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Press Availability at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lobby

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lobby
Seoul, Korea
November 2, 2007

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I just had a good discussion with Chun Young Woo to brief him on my meetings in Beijing. As I said earlier, this is a big week -- because the first disablement team has gone into North Korea to begin the disablement. I informed Mr. Chun that we are looking forward to having ROK experts also participate in the disablement. This is a process that will take many weeks. So we will anticipate at some point soon that the ROK will have experts also helping in this Six-Party process.

We talked about the various activities underway and on the U.S-DPRK bilateral side, as we make progress on our relationship -- with the understanding that we look forward to normalization with the DPRK in the context of its full denuclearization.

So we had, I think, a good discussion about this current phase -- the disablement phase, the declaration phase. And then we had some discussions about the next and what we believe should be the final stage, which is the final abandonment of all the nuclear weapons and programs.

It was a good discussion. And, as always, we will continue to keep in close contact.

QUESTION: Has the team arrived in Yongbyon?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The team, I believe I have not heard from them. They were to spend the night last night in the city and then move to Yongbyon, either today or tomorrow. We will be hearing from them soon. The leader of the team is Sung Kim, and I am sure he will check in as soon as he can get to a telephone.

QUESTION: Do you think it is possible to have a summit meeting announcing the end to the Korean War before a complete denuclearization of North Korea? The Blue House seems to think that such a ceremony should take place -- not only when they sign a peace treaty, but also before that as a symbolic gesture.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, all I can say is to repeat what our country’s position has been for a long time -- which is, first of all, we would very much like to conclude a peace treaty. We think this is very important. It is very important for the Korean people; it is very important for our people as well.

Our position, which we’ve had for a long time and continue to have, is that upon substantial disablement -- which we believe we are about to enter, that phase -- we would hope that we could begin a peace negotiation process that would conclude, and that we could reach a final peace arrangement, when the DPRK finally abandons its nuclear weapons and nuclear programs pursuant to the September ‘05 agreement. So we have not changed our position on that.

QUESTION: Are the four countries discussing when those talks should begin?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, we had some discussions. I have had some discussions with the Chinese on that and also with the ROK, and we have to see how the process goes. We would want to make sure that the process gets underway in a way that could lead to success. There have been efforts at this in the past. And so, I think, we all feel it needs to be very well planned, with the understanding that we cannot conclude a peace process until the time that there is really denuclearization. We are not going to have a peace agreement with a nuclearized DPRK.

QUESTION: Have you already received the list of declarations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, we are expecting the first draft of the declaration probably in the next couple of weeks. We are not sure exactly when, but we expect it in the next couple of weeks. The idea is that as we receive that, we have some information on programs we would want to have follow-on discussions on -- with the understanding that by the end of the year we would have a complete declaration that everyone would agree is complete.

QUESTION: How much of a role will the disablements [have in setting back] the North Korea nuclear programs? Is it going to set them [back] about a year from plutonium production?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well I think you have to remember the purpose of disablement. It is an intermediate step. What we would like for disablement to do is lead into a seamless process of dismantlement. So disablement essentially makes it difficult and makes it costly to go back on the agreement. So, of course, if we end up in a situation where the DPRK is trying to reconstitute their plutonium program -- whether they reconstitute the program in 12 months, or 14 months, or 16 months -- we would be really having a big problem; there would be a big crisis in our negotiating approach.

We think disablement needs to be at least a year. But we don’t think people should get too hung up on how many theoretical months it would take to reconstitute the program, because we don’t want any reconstitution of the program. We want disablement for the purpose of dismantlement and abandonment.

QUESTION: Are there plans for Secretary Rice to visit Pyongyang?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, there is no travel plan of that kind at all.

QUESTION: The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that you discussed holding another round of Six-Party Talks when you were in Beijing. Can we expect to see a Six-Party foreign ministers’ meeting or head of delegation meeting anytime soon?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think that the Chinese are trying to schedule the ministerial that we discussed on several occasions. As I mentioned before, we have had difficulties getting all six ministers to synchronize their calendars. But, certainly, when a date is chosen for that -- and we would like to see it by the end of the year -- but when a date is chosen for that, we would then have to have a Six-Party head of delegation meeting to plan for the ministerial. So I would expect a week or two before the ministerial we would have a Six-Party head of delegation meeting.

We don’t have anything scheduled right now. And so after here, I am going to Japan and then back to Washington. And, by the way, we have a lot of work to do in Washington. So we will be busy.

QUESTION: How is the process of taking North Korea off the terrorist list going?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We are interested in taking countries off the terrorism list as they qualify for getting off the terrorism list. Getting off the terrorism list is not a reward for endeavors in other areas. What it is is a confirmation that the country is no longer engaged with terrorism acts, no longer is providing assistance to terrorist groups. So in order to do that, we need to work through and make sure that we have a complete understanding of what the country is up to and what they are prepared to declare. And we need to verify any declarations.

So I would say we are in the middle of that work with the DPRK, with the understanding that the DPRK wants to get off the list and we also want to get them off that list. But we need to do it in a way that makes it clear that they are no longer in any way, shape, or form involved in any terrorists acts or assisting any terrorist groups and, moreover, that they are acceding to all UN covenants and international standards on terrorism. I think we are in the middle of that process now.

QUESTION: How much progress do we need to see in regards to the Japanese abduction issue before you take North Korea off that list?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, let me just say with respect to the abduction issue, we very much want this issue to be addressed. We have continually encouraged the DPRK to address this issue, to return any abductees in DPRK, to properly investigate this issue, and to make sure that things of this kind never ever happen again. So this is something that we have talked to the DPRK [about] on many, many, many occasions -- as recently as yesterday, when I met with, or I guess the day before, when I met with Vice Minister Kim Gye-gwan. So this is an important issue for us. And I know it is a very important issue to our friend and ally, the Japanese. And I look forward to briefing the Japanese tonight when I get there and to talk about my discussions on this point with Kim Gye-gwan.

QUESTION: But is it a pre-condition to get North Korea off the list?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, what we look for in getting North Korea off this list is that they have stopped all terrorism acts and are fully signed up to UN covenants on terrorism. So we are looking for them to comply with our law. It is important to understand that this terrorism list is a list that comes out, is a U.S. list that is determined by our own legal processes. So we need to add countries or remove countries according to our own legal basis.

QUESTION: What is the North Korean response whenever you ask them or tell them to deal with this issue (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well I don’t like to be their spokesman. So you should ask them the next opportunity that you have. But I think they understand the importance that we attach to this matter, because I think they’ve noticed that every time I meet with them I raise this matter and that it is important to us -- first of all from a humanitarian point of view, because there are families of these abducted people who quite justifiably want to know what happened to their loved ones.

But it goes beyond a humanitarian issue. It’s also for us an important matter in the trust that we have with Japan and in the very close friendship and, frankly, alliance that we have with Japan.

And I do believe that as the DPRK contemplates its future, it needs to contemplate a future with good relations with its neighbors. I don’t think the DPRK has a very good future if it can’t achieve a good relationship with Japan.

So these are points that we have made repeatedly to them. I think they’ve understood us. But you can confirm that when you next talk to them.

QUESTION: On UN sanctions (inaudible), do think that it is time to revisit these sanctions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The sanctions are there until DPRK gets out of the nuclear business, and that is when they ought to be revisited. And you know, I cannot tell you exactly when they will finally remove themselves from these nuclear programs and nuclear weapons. I can’t tell you when they will finally do what they say they are going to do according to the September ‘05 statement. But I can tell you, the sooner the better. And the sooner they can move, the sooner we can move on our obligations.

And I think, really, if we can get through this next couple of months -- where we are doing the disablement and we are getting this full list of nuclear programs and where we are dealing with suspicions and concerns about uranium enrichment -- I think if we can get through this list, I am hopeful that we will create a situation where the momentum will push us through and we will get through the entire process of denuclearization soon in the coming year. We are working hard on all of this.

Speaking of working hard, I really have to catch an airplane here.

QUESTION: Getting back to the peace regime, the South Korean Government seems to think the signing of a peace treaty and declaring an end to the Korean War are two different things. Do you think that is the case?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well again, all I can do is repeat our position -- which is, upon substantial disablement which shows that the DPRK is moving towards abandonment, we are prepared to participate in a peace process on the Korean Peninsula. It is with the understanding that we cannot conclude it until we are concluding it with a denuclearized North Korea. I really don’t have anything new. I know there are a lot of different ideas on how to do this, but that is our position.

QUESTION: If there is a ministerial meeting, would you see that as a proper venue to have a ceremony as a symbolic gesture announcing the start of a peace regime?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know, there have been a lot of symbolic gestures, and I think the time for symbolic gestures -- I would rather we get to work and negotiate these tasks. I think through a process of negotiations where everyone knows with great precision what we are doing, I think that is the way to create the circumstance for lasting peace and security.

Okay?

QUESTION: Earlier this week the U.S. Navy helped crew members of a North Korean cargo ship fight off some pirates. Some people say this is a sign of improving relations between the United States and North Korea. What do you think?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, look, you will always find our Navy prepared to help any ship in distress and certainly any ship that is confronting pirates. I mean, this is a very serious security problem on the African coast. These are not pirates who will remind you of Johnny Depp; these are quite different kinds of pirates. So I think we were pleased to be able to help in this regard. And I hope the DPRK understands that we did this out of the sense of good will that we have on this. The Pirates were not enforcing [UNSC Resolution] 1718. (Laughter).



Released on November 2, 2007

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