Remarks Upon Arrival at Incheon AirportChristopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Seoul, South Korea
April 1, 2008
QUESTION: Welcome back.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Hi, how are you? Thank you. It’s always great to get on the plane for 14 hours and speak to you.
QUESTION: Do you have any opening comment?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m sorry? No I don’t.
QUESTION: There has been a report that you showed Kim Kye-gwan a list of people who cooperated in Syria and Kim Kye-gwan quickly denied the list (inaudible). Do you have anything to say on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, look, I ‘m not going to discuss what our private discussions are. Obviously we’ve had a lot of discussion with them on getting a proper declaration, and it has to include what their activities are in terms of nuclear cooperation with other countries. They know that. We’ve worked with them on this. We had a lot of discussion in Geneva. We’ve been in touch with them since then, and I hope we can figure out a way to get through this. But, obviously, we are kind of running out of time right now.
QUESTION: This week DPRK are delivering a continuous message, escalating message toward South Korea. What do you think about (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I saw those comments, which are obviously completely inappropriate and out of line. I would mention that [the source was] KCNA, which I don’t think is the most reliable news agency in the world. Obviously, these are sorts of comments that are just inappropriate for discussing relations with other states. I don’t think there’s anything that people in the ROK or the U.S. need to be too concerned about. I think we should probably not overreact to comments that really have no basis in fact and seem to be entirely propagandistic and aimed at domestic audiences, whoever they are.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) missiles affects the Six-Party Talks process?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, no. I mean, I don’t think I’ll take a fire extinguisher with me to the next set of talks. So it doesn’t really make any difference.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) running out of time?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well you know, here we are April 1 and we still don’t have this thing. Again, we had some progress in Geneva. We thought we had some progress after that. So we ‘ll see. They know what they need to do.
QUESTION: Sir, don’t you think we need a real deadline? We just can’t sit and wait like this forever. So don’t you think -- .
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well this is not forever, okay? We haven’t been waiting forever. But, obviously, we are getting to the point where we need to make some progress very quickly.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) How long? Do you have any specific deadline in mind?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t have a specific deadline. I’ll know it when I see it.
QUESTION: Do you still think that it’s possible to complete denuclearization of DPRK in calendar year 2008?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You know, they could complete it very quickly if they wanted to. I think the problem is that the DPRK needs to make this fundamental decision. Again, I think we have made progress on the declaration. But until we complete the declaration, we won’t have succeeded. And then we need to get on to the third phase, which is the very important phase where they should be giving up all their nuclear ambitions. Obviously they are a -- You know, it’s a country that has difficulty making decisions of this kind. When I look at some of the problems they’re confronting right now with food production and other things like that, they’re obviously in a difficult position.
QUESTION: Do you feel that there are some sorts of (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea how that works.
QUESTION: Is there a downside to just waiting out the Bush Administration and doing nothing (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well look, if you’ve been to the States lately you know it’s quite a political season. We have several political candidates who are running for president. Absolutely nobody has suggested that they want this problem. Nobody has suggested that they are interested in giving the DPRK a better deal than the one we have put on the table. So I would say, from the DPRK’s point of view, the time to settle is now.
QUESTION: Is there a talk of when to meet next -- Six-Party Talks (inaudible) any discussion on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, again, we’ve got to get through this declaration. So no point in having a meeting until we have a willingness on the DPRK’s part to discuss all of the nuclear programs, which is the requirement that they have under the October declaration. So until we get that, no point in discussing further.
QUESTION: Has there been some progress in your Geneva meeting with Kim Kye-gwan until now?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Has there been some progress in your Geneva meeting with Kim Kye-gwan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, we’ve had some indirect contacts, and I would say there is some progress on that. But, again, it doesn’t really mean anything until we actually get a declaration
QUESTION: They at least agreed they have to provide the declaration?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think they agreed they have to provide a declaration, yes.
QUESTION: Do they still insist they already did so in November?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Not to us. Not to us. They never showed us the declaration. They showed us some research materials, research reference materials rather, and it was very clear it was not a complete and correct declaration. So you bet they are on the hook to do that.
QUESTION: Can we expect some developments in U.S. food aid in the near future?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we continue to monitor what we believe to be a deteriorating food situation in North Korea. We continue to monitor it and be guided by what we can do to help the North Korean people overcome these issues. But I think everyone is concerned about the deteriorating food situation.-- I think everyone except, I guess, for KCNA.
QUESTION: So, now you haven’t come up with any concrete idea of moving forward on that food assistance?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, we haven’t. Obviously, whenever you have a food assistance problem in a country, that country’s government needs to come forward, acknowledge they have some problems, and make some specific requests. And we haven’t had that yet.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think -- I am not sure there is much more I can tell you. I mean, you know the situation. I mean, they are just not quite there yet.
QUESTION: Are you still stuck over the same old issues (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Basically. Basically --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) it’s all about wording now (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I’ll let you know when it’s done. It’s not good to talk about things in the middle, because you can end up making more work for yourself.
QUESTION: Do you have plans for a meeting with Kim Kye-gwan anytime during your (inaudible) Asian trip?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, we have no specific plans.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t like to talk about those things, because it just makes my job more difficult.
So, all right?
(Later in the airport)
QUESTION: Two reporters from Kyodo here. Is it true that your talks with Kim Kye-gwan in Geneva have come close to complete agreement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, no, because we don’t have a declaration, and when we do I will let you know. We don’t have one, so --
QUESTION: Do you plan to meet with Kim Kye-gwan during your Asian tour?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I have no plans right now.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s possible to resume Six-Party Talks this month?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It depends on the North Koreans. It depends entirely on them.
QUESTION: Reportedly you have a list of North Korean engineers who gave assistance to Syria.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know what they are talking about. But, anyway, if we had any private discussions, I would keep them private.
QUESTION: What is the focus of your discussion with Korean officials here?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I think we will be talking about a lot of things, including the situation in (inaudible).
All right. See you later.
Released on April 1, 2008