Press Availability in JapanChristopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Fuji-Ya Yumoto Hotel
July 14, 2007
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: OK. Well, actually, I really don’t have a statement. I think, first of all, I was very pleased to have a little time to get out of Tokyo and visit this very beautiful area of the country. Unfortunately it’s been raining a little, but I gather it’s been raining all over. Anyway, it’s been a nice opportunity.
I don’t really have anything new on the denuclearization issue. As you know, the South Korean ship arrived at the port early this morning. vAs I understand, it was escorted into the port around noontime. I’m sure they’re going to be unloading the heavy fuel oil. And in the meantime, the IAEA inspectors have headed to Yongbyon. So I think we’re going to hear very soon, but I don’t have any announcement for you on that. I’m sure when it happens the DPRK authorities will announce that they’ve shut down the complex.
As far as I know, in terms of logistics, I guess we have to see how this typhoon progresses. But I would expect to be getting on to the ROK probably on Monday rather than on Sunday night because of the weather, and then go on to Beijing on Tuesday morning, and be ready for Six-Party Talks on Wednesday morning.
And as far as we know, the Six-Party Talks will still be a two- or possibly three-day affair. That is, Wednesday and Thursday and possibly Friday. So it’s hard not to have any announcement. I hope that’s not too disappointing for those of you who came all the way up here from Tokyo. But it’s a beautiful place, very fresh air. Any questions?
QUESTION: Brad Martin from Bloomberg News. A hang-up seems to be the abduction problem. How would you recommend to solve that? There is talk that maybe the Red Army guys might be turned over. What’s your thinking?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, as you know, that’s a very -- You’re asking a very general question about an issue that I think has been with us for some time and is obviously a great concern to the Japanese Government, the Japanese people and, frankly speaking, the American Government and the American people. So this is an issue which -- like some others -- I think is expected to be addressed within the bilateral elements of the Six-Party process. I know that when the Japanese-DPRK meeting took place in Hanoi it was raised. I gather there was not a lot of progress on it.
I think it is something that does need to be addressed. We’re hopeful as we go further in this process that it will be addressed. This is an extremely difficult issue for the families of these people, and it’s our view that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Now how it is done and what the resolution is, I can’t say at this point how it will be done. But certainly we believe that it’s something that obviously cannot be ignored in this process. So we will see as we go forward.
I think, clearly, in the long run countries cannot choose their neighbors. And the DPRK has a neighbor in Japan, and I think it’s clearly in the DPRK’s interest to reach out and figure out how to get along with Japan and how to deal with Japan. So, again, there’s really no new thoughts on this, except that it’s obviously an issue that has to be addressed.
QUESTION: Deguchi from Kyodo News. Considering the last invitation to you to North Korea and your acceptance of that from North Korea and yesterday’s announcement by the North Korean army to begin talks between the U.S. and North Korea, it seems that North Koreans would like to conduct more bilateral meetings with the U.S. How is your thought about this? Would you like to hold more bilateral meetings with North Koreans if it helps change the momentum of the Six-Party Talks?
A/S HILL: Well, I think the Six-Party process is the process that we very much support. And I think to the extent we are actually making progress on denuclearization, I would say it’s because of the Six-Party Process. So it’s our very strong policy to support the Six-Party Process. Now that doesn’t mean that within that process we won’t have bilateral contacts. We will have bilateral contacts, and we’ll have as many contacts as we believe are necessary to support the Six-Party Process.
But as your question implies, we don’t want to have a bilateral dialogue that could in any way undermine the Six-Party Process. On the contrary, we want bilateral talks to support the Six-Party Process. That’s certainly the spirit in which we decided to take the trip three weeks ago to Pyongyang. And I think we’ll continue with these types of bilateral meetings, provided they help reinforce the vehicle that we have -- the vehicle of the Six-Party Process, which we do believe is the way to get at denuclearization. It’s the way to get at energy needs. It’s the way to get at the need to organize multilateral processes, both on the Peninsula and in the region more broadly -- that is, Northeast Asia.
As for the statement by the DPRK authority the other day in Panmunjom, I think people need to understand that any peace process, any peace mechanism, is one that would be done by directly related governments, not militaries. Militaries have been involved in maintaining the armistice. Indeed, the DPRK or the KPA -- Korean People’s Army -- person who made that statement was in Panmunjom, and they are involved with the armistice maintenance. I think it’s important to understand the KPA has not attended talks, because they have objected to the presence of ROK army personnel there. So if the DPRK has some new thoughts on the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, we’d very much look forward to hearing about it from their government or most likely through the Six-Party mechanism. But we haven’t heard of any new thoughts in this regard.
So I would encourage people to understand that we have invested a lot in the Six-Party process. We think it is really the right way to address the problem of denuclearization, the problem of energy needs and, more fundamentally, the problem of creating a greater sense of neighborhood in the region. So we don’t want to do anything that would undermine that process. And even as we go forward and as we make progress on denuclearization and possibly, we hope, in the context of progress on denuclearization, as we go forward and have a Korean Peninsula peace process, that would be something that would be done in parallel with the Six Parties. We have no interest in replacing the Six Parties with some other mechanism. We are very supportive of the Six Parties.
I hope that soon we will be hearing about a shutdown of the Yongbyon facility, and I think that will be a very good day for the Six-Party process.
QUESTION: My name is Yoshitomi from Mainichi News. Some report says that Pyongyang would shut down its nuclear reactor on Monday, just after they receive all the shipment of oil.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’ve seen that media report. I cannot confirm that media report. I think it’s a matter of, you know, today, tomorrow, maybe Monday. I just don’t know. I think I would encourage people to understand that, whether it’s Saturday or Sunday or Monday, it’s -- from the point of view of what we’re trying to accomplish -- not a big issue. What is a big issue is to take this step -- that is, the step of shutting down Yongbyon, the essential step of shutting down Yongbyon, and using that step as a means to take further steps and the further steps aiming at our ultimate destination, which is complete denuclearization.
So I really don’t think it’s all that useful to speculate about whether it’s going to come today, tonight, tomorrow morning. I think what we’re really looking forward to is getting this done and getting on to the next steps. And we hope in consideration of those next steps to be sitting down in Beijing on Wednesday and to begin to plan out what we can look forward to in the weeks and months ahead.
QUESTION: My name is Takuya Nishimura with Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper. Based on the notion that North Korea seems to be willing to shut down the Yongbyon facility or other nuclear facilities, how do you see the situation of their implementation of removing North Korea from the terrorist-supporting country list of the United States? And what is your idea of the situation of this issue at the end of the term of initial action?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, as you recall, in the February statement we agreed to begin this process. We agreed to begin the process of removing them from this list of state sponsors of terrorism. I think we will – Obviously this is an issue we’re going to be dealing with in this coming phase. I’m not prepared at this time to tell you precisely when it will happen. I think it will depend on some actions on the DPRK side, and it’s something that will emerge in the context of the negotiations. So I don’t want to tell you right now exactly what our plan is and what we are seeking from the DPRK -- because that would be kind of negotiating through the media, which we never do.
Believe me, we know all about this issue. We know all about how it would, in our view, fit into the goals we all would like to achieve, and we’re going to deal with it in the coming weeks and months. But I’m not prepared to tell you precisely how we’ll do it at this point.
QUESTION: Takashi Sakamoto with Yomiuri Shimbun. To my understanding, the initial steps include the discussion of the list of North Korean nuclear programs. Do you expect North Koreans are going to present that list when you meet with them in Beijing, even prior to the Six-Party chief-of-delegation meeting?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I don’t believe that will be presented at this time. I think that we will obviously be discussing it at the head-of-delegation meeting, and we will be trying to come up with some time schedule for it. But I don’t think we will expect to have a resolution or a negotiation on that issue.
What is very important for us is that when the comprehensive list is presented, that it is a list that will build trust rather than reduce trust. That means we have to have some continuing discussion about the elements of it ahead of time, because it is a very important issue. It is really the heart of the issue. It involves the transparency of the process. And so we’ll have to make sure that when it is finally tabled, it is a good and comprehensive list. So I think we’ll have discussions about it, but we will not have any actual negotiations on it.
QUESTION: So that discussion eventually will be merged with the discussion about next steps? I mean a declaration?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, a declaration is one of the early next steps. And we would expect the comprehensive list to be a declaration to be in a matter of several weeks, possibly a couple of months. We see it as coming before the disabling of the facility. So it’s coming soon; in other words, so we do need to get ready for it.
But, again, I want to be very careful that we don’t develop a perception that we are doing all of these things bilaterally. You recall one of the major issues that was holding us up in this first phase was this banking issue. So that was something we did need to address bilaterally when we met in Berlin. But some of these other issues are very much at the heart of the multilateral negotiations, and I would say the comprehensive list is one of those.
QUESTION: Hiroko Tabuchi with AP. Can I ask whether you are confident that North Korea and the other parties involved agree on what a shutdown of the Yongbyon facilities entails? North Korea has suggested that a shutdown is rather more temporary than what other parties would want. And, also, can we expect a permanent IAEA presence at the facilities to monitor and verify that the reactor remains shuttered?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, first of all, I would hope that – I mean what we’re not interested in is a shutdown as the end. As I said earlier, we’re interested in the shutdown as a step. And then we go to the next step, and we would get to disabling and then eventually dismantling and fully abandoning these facilities. So if you look at the February agreement, it says shutdown for the purpose of eventual abandonment. And I think that’s an important sentence, because it suggests we’re not just temporarily freezing something. Now shutdown is by definition something that someone could reverse if they wanted to. You could have a situation where the international inspectors are thrown out of the country. You could have a situation where the DPRK defies the other five parties. I mean you could have a lot of bad situations.
But the purpose of this shutdown is very clear. It’s a shutdown for the purpose of eventual abandonment of these facilities. I think there have been very good, productive discussions and negotiations between the IAEA and the DPRK on precisely what is meant by a shutdown. I think all countries involved in the Six-Party process have been in touch with the IAEA. In fact, I think it was back in March when several members of the Six-Party process met with the IAEA together. So I think we have a very good and clear understanding of how this will proceed.
The big issue, I think, is not the shutdown. I think the issue is having the shutdown move to the next stage, which is disablement.
QUESTION: Can I follow up with another question?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You can follow, but I’ll probably give you the same answer. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I believe you mentioned that the declaration is the early next step. So is it fair to say that we can recognize that you are thinking that you can separate the declaration from disablement of the nuclear facility --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, disablement is also an issue --
QUESTION: -- at the request of North Korea?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, disablement is also in the February agreement, in roman numeral IV of the February 13 agreement. I think from a sequential point of view, we would have a comprehensive list before we have disablement. I think we’ve just been thinking in those terms. I think logically one could, you know, I suppose you could do it another way. But we’ve chosen to go with comprehensive list and then disablement. Again, they’re not unrelated. But, at the same time, one does not depend on the other. This is just the route that we’ve chosen. If you have a better idea, let me know, though.
QUESTION: Deguchi with Kyodo again. So if you got kind of a deadlock on the declaration of the nuclear --
A/S HILL: You’re looking for trouble.
QUESTION: -- do you think that we cannot go forward on disablement? So we first have to be completely satisfied with the declaration and then head on to the disablement, or can we make them go parallel?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, I mean we’ve looked at the elements, and we think we want to get going on this declaration issue and then go on disablement. I think in terms of degree of difficulty, it’s probably -- we would think, we would hope that the comprehensive list is an easier step, because you are just providing a list. You are not actually doing things on the ground. You’re just honestly providing a list. So we had thought that would be next.
I’m hopeful that we won’t have any problems in agreeing on a list. But it is important, and if we bog down, if we have problems with it, we’ll have to assess where we are and see if we have to adjust the strategy. But for now, I think we are looking at the comprehensive list as sort of the next big issue.
Now, of course, on our side we have measures we need to take in connection with the list and with disablement and, namely, that’s the provision of considerable amounts of fuel oil or fuel oil equivalents. So that means we need to get moving on the energy working group and try to make sure we have a clear understanding of how we can do our part of the bargain, which is to get this kind of energy assistance in at a rapid enough pace that the DPRK will move on their side.
So these are all issues that we need to work out. I mean, I wish I could tell you that we won’t have any more problems, that the only problem that we ever had was BDA and everything else would be smooth sailing. But experience tells me otherwise.
QUESTION: Kaori Arioka with NHK. As for the coming head-of-delegation meeting, you said you are expecting kind of an agreement on the roadmap for --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, an agreement on – that is, what we’re doing, what’s going to happen now, what’s going to happen in the next set of actions, some concept of the time schedule, when do we get the working groups together, when do we have a full Six-Party meeting, and then when do we have a ministers meeting. So I hate to use the word “roadmap,” but yes.
QUESTION: Does that include the kind of date or benchmarks for all five working groups’ meetings?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we would want – We had a little discussion about the timing of working groups. We don’t want progress in one working group to depend on progress in another. But, at the same time, we want them all to be going forward. We don’t want a situation where four working groups are merrily marching forward, and then one is not. So I think there will be some effort to make sure all five get scheduled. So I think we will be very mindful of the need that all of them need to be making progress.
All right, Bradley gets one more question here. Well she is -- All right, we’ll have Bradley go. He’s written a book about the DPRK. So people who write books get to ask two questions.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. And you’ve sold quite a few of them for me. Hwang Jang Yop, the former North Korean party secretary, says that Yongbyon is not useful anymore. It’s just outmoded, and their giving it up is not a very significant gesture. He says what he heard was that it’s all uranium these days. Do you buy that? Does it fit with your intelligence?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I don’t discuss intelligence, but I’ll just tell you we’re looking forward to getting Yongbyon shut down and then disabled and fully abandoned.
QUESTION: My name is Ayako Kimura from TBS. My question is kind of related to his. But in the next session, in the next meeting, when you are talking about the complete list, are you going to be discussing the uranium enrichment program at all? Are you going to bring that up and try to see it be included in the list?
A/S HILL: Complete means complete, and nuclear means nuclear, so we’re not looking to exclude anything.
All right. Don’t you all want to go out and enjoy the weather?
QUESTION: May Masangkay from Kyodo News. Sir, you mentioned about energy a while ago. I was wondering, every time you come to Japan you repeatedly stress the importance of the abduction issue and all that, but Japan has repeatedly said that it won’t provide energy unless there is resolution of the abduction issue.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think they said, I think the term of art was “progress.”
QUESTION: Progress on the abduction issue and -- Well, the abduction issue is a very complicated issue, and it’s really hard to find a way to find progress. So I was wondering how you see things going. How are you going to reconcile the fact that – I mean how are you going to, if Japan doesn’t keep, doesn’t take part in energy, I’m sure it’s going to somehow endanger the energy progress, I mean the energy process -- the support of the united front of the six parties to provide energy to North Korea. And, well, what I wanted to ask was that if there is no progress on the abduction issue, Japan won’t provide energy aid. How concerned is the United States with this stance, and how are you going to convince Japan to give aid?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, better put, how are we going to convince the DPRK to make progress on this very difficult, very emotional, very real problem that has arisen in this bilateral relationship? So rather than say what are we going to do if it fails, why don’t we say: How are we going to support this? And I think I have made it very clear to the DPRK on many occasions that I think a good relationship -- they need a good relationship with Japan. As I said, you can choose a lot of things in life, but you usually can’t choose your neighbors. And so you have to figure out ways to get along with your neighbors. You have to respect the issues that your neighbors have and try to look for ways to resolve it.
And I think it’s very much in the DPRK’s interest, having acknowledged that this happened, I think it’s very important for them to be transparent about it, and figure out all the details, and make sure that everything is clearly accounted for and, if there are people there, that they should obviously all be returned. So I think it’s just part of what we’re trying to do in the overall process here in the Six Parties -- which is not just deal with denuclearization, not just deal with energy, but deal with, I think, the broader issues of relations among states in Northeast Asia. So I’m just not going to stand here and tell you what I’m going to do if this fails, because I think it has to succeed.
QUESTION: Hiroshi Hiyama from Agence France Presse. It’s good to have you, I guess, try to find a couple of hours to chill out, but are you planning on having some meetings here in Hakone or possibly on Sunday?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Do you think I’m meeting Kim Gye Gwan here in Hakone?
QUESTION: Well, last time you had an interesting business trip from Japan.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, no, I’m not doing that. I’m just having some wonderful Japanese food here in Hakone. You should try it yourself. And maybe we could make this the last question, because you’re wearing me out here in Hakone.
QUESTION: Sorry, just confirming that you understand that IAEA inspectors will remain in North Korea to monitor this process.
A/S HILL: Oh yes. They’re setting up their monitoring processes. I think the idea will be that once the thing is shut down, they have to set up their cameras for monitoring it. They had, I think, a pretty good discussion with the DPRK about this a couple of weeks ago. So we are very confident that the monitoring, verifying methods as worked out between the IAEA and the DPRK Government will be sufficient to ensure that it is in fact shut down, the facilities are in fact shut down.
All right? OK, see you later.
Released on July 15, 2007