Resumption of Fourth Round of Six-Party Talks: Evening Transit China World HotelChristopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
September 14, 2005
A/S HILL: Hi. How are you? Hi. I’ve already eaten. Well, today we had our first full day of the six party talks. It consisted of quite a few bilateral meetings. I think my delegation met with all the delegations. The meeting with the D.P.R.K. delegation took place this afternoon after lunch. It was a rather lengthy meeting. But I must say it was a meeting in which we did not make a lot of progress. The D.P.R.K. is quite insistent that they want to include in the agreement a light water reactor.
As you know, we are basing our talks on the fourth draft that the Chinese delegation circulated a few days before we closed the meeting in early August. And, the fourth draft does not discuss a light water reactor. So, I spent a considerable amount of time explaining to the D.P.R.K. delegation that the United States, neither the United States nor any other participant in the six party process was prepared to fund a light water reactor.
And in fact, I reiterated the proposals that are in the fourth draft. That is a conventional energy proposal, security guarantees, economic assistance, and recognition ideas, or establishment of relations ideas and, tried to make clear that this is a pretty comprehensive approach that I think would be in the D.P.R.K.’s interest to study hard and get to a yes on.
It’s very clear that they wanted to spend today making this the light water reactor day. I hope this does not become light water reactor week because there are not too many other ways I know how to say no without slipping into another language. So, I have made it very clear and I think they other delegations have made it clear, although I’ll let them speak for themselves, that nobody is prepared to fund a light water reactor and that they should rather focus on the elements that are on the table and understand that those elements would, I think, be very beneficial.
QUESTION: Is the light water reactor the only problem that the United States has now with the D.P.R.K.?
A/S HILL: Well they seemed to…first of all, it’s not just the United States. As I said, none of the other delegations is interested in providing a light water reactor. Certainly, I got the impression that this was an issue the D.P.R.K. wanted to focus on. And so, while I tried to have a broader discussion on other elements, they kept returning to the subject of the light water reactor. So to answer your question, I don’t know if this is the only problem, but certainly it is a major problem. I want to stress that the D.P.R.K. has had something called a graphite-moderated nuclear technology. They have one reactor that has functioned and this one reactor is the reactor in Yongbyon. Although they have engaged in this technology for some 25 years, they have not used this technology for electricity. Rather they’ve used this technology to develop weapons-grade plutonium. So the idea of a light water reactor would be some kind of change from their considerable experience with the graphite-moderated reactors, which, as I stress, have not been used up until now for electricity but rather for the development of weapons grade plutonium.
QUESTION: What was the D.P.R.K.’s rational, reason why they could demand light water reactor?
A/S HILL: Well, I think, you’ll have to ask them, but they… their argument is that they need nuclear power because they do not have considerable deposits of oil or natural gas and that they have some trace amounts of uranium, I guess. Our point is that the proposal we’ve put forward includes a rather substantial conventional energy proposal. This is something the Republic of Korea has included in the draft. The conventional energy proposal would provide the equivalent energy that was envisioned in the agreed framework. But, most importantly, it would move rather quickly. That is, they would be able to build this within two and a half to three years. Any type of reactor, light water reactor, is a much longer-term project. So, if the issue is electricity, if the question is how to get electricity to D.P.R.K. villages, towns and cities, clearly the proposal that is in the fourth draft is a preferred way to go. Yet, it was very clear the D.P.R.K. is interested in continuing its nuclear program.
QUESTION: Were your expectations higher than it used to be?
A/S HILL: I came expecting that at some point the D.P.R.K. would raise the issue of the light water reactor. This has come up in the last few weeks. And, as I said, I think today was light water reactor day. So, I really spent a considerable amount of time making sure that they understand our position very clearly. I want to stress that this was a businesslike meeting. There was no acrimony or anything. We… it went on for some time but I think it is very important that we be honest and make clear that a light water reactor is simply not on the table.
QUESTION: Is it your impression is they’re stalling?
A/S HILL: No, I didn’t say they’re stalling. I think they were asking for a light water reactor and we were answering. Frankly, the other delegations have also made clear that a light water reactor is not part of the Chinese fourth draft. And, it’s the Chinese fourth draft that forms, that is, was -- we would like to see as the basis for the eventual agreement.
QUESTION: Can you say how long the talks were with the D.P.R.K. and now, given these talks, how long do you think this week’s session is going to go?
A/S HILL: Well, I’m sure you’re anxious to get home, we’re all anxious to get home, but I can’t answer that question at this point.
QUESTION: How long were the talks with the D.P.R.K.?
QUESTION: Did North Korea [inaudible]?
A/S HILL: Well, you’ll have to ask the North Koreans. They’re in a much better position to tell you whether they’re going to back down or not. Certainly I made very clear that a light water reactor is not part of what we’re doing here. And, I think it’s important that it wasn’t just the United States, but the other countries also made very clear that a country that has withdrawn from the NPT, that has kicked out international inspectors, is not a member of IAEA process is really not a country that should be looking to develop nuclear energy at this point. It should be a country that’s looking to, first of all, get its economy on its feet and figure out a way back into these organizations.
QUESTION: Did they ask things from you like a new light water reactor?
A/S HILL: I don’t think they wanted a used reactor, I think they want a new one.
QUESTION: What I meant was did they want resumption of the construction of [inaudible]?
A/S HILL: It’s not clear whether they want a resumption of the construction of a light water reactor or whether they want something new, or something different. But clearly, they’re looking for a light water reactor.
QUESTION: Will you continue the bilateral talks with North Korea tomorrow?
A/S HILL: Absolutely, I mean, we’re here to try to reach an agreement. It frequently happens in a negotiation, a multi-day negotiation, where one delegation has an instruction to try to seek something. And so, they have made very clear they’re looking for a light water reactor. And that the issue of…you know, often this has been described as a matter of finding peaceful use of nuclear energy, but in fact what this is, is to have the other parties build a light water reactor for a country that is not in compliance with, or not a member right now of the NPT and certainly not in compliance with IAEA safeguards. So, it’s something all the other participants have made very clear they are not prepared to do
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador …[inaudible]?
A/S HILL: Well first of all, I’m not going to speculate on whether we’re going to get an agreement or not. We’ll know that at some point but you know we’re not there yet. We have not had an in-depth discussion of the question of the so-called scope of dismantlement. That is, what they’re prepared to do away with. In the past, however, it’s been very clear that the North Koreans have understood that the name of the game here is to get rid of all their, all these nuclear weapons programs and anything related, and that has been defined to mean all of their programs. I think it’s very important to understand that of all the North Korean nuclear energy programs up until now, all of them have been related to weapons. Not a single light bulb has been turned on as a result of a nuclear reactor in North Korea. Rather, the nuclear reactor, the one at Yongbyon, which is the only one that has been active, has been used to harvest plutonium.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, light water reactor is a kind of tactic. Are they going to make this issue as a kind of hostage for giving up all of the nuclear weapons? Otherwise, they are serious, this is a kind of showstopper for them. What’s your observation of their tactics?
A/S HILL: Well again, I mean, we’re in the middle of a negotiation, and it’s not very polite of me to start characterizing what I think of their tactics. But, I think it was very important that, first of all, that we maintained a businesslike environment -- and I think we’ve been able to do that -- and secondly that we be very, very clear and not lead anyone to the conclusion that that we’re willing to do something that we’re not willing to do. And so, I simply want to repeat again that nobody is willing to provide a light water reactor. These are reactors that cost a considerable amount of money. They take a considerable amount of time. And, in the meantime, the same amount of energy can be, can…the same amount of electricity can be pumped into the D.P.R.K. in a much shorter time and we get the D.P.R.K. lit up a little more than it is today. So we hope that their request…that they understand that no one is providing them with a light water reactor.
QUESTION: What was the D.P.R.K.’s response to South Korea’s energy proposal?
A/S HILL: Well, they have been careful. I think they’re studying it. They’re looking at it. I don’t think they’ve given a final response to it. I think it’s clear that they prefer to have a light water reactor. Certainly that was the implication today, but we’ll have to see. My understanding is they have not rejected this.
QUESTION: On the sidelines of the light water reactor, has any progress been made on nuclear weapons?
A/S HILL: Well again, we consider denuclearization the fundamental task of this negotiation. And we have, I think, a pretty good formula in the agreement for dealing with denuclearization. And it’s our contention, the contention of the various participants, that this is the way to go. We have to see whether, at the end of the day, the D.P.R.K. will agree with us, but we believe we have a pretty good formula for dealing with that.
QUESTION: So that’s the only obstacle they have thrown up to…?
A/S HILL: Well again, one has to be careful with these things, because certainly that has been, that was the issue du jour--today, at any rate. But it could…some other issue could come up. For now the issue they raised was the light water reactor issue.
QUESTION: Would China say that other countries [inaudible]?
A/S HILL: I think it’s fair to say that nobody is stepping forward and putting down the 2 or 3 billion dollars it would take to build a light water reactor. I think that’s correct.
A/S HILL: Well, you sound like the American delegation. But absolutely, I think what the DPRK needs to do is get out of this nuclear business and get into the business of providing electricity for their citizens, get into the business of integrating their economy with the rest of the world economy, and improving relations with the United States, with Japan, with other countries. And, good relations with states like the United States and Japan, I think, will very much help the DPRK as it goes forward.
QUESTION: After five weeks’ recession, do you feel like you came back to the same table or is there any difference?
A/S HILL: Well, that’s a very good question. I think that was something I was very concerned about, but, as you recall, when we broke up in early August, the issue was light water reactor, and we made it clear then what our attitude was. And we made it clear today. So, in a certain respect we have picked up where we left off. And, the only thing is, I think today was probably more of light water reactor than most of us were planning on. But, as I said, if we just have a light water reactor day and not a light water reactor week, it’ll be OK.
QUESTION: Will you talk with the North Korean delegation tomorrow?
A/S HILL: I assume I’ll talk to them tomorrow. In fact, we agreed that we would break the discussions today and then we would pick up tomorrow. So I look forward to discussing with them tomorrow and I hope we can discuss some other aspects of the fourth draft.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, your main rationale to object to the light water reactor come from the concern about the proliferation concerns?
A/S HILL: Well, we think…the D.P.R.K., I think, needs to be a little realistic about what it needs to do to get its economy going and get its energy needs met. And, here we have a proposal on the table which is provided by the Republic of Korea. And, I think other countries are interested. I know my country is very interested in looking at this proposal and studying what the energy needs are. So, this was a very significant proposal that the Republic of Korea has put forward. And, I think, most importantly, it’s something that could begin as early as two and a half years from now and would actually involve the construction of some transmission lines. I think anyone who knows a little about the North Korean electrical system knows that in the past 15 years, there has been a considerable decline in the electricity in the D.P.R.K., caused not so much by the loss of power-generating facilities, as it has been caused by the loss of transmission and the sheer waste and deterioration of the transmission and distribution lines.
So, what the R.O.K. is doing is coming forward with a proposal that would begin to address the problem, at least in terms of transmission. So, I think it really provided the platform for others to be looking carefully and seeing what we can do to help this situation. It gives no one any pleasure that the D.P.R.K. is literally one of the darkest countries in the world because of the lack of electrical grids. I mean, the fact that today they have difficulty with having an integrated grid within the country. So, I think it’s a very good proposal, and what’s most important is that it could get going soon. And to talk about a light water reactor, where we’re talking seven, eight, maybe nine or ten years out is probably not what the D.P.R.K. needs at this point.
QUESTION: Mr. Hill, in all these discussions about the light water reactor, has North Korea ever agreed to dismantle everything first?
A/S HILL: You know, we’ve had discussions about the so-called question of the scope of dismantlement and let me just characterize those discussions as very positive discussions. We’ve had those discussions in July and August. We did not have a chance, really, to discuss dismantlement issues today, the first day, the first full day of the talks, because the issue of light water reactors pretty much crowded out every other discussion. But certainly in the past, with respect to dismantlement we’ve had positive discussions on that.
So, I think you all ought to go home now. I don’t have anything more to say.
Released on September 15, 2005