Remarks at Completion of First Day of Six-Party TalksChristopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Evening Transit - Traders Hotel
November 9, 2005
Assistant Secretary Hill: Hi. How are you? We had a long day. So did you probably. This is the first day of the first session of the fifth round and so we reviewed sort of where we were after September 19. We exchanged some ideas on the way forward. We did this in the plenary session, so all six parties met together. Then, speaking for the U.S. side, we had five bilateral meetings, and I've just come from dinner with the DPRK counterpart, Mr. Kim Gye Gwan. We're going to see how this goes in the next couple of days. We anticipate this winding up on Friday. The purpose is to try to figure out a way forward, figure out how we're going to take principles and turn them into actual implementation. To be sure, we do have some disagreements, but I think it's important to note that everyone understands what they signed up for. Everyone understands what the principles were, and, to be sure, we'll have disagreements about who goes first, et cetera, but it was frankly a very good and substantive day. So unless you have any questions, I'm going to go to bed.
Question: Today, the Japanese side, they proposed two working groups and three tracks. They made that proposal, right, today?
Assistant Secretary Hill: Did they tell you they were going to do that? The Japanese had a very good proposal.
Question: Can you agree on it?
Assistant Secretary Hill: They had a very good, very interesting proposal. I don't want to say what I agree with and what I don't agree with, but the point being that they had three tracks and they tried to lay out how they would make progress in these three tracks. The first track of course being denuclearization, and then the second track being bilateral, and the third track being a sort of economic track. I think it was a very useful proposal to how we can look at this issue. What we don't want to do is to get into a protracted discussion of who takes what step first and how do we calibrate each step, but rather to sort of think boldly about how we can really make some important steps forward.
Question: We heard that the DPRK delegation showed their own idea of step-by-step denuclearization. What did they explain and what do you think about it?
Assistant Secretary Hill: The DPRK also had some ideas on how to go forward. Frankly, they introduced some elements that are not in the agreed principles. And they introduced some elements that, really, we are not able to work with. But on the other hand, they showed a willingness to move forward and to figure out how to implement the principles. Now remember, what we're looking for is ideas on how to take a document that is essentially two and a half pages of principles and to see if we can take those two and a half pages of principles and move them forward into an agreement. We're going to have a lot more bilateral discussions tomorrow. I think we'll have a meeting of heads of delegation early tomorrow morning. I had today two meetings with the Chinese, who are most interested in seeing how we can move this process forward. I think it was a very useful day today.
Question: Could you elaborate on the part that you cannot agree in the North Korean proposal?
Assistant Secretary Hill: You want me to talk about what I cannot agree with. We agree with a lot. I think the DPRK needs to understand that we need to move swiftly on denuclearization, and in fact that denuclearization is the first step in the agreement. I'm not saying it's the only step, but we need to move quickly on denuclearization, and I think the DPRK has a much more deliberate or slower process of how to handle denuclearization. We'd like to see denuclearization in the fastest track.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, did North Korean harden their position on their demand of the light water reactor.
Assistant Secretary Hill: No, no, I would not say they hardened their position at all. I hate to say they softened their position because if I told you they softened their position, tomorrow they would then harden their position. Let me just say that there were no surprises there, and in fact I, frankly speaking, felt that we have the way forward on that issue.
Question: So they remain in the same position as one month ago?
Assistant Secretary Hill: Yeah, I don't think there were any new problems encountered on that.
Question: What specific steps do you think North Korea should take in terms of trust building?
Assistant Secretary Hill: It's my contention, and I like to think other people agree with me on this, that the DPRK is paying a very, very high price for maintaining what they call a nuclear deterrent. I think the DPRK really ought to look at whether the nuclear programs they have are worth keeping. I had some discussions with the DPRK on the so-called deterrent value of these programs, and I made very clear that the U.S. has no intention of attacking the DPRK either by conventional or nuclear means, and therefore, one has to ask the question, why are they maintaining this nuclear program and does the nuclear program in the DPRK make it more of a target or less of a target. We had a very good discussion about that.
Question: In terms of more specific terms, do you mean the declaration of all the existing nuclear programs or turning off the reactors?
Assistant Secretary Hill: We had a discussion about that. They have to, when the time comes and the time will come soon, they have to really declare what they've got. What we donít want is a situation where they declare something and we know that there's something else. And then we open up a credibility problem on what they've declared. So we want them to really look at the declaration as something that is as close to the truth as they can make it. That's very important and we had a discussion, a good discussion on that.
Question: According to the Interfax agency, the North Koreans had some proposal about the steps. The first step [inaudible] for the nuclear arms and the second step [inaudible].
Assistant Secretary Hill: They did and they laid out some of the fundamental steps, but there are steps within steps and we have to see how those steps really would operate. But clearly, laying out what their programs are, laying out the fact that they're going to halt their programs. One of the points we made to them is we were at a certain situation on September 19 where they agreed to certain measures. And the problem is that since September 19, the Yongbyon reactor has continued to operate. In a sense, the problem has actually gotten worse since September 19. So, I rather diplomatically pointed that out to them. By diplomatically, I mean clearly I pointed that out to them. We have to work through that, and we've got some time to do that.
Question: How about a light water reactor?
Assistant Secretary Hill: You know, it was an issue that came up in the plenary session and the DPRK has also raised it in bilateral terms, but we have made the same point that other parties in the Six Party Talks have made, which is that we will be prepared to have a discussion about the subject of the provision of a light water reactor, but only after the DPRK gets rid of its nuclear weapons, gets rid of its nuclear programs, gets back into the NPT and has IAEA safeguards. That is the appropriate time at which to have a discussion on the light water reactor. Some other countries, and I'll have them speak for themselves, also made very clear to the DPRK that it was the DPRK who pulled themselves out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and really created a situation where it is very difficult for other countries to cooperate with the DPRK on nuclear energy. Now, the DPRK has mentioned that there's the example of India, but it does not require too much explanation to explain that the DPRK and India are two rather different countries with rather different circumstances. So, there was some discussion on that.
Question: Mr. Hill, did the Chinese side put forth any specific proposals today? And a second question: what length of time did the North Koreans propose for their disarmament?
Assistant Secretary Hill: We did not get into the length of time that they're proposing for a disarmament process. I certainly made the case that the sooner, the better. And with respect to the Chinese, they did not propose an actual length of time. Some of these issues will depend on the technical questions of how quickly it takes to deal with these issues.
Question: Did the Chinese side put any other proposals, issues on the table?
Assistant Secretary Hill: The Chinese essentially proposed that by the end of three days -- and I donít want to be too specific whether it's Friday night or Saturday morning, or Sunday, depending on when your airplane reservations are -- the Chinese made very clear that at some point they will have to put together a chairman's statement, to summarize what we've done and also identify the way forward and when we are going to meet. Because we consider this only the first session of the fifth round of the Six Party Talks.
Question: And what happens tomorrow?
Assistant Secretary Hill: I think we're going to start with a meeting of the heads of delegation and then move to bilateral sessions, and begin to sort of identify how we might go forward. There are some delegations who would like to see the way forward charted by some kind of roadmap. I'm not sure we're ready really to talk roadmap, but certainly we're prepared to look at how we might go forward from here. Even though this is only three days and we all have to break in order to get to APEC, there is a strong sense among all six delegations that we really want to make progress in these three days, so that when we come back for the second session of the fifth round of the Six Party Talks, we'll be able to make further progress.
Question: Did the North Koreans mention Bush's comment about tyrants at all? Either formally or informally?
Assistant Secretary Hill: You'll have to ask them. Is that the comment that the Japanese press reported about speaking to Brazilian youth in where was it? Rio or Brasilia or something? I don't know. I'm sorry, you'll have to ask them.
Question: Who bought dinner tonight?
Assistant Secretary Hill: Who bought dinner? [Laughter] I don't know. You bought dinner, I don't know!
Question: What I am saying is who proposed to have dinner, I mean with the North Koreans. You had dinner with the North Koreans?
Assistant Secretary Hill: I had dinner with the head of the North Korean delegation. Just myself and an interpreter. We sat down, I'm trying to think who actually picked up the check. I'm not sure. Is that important to you? I could get back to you. [Laughter]
Question: So Mr. Ambassador, you're not going to propose any complete action plans or roadmap tomorrow?
Assistant Secretary Hill: No, I think we're going to talk about concepts of how to go forward. We want to make progress, but we also want to be realistic about a three day session. There's a lot going on right now in terms of APEC. We want the three day session to be an important three day session because we want to go onto still another session. But it's a little difficult right now to talk about specific roadmap issues. We're in very close contact with all the parties. I know you're a Japanese journalist and you can be assured that the Japanese delegation is working very hard on figuring out the way forward.
Question: Are you confident that in the next two days you can identify the framework of negotiations and set up working groups?
Assistant Secretary Hill: I donít know if we'll be able to actually set up the working groups. Probably we will be able to identify the framework of the negotiations and to go forward. How we do it, whether it's working groups, whether it's agenda items or separate sessions, I'm not really, at this point, prepared to say that. If you talk about working groups, what you talk about is dividing delegations, and the delegations are not that big, so should I attend one group and not the other? I'm not really prepared to say that at this point. But what I am prepared to say is that we really want to move forward and we want to make demonstrable progress in the next few weeks.
Question: Have there been any discussions about North Korea's uranium program?
Assistant Secretary Hill: Not really, except to say that we have reiterated to all parties the need to seek clarity on this issue. That is, the uranium enrichment program has to be part of the solution to this. And we rely on the DPRK view that in fact the uranium enrichment programÖ there are questions that need to be answered to the satisfaction of all concerned. So I can assure you it's an issue that we continue to be very interested in. I'm going to encourage you all to get some sleep. Thank you very much and maybe I'll see you tomorrow.
Released on November 10, 2005