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Comments to Reporters Prior to Departure From Japan

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Haneda Airport
Tokyo, Japan
July 15, 2007

QUESTION: [inaudible]

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I haven't heard anything directly. I'll be going to Seoul today to see our South Korean counterparts, and maybe I'll pick up some information from them. But I just would caution everyone to understand that this is the first step. It's only meaningful insofar as if we make additional steps. We have a lot of work to do. So obviously we're very pleased by this step, but we realize how long it took, how long it took to get here. So I think we have to really work very hard for the additional steps that are very necessary.

So we'll see how we do in Beijing. We'll be discussing the way ahead. We'll be discussing how to sequence some of the next tranche of initiatives. And let's hope that we can get through this by the end of the year. But it's going to be a lot of work.

QUESTION: Do you expect a report today from the IAEA?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, my understanding is that the IAEA was to begin their work today, and they needed to inspect all five sites. Now some of the sites are not so busy right now, such as the 200 megawatt reactor is not ongoing. But they still have to go there and check it. And so I think it's going to take them a full day before we get any report from them. But then they have to work very hard to begin to install some of the detection devices -- you know, the cameras. So they have a lot of technical work to do. So I think we will hear some kind of preliminary report today, but it's going to take them a couple of weeks to get all their equipment set up and everything.

QUESTION: When do you expect verification from the IAEA?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, the verification, I think we will hear something today, but I don't know when. But I think we have every reason to believe that they have indeed started the shutdown. Now, you understand, starting the shutdown means you have to have some equipment cool off, and then you have to put seals on. It'll take a few days. But what I think was done -- and I think we will soon hear that verified -- is that they actually started the shutdown.

QUESTION: You haven't heard anything from IAEA members today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Not today, not today. We certainly have heard from them yesterday, but not today.

QUESTION: Have IAEA members definitely started working for verification?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Our understanding is they went to Pyongyang and to Yongbyon last night and maybe got some sleep last night and began to do some work today.

QUESTION: Could you please tell me your schedule in South Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think I’m going to meet my counterpart, Ambassador Chun Young Woo. I think I have some other meetings, including in the Unification Ministry, and there may be some other meetings. Obviously, I'll be meeting with our ambassador there in the embassy. So my understanding is I'll leave early Tuesday morning to go to Beijing.

QUESTION: What sort of implications do you give to the next round of talks in Beijing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, obviously we did not want to meet in Beijing and talk about when we are going to shut down the Yongbyon complex. So it's good that this is done. But as I said earlier, we have a lot of work to do. Things went very slowly during the spring with this BDA situation. We cannot allow things to go this slowly in the fall. We need to really pick up the pace. So I will be urging -- and I know a lot of my colleagues will be urging -- that we try to move quickly.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, when do you expect to hear from the IAEA?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: My understanding is that they will issue some kind of statement or do something by the end of the day. But, again, it's up to them. They have a lot of technical work to do. So I'm not standing, waiting for them to respond. Our assumption is -- and I think it's a correct assumption -- that the shutdown has begun. And the IAEA is on the scene and doing their work. So I'm not too concerned about whether they'll be able to get back to us tonight.

QUESTION: What are you planning to discuss with the South Koreans?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Just the same thing I talked about with the Japanese. We're a treaty ally with South Korea; we're a treaty ally with Japan. We like to coordinate our positions before we go into these talks. And, certainly, we talk about the timing of some of the issues, especially the timing of the ministerial and then see what ideas we have. So it's just regular consultations. I hope on Tuesday I'll get a chance to consult with the Russians, Chinese, and the North Koreans so that when we go in, there are no surprises and we can make progress.

QUESTION: Do you expect the shutdown process to take a couple of days? Is that correct?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don't know. Ask the IAEA. They know better than I do. Those are technical questions. I know it's begun. I don't know when they complete the process. It involves some cooling down, as I understand. But the IAEA is really expert on that, and I know they've worked out the details of this when they were in Yongbyon a few weeks ago.

All right? I don't want to miss the plane. I'm looking forward to seeing the typhoon from the air. So we'll talk to you all later. Okay? Good to see you.

Released on July 15, 2007

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