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Remarks Following Dinner With Ambassador Chun Young-woo

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Seoul, South Korea
April 1, 2008

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QUESTION: Ambassador Chun just said that we’ve waited long enough. What can you do to persuade North Korea to hand in the declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, we’ve had a number of discussions with the North Koreans on the declaration. As you know, we have a very strong position that it needs to be complete and correct, meaning that they need to include a complete description of their nuclear program. We had some discussions, some direct discussions about this in Geneva. I think we made some progress. I hope to make more progress. Since we met in Geneva we’ve had some additional indirect discussions. So we’ve made some progress on the issue, but we need to get that declaration.

As Ambassador Chun said, we’ve lost a lot of time in this process, and we need to go forward. I must say that, as difficult as the declaration is, the next phase will be even more difficult as we try to get North Korea to finally do away with its nuclear ambitions. So there’s a lot of work to do. And, frankly speaking, we’re really at the point where we need this declaration very soon.

QUESTION: Have you had any contact after they addressed this message last Friday?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I must say, in our contacts on the Six Parties we’ve not had the kind of tone we’ve seen in these KCNA statements. But we’ve made very clear that these statements are, I think, very unhelpful overall. But in our private discussions of the declaration, we’ve not had that kind of tone.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). Over the past few days, with this news from North Korea, with Kaesong, the missiles, the threats, we’ve seen a lot coming. Has the situation changed because of all this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The question of whether the Six Parties situation has changed as a result of these threats and other sort of intemperate statements by KCNA, I think we’ve made very clear that we consider these statements completely unhelpful to the process. I’m sure whoever writes them in KCNA is having a good time, but I don’t think they really respond very accurately to the overall situation. I think we have to see whether North Korea is really prepared to keep moving on the Six Party process. Certainly they are looking, they are trying to find solutions to the declaration issue. And, assuming we get through that, we’ll know a lot in the next phase. But why they’ve made these comments on the bilateral relationship, why they have chosen now to get involved with issues of Kaesong access and other things, really you’ll have to ask them. I’m really getting much too old to understand what KCNA has in their mind.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, is Washington (inaudible) prepared to (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, you know, I don’t like to talk about what we’re prepared to do if they don’t do something -- except to say, I’ve said a thousand times we can’t walk away from this problem. We have to deal with it in one way or the other, and I hope we can do that through continuation of the Six-Party process. I think we have a remarkable amount of unity among the parties. I mean the ROK, the U.S., Japanese, Chinese, and Russians have made very clear that the North Koreans need to come through this. So let us work on this a little more. And when we come to the point where it’s not going to work, and we know it’s not going to work, then we’ll certainly have to consider what else to do.

Thank you very much. It’s great to be back in Seoul.

QUESTION: When will you meet with the North Koreans?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. I don’t know.

Released on April 1, 2008

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