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Press Briefing at U.S.-DPRK Bilateral Working Group Meeting

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
United States Mission to the United Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
September 1, 2007

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Hi. Which one of you tried to get on top of a building? (Laughter) Who was it?

It’s good to see you all.

We had a fairly lengthy and in-depth discussion of all the issues. As you recall, the purpose of these bilateral working groups is to discuss the bilateral relationship, and I’d say we had a very full discussion on that. We also discussed all of the other issues pertaining to the Six Parties. I will look forward to briefing other members of the Six Parties on these discussions.

We will look forward to continuing these discussions tonight over dinner and then tomorrow morning at the DPRK mission before I leave in the afternoon and head on to Sydney.

I think we do have a long way to go on many of these issues. But I think we reached, I think, a substantial understanding between the two of us on what needs to be accomplished in the months ahead and what the overall parameters are for what we’re trying to achieve. This next phase -- which has to do with disablement and declaration on the DPRK side and fuel oil and economic and energy assistance, as well as some bilateral considerations on our part -- is of course a very critical phase. But I think we have an understanding of the way forward, and I think we will be able to go into the Six-Party plenary when we have it, depending on when the Chinese can schedule it. I believe it will be in the middle of September.

So I think we have a substantial understanding there ,such that I think we can achieve success at the next plenary session. I do anticipate that at the next plenary session we will have a February style-agreement, which would be aimed at having a more detailed implementation plan for disablement and the other factors that I just mentioned.

So all in all I think it was a very substantive discussion today, one of the most substantive we’ve had. We discussed all of the aspects, all the issues that we needed to discuss. But we have, I think, much more to discuss. And we will get going again at dinner and then tomorrow morning at the DPRK mission.

QUESTION: Did you discuss about the condition to, how to remove them from the terrorism list?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: As I said, we discussed all issues. Of course they are very interested in being delisted from the terrorism list. So, yes, we did have a discussion about that.

QUESTION: Did you have a difference on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had a full discussion on it. I don’t want to characterize whether we had differences or a similarity of views on it, but we had a full discussion. So we understand each other’s views very well on that.

QUESTION: How was the discussion on the HEU issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: This was another issue that we had an in-depth discussion, and I think it’s an issue that we will continue to have an in-depth discussion. But we, I would say, got into a reading of some of the historical issues there or some of the past issues there. So I would say it was a good discussion.

QUESTION: Do you foresee any future meetings in Geneva? Or only in the Far East?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, it’s an awfully nice place. But, you know, we didn’t discuss future meetings. But I’m sure we will continue to have, we will continue this bilateral process. I’m not prepared at this point to say where it’s going to be.

Is the weather always like this?

QUESTION: No.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, okay. Anyway, we’ll think about it then. [Laughter].

But it’s been really excellent. And we really appreciated, first of all from my point of view, appreciated all the work the U.S. Mission has done here. You know, this is a holiday weekend for the U.S. It’s Labor Day, and the staff here has really worked very hard. And I know the Swiss authorities have also been very active to make sure that it’s been productive. So far we’ve been very pleased with our discussions here.

QUESTION: Have you left today’s meeting with a better understanding of how North Korea may come off of the terrorism list and what type of timeframe you may be looking at for that to happen?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: First of all, this is only the first set of meetings. We’re going to continue the discussion tonight. But I think I do have a clearer sense of how we can achieve our goals in this next phase. And I think we’ve had a very good exchange with the DPRK side about how they want to achieve their goals as well.

QUESTION: Was that the real focus of today’s talks, the terrorism list?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I would say we had a good discussion about that. But we had a good discussion about many other issues as well, and we’ll continue to discuss things tonight.

QUESTION: Did you offer any food aid?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, as you know, there was an announcement yesterday on food aid. So we did not discuss food aid, although the DPRK delegation did express appreciation for the U.S. assistance to their flood victims.

QUESTION: And the abductee issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, that issue was discussed, as was the overall issue of the DPRK-Japan relationship.

QUESTION: And their response?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think there was a – Again, I don’t like to talk about their response. But I can tell you what I said, which was I attached great importance to the DPRK-Japan relationship and specifically to addressing issues such as the abduction issue -- which we mentioned very specifically. And I reiterated a point I’ve made before -- which is, as we move forward here we want to make sure that not only are we making progress on our relationship, not only are we making progress on the denuclearization, but that we’re also making progress on normalizing relations among states in the region, namely Japan and the DPRK.

QUESTION: As far as time bound, you expect the DPRK abide by the end of the year, implement the 13th February agreement? Is that what they newly brought here, as far as time bound?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t want to get into too many specifics. So please forgive me for not answering your question directly, except to say that I have maintained for some time that what we’re trying to do is to achieve this phase by the end of the year. And I continue to believe that that is very much possible and, I would add, very much necessary -- because we want to move onto the next phase by the beginning of next year.

QUESTION: Is there any progress in discussing about uranium enrichment?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had a -- This issue was definitely discussed, and we’ll continue to discuss it. But I don’t want to characterize where the issue stands as of now.

QUESTION: Did they have any feedback to your proposal in Shenyang?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, they did. We did have some discussion about that -- that is, the scope of disablement. There was discussion about some of the specific elements and whether they are achievable in the timelines that we would like them to be achieved.

QUESTION: Are you on the same page on the scope of disablement? [Inaudible] difference?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We anticipate getting on the same page.

QUESTION: Going back to the abduction issue. Was there any change in their attitude or position compared to the previous talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I can’t say there was a change, except to say I think there was a view that they are looking forward to the bilateral meeting with the Japanese side and that that meeting will be useful in the overall process.

QUESTION: It was rather positive?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I just know you’re going to run with that word positive. [Laughter]. So let me just say, I think the importance that I attach to progress on the DPRK-Japan relationship, the importance that I attach -- that my Government, I should say, attaches -- to progress and to a positive atmosphere was well understood.

QUESTION: In order to reach your goals this weekend, what other issues would you like to discuss?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we need to continue to discuss the course of U.S.-DPRK relations. And, in particular, as the DPRK has a great interest in our achieving normalization, we need to make sure that that is understood as a sequenced element in complete denuclearization. So I would like to kind of look ahead to make sure we have an understanding of what the next phase will be in ’08. And I don’t think we’ve had much of a discussion yet about what ’08 might look like after we achieve these goals for the remainder of ’07.

QUESTION: Did they talk about the light water reactor?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We did not discuss the light water reactor, but that does not mean that they’ve changed their view. But it also does not mean that I’ve changed my view, either. No, they didn’t raise it.

QUESTION: After today’s discussions are you still confident about finishing disablement by the end of this year? Or how was –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, I continue to believe that that is quite achievable. Yes.

QUESTION: How was North Korea? Are they willing to –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You have to ask them. I’m not their spokesman. [Laughter]. But I can tell you that I felt going into the meeting that it’s achievable; and I feel coming out of this first session that it’s achievable by the end of the year. Yes.

QUESTION: Thanks very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Okay. See you later.



Released on September 2, 2007

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