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Comments to Reporters Following Dinner With Director-General Kenichiro Sasae

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Okura Hotel
Tokyo, Japan
September 25, 2007


QUESTION: How was the meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It was very nice. This has been an important day on the Japanese political calendar, so what I did was just take the occasion to brief Ken on what’s been going on in Washington on our side. In fact, I am going on to Beijing tomorrow and will be meeting, having bilateral meetings, including with the North Koreans tomorrow night. So we had a good discussion on all the issues.

QUESTION: Have they raised any questions regarding Secretary of State Rice’s comments about delisting them from the State Department terrorism list?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we discussed generally that issue, and I reiterated what we have said on many occasions -- which is, first of all, nothing has been done in that regard. Obviously, it’s something that is very important to the DPRK. But what is also important to us is our relationship with Japan and the need to, for the U.S. and Japan, to coordinate very closely and work very closely together on this issue. As Secretary Rice said yesterday, we care very much about this abduction issue. We will continue to pursue this. And as I have said, and said again today, whenever I meet with the DPRK I raise this issue of the abductions and will continue to do so. In fact, tomorrow before I leave I will have an official meeting with Mr. Sasae in the Foreign Ministry. And I will also be meeting in the early afternoon with the advisor to the Prime Minister on abductions, Madame Nakayama.

QUESTION: Do you think North Korea is ready to be removed from the list at this moment?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We have to talk through some things. It is something they very much want to do. But we have made clear the issues that are important to us -- that is, additional denuclearization. But also we want to be sure that, as we move forward here, we move forward with the complete understanding of the Japanese Government. And that’s what we are doing.

QUESTION: Is it possible that you will remove them – North Korea -- from the list without meeting that condition?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Is it possible? I don’t want to go into what is possible or what is impossible, but I will say that it is something that we have been talking to them about. It hasn’t happened yet,. And, as I said just a moment ago, it is very important how we work things out with our Japanese friends and allies on that.

QUESTION: You mentioned that (inaudible) over a year. Do you have any agreement on that with Japanese?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’ve certainly had a number of technical discussions with the Japanese, and we will have more later this week in the Six Party process. We are looking for a disablement that takes it to about a year -- with the understanding that during that time we would hope to go further in the denuclearization process, so that the North Koreans will not be interested in returning the facility to its productive capacity. So while it’s being disabled, during that time we would hope to go further and get through the process of dismantlement as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, we had a good discussion about that. Sure. And, of course, a lot of the discussion tonight was my talking of our views on it because, obviously, there is a new Japanese government. And Mr. Sasae needs to be in full consultations with his new leadership, which he will be doing tomorrow.

QUESTION: Will you raise the issue of Syria when you discuss proliferation tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: As we always have, and as we will continue to do -- raise the issue of proliferation generally and the need to address those questions. But that is not a new factor in our discussions.


QUESTION: You are not going to mention specifically the issue of Syria --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I am going to mention what I have mentioned many, many times in the past – which is, as the DPRK gets to its declaration on its nuclear programs, that it needs to be very clear with us what its programs are, including not only domestically but what they might have been doing with other countries. So there won’t be anything new in our approach on this.

Released on September 25, 2007

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