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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2005 East Asian and Pacific Affairs Remarks, Testimony, and Speeches

Resumption of Fourth Round of Six-Party Talks: Evening Transit China World Hotel

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Beijing, China
September 15, 2005

A/S HILL: Hi, how are you doing today?

QUESTION: How was the meeting today? Will you continue the talks tomorrow?

A/S HILL: Well, Iíve got to be to be very frank with you tonight. There wasnít much progress today. I donít want to exaggerate. There wasnít any progress today. The D.P.R.K., the North Korean delegation, has really made it clear that their main issue, by the likes of what happened today their only issue, is a light water reactor. They want the provision of a light water reactor. As you know, no delegation is prepared to offer North Korea a light water reactor. That has to do with the fact that North Korea is not n the NPT at this time. Therefore, they are not eligible. No country would transfer nuclear materials to a country that is not in the NPT.

At the same time, the D.P.R.K. made very clear that they will not dismantle their existing programs until they have a light water reactor. Unless they dismantle these existing programs they have no chance of getting back into the NPT. So, weíre in a bit of a stand-off at this point and we have to see how this plays out.

We have, I think, a very solid, a very comprehensive proposal on the table which addresses electricity needs. But, increasingly it is clear that the D.P.R.K. is not so concerned about electricity and much more concerned about a light water reactor. We also have a number of economic proposals on the table but, unfortunately, I donít think they are all that interested in the economic proposals. Security guarantees are on the table. But again, they havenít addressed those. It has really, in the last couple of days, come down to their desire to have a light water reactor.

This has to do, to some extent, with a view they got from the 1990s that a light water reactor was the answer to their problems. I tried to point out the difficulties that they have had with their electricity, the fact that their national grid has essentially broken down. It is broken down not because of the power plant situation but mainly because of transmission and distribution problems. But again, they are not interested in distribution or transit problems for electricity. They are interested in a light water reactor.

In short, one gets the impression that this is not so much an economic development issue or an energy issue but rather a political issue and an issue relating to the idea that they want to have a sort of trophy project. I think it is fair to say that we have a rather major disagreement at this point.

QUESTION: What is the next step if this round of talks reaches a dead end, sir?

A/S HILL: Well, itís hard to say. I mean, we have made our position very clear on this. I talked to the Chinese hosts. As you know, the light water reactor is an issue that has come up fairly recently and thatís reflected in the fact that it was not included in the first Chinese draft. It was not included in the second Chinese draft, not in the third, nor in the fourth Chinese draft. That was due to the fact that the light water reactor is something that people cannot provide the D.P.R.K. as long as they are outside of the NPT and thatís where they are. Thatís where they are likely to stay unless they dismantle these nuclear weapons programs. So, we have a problem there. We were certainly very clear, very honest, very businesslike in explaining this problem to the D.P.R.K. delegation so I hope they will take another look at this. You know, weíre going to be patient about it. But, I must be very clear, we were not able to make an progress today.

QUESTION: Do you expect the talks to continue for some time?

A/S HILL: Obviously they canít continue forever because our purpose in being hereÖweíre prepared to be here as long as we can make progress. I think we are going to have to play this by ear and see where we are. Weíre certainly going to be here tomorrow and we will see how we do tomorrow. It was not very good news today, or yesterday for that matter.

QUESTION: Do you think that a recess might be a good idea or a bad idea?

A/S HILL: Well, you know we had one recess. It was supposed to be a 21 day recess. Everyone was prepared to return after 21 days except the D.P.R.K. needed another two weeks or so. So, the recess lasted 37 days. Again, we want to solve this problem. We have a great interest in trying to solve this problem through diplomatic means. Everybodyís got to have an interest in solving the problem through diplomatic means. To solve a problem through diplomatic means involves various countries making some compromises. A number of us made a number of compromises as we went through drafts one, two, three and four and now we have an element that wasnít present in any of those drafts coming back and seeming to make up a lot of the negotiating time right now. So, itís very hard to predict at this point but clearly we have a serious problem.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, are you considering to set a kind of a deadline in order to put pressure on the North Koreans?

A/S HILL: There may be a point at which we will look at a deadline. Weíre not there yet. Two days is a long time if you have been sitting in the negotiation. But, on the other hand, two days is not such a long time overall. Weíll have to see how this plays out. Today one did not get much of a sense that the D.P.R.K. was going to change its mind on this. It really will come down to a very simple issue. Is the D.P.R.K. interested in a diplomatic solution, with all that that implies? Are they prepared to work out compromises and propose different ideas and, frankly, be reasonable. Certainly, looking at how they handled themselves today we have to be a little concerned about that.

QUESTION: So no room for concession on U.S. side? We are kind of waiting for that.

A/S HILL: Iíd be careful about this idea of concessions. There is a basic problem here of a country that is outside of the non-proliferation treaty, outside of IAEA safeguards. These are decisions the DPRK made on its own. They took a very fateful decision to pull out of these structures and to begin producing weapons grade plutonium and now they are asking to be given nuclear technology at a time when they are outside these structures. They cannot get back into these structures unless they do something about dismantling these weapons programs and yet they donít seem to be interested in doing that until they get this light water reactor. So, itís a big problem but itís a problem that they, frankly, have put themselves in. I might add, not for the first time. The D.P.R.K. has a rather sad and long history of making the wrong decision on things.

QUESTION: Sir, are you ready to propose a fifth draft?

A/S HILL: A fifth draft? No, I am certainly not ready to propose a fifth draft. We had a fourth draft that we all thought was pretty good. The D.P.R.K. has a whole new concept now and I think the Chinese are talking to the D.P.R.K. about this. People worked very hard on those four drafts and we all made a lot of compromises on those drafts in order to get where we were. Four countries provided comments to the Chinese on those various drafts. The only country that didnít provide written comments was D.P.R.K. Now, apparently, they have a whole new concept. So, itís a problem for all of us. I want to stress that we all want to solve this through diplomatic means but weíre going to have to have the DPRK with the same frame of mind if we are going to make progress.

QUESTION: Are the other five participants in the talks, other than the D.P.R.K., more or less in accord with where you are now on this, do you believe?

A/S HILL: I believe we are and, frankly, the issue of whether you want to give them a light water reactor or not, I think everyone agrees you canít give them a light water reactor because they are outside the non-proliferation treaty. I donít think thereís any country that wants to put itself at risk with respect to that treaty.

QUESTION: When they get back to the NPT is it okay to have a light water reactor?

A/S HILL: To get back to the NPT involves a lot of dismantlement and getting into IAEA safeguards. Itís a very hypothetical question at this point because the D.P.R.K.has not indicated that they are prepared to do that.

QUESTION: They actually want the full reactor to be built, to be completed, the whole thing operational and then they will start giving up their nuclear weapons?

A/S HILL: Well, itís hard to say. Thatís certainly what they said to us. Whether thatís ultimately their final position, I donít know. Thatís what theyíre certainly are indicating.

They feel that in the past they were too generous with the international community and theyíve said weíve learned our lesson there and now we are looking to get what we want before we give up what we have. But, youíll have to ask them.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, China seems to be taking a neutral position today. The Foreign Ministry spokesman said that they are not opposed to having a light water reactor being on the agenda for discussion, of course, to be negotiated among the different parties. How do you view what they said?

A/S HILL: Well, I donít know. I havenít seen the announcement. This was a press conference?

QUESTION: It was a regular briefing.

A/S HILL: I didnít see it. I do know that China plays two roles. First they have the role as the member of the negotiating team. Secondly, they have the role as the secretariat. In that later role obviously they are always trying to look for some common ground and look for a way forward. But, I think as any non-proliferation expert in the Chinese government will tell you the same thing Iíve told you which is that for a country which is not in the NPT, and not in the NPT because of its own choice, a decision that it made on its own, there really cannot be a discussion of giving it nuclear technology.

QUESTION: What has been the active role of the Chinese delegation today with the DPRK?

A/S HILL: The Chinese delegation has had some meetings with the D.P.R.K. and they were meeting with them this evening and I have not heard the outcome of that meeting. So, presumably tomorrow morning we will have some conversations with the Chinese and weíll know if they have been able to identify a way forward. We would like a way forward. We would like the Chinese hosts, who we feel do have a lot of abilities and contacts with the D.P.R.K., to identify a way forward. We have to see if they have been successful in that regard.

QUESTION: Can a light water reactor be (inaudible) in the hands of North Korea?

A/S HILL: You have to talk to experts in light water reactors. I think the laymanís explanation is that they are less prone to abuse but that doesnít mean that they are a perfect system that can prevent misuse. They would involve a lot of technical inspections and certainly thatís not something thatís available now as long as the D.P.R.K. is outside of the international system. The D.P.R.K., and not for the first time, has chosen to isolate itself. As we discuss this light water reactor I think it is very important to keep in mind whatís on the table and what the D.P.R.K. seems not interested in. What was on the table, or what continues to be on the table is an electrical solution, a solution that tries to deal with their electrical problems. One has to ask the question, why have they focused on this light water reactor? Why are they not focusing on conventional power that could be provided by South Korea or power that could be provided by other neighbors? Why are they so singularly minded on the light water reactors? I donít know the answer to that. You have to ask them.

QUESTION: Are you going to meet with the North Korean delegation tomorrow?

A/S HILL: I donít have anything scheduled right now to meet with the D.P.R.K. delegation. I met with them today. I met with them yesterday. When I met with someone usually there is a purpose and we have to identify what the purpose would be.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, the South Korean Unification Minister is in Pyongyang right now and he said he is carrying a personal message from you to the North. Can you tell us what that message is?

A/S HILL: Iím sorry. I havenít seen what he said but I had a very good conversation with Minister Chung only three days ago. It seems like three weeks ago at this point. I talked to him about my desire to try to move forward and try to find a solution to this problem. We want very much to support the inter-Korean dialogue. We hope that the six party talks can be supportive of the inter-Korean dialogue and that the inter-Korean dialogue can be supportive of the six party process and to do that we need to be in touch with one another.

QUESTION: Will you have a meeting with the Chinese delegation tomorrow?

A/S HILL: We donít have anything scheduled but I am sure we will be meeting with them tomorrow.

QUESTION: A bilateral one or multiÖ.?

A/S HILL: I donít know at this point except to say that Iím sure that we will be meeting with the Chinese delegation. We do have scheduled meetings with the Republic of Korea delegation and the Japanese delegation. I had a lunch with the Russian delegation today and probably will see them tomorrow as well.

QUESTION: Mr. Hill there are people saying that (inaudible) so if the D.P.R.K. insists on this stance do you think itís going to be a deal breaker by some time this weekend?

A/S HILL: Again, I donít like to use words like that. Those are your words. At this point I havenít made any airplane reservations. So, I just canít tell you which day the talks will break up except to say that theyíre not going to go on forever -- that I can assure you of because I am not going to go on forever.

QUESTION: Do you still find this six party talk process useful or are you now trying to consider other options?

A/S HILL: Iím still here so obviously we consider it useful but that doesnít mean itís easy. It doesnít mean that you are not going to have some difficult days and I would say we are having those right now. So, we have to see.

Thank you very much. Good to see you all. Take the rest of the evening off, especially you people hold these microphones. Good night.

Released on September 15, 2005

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