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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 19, 2007

QUESTION: So, Ambassador, can you tell us what has been the problem so far that we could not see the Chairman’s statement today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: There is no problem. The Chinese wanted us to have a meeting with the Foreign Minister, so we’ll do that tomorrow morning. They circulated a draft of the Chairman’s statement, and they gave it to us at the dinner. I guess we’ll bring it in in the morning. There is no problem. Then we’ll leave tomorrow.

QUESTION: How long is it going to go on tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we have a 10 o’clock meeting. I think there’s a quick head of delegation meeting afterwards. We should be out of there by noon.

QUESTION: Is there a deadline for the Chairman’s statement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What it is – Again, we should wait until it is actually released, because people are making edits to it. But it essentially does what we wanted. This is to lay out a sequence of events -- how we’re going to do working groups, Six Party plenary, ministerial. We had a big discussion about putting an overall deadline in. But the consensus was while we all have a pretty similar idea of when we should try to get it all done, the consensus was -- given our not very successful record with dates in the spring -- we thought we would wait and have the working groups meet and then have a pretty clear idea when we put it together -- probably at the end of August -- have a clear idea about how the sequencing of the fuel oil would go and how the declaration and disablement would go before we actually put in an overall deadline. So I think it was kind of a careful approach, given the fact that we’ve used dates before, and the dates get missed. That viewpoint, I think, prevailed.

QUESTION: You said wanted to do this next phase by the end of this year.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I still do. I still think that’s possible.

QUESTION: Your South Korea counterpart Chun Young-woo said yesterday that the North Koreans indicate that they had a deadline for disabling and declaration.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I don’t like to talk about what other people talk about. I’ll just tell you that I feel it’s quite feasible by the end of the year. I still do. But the tactics of whether you have the Six Parties announce a deadline or not, that’s sort of a tactical question. Frankly, had we made our deadlines in the spring, there would have been much more appetite for announcing deadlines now. Given that we kind of missed every single deadline, I think the prudent view was let’s get through the working groups, let’s see precisely how we’re going to disable the facilities, how the declaration’s going to be put together, how the fuel oil is going to be sequenced -- especially the so-called heavy fuel oil equivalents because, as I’ve told you, we’re not just going to do fuel oil. We’ll do equivalents in terms of refurbishments and things like that. So when we get an idea of how this is all going to work, then we’ll put a timeframe together and try to stay to the timeframe.

QUESTION: Mr. Hill, this is really not North Koreans foot-dragging and being recalcitrant?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, it’s really not. Personally, I like deadlines because it gives you a challenge. But I understand the view that let’s first be very clear about what we’re talking in terms of time before putting timeframes out there. If you ask me, and if you ask some of the other people, I think the end of December is still very feasible. And I must tell you, of all the Six Part meetings I’ve gone to, this was for me the best meeting, because everyone was very much focused on the task ahead. Very little polemics, very little sort of wandering off in other areas. I think we stayed on task.

I had a very good meeting, bilateral meeting, in the afternoon with the DPRK, with Kim Gye-gwan. It was interrupted because he then had a bilateral meeting with Ken Sasae. So both of us had bilateral meetings with him, over an hour each. So the atmosphere was very business-like, very focused on the tasks ahead. I was, overall, very pleased with what we did here this week, and I think it was a very good week.

QUESTION: Do you foresee a need for another round of chief of delegation meetings?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Not a chief of delegation. I think what we need to do – (phone ringing) Do you want to answer that phone? I’ll wait.

QUESTION: Sorry.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: OK. What was the question?

QUESTION: Another round of head of delegation meetings?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I think it is fairly clear how things are going to work out. The head of delegation meeting – Remember, we just had our first big action -- the beginning of the fuel oil, the shutdown of the Yongbyon facility. So I think it was wise to get everyone together, talk about where we are, where we are going. We have an agreement on where we are going. Where we are going involves first, working groups. And then we have to have a real Six-Party meeting to approve the sequencing of the next events and also to put the timeframe to it. Because when you actually lay out tasks, as we are going to be doing next time -- once we figure out what do you mean by disablement; what do you mean by declaration; what do you mean by fuel oil equivalent -- once we put those tasks together we will have specific timeframes, and then we will go at it.

QUESTION: Are you looking at end of August for that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, probably. I think it depends on what the Chinese finally come up with. The draft I saw, we were looking at the end of August, you know, in that timeframe.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think to get all the working groups going, yes.

QUESTION: Is there a consensus on what the declaration needs to include among North Koreans.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had a very good discussion about that. Again, I don’t want to go into too many details, because it is really what the North Koreans.-- We’ve worked with the North Koreans. We did that in the Six Party meeting, where we had some discussion about it. But also we followed up bilaterally. So I think we have a pretty clear idea of how it is going to work.

QUESTION: What is the state of discussion on fuel oil equivalents? Is there any understanding how that is going to work?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, I think as we talked about it --. You know, we are a bunch of diplomats, ambassadors, talking about a subject that not all of us have worked on that much in our careers. I think we all agreed we really need working groups to do it. But basically there are -- You are looking at an absorption capacity of 50,000 tons per month. So if you just have fuel oil, that stretches you out to 20 months. That is a problem in terms of what we like to see in timeframes. There are other ways to take, for example, 50,000 tons of fuel oil and put it into some other endeavor, such as storage capacity. There are other things. For example, the fuel oil is supposed to go to some electricity plants. But you have to make sure that those electricity plants can actually handle that fuel oil and are actually operating properly. Again, we need experts to get together and do this.

What we want for the experts to do is to come up with various ideas for how fuel oil equivalents -- what other options are there. Option A might be additional storage capacity. Option B might be a refurbishment. Option C might be the provisioning of electricity from a neighboring country, something like that. But we need the experts to look at this and give us a kind of a menu of options such that we put it together in a February-style agreement -- an agreement that looks a little like what we did in February. That can sequence these next actions the way we sequenced the February actions.

QUESTION: How difficult is what is next, compared with what has come before?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’ve said several times, the more you go into it -- because we are going deeper into denuclearization, because you are looking at a declaration, you are looking at disablement -- this is terra incognita. We haven’t done this before. I think we can look ahead to some difficulties. But we’ll manage the difficulties. In looking ahead at some of these difficulties, that gave rise to the concern that we don’t want to put out dates that can’t be supported at this point but can only be supported in theory.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, you came here with the hope of getting a target date. Who is most --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Wait. That was one of the things I was interested in. I actually came here with a lot of other things in mind. I came here mostly to get an overall work plan of how we are going forward, how we would get the working groups -- And by the way, when I say the working groups, I mean all five working groups. I want, for example, the U.S. and the Japan working groups to be going ahead. I don’t want one without the other. We’ve got both. And then the more technical working groups and also an idea of what the working groups might be tasked with doing. For example, in denuclearization they could look at several options for how you disable.

So I’m very pleased with the clarity that we’ve got going forward in order to tackle this next phase. Many times people have asked, how difficult is the next phase? I kept saying, it is going to be much more difficult than this past phase. Actually, I think this two-day meeting has been very useful, because we now have a better idea of what we need from the working groups in order to put the thing together in a Six-Party meeting.

QUESTION: Did the North Koreans ask something more than you feel are incentives to implement this next phase?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, actually we talked about heavy fuel oil. As you know, there are bilateral considerations. We have to handle those bilaterally.

QUESTION: So Mr. Hill, the next phase you were saying might be the end of August or early September?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes. That would be after working groups have met and can give us menus. The working groups are not being asked to make decisions. Working groups are asked to give some options that are really workable rather than have a bunch of ambassadors sitting around talking about things they, we are not terribly familiar with. It is better to have the working groups put them into packages that we can then put together in an agreement.

QUESTION: Ambassador, the next Six-Party meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, we will have a Six Party meeting.

QUESTION: What is left to do tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Meet with the Foreign Minister. Maybe get the final version of the Chairman’s statement. I think we get comments in tonight.

QUESTION: When is the meeting with the Foreign Minister?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think it is at 10 o’clock.

QUESTION: When are you going to be here in the morning?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You’re always trying to sleep late! [laughter] I don’t know, probably about 6:30 in the morning. [laughter]. We’ll let you know. Probably leave here about nine-something.

QUESTION: Nothing set up for a ministerial at this time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, that will be reflected -- We had a good talk about that. There was a very strong view around the table about the value of that. That’s really come to the problem of trying to come up with a date among busy ministers.

QUESTION: This year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh absolutely. I would think that will be pretty soon. Remember our February statement said “promptly.” So we still want to do that promptly. But realistically speaking, that is probably going to be a September activity. I don’t think we can squeeze it in in August.

QUESTION: On the declaration phase, do the North Koreans understand they have to include fissile material, explosive devices…

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had a very good discussion. I don’t like to quote you what the North Koreans understand or don’t understand. I can assure you there was a very complete discussion on that matter.

QUESTION: How has the reaction been in Washington? Is Secretary Rice pleased with the progress that’s been made here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You would have to ask her. We’ve had conversations, because that’s how I get my marching orders. Yes, we’re OK.

QUESTION: There was a statement from the North Korean Foreign Ministry about the abductee issue. Did that come up at all?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No. I don’t know, but I’m sure in the one plus hour of bilateral between the Japanese and North Koreans I’m sure the subject came up.

QUESTION: How long was the meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I didn’t time it, but I think it was just over an hour. He had to leave because he had to have another meeting with the Japanese.

QUESTION: Did you talk anything about light water reactor?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I didn’t. I heard the term come up over the course of the last couple of days, but we didn’t have any discussion about it.

QUESTION: In your earlier discussion, you talked about “being in the same ballpark, being in the same vicinity.”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Does that sense still --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I feel pretty good about this discussion here. Look, there are a lot of details to nail down. And we are going deeper into denuclearization, so we’ve got some rough sailing ahead. But I feel pretty confident we can get through this.

QUESTION: Concerning Yongbyon, we’ve heard a lot about what is supposed to happen to the physical facilities. Have you also been talking about what happens to the people working in these facilities?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We didn’t. I know that’s an issue that will be discussed. It’s been discussed in the past. And I’m sure it will be discussed. I know it’s very much on the minds of the North Koreans officials. They’re all very concerned about it. We were kind of discussing a sequence of working groups and what-not, and so we didn’t actually discuss that particular issue. But it has been raised; I’m sure it’ll be raised in the future.

All right?

QUESTION: Did you speak about nuclear weapons that North Korea has?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had a good discussion on that issue. Yes, we did have a good discussion on that issue. Again, I don’t want to be telling you what the North Koreans said or did not say, ok? You have to ask them. But, obviously, we made very clear what we think needs to be included in any honest declaration.

All right?

QUESTION: The uranium program -- has there been an explicit conversation about that in these talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: There have been a number of very explicit conversations about that. Again, I don’t want to get into the details because it’ll just make it harder to solve. There have been a number of explicit discussions about it, and there will be more.

QUESTION: When will the working groups --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Working groups? I think we’re going to get going very soon with the first one.

QUESTION: So before the end of August there will be a meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, yes. That would be our expectation.

QUESTION: Do the other negotiators have bilaterals tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. Ask them. I don’t know. I don’t think I plan to have any more, because I’ve had a lot of bilateral discussions.

All right. I’m off duty now; come on guys! Ok, we’ll see each other again -- probably on the airplane back to Washington. (laughter) See you later, ok?

QUESTION: Have a good beer!



Released on July 19, 2007

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