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Evening Walkthrough With Reporters at Six-Party Talks

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
St. Regis Hotel
Beijing, China
July 17, 2007

Remarks in progress….

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I went over to the Russian Embassy and had a meeting with the Russian delegation. And then after that I met with the Japanese delegation. I think we’re going to try to have a quick meeting with the South Koreans at some point, even though we were just with them yesterday. And tomorrow morning we’ll have a meeting with the Chinese.

So, it would be DPRK -- we met very briefly in our Embassy, then we had lunch and then met very briefly in their Embassy, because I had to go to Russian Embassy. And, basically, we had the same conversation in all three places. We discussed what we’re going to try to accomplish here in the next couple of days. And we looked ahead at the sequence of events coming up. I think also in all three conversations we talked about what the second tranche of action is going to look like -- mainly the disablement and declaration phase and fuel oil. And then we have other considerations that might come up.

So I tried to advance the idea that we need a sort of overall timeframe for that second phase. My own view is we ought to try to wrap this up in calendar year ‘07 so we can get (inaudible) in ‘08. And I think we’ll have some discussions about that kind of issue tomorrow and as we convene the Six Party Talks.

While these were interesting and useful discussions, I want to emphasize that the Chairman of this process is the Chinese, and we want to hear from the Chinese how they want to structure the next couple of days. China has an extremely important role to play. In our view, they’ve done a magnificent job of organizing these Six Party Talks and, frankly, getting us this far. So, we want to continue to work with China. Unfortunately, my counterpart Wu Dawei is not available today, so I hope to see him tomorrow morning.

And my understanding is the Six Party Talks will get going tomorrow at 2:00 o’clock with the first head of delegation meeting.

QUESTION: You say you want to do this by this calendar year. From your discussions today, do you think that it is possible?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You have to ask them. We’re all in the same ballpark. So we’ll see. Again, I want to emphasize that we have to see what the Chinese want to do, because they’re the Chair. So these are just ideas, on my part and others’. So we have to see where the Chinese want to take this.

QUESTION: But, (inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You know it’s not fair for me to speak like I’m their press spokesman. So maybe you should try to ask them. I laid out my view on how this could be done, and I think we had a good discussion on that basis.

QUESTION: Are there any conflicts between your view and the others?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No.

QUESTION: There were some press reports out, and I’m wondering if you’re getting the sense that the North Koreans are requesting any significant movement on ending UN sanctions and (inaudible) off the terrorism list before they do much toward the declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know they’re going to have their issues, to be sure. But we do have a February Agreement that in Roman numeral IV, that basically lays out what it is we’re talking about. But that can be added to. So we had a good discussion. At this point there were no showstoppers.

I want to emphasize, though, we’re not trying to come up with an agreement today or tomorrow. So this is not going to be one of those 11th hour Friday night things where we don’t know whether we have an agreement or not. I think we’re basically looking for a work plan. Try to figure out how the working groups, for example, can meet. The technical ones we want to get going on fairly early – namely, denuclearization and especially the energy/economic ones. So I think we’ll just continue to try to come up with a schedule that makes sense for the next month or two -- and also to schedule our ministerial meeting. And, boy, it’s not easy to get six ministers’ calendars cleared for one day. So, we’ll have to keep working on that.

QUESTION: You came here with the whole goal in trying to set the agenda on everything. Are you pretty confident that you’ll be able to set an agenda on the declaration, the working groups and everything before you leave here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we can, yes. These were good meetings, and I think people are feeling pretty confident about our Six Party process. I want to stress to you once again that the Chinese are Chair. The Chinese are the most important player here, and we haven’t had a chance to meet them yet. But we will in the morning before we get going. But I think we’re all on the same sheet of music.

QUESTION: What specific goal of wrapping this up by the end of the year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I’m talking about the phase two, follow-up phase items -- the declaration and disablement. But we have even more important phase three to come, which is the abandonment of fissile material and weapons, or explosive devices. So that’s extremely important. But it’s probably an ’08 thing.

QUESTION: Did you seek out any specific help whether the declaration (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We began to talk about that. But we really didn’t have a lot of time, and I think we will discuss that issue more in the next couple of days. But you’re right to look at that, because we need to know when this declaration would come.

QUESTION: Do you expect we will hear about that by the end of the next few days?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I hope so. I hope so. I think it depends on what kind of instructions people have brought from capitals. But I think we should be able to do that.

QUESTION: Do you expect (inaudible) disablement or maybe disablement could start first and then you work things out?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we’ve always had the view that we first need to have a declaration to know what it is we are going to have disabled. But you know, I don’t want to get into a situation where if we don’t nail down the declaration then we can’t start with the disablement. So I want to have a little flexibility on that. But, generally speaking, we’re talking about declaration. And once we define what is declared, that helps define what needs to be disabled.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We have an agreement this declaration will involve all fissile material, and I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You would have to ask Kim that. I don’t know what he’s authorized to do. I mean, we just had a preliminary discussion today. It was a good discussion, but you would have to ask him what his authority said.

QUESTION: You ran into some tricky issues with the (inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It has to be dealt with. When you have a declaration, it can’t be a partial declaration. So it has to be dealt with. We’ll have to have a conversation about that.

QUESTION: You had a chance to meet with the Japanese and the North Koreans today. Did the North Koreans bring up their usual concerns about Japanese involvement in the Six-Party Talks? And you had a chat with the Japanese. Are there any concerns going forward about that working relationship?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, actually not. No. I’m not saying we won’t have problems in the future, but nothing I saw today would have led me to agree with that.

QUESTION: Mr. Hill, in the implementation we had a big bump with the issue of getting North Korea its money. Are there any bumps in the road that you foresee right now on this and with the North Koreans seem to take a very literalist interpretation? In this implementation of the initial round, what are the concerns that need to be addressed?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes we ran into this banking issue that was not foreseen, or the problem it posed was not foreseen by anybody. But we got through it. I’m sure there will be other issues, and we will figure out how to get through them.

So I really do believe -- I’ve been in a lot of these kind of negotiations, and I just think we have the right framework for this. I think the Six-Party process is a very good way to handle this, and I just feel we can deal with a lot of really tough issues. Even banking issues in Macau, we somehow managed to do it. So I’m confident we can get through this and keep going. I’m very, very aware of the difficulty of getting through this process to the endgame and getting the endgame done. But I think this is the right way to go. We’ll see.

QUESTION: Optimistically, what do you hope to accomplish? In the best-case scenario, what is going to happen by the end of these discussions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You mean this week? I think sort of a clear work plan ahead, a clear understanding of how the working groups will contribute to how we’re going to sequence the second phase so we can move quickly and get through that. I think the DPRK has an incentive to try to get moving on to the next phase, because they would like to keep the fuel oil coming. And we have a great incentive, because it gets us beyond this shutdown to disablement. And so I think everyone is sort of incentivized in the same direction -- maybe by different means, but in the same direction. So we’ll see. We’ll see.

QUESTION: There was a statement from the North Korean military about peace negotiations. Did it bring up any new ideas, new thoughts?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know what that statement was but --

QUESTION: There was no discussion about it today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: -- I don’t think it was coordinated in any way on the Six-Party process. It was an interesting statement. I read the whole thing complete, with allegations of nuclear weapons and stuff like that.

QUESTION: Did you emphasize again the importance of improving the relationship with Japan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Every time, and did it again today. You can choose many things in life, but you cannot choose your neighbors.

QUESTION: What about military talks? North Korea talked about military talks with the U.S.?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That was an issue that came up this weekend. But it does not appear to have been coordinated in any way with what we’re trying to do here at the Six-Party process. By the way, militaries police armistice agreements. But we’re looking at a peace process, and that is something governments need to do.

OK? I’m really tired, and I’d really like to get moving.

QUESTION: What’s happening in the rest of the evening and tomorrow morning?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think I’m going to take it easy this evening. I think I may meet with my ROK counterpart just to touch base with him, although we saw each other most of the day yesterday. Then I think my first meeting is fairly early tomorrow with the Chinese, because I think the Chinese will have consultations in the morning in anticipation of the Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: What time do you leave here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think I’ll be leaving here -- don’t hold me to this -- but I think I’ll be leaving here about 7:45 to go to the Embassy. And then I’ll try to get out to Diaoyutai in time for meetings starting around 9:30.

QUESTION: You’ve seem to have been making a lot of progress when we’re not here -- in other words in Berlin, Pyongyang, New York. I know you would say these are still part of the Six-Party process, but they’re also one-on-one. And I was just wondering if you could characterize what are these one-on-one meetings contributing? Are they ice breakers? Are they indispensable? How would you characterize them?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well I think we’re always taken the view that the Six-Party process is a kind of platform. And on that platform we do a number of things, including having these bilateral meetings. I cannot imagine the Six-Party process without bilateral meetings. But, to be frank with you, I cannot imagine bilateral meetings without the Six-Party process.

To be sure, in the bilateral meetings you are able to have more give and take than you could have if you had six different delegations in the room. But, you know, this process is bigger than any one country or any two countries. So I think the Six-Party process is very essential. And, beyond that, I would say having China as the Chair was very essential.

I’m not sure I can really agree to the premise of your question to suggest that we made more progress in Berlin, for example, than we may have in Beijing. When I look back on the Six-Party process, I will remember very, very well the efforts of all the parties -- especially the Chinese -- who put together our September ’05 agreement. I will remember vividly for a long time the efforts of the Chinese to get us together at 2:00 in the morning to finally finish the February agreement -- and that was tough going -- and the structure of that February agreement, where in addition to having furthered the shutdown of the reactor, we went beyond it with this preview of the next phase with the 950,000 tons of fuel oil in return for the full declaration and the disablement. That was purely done out at the Diauyutai over some very, very tough meetings. So I think we’ve got the right process here. And I really look forward to working with the Chinese to make sure we get to the end of this. And then we can all go home and watch things go.

See you later.

QUESTION: Do you plan to meet with the North Koreans tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No. But, again, we will probably have a lot of bilateral meetings. But no plan right now.

QUESTION: Who bought lunch today? [laughter]

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. I didn’t; I know that.



Released on July 17, 2007

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