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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 18, 2007

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Hello, I’m the warm up act for Sasae, who should be coming here shortly.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think today we just began what I think will be a two-day meeting. I think the plan is to conclude it tomorrow. I don’t believe it will go through to Friday. I think we all continue to have a lot of bilateral discussions. But we did have a lengthy, I think, two and a half hour head of delegation meeting that followed a lunch that was also set up. I think the meeting went according to plan. That is, we discussed a number of issues, including a sort of work plan for the period ahead. We discussed getting the working groups together. We discussed some of the technical issues of sequencing the elements of the next phase -- namely, especially, the issue of the fuel oil. Because the DPRK capacity per month for fuel oil is something like 50,000 tons and the amount of fuel oil is something like 950,000, so if you just do that on a month-by-month basis that is too many months. So there was some discussion about things like that.

But I think the main point is all this will be kicked through the working group. And we discussed an overall target timeframe where we try to get done with these phase two issues. So, overall, a very good discussion. I think we will continue it tomorrow. We’ll probably wrap it up tomorrow afternoon with a Chairman’s statement.

QUESTION: Mr. Hill, the February agreement had five steps -- 50,000 tons of fuel being one of them, a list of all nuclear programs including plutonium extraction –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Discussions of a list, yes.

QUESTION: Discussion of a list, and also the Trading With the Enemy Act. Has that first step been completed already?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, we assessed that they are done. We had some discussion on what the declaration would be, what the list would be for the declaration. I think it was agreed that will continue as they begin to produce the list -- I’m sorry, as they produce the declaration. But we need to have a sort of working agreement on when the declaration would be produced, when the disablement would be accomplished.

We’ve always thought doing the declaration should come before simply because we need to know what needs to be disabled. So you should first have a list and a declaration before actually disabling. But, again, we don’t want to put ourselves on a narrow path where one element depends on the other.

So I think we assessed that our previous first stage undertakings have largely been completed. I think the remaining fuel oil will be shipped, of the remaining 50,000 tons, will be shipped to the DPRK at the very beginning of August. So I think we are basically done on that.

I think what we really need to focus on is this issue of the declaration, the disablement, and the fuel oil. There are some bilateral considerations, and those have to continue to be worked. We were under the obligation in the initial February agreement to begin the process. We’ve certainly done that, and we will be continuing that process as we go into this next phase.

QUESTION: Ambassador, you agreed to the target time frames?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I would say we had a good discussion on it. But why don’t you stay tuned for the Chairman’s statement. I don’t want to reveal all the elements that our Chairman will be addressing in his statement, probably sometime tomorrow.

QUESTION: Mr. Chun apparently said that Mr. Kim told him that they are going to provide all of the list and they are willing to disable in the coming five, six months. Can you confirm that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t want to get into too many specifics on that, except to say there was a very good and positive discussion on all of these issues. And I think the mood was very business-like, very forward-looking, because of the fact that the first phase elements -- albeit a little late -- but nonetheless were getting done.

QUESTION: Was there any opposition to your idea of a deadline? Or to end the second phase by the end of year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We talked about a sort of target phase. And, again, I think that will be reflected in the Chairman’s statement. So I -- Again, I’d rather not tell you what is in the Chairman’s statement. Then you won’t buy a copy when it comes out tomorrow [laughter].

QUESTION: Do you already have a draft statement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, no. I think the Chairman will probably do one tomorrow. But today was a very substantive discussion. We will probably have another one tomorrow, when I think we meet in the morning around 10 o’clock. So I think the Chairman’s statement will reflect the conversation today and the conversation tomorrow, and I’m sure it will get written sometime in the afternoon.

QUESTION: Ambassador, you said one of the things you were trying to do was sort of get a timeframe for a declaration, and you were looking at –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: An overall timeframe for the completion of phase two.

QUESTION: And also you wanted a timeframe when the declaration would come from the North Koreans. Were you able to make progress on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we made progress, but I think what you’ll see tomorrow is that we’ve got an overall schedule or target date for completing second phase actions

QUESTION: Are there certain things the North Koreans want to see before they submit a declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, because we have to work out the sequencing of those elements. But what we want to do is have an agreement on a target date by which time all the elements would be completed. All the elements of the second phase would be completed so we can get on with the next phase. So, again, I think these have been very positive discussions on this.

QUESTION: What is the main element that you are working on now? What is the sequence that you need to achieve, let’s say, by the end of the year? What do you want to achieve by the end of the year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: OK, I’ll repeat it for the hundredth time. OK? First element is declaration of all nuclear programs. Then, second element on the DPRK side would be, we want to disable their nuclear program. Part of disablement would be, for example, to make the reactor at Yongban not able to work. But you need a lot of technical people to look at the question of how you disable. There are a lot of different ways to do that. Do you disable in a way that makes it impossible to be brought back, difficult to be brought back, easy to be brought back? So we have to work out a lot of details there, and we are not there yet.

The next element is the heavy fuel oil, which is some 950,000 tons, and that has to be brought into the equation in a way that it is not all back-loaded. That is, we don’t have a situation where the North Koreans have done everything they are supposed to do for the promise of fuel oil to come. So somehow working with the fact that they can only bring in about 50,000 a month, we probably want to look at some fuel oil equivalents. For example, you can -- instead of having fuel oil -- you could have some type of refurbishment of a plant, or increase their storage capacity, or provide some electricity ,or something like that. It needs to be worked out.

Now what I am pointing to here is that in the case of disablement and declaration -- or declaration and disablement -- there are a lot of technical issues still to be addressed. That is why it is very important we have a working group – the denuclearization working group needs to address some of these. On the fuel oil side we need an energy working group to address that, because probably we’ll be looking at some fuel oil equivalents of the kind I just mentioned.

So on our side, there will also be some bilateral considerations. In the September agreement, for example, we agreed to begin the process of removing them from the list of state sponsored terrorism. So we have to see how that process of beginning the process, how that will continue and how that would be addressed. So that also requires a working group that is a bilateral working group to further address that.

So we have a lot of work ahead of us. But our plan is to see all of the elements that I’ve just mentioned to you -- that is, declaration, disablement, fuel oil and bilateral issues -- all be addressed in a certain time frame, a target time frame that the parties would agree to.

Do I have it all? You got that all?

QUESTION: Do the North Koreans have a plan to disable by the end of the year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, we’re in the middle of the discussion. Let’s talk about it when the discussion’s over.

QUESTION: About the working groups’ schedule, did you all agree to something by next month?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We agreed to get going on the working groups and get a schedule for them, and after tomorrow I’m sure I can be more specific about that.

QUESTION: There have been reports that the North Koreans are refusing to talk to the Japanese in bilaterals. Can you confirm that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I certainly cannot confirm that. No, I cannot.

QUESTION: Mr. Hill what is the minimum that has to be achieved before the foreign ministers will agree to meet, from your point of view?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I think we still have to have further discussion about what we want to see in the ministerial. I think everyone agreed to meet, to be well-prepared. We agreed we will probably need a draft ministerial statement.

Can I just clean my glasses without being photographed? Thank you. [laughter]

So I think we will need to work through that, and probably tomorrow morning --

QUESTION: Do you need a declaration before the foreign ministers will meet?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, we need a reason for them to meet, and I think we can come up with something.

QUESTION: Are you going to be encouraging the Japanese to soften their stance on the abduction issue? Encourage them to participate in the fuel and financial aid?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think the mood around the table was pretty positive today. I don’t think anyone needs any pep talk about anything. I think what they need to do, what we all need to do, is get on with our working groups and figure out how we can schedule all five working groups and do it in a time of year when a lot of the people won’t be on vacation.

QUESTION: You mentioned a couple of times there may be some flexibility on the declaration. Can you tell us what sort of flexibility you have in mind?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What do you mean flexibility on the declaration?

QUESTION: I heard you say there may be some flexibility on form or timing aspects of the declaration.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That was not coming from me. I think we need a complete declaration. It’s very important that all means all. So in anticipation of your next question, yes, we need the uranium issue addressed in that.

QUESTION: Did that come up in discussion today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Lots of things came up in discussions today.

QUESTION: Take us through your day today. You had a bilateral with the Chinese to start. How is that different from what transpired during the heads of delegation meeting? Did you have any other bilaterals?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think, starting yesterday, I said the same things five, six times actually. I’ve had bilaterals with each of the five participants, and then we had a two-and-a-half-hour heads of delegation meeting. And I think there was a lot of agreement around the table about what needs to be done in this phase.

But before one writes about my being optimistic or something, we’re talking about this phase. There has to be a follow-on phase and probably an even more important phase, and that is the actual abandonment of the actual fissile material and the explosive devices on the DPRK side. And that’s very important. But with respect to this phase, of the elements that I just outlined to you, it was a very good discussion. But in terms of my day-to-day, it was a lot of bilateral discussions during the course of the day. But the main discussion being with the two-and-a-half hour meeting with the heads of delegation.

QUESTION: Any meetings tonight?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You know, I don’t think I do. Maybe down the corridor a bit, but that’s about it.

QUESTION: What’s your schedule like tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we start at 10 o’clock. I think there’s a plan that we’ll meet some senior people from the Foreign Ministry, and I think there is a dinner tomorrow night.

QUESTION: No bilateral in the morning?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We don’t have a plan right now to have a bilat before the 10 o’clock head of delegation meeting. So I will probably go to the Embassy, and I’ll let you know when I walk by here.

QUESTION: Do you think DPRK are willing to include nuclear explosive devices in their declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Good question. We’re going to have to keep talking about that. Again those are very important details, and that goes to the question of a complete declaration. At this point I can’t answer your question, except that the issue has been raised.

QUESTION: What is your impression from Mr. Kim Gye Gwan about (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m sorry? Oh I don’t have impressions. I just have observations. It was a very business-like meeting. Probably in terms of how businesslike and how non-polemical it was, this was all about getting through the agenda that we’ve set. In that sense I would say it was a very useful Six-Party meeting today.

QUESTION: You’ve said that you still need to discuss whether nuclear weapons are included in the --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Wait, wait, let me just explain. You have fissile material, then you have explosive devices – bombs – in which the fissile material is located. So that clearly has to be in a declaration. Now the problem you get into is counting delivery systems that have not been tested as delivery systems, and it does get very technical, and it needs to be discussed in the denuclearization working group.

QUESTION: Is there some flexibility before the whole declaration takes place?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, you just have to have some technical discussions before the declaration takes place. We need a lot more technical discussions than we have had today, but all of these issues have been discussed. So I don’t think you’ll see any problem of people being greeted with unpleasant surprises.

QUESTION: Will Beijing be the venue for technical discussions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think I’m not sure it needs to be every time. But I think some of these working groups may be held outside Beijing. So you’ll be able to take a break when that happens. But probably some of them will be here, and that has not been worked out. I think we also want to get dates, because it’s tough getting everyone around a table in August.

QUESTION: Just to clarify. In tomorrow’s chairman’s statement, is it going to be a hard timeline you think will be coming out, or is it more of a broad framework?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think it’s more of a broad framework. But we are going to have to sit down in a Six-Party meeting, not just head of delegation, and work out very precise benchmarks, and we have not done that yet. But we want to get a concept of the overall timeframe. I think it takes a little time. But we are on the right track for that.

QUESTION: Before the technical issues, do you think North Korea understands the need to include fissile material that is in tested devices in their declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think that they do. They understand that.

QUESTION: Did you ask them directly? Can you confirm?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t want to tell you every bit of our conversation. Otherwise I’d just invite you to the meeting. We’re not avoiding any topics. We’re having very open and substantive discussions about this . But I don’t want to tell you what they say or what I say, because that takes all the fun out of it. I know it’s your job to ask, but it’s my job to say no. [laughter]

We will continue to work on it. I think what’s important in these things is you want to be very clear what you need so that there won’t be any surprises when you get to the actual day when you’re trying to negotiate it with very specific benchmarks and things like that. We’re making progress on that.

QUESTION: I know you wanted to get some information from the Chinese delegation. What have you got from the Chinese delegation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I wanted to talk to them about their concept of what to do in this meeting, how they see the timelines coming up. And so I had a lengthy bilateral with them this morning. And I’m very pleased that the various telephoning we have done in the last few weeks, our embassies conveying messages -- it’s worked, and there were not any surprises on our expectations. When I talked to the Chinese, I realized we were all essentially on the same sheet of music in terms of what the agenda would be.

QUESTION: What kind of concept would they say?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I just answered your question. I can’t do it again.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion today on a permanent peace agreement on the Korean Peninsula?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had some discussion about the about the peace regime. I certainly gave my view that I think it is something we are looking for after we have denuclearization moving ahead.

QUESTION: Not completed? Just moving?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Not completed, because a peace process on the Korean Peninsula needs to be done after, certainly not before, there is denuclearization. A peace process on the Korean Peninsula would have to be done on a kind of parallel basis with the Six-Party process continuing its primary job of denuclearization. We had a little discussion about that. But, again, it is among relevant parties. So we tend not to talk about it so much in a Six-Party plenary, for example. But I think everyone sees it as something that comes certainly not immediately; we would put it back a little after we get going on some of these next phase implementation issues.

QUESTION: Are the North Koreans looking for a non-aggression pact from the U.S.?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Didn’t come up with us. Didn’t come up. And I must say--

QUESTION: Would you be willing to sign some sort of agreement like that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Any sort of non-aggression type issue, that’s what the peace process is all about.

QUESTION: Are you close to a date for ministerial talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we are close, in that we keep eliminating dates because people are busy doing other things. So we’re probably going to get closer on that. But I don’t think we are going to come away with a date during these next couple of days, because it all involves us going back to our ministers’ schedulers and figuring out how we can get six people around the table on the same day in the same place. Not a lot of fun to try and harmonize those schedules.

QUESTION: Do you expect the Chairman’s statement before dinner tomorrow or after?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. I expect things to go smoothly. Probably before dinner, that’s my guess. Why don’t you ask the Chinese that?

QUESTION: In this process, when and how do you expect questions on the inspection and verification --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That is a very important issue. Of course inspections, in the first phase we already have IAEA doing inspecting and monitoring. Inspecting is probably a bad word; it’s more verifying and monitoring. So as we go to something like full declaration, we need to make sure that is the right declaration. So that is going to present itself pretty quickly. I think everyone understands that. And, again, that is something for the denuclearization working group to work on.

QUESTION: I take it that all those issues have to be folded into the declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, if you are doing a declaration you have to have some means by which to verify, to monitor it, verify what’s in it. Those sorts of issues will come up very soon.

QUESTION: You’ve had bilats with the North Koreans and preliminary talks today. Are you more confident than you were before leaving the U.S. that you got some second phase done, or is it mostly -- ?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Every time I say the slightest thing that suggests I’m not in pure pain, I’m told I’m being optimistic. This is a very tough negotiation, and it involves very important issues. All I can say is we do have a pretty good framework. I think we have a very good agenda. I believe we’re making progress on this. But I’m very mindful of the fact that every time we go to a next stage, you will come into further complications. And bumps in the road can turn out to be very difficult to overcome.

But we do have a very good process here, and I think it can sustain some of these difficult moments. I think we can get through this. But I hate to say I’m optimistic or whatever. It’s really not relevant. I’m just trying to solve problems, frankly, and sometimes problems take longer to solve than other problems.

QUESTION: Is there anything special about the (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, we didn’t get through (inaudible).

QUESTION: Mr. Hill, did you talk about your energy working group?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I did.

QUESTION: And your denuclearization?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, it’s just one those elements we raise all the time. It’s part of the issue of the declaration, because we can’t have a declaration that’s partial.

QUESTION: Is there anything other than fuel oil?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, what they’ve said is that they understand there’s an absorption capacity problem on fuel oil that is some 50,000 tons a month. The February agreement anticipates that problem by referring to equivalents, and so there was some discussion about what might be an equivalent rather than just fuel oil. So there was a bit of a discussion about that, but I want to emphasize that’s not for a bunch of ambassadors to sit around talking about. That’s for a bunch people in an energy working group to talk about.

All right?

QUESTION: So what’s your day going to be tomorrow morning? You’re going to be here around 7:00, 8:00, 9:00? What time should we be here? (Laughter)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We have a 10 o’clock, so maybe you can talk to someone from the Embassy about it. But I don’t think I would leave here before 8:30 -- unless I leave here before 8:30. (Laughter)

So, anyway, I could see you about that time.

QUESTION: How do you describe the attitude of the North Koreans, other than business-like, in this round of talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What’s wrong with business-like? You’ve used that too many times?

QUESTION: No, it’s a good word. But would you say that their attitudes have been in any way different from previous rounds of talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It’s always dangerous to answer the last question. But I would say that, as we went around the table, every single delegation spoke to the issues that were on the table. Every delegation spoke to what we’re talking about, and there were no broader irrelevant themes that were brought up. Everything spoke directly to the issues that we need to address. So, with that in mind, I would call it very business-like.

All right, see you later.



Released on July 18, 2007

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