Evening Walkthrough With Reporters at Six-Party TalksChristopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
St. Regis Hotel
September 26, 2007
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: There are some familiar faces here. So I just had dinner with Mr. Kim Gye-gwan. We discussed in general terms our aspirations for the Six-Party meeting. We frankly had a good discussion of all issues but we’re going to follow it up with some detailed discussions tomorrow as part of the bilateral process. So I think tomorrow morning we’ll have a very busy morning of bilateral meetings, including with the ROK and with the Russian Federation delegation also. I think at noon time we’ll meet with the Chinese and all of this will lead up to start part of the Six-Party meeting, which is later on in the afternoon. So it was a good discussion about the various things that we need to do to try to make this a successful round of the Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: Did you talk about the Syria issue at all?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We talked about a number of issues. But I don’t want to tell you at this point precisely what we talked about because, we’re going to decide to hold some issues for tomorrow morning.
QUESTION: Did you get the sense today that you can narrow the gap between you and the DPRK on the period getting the things back after disablement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I think we were kind of checking signals after Geneva and after the technical team went, and I think we’re very much on the same wavelength. So I think we’ll see. It’s a very important Six-Party meeting that we’re coming up to. We’ve done a lot of preparation for it, and all the working groups have met. And so I’ll be especially looking forward tomorrow to talking to the Chinese, because they’ve been in touch with all the parties. So we’ll see how we do.
QUESTION: Would you say you’re optimistic?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I know you always want me to say that, but I just believe we’ve really prepared very well for this meeting. And whenever you prepare well for a meeting, I think that’s the best way to go in to a meeting.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. believe it’s the appropriate time to talk about those light water reactors.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, we’re not discussing that subject.
QUESTION: You talked about aspirations. Can you clarify on some of the details on some of the timelines that you may have?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know, we’re looking forward to having disablement and declaration by the end of the year. It’s a very ambitious process, but I think it’s doable.
QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, welcome to Beijing.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Three games up.
QUESTION: Yes, three games up. It’s wonderful. I was just wondering. After Geneva there was a confidence that you would be able to finish this round fairly quickly. Do you still have that confidence that it’s going to go quickly, or have there been any kinks that have been put in the road between now and Geneva?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I think what we understood in Geneva is still applicable. But, you know, you have to understand. We’re taking the process beyond where any previous processes have been, and this would go beyond the Agreed Framework, for example. So it’s ambitious. And I think it’s important in this process to stay focused and not get too optimistic, but to try look at, appreciate the difficulties we have and see if we can get through them.
QUESTION: Are you still hoping to finish this round in three or four days?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes.
QUESTION: And just one more. I was wondering. It appears that the North Koreans really have their eyes set on coming off of the terrorism list. It might be a demand that they require to finish their second phase action. Have you started laying the groundwork with the Japanese that it may be something that the U.S. will have to do?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I’ve spent a lot of time discussing this issue. As you know, Secretary Rice had some comments the other day in New York about this issue, and I’ve certainly talked a lot about it in Tokyo. We talked a little about it tonight at dinner. We’ll probably discuss it again tomorrow.
I think what is important to the U.S. is, as we go forward on this, that the Six-Party process is one that really helps relationships all around. The U.S.-DPRK relationship can develop positively as denuclearization takes place and as we fulfill some things that we’re doing. But it’s very important for us to remain very close and very much in sync with the Japanese, because Japan is an enormous player in this process. But more importantly for us, they are a friend and ally. So we do need to stay very close to the Japanese on that. And one of the reasons in Tokyo I spoke with Mrs. Nakayama was to assure her of our continued interest in the abduction issue and to make sure that we remain in very close consultation.
So, yes, I’m not prepared at this point to tell you where we’re going to be in December -- except to say that we now have some rather ambitious plans that will be in December, and I think we’ll get a better idea of that after this week.
QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, are you confident that the six parties will be able to come to some sort of agreement by Sunday.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I’m actually hoping for Saturday, because I’ve really got to get back to the States. But I think -- given that we’ve done a lot of preparation, all the working groups have met, all the working groups had I think very successful discussions -- so I think it is quite doable to have something by Sunday.
QUESTION: Are you focusing on the nuclear issue (inaudible)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, ultimately we are focusing on all the nuclear facilities. But I think certainly the primary focus has been on Yongbyon, because that’s where the plutonium has actually been made. But clearly we have to make sure that we have real progress and clarity on any uranium enrichment program as well.
QUESTION: Going back to the Japanese abduction issue, is it safe to say that the abduction issue is not a precondition for North Korea to get off terrorism list.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t want to go into what our conditions are, preconditions, etc. But certainly we are looking as a part of this overall Six-Party process, we’re looking for an improved DPRK – Japan relationship. That’s important to us. I know it’s important to Japan and to the DPRK. So let’s see if we can get that. And obviously they have to deal with some tough issues, and abduction is very much a part of that.
QUESTION: If I may, just one more. While you were in Japan at your meetings, did you hear anything positive from the Japanese on the abduction issue that there may be some (inaudible)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think the Japan position has been very well known and, frankly, is a very reasonable position. But I think Japan generally really -- especially the families of these abducted people -- really need to know what has happened. And this has been a terrible human tragedy for these people. So they have a right to expect progress from this issue. So we are very respectful of the tragedy that they’ve been through. And we share with them the aspiration, not only having a cleared situation, to the extent that there are people still out there that those people can be returned.
QUESTION: Do you plan to raise the Syria issue with the --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I think I’ve made it very clear that the issue of proliferation generally has always been an issue on our agenda and will continue to be.
QUESTION: I see Director Sung Kim behind you and I was wondering whether (inaudible).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, of course, the team that went into Yongbyon to look at the actual facilities to determine what is feasible in terms of disablement, the plan is for them to report to the Six Parties. So I haven’t talked to Mr. Sung Kim whether he will do the presentation or whether we’ll have representation from Russia and China as well. But certainly that team that went in there, that three-nation team, will have to make the presentation.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Look, we had a good discussion about a lot of things. I think everything we need to decide, we will be able to decide.
QUESTION: Do you have tomorrow’s schedule?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: When do I leave here?
QUESTION: 9 o’clock
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t think anything will happen while I’m sleeping, but I’ll be happy to see you all at 9 o’clock when I head out to my first meeting.
QUESTION: Are you planning a bilat?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’re going to do bilats with all the participants. And I think there is also one planned with the North Koreans, even though we had this preliminary bilat tonight.
QUESTION: Are you going to have a meeting with Korea tonight?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, not tonight I don’t think. I have a meeting with my pillow. See you later.
Released on September 26, 2007