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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

Remarks at Completion of Second Day of Six-Party Talks

Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Evening Transit - Traders Hotel
Beijing, China
November 10, 2005

Assistant Secretary Hill: Good evening. Well, we just completed day two of what is expected to be a three-day first session of the fifth round. We just had dinner hosted by the Chinese delegation. It was a good occasion to summarize the day and talk a little about what lies ahead. I sat at a table with the heads of delegation. I think to my left was the DPRK representative and to my right was the Japanese representative. We had a good discussion about how we might go from here. There were a lot of ideas proposed today. The South Koreans had some suggestions about how we should take some of the statements and the principles and move them into actual implementation measures. The Japanese had a very good proposal to try to lay out several tracks on how we might move forward. We felt both of these were very good ideas for going forward. I think tomorrow we will meet again at 9:30. The Chinese hosts will convene a meeting of the six delegations. We'll probably have some additional bilateral discussions, and then I expect the Chinese delegation to issue a chairman's statement which will reflect the discussions that we've had and propose where we might go from here and suggest that we should reconvene at an early date. Again, no big surprises today. It was really an opportunity to discuss ideas for proceeding.

Question: Did you talk anything with the North Koreans during dinner?

Assistant Secretary Hill: Well, I sat right next to my DPRK counterpart and, of course, we had some discussions about the way forward.

Question: Mr. Secretary, what did you think about North Korea's first step, their proposal, their roadmap? Do you think that's a viable option?

Assistant Secretary Hill: I think the DPRK needs to focus itself very much on how it's going to first of all stop its programs. As you know, today they are continuing to operate the five megawatt reactor in Yongbyon. So I think they need to focus pretty heavily on that, and I think they need to focus on how their declaration is going to look, and then begin the process of abandoning these weapons. And I hope that in the coming weeks they can really address this with the precision that it deserves, because the fact of the matter is we're here to try to ensure the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that's going to have to start with the DPRK fulfilling its undertakings.

Question: Today Japan criticized the DPRK for they didn't play a constructive role to the Six Party Talks?

Assistant Secretary Hill: I don’t recall it being quite that harsh. I think the Japanese were pointing out where they felt the DPRK should perhaps be more specific, but I think there was also some praise for the fact that the DPRK had suggested some ways to move forward on this. I don't know what information you're going on, but this was a fairly businesslike meeting today. It was not the sort of criticism of the kind you suggest.

Question: Do you get the feeling that the North Korean side is more willing to implement this agreement, or…?

Assistant Secretary Hill: Once they implement all this, then we can start looking back and see what their feelings were, but what I know today is we don’t have implementation yet. We have an agreement on principles. We have a discussion about implementation, but we don't have an implementation plan yet. I think I told you all a couple of nights ago that the three day session was really too soon and too short a time to be working out a complete implementation plan. But I hope that at our next session -- that is, the second session of this fifth round -- we will be able to make some progress on that, and then I can assess how ready the DPRK was to do this.

Question: Right, but I mean, seemingly, the North Korean side has proposed what we call a step-by-step…for step…do you think this is… Do you think the North Korean side is bargaining, or…?

Assistant Secretary Hill: You'll have to ask them. It is obvious to me, I think obvious to most people, that the nuclear weapons programs in the DPRK have been a very costly endeavor for the DPRK. It has really left them out of the international financial system. It has left them out of the whole international milieu that they have to be a part of. I think these have been very costly programs and moreover, I would argue that they have not contributed at all to North Korean security. On the contrary, they have made DPRK a country that many countries, including my own, are very concerned about. So I think the time for them to stop producing nuclear material is now. I mean, I would argue they should have done this some time ago. And then they need to get out of this business as soon as possible. Again, I don’t have anything new to say on that. I just would like to see them move as quickly as possible. Because the faster they move, the faster we move, the faster everybody moves, and the faster the DPRK can be reintegrated back into the world.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, regarding the setting of the working groups, is there the convergence or the congruence among the parties?

Assistant Secretary Hill: We had some convergence and congruence on what sorts of issues we need to look at. We are not prepared at this point to say with precision how we might organize working groups. What I suspect will happen is after this round, we will be in touch with each other and when we come ready for the next session of this round, we will be ready to move very quickly. I think the good news is that everyone is committed to this process. I must tell you the light water reactor was not a big factor; it was not something that everyone was talking about. I'm hopeful that we can move ahead.

Question: Will the chairman's statement touch on this issue? I mean [inaudible].

Assistant Secretary Hill: You'll have to ask the Chinese. I think they're going to be up very late tonight working on the chairman's statement. What I suspect they'll do is try to summarize some of the ideas for moving ahead and identify ideas that they felt enjoyed broad support within the process. The United States delegation… we had some ideas, but the more comprehensive ideas were provided by the ROK and the Japanese delegations. The Russians also had some positive things to say and a positive approach to it.

Question: Mr. Secretary, what might the chairman's statement look like? Can you give us a glimpse?

Assistant Secretary Hill: You'll have to talk to the Chinese. They are working on that. You can bother them anytime tonight because I think they'll be up very, very late. I think what they will do is try to summarize the ideas that were produced in the last 48 hours. Again, I cannot emphasize to you enough the fact that this is a very short session, kind of squeezed in before the APEC. We wanted to have this session now because I know there had been discussion since September 19 on where we really stand, and so we wanted to show that before APEC, that in fact we are on track, and I think definitely the issues are on track. But we are not yet at a point where we can talk about actual implementation.

Question: Mr. Hill, how much longer can the six party process continue forward if North Korea continues its Yongbyon plant, and continues [inaudible]?

Assistant Secretary Hill: The problem with the Yongbyon plant, and I've tried to make this clear to the North Koreans, is we had a certain situation as of September 19 where it was agreed that the DPRK would abandon its weapons, abandon its programs. And in fact, since September 19, the Yongbyon plant has continued. So this means that there is the potential for additional plutonium, which also needs to be accounted for and needs to be abandoned. So you have to ask yourself the question why are they bothering to produce this because they're essentially producing a product that they're going to have to give up. I don't know how long this can go on, except to say that the sooner they stop that program, the better.

Question: Did the North Koreans put forward any conditions about stopping?

Assistant Secretary Hill: They did not put down conditions. They are, like all of us, waiting for a full implementation plan and, as I said, this is a first opportunity, really, to discuss implementation. So we have to see what this looks like when we reconvene. But the next time we reconvene, we won't be doing it on a 72-hour deadline, and we will expect to reconvene in a way where we can really make some clear progress toward the implementation. I think I told you all before that the United States is very interested in this process. We believe this is the best way forward. But our interest in this process depends on our ability to make progress. I think the next session will be a very key session in terms of whether we can make progress.

Question: I think yesterday you said that you could see a way forward on the light water reactor issue. Precisely what way?

Assistant Secretary Hill: I think we have made clear and all of the delegations have made abundantly clear to the DPRK that nobody is prepared to have nuclear cooperation with a country that is out of the NPT, out of IAEA safeguards, and in the business of producing weapons of mass destruction. There is simply no country that's willing to work with them on this. So I think the message has gotten through. Sometimes, like a lot of things in life, it takes time to sink in and I think the message is sinking in.

Question: Can you reconvene the next session by the end of this year?

Assistant Secretary Hill: I think we have to look at our calendars. The next couple of weeks are pretty busy calendars with APEC and I know a number of countries are involved in the East Asia Summit down in Kuala Lumpur. I think the concept is to do this before the end of the year, but we all have to consult our calendars. But believe me, we are quite aware of the fact that we need to make some rapid progress. It was difficult to get together during these few days before APEC, but we felt it was necessary to do that because in September, you recall, we said we would get together in early November. And so if we didn’t do that in this three day period, we would have missed that window, and a lot of you would have been saying that the Six Party Talks were being delayed, and we did not want to give you the pleasure of writing that story. [Laughter]

Question: So Mr. Secretary, is there a chance that that you may be coming early next year and still think this is not the end of the process?

Assistant Secretary Hill: Look, I want to emphasize that we are not interested in just reconvening and reconvening and reconvening. We need to convene at a time when we are prepared to really move ahead, and the next step is to have very concrete plans for implementation.

Question: It doesn't matter if it's end of this year or early next year?

Assistant Secretary Hill: It doesn't matter so much to me whether it's the end of December or early January. It may matter to you, but I think what matters most of all is to really have progress in this because, again, this can't go on and on. We admire the work and efforts of our Chinese hosts, but we don't want to abuse our status as guests.

Question: [Inaudible]

Assistant Secretary Hill: They are not prepared at this point to tell us when they will shut off the reactor. We think the time to shut it off is now. I mean, frankly speaking, the time to shut it off was a long time ago because there is no purpose for that reactor. It is not producing electricity. North Korea is a country having severe electricity problems and that five megawatt reactor is not doing anything to solve that. So the time to do it is now. The DPRK has taken the position that they will not shut it down until there's an implementation plan -- that is, a fully elaborated plan on when they will actually abandon their nuclear programs. We've told them that they are, I think, wasting a lot of time and energy keeping that thing operating because whatever it produces is going to have to be returned and we will be absolutely careful to make sure that we have collected every bit of fissionable material.

Question: Can you clarify what was the U.S. proposal apart from [inaudible]?

Assistant Secretary Hill: We've made very clear that we're prepared to live by all of terms of the joint statement, and there are a number of issues that we need to get going on in the joint statement. There are, of course, the denuclearization issues and that is where we need to look very precisely about how the DPRK will stop what they're doing, make a declaration as to what they're doing, begin dismantling and abandoning what they're doing, and then have it properly verified, so that's probably the most complicated, complex piece, but there are other elements of this. For example, there are the economic and energy elements. There we have to see how we can help the DPRK with what are profound economic problems that they need to deal with. We're prepared to do that. We really want to see the DPRK come out of its isolation and join the world.

Question: Mr. Hill, did you mention the possibility of opening a U.S. liaison office in Pyongyang?

Assistant Secretary Hill: We did not get into that level of specificity today. As you recall from the joint statement, we do envision a normalization process that would, at a certain stage, involve precisely that. That is, opening up a liaison office. But we did not get into that level of specificity. Again, I hate to keep repeating myself, but we only had 72 hours and that's not a lot of time to discuss what is really a pretty complex agreement.

Question: Were counterfeit money and freezing of financial assets raised at all today?

Assistant Secretary Hill: Yes, it was. It was raised by the DPRK and they expressed concern about this and I had to make clear to them that these are law enforcement issues and not six party issues. We endeavored to give them some information that is available on the web as to what the U.S. Treasury Department has done, but I want to emphasize I'm not involved in law enforcement. They were interested in the subject and we gave them some information on it.

Question: But it didn't sour things or…?

Assistant Secretary Hill: They're not happy with the fact that a bank in Macau, which our investigators have determined to be involved in money laundering, has been put off bounds to U.S. banks, and they're not happy about that because that bank does business with the DPRK. They made clear that they are not happy about that, but I made it clear that I don't do financial sector regulation, and in fact that bank's operations were frozen by the Macau authorities -- that is, the Chinese authorities, as the Chinese authorities are investigating. From the point of view of the U.S., we did not take action against that bank. We took action to tell U.S. financial institutions not to do business with that bank. I might add that these are so-called Section 311 authorities that have been done not just with respect to a bank in Macau, but also I think there were a couple of banks in Europe, a couple of banks in the Middle East, having nothing to do with DPRK, but rather issues of money laundering, which is an international problem. It's part of a bigger picture that goes beyond the question of North Korea, the DPRK.

Question: Mr. Hill, has the South Korean energy proposal been discussed in the past few days?

Assistant Secretary Hill: We didn't have much of a discussion on the South Korean energy proposal. I think the South Koreans reiterated that, per the joint statement, they're certainly prepared to fulfill this plan, but we did not have much of a discussion on this.

Question: Up until now did you have the impression that… during your exchanges with the Chinese delegation, did you have the impression that there is a different attitude or there is any change that you can link directly to the visit of Hu Jintao to Pyongyang recently?

Assistant Secretary Hill: I cannot say there is any relationship to the visit of Hu Jintao to DPRK. I must say, the Chinese authorities…my Chinese counterparts, in talking about this overall issue, they kind of agree with me and agree with everyone else -- they'd like to move on, get this thing done, get this tied down, get this thing over with and we'll move on to the next problem. Like I've said before, we have really good cooperation with the Chinese. The Chinese are working very hard, both as a host and also as a member of this process, to try to get this thing done. China has no interest in seeing the DPRK producing nuclear materials.

Question: You don’t see direct influence on these talks now? In comparison with the last ones?

Assistant Secretary Hill: No, I do not see any change in the Chinese positive position toward solving this matter. We're in close touch with them, we're in close touch with all the parties, and I think everyone agrees that everybody's trying to get this thing done.

Question: Not even the North Korean delegation? As a result of this visit? Not even in the North Korean delegation?

Assistant Secretary Hill: I think the North Korean delegation continues to operate on its own time schedule, and I don't see any sign that President Hu Jintao was part of that.

Question: Are you still considering visiting Pyongyang?

Assistant Secretary Hill: I know there's been an idea about that. I know the South Korean press especially was interested in my going to Pyongyang, and what I've said is I'm quite willing to do that in the context of furthering the Six Party Talks. So if there's an opportunity, and if it makes sense, and if it helps the process and brings an end to this terrible problem, then I'm sure we'll look favorably on that idea.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, can you tell us the reason why the United States is [inaudible] from proposing a comprehensive idea for [inaudible] …is the reason why 72 hours, a short time?

Assistant Secretary Hill: Comprehensive is a big word. I think what we're very focused on is implementation rather than comprehensive. We're really focused on the need to implement the joint statement. It's a complex document. We're talking about economic issues, we're talking about normalization issues. We're working on all these issues right now, so I don't think the problem is a lack of ideas. I think the problem is we need to have more time to figure out an actual plan to roll out what needs to be done. Thank you very much.

Tomorrow I can truly, truthfully, honestly predict is the last day. Then you can all go to Pusan or wherever you're going and ask a lot of questions over there.

Question: When are you going to leave here? Tomorrow afternoon?

Assistant Secretary Hill: I don't know. I have some plans. I want to see a little of China. This is great country, really an extremely important partner to the U.S., and I just confess, seeing the inside of these hotels and seeing you all is…[Laughter]. I think there's more to China than seeing all of you. So I'd like to get out and see a little of China. So I'm going do that this weekend. Thank you very much.

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