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Evening Walk-Through at the Six-Party Talks

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
China World Hotel
Beijing, China
July 8, 2008

Video Excerpt

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Hi. It’s great to see you all. Well, it’s great to be back in Beijing and this time getting ready for a Six-Party meeting, which, as you know, was announced earlier today by the Chinese. We’ll have a heads of delegation meeting on Thursday and going through Friday. And I think we’ll also have working group meetings of the denuclearization and the energy working groups.

In anticipation of all of this, I’ll have a round of bilateral consultations, as will, I’m sure, other delegations. Today I met with the DPRK delegation. I’ll be meeting with the ROK, and I think doing some more tomorrow and on Thursday morning prior to the start of the heads of delegation meeting.

I think it’s an important week because we really are shifting back toward the Six-Party format. For weeks -- indeed for months -- we’ve had many bilateral meetings. And I think now we’re getting back to six parties. And I think the main objective, as the Chinese stated, will be to work out the verification regime to complete phase two. And we’re also hopeful that maybe we can have a discussion about phase three and see if we can get on with completing the task.

QUESTION: Can you describe to us how the talk with the DPRK went tonight?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It was fine. We discussed a number of things, but especially our understanding of what we would try to accomplish during the heads of delegation meeting. So I look forward to doing the same with other delegations -- the main issue being to try to work out as soon as we can a verification regime and to get the verification process going. I mean, we would try to work out the regime and then begin it as soon as possible. Because, as you know, verification will probably take longer than just a few days; it will be weeks and even months. So we need to get going with that, and that was the main focus of our discussion tonight. I suspect that will be the main focus of all of our bilateral meetings.

QUESTION: Have they stepped forward on your request about interviewing the scientists and the going into --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Those are all elements that are in the set of principles that we have all agreed on -- that is to have verification consist of the documents, of the site visits, and of interviews. Obviously details have to be worked out, and that’s why we need to work out a verification protocol, a verification regime. So we had some discussion of that today, but not a lot.

We also discussed some of our bilateral issues that we’re doing, for example the U.S. food shipment, talked a little about the disablement activities, Yongbyon, and the rate of disablement.

Again, I’m pleased that we’re back on the Six-Party format. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Six-Party head of delegation meeting, so I’m looking forward to it.

QUESTION: What are you hoping to get out of the next round of Six-Party Talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: To get a verification regime and maybe to have a preliminary look at how we can address phase three objectives.

QUESTION: And are you hopeful?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I never say I’m hopeful, except to say that I don’t think there will be any surprises for anyone. And I think we’ve all done a lot of consultations. In fact I look forward to seeing my ROK counterpart, Ambassador Kim, probably later tonight. Based on the fact that there are no surprises, I hope we can get through this smoothly.

QUESTION: What are the specific elements of the verification regime that you have to talk through in the next few days?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Already they’ve done a lot in terms of providing documents to the U.S. side. And so we have to figure out how that will be handled in the six parties. We have to figure out in detail how the site visits will take place because that’s important from the point of view of sampling and things like that. We have to figure out, in addition to the six parties, what other countries might want to be involved in this. Then as for the interviews, yes, we have to work through some of those as well.

So, still a lot of details. But again we’ve, I think, teed this up really well. I mean, we’ve had a lot of discussions. So again, I don’t think there are any surprises. But you know, it’s never over until it’s over in the Six-Party process, so let’s see how we do.

QUESTION: So do you go to these talks with an understanding already of who is actually going to carry out the verification?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We have to nail down some of those details. But we’ve had a lot of discussions about what the verification picture will look like. I think the DPRK has a very clear understanding that verification is absolutely key for other delegations, including the U.S.

We had a good preliminary discussion about it today. And I would look forward to the head of delegation meeting getting more into it, passing it off to the denuclearization working group, and, I hope, coming up with something this week.

Okay, thank you very much.

QUESTION: Sorry, if I could finally ask then, are we also going to be getting into questions about North Korea rejoining the International Atomic Energy Agency and the NPT?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we’re fairly early in that process. I see that as a process, where at the time when they give up all of their nuclear weapons and materials and rejoin the NPT as a non-nuclear state. So we have a lot of work to do. And that’s what I meant by having a look at what we call phase three, that is the next phase.

But first we have to tie up phase two. I hope we’ll be able to address phase three, because we see phase three – that is, the phase we are about to embark on – as the final phase, the abandonment phase. We need to have a discussion about that.

QUESTION: And is phase two, the last things you need to tie up, is that verification?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, verification is the most important thing. We want to speed up the rate of disablement. Obviously the cooling tower is done, but we need to discharge the reactor. We hope we can pick up the pace to do that. And there are some other elements of disablement that we’d like to move more quickly on.

QUESTION: Have the North Koreans agreed to pick up the pace of restarting the discharging of the fuel rods?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t want to get into all the specifics of what we agreed, but we have a pretty good understanding of what needs to be done. A lot of this has to be determined in the Six-Party meeting. We’re pleased that we are here, and I think we’ve got one scheduled on Thursday.

QUESTION: Do you have any meetings tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m not sure of my schedule. I just look from one hour to the next when I am here, but I think I see Kim Sook from the ROK tonight. I may have a follow-up with the DPRK tomorrow. I think we are busy scheduling the Chinese, the Russians and the Japanese, although I think Ambassador Saiki does not come until Thursday.

QUESTION: Okay? Alright, see you all later.

Released on July 8, 2008

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