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Joint Press Event With Director-General Kenichiro Sasae

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Kenichiro Sasa, Director-General of Japan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tokyo, Japan
September 26, 2007

[Note: This press availability was conducted jointly with Director-General Kenichiro Sasae. DG Sasae spoke in Japanese, so the questions directed to him and his answers are not included here.]

10:37 AM

ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE HILL: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here in Tokyo, actually in this busy time here in Tokyo. I’ll be heading to Beijing later today and then participate in the opening of the Six-Party Talks, which is tomorrow afternoon in Beijing.

As Mr. Sasae just said, we had a pretty in-depth discussion to consult and coordinate on our positions. I think, as we go forward, we are in a very important phase where we will be trying to get disabling of the DPRK nuclear program but also a full declaration of all of their nuclear programs. And so it is, I think, a very important stage of the denuclearization. It’s not the last stage. Of course the last stage is the elimination of all these programs. But I think this will really set the stage for that last stage.

So we certainly reviewed our bilateral talks that we’ve each had with the North Koreans. And it was an opportunity for me to reemphasize the importance that we attach to the bilateral relationship with Japan and our desire that, as we go forward, we go forward very much in sync with the Japanese Government. So I think we’ll continue to be in very close consultation in the days, weeks, and months ahead so that if we can be successful by the end of the year in getting this disabling and full declaration, we can then move on to what I hope will be the final phase next year, which is the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION: [in Japanese] Some observers think that America has made more concessions than North Korea has. What do you think? Also, Japan has advocated an approach of dialogue and pressure, including economic sanctions. What do you think about the difference in the levels of pressure applied by the U.S. and Japan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That becomes a kind of a philosophical question, but there are certain issues that are really for the Six Parties to deal with, especially the denuclearization issues. Then there are certain issues that the U.S. can deal with directly with the DPRK, just as certain issues that Japan is dealing with the DPRK. For example, I would say the abduction issue is very important to Japan and obviously forms the centerpiece of the bilateral talks that Japan has. But I’d like to say it’s also very important to us, because I don’t think we’re going to be able to achieve our goals in this entire process unless we have some real improvement in the DPRK-Japan relationship. And that’s why I have stressed – Whenever I see the DPRK officials, I press very hard for progress in this area. It’s essential because it’s so important to the DPRK-Japan relationship, but frankly it’s a fundamental issue that my President has made very clear is very important to him as well. So, as I said, certain things are in bilateral channels, certain things are in multilateral channels, and some things actually cross over.

QUESTION: The Japanese people want to see a complete resolution of the abduction issue. Until then, the Japanese people don’t want to see the American government delisting the North Koreans.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I understand, and what I can assure you of is this is an issue of great importance to us. Our President has spoken very directly about this issue. In fact, he had members of the abductee families actually in the Oval Office. I think this is quite an extraordinary demonstration of the depth of our concerns about this. So what I can promise you is we’re working very hard to seek a resolution of this issue and to deal with this as a matter of great concern. So I don’t want to get into all the issues of how one deals with this in terms of denuclearization, but I can just assure you that this is a major priority of ours, and we work very closely with Japan. We know this is an issue not only of DPRK-Japan relations but also Japan-U.S. relations -- and also of a fundamental sense of the humanity of helping loved ones understand what happened to their relatives.

Released on September 26, 2007

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