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Press Availability at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Seoul, Korea
April 2, 2008

QUESTION: How was the discussion with MOFAT?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had some very good discussions. We had some very good discussions with the Vice Minister and Deputy Minister about the -- first of all -- the region. We talked about relationships within the region. We talked about the U.S. bilateral relationship, discussed a little what our two presidents might be talking about when they meet in April. We also of course talked about the North Korean statements, sort of barrage of North Korea statements in the last few days. We agreed that these were, frankly, rather unhelpful statements -- except in one area. They’re very helpful in bringing the U.S. and the ROK closer together. We had, I think, a very clear understanding of the nature of these statements and what we need to do to deal with the overall situation.

So very good, very good discussions.

QUESTION: Oh, I heard that you’re (inaudible) on the way forward to persuade North Korea to hand in their declaration. Did you talk about the way forward with Minister Chun last night?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, yes, last night I talked with Chun Young Woo about the Six Party process and about the U.S. and ROK -- our continuing cooperation on this process. And I briefed him on where we stand with respect to the North Koreans, in particular the Geneva meeting and what’s happened since then. We have had some communication with the North Koreans since then about what type of, what measures need to be taken in order to achieve the complete declaration. And I think it’s fair to say that -- despite the overall atmosphere, which has not been improved due to these rather intemperate statements coming out of Pyongyang in recent days -- nonetheless, I think we do feel that some of the actual differences with respect to the declaration have narrowed. But whether that’s significant of not we won’t know until we actually have the declaration.

I’ve said many times that we are very concerned about time. We’re very concerned that we really need this wrapped up by the end of March, and here it is already after the end of March. So we’ll have to see whether we can hear anything new from the DPRK on this in the next, really in the next few days.

QUESTION: Do you see the missile launch and military movements by North Korea, the direct threats to attack South Korean ships in the West Sea, the Yellow Sea, as being a military threat?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, first of all, I don’t think there is a stronger alliance in the world today than the ROK-U.S. alliance. But I think that some of these statements are directed at trying to upset the mood in the ROK. Obviously these statements are not helpful, but I don’t think we need to overreact to them. I think we all know what we’re trying to accomplish. And these are in many cases unsigned statements. So I don’t think we need to overreact to this type of tactic, which, frankly, we’ve seen before.

QUESTION: There’s word that you’re nearly done with declaration but you’re jostling over the wording, maybe one or few, one or two words or so. How far along is declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know, I’ll be in a much better position to tell you how far along we are when we actually get it done. And so I think you have to be very careful when you talk about process like this and say we’re close or something like that, because you don’t know how close you are until you actually achieve it. So we haven’t achieved the declaration yet. You know, what is very important about the declaration is to, first of all, have a complete and correct declaration with respect to all their nuclear programs. In particular, we need to know what their plutonium situation is. But, also, we know that the DPRK was engaged in procurements of things for uranium enrichment. So we need to know that status. We also need to know what has gone on with any foreign nuclear cooperation. And we need to know, first of all, what went on; secondly, that it stopped; thirdly, that it won’t be done again.

So there are all these things we need to finalize, and I’m not in a position really to discuss how close we are yet. I felt that Geneva was very useful. But at the end, it wasn’t as -- it didn’t go as far as I had hoped it would. So you know, we’ll see.

QUESTION: Previously you said that you can be flexible on the format but you can’t be flexible on the elements.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you still believe that the uranium enrichment and (inaudible) to be submitted to the Chinese instead of just to you or U.S., or --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Look, again, how the actual format comes out, we don’t have secrets between us in the Six Party Process. So there won’t be something that we’re keeping secret from the Chinese. I can assure you of that. The Chinese are in the chair of the process, and they need to be -- they need, not only to be aware of everything, but also to be engaged in everything. And so, again, I think at the end of all this we will see a very transparent process that everyone can understand. We are not interested in secret agreements, secretly arrived at. We have to be able to explain things to our public, so that our public understands what we’re doing. That’s the nature of our system.

QUESTION: Do you still urge them to submit all the elements to the Chinese chair?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, again, you’re asking very detailed questions about which elements get submitted where. Certainly the basic declaration has to be submitted to the chair, and what other elements there are we’ll have to see. But what other elements there are will be, you know, we have to be able to explain to our public, just as I think every member of the Six-Party needs to be able to do that.

QUESTION: Has North Korea slowed down the pace of disablement, and is disablement almost complete as outlined in the (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well there are some elements of the -- You know, we have 11 elements of disablement, and some of those will get going at the latter stage of the declaration process. I do believe, I continue to believe, that the disablement has gone very well, better than many people expected, that we have had continuing teams there. And I feel very encouraged by the overall pace and scope of disablement. And so it is not yet completed, and it probably will not be completed until the actual declaration, until the end of this phase two. And then we go on to phase three, which I think is the main issue that we all have to put our heads together on. Certainly, whenever I talk to my ROK counterparts – and, indeed, I also talked to my Japanese counterpart yesterday when I arrived at the airport -- we need to really think hard about how we’re going to manage phase three, because we are really running out of time.

OK. Thank you very much.



Released on April 2, 2008

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