this year to allow U.S. negotiators to meet for bilateral talks with their North Korean counterparts in Berlin.

Cha, who since last year has also been the deputy U.S. negotiator on the North Korea talks, visited North Korea with Bill Richardson last month. International Herald Tribune has another man behind the scenes article on Cha’s “the the shadows” role:

A delegation of American envoys traveled last week to North Korea ostensibly to recover the remains of missing U.S. troops. Hitching a ride with them, almost unnoticed, was the highest ranking U.S. official known to have visited Pyongyang since 2002.

In public, Victor Cha, the White House’s top adviser on North Korea and a deputy negotiator at international nuclear talks with the North, was perhaps the quietest member of a group led by Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson and former veteran affairs secretary Anthony Principi.


At a news conference in Seoul after the visit, with dozens of South Korean and Western reporters gathered to hear a readout, Cha, a former Georgetown University professor who specializes in Asian affairs on Bush’s National Security Council, sat quietly off to the side.

But his presence loomed large in Pyongyang. In a small scheduling booklet handed out to the delegation, the North proudly announced private talks between Kim and Cha.

Actually, AP was first with with the Victor Cha articles in March, writing that, “While Hill is a top public voice for U.S. policy on North Korea, Cha remains in the background, often seen at Hill’s side during the talks in Beijing but rarely quoted in the press. Former and current colleagues describe Cha as easygoing, brilliant, self-assured.”

It’s rock star treatment for the professor, in “famous for DC” style.

(Yes, I am back. St. Petersburg is lovely this time of year, and it does not get dark till 10pm!)


  1. abcd (History)

    Maybe that’s why his talk at USIP a week ago was canceled. I was looking forward to it 🙁

    On a related note, let’s hope Hill retains his position.