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Remarks to Media Upon Arrival in Japan

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Narita Airport
Tokyo, Japan
June 19, 2008

QUESTION: Secretary Rice said earlier that North Korea will give a declaration of its nuclear programs soon to China.  When do you think it will happen?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL:  Well, as the Secretary said, I think it will happen soon. And the reason I'm here is to meet with our ROK and Japanese counterparts and to get ready for the Six Parties.  I think there have been in the past couple of months a lot of bilateral discussions of all kinds, but I think now is the month where we're really going to switch the focus back to the Six Parties.  So I think we are going to be getting ready here for the next Six-Party meeting, which as Secretary Rice said will be soon.

QUESTION: Does that mean by the end of this month?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, “soon” means “soon.”  I don’t think I need to interpret the Secretary’s words. As I said, we’ve had a lot of bilateral discussions in recent weeks, recent months, but I think now is the time we’re going to really focus on the Six Parties. And in particular, after meeting with Saiki-san and Kim Sook, I will go to China and talk to the Chinese -- because I think right now this is going to be a very important time for China, because they will be looking forward to receiving the declaration soon and for getting the six parties together and making sure we can all work together on concluding this phase.

QUESTION: President Bush will then notify the Congress of his intention to remove North Korea from the list of terrorist states.  When do you think it will happen?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, again, I think the Secretary’s words speak for themselves.  I’m not going to interpret the Secretary’s words.  I do know about the speech, but the speech actually took place while I was flying. So I’d like to read the transcript and see what was actually said.

QUESTION: There are some differences of opinion among Japanese politicians about removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.  Some say that the United States shouldn’t remove it from the list so soon, but some say you should.  What do you think about it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, again, I don’t want to get into the middle of discussions among Japanese politicians -- except to say that we have been working very closely with our Japanese counterparts.  That’s partly why I’m here today to see Saiki-san.  I know that Secretary Rice has also worked very closely with Japanese Foreign Minister Koumura. So I think we are really trying to work closely in a way to strengthen the Six Parties and to strengthen U.S.-Japanese cooperation.  We know these issues are very important to Japan. And because they’re important to Japan, they’re important to us.  And so that’s why we are staying in close contact, and let’s see how we do.  This could be a very important few weeks.

QUESTION: I think that there is a certain level of development.  But do you think it’s a long, long road to get to this point?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It’s been a very long road, and I’ve worn out a lot of shoes walking on this road.  But as I said, we believe the Six-Party process is the right process to deal with this problem, and we think it’s been very important to have China in the chair.  It’s been very important to have the U.S. and Japan working closely together.  And I’m very pleased to have this trilateral process once again starting up with the ROK and Japan and the U.S., and that’s partly why I’m here today in Tokyo.  So it’s been a very long road, a very difficult road, and even a few bumps in the road, I would say. But I think it’s been the right process for dealing with this problem, and let’s see if we can finish the job and get to our destination.

QUESTION: Do you think the Six-Party Talks will be held in early July?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, Secretary Rice said “soon,” and let me just stay with what the Secretary said, ok?

QUESTION: What does it mean, “stability in this region”?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What does “stability” mean?  I’ll tell you what it means.  The most important thing that we’re trying to do is have a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, and that is really essential to stability.  It’s essential to good relations among states, and I think it will be extremely helpful to the region and to the DPRK if we can get this done.

QUESTION: Do you believe the next Six-Party Talks will be coming to the final stage?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know.  As the lady just said, it’s been a long road, and I don’t think we’re quite finished getting to our destination.  But, again, I think we have the right vehicle for doing that, and that’s the Six-Party process. And I look forward to discussing that while I’m here in Tokyo.

Released on June 19, 2008

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