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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 10, 2008

QUESTION: How did the talks go today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Fairly long day today, I started it with a set of consultations first with the Russians and Chinese. Then we met with the trilateral -- with the ROK and Japanese. All of this was, of course, to get ready for Six-Party head of the delegation meeting that started this afternoon around four o’clock.

The discussion at the head of the delegation meeting concerned, first of all, a discussion about some details of the monitoring mechanism, which is the mechanism by which we will monitor obligations and commitments made in the six parties. We also had a detailed discussion about the principles for the verification regime. And, in that connection, the heads of delegation asked the denuclearization working group to get going tomorrow on the negotiation of the actually verification protocol.

Tomorrow, in the heads of delegation, we are hoping to take on the issue of economic and energy assistance for the DPRK. And we hope as well to have a discussion about the next phase. So, all in all, I think it’s a good start to the process. But I think the effort to negotiate the actual verification protocol will be very important. And that’s where we will have experts from all six countries to sit there and -- based on the principles that we all have discussed -- see if they can reach an agreement on that.

QUESTION: So you haven’t [gone into] the substance? The discussion didn’t go into the substance of the verification process?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Sure it did. We had a detailed discussion about the principles of it. And how those principles actually work will be [discussed] when the denuclearization working group meets. There are a lot of technical issues there. When they have a site visit, there will questions about what will verifiers actually do at the site
-- these sorts of things. So there will a lot of details that the denuclearization working group -- with technical people -- will need to take up.

QUESTION: What do you mean by principles? What are the principles?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again we have an agreement of what they are. It’s basically discussing, for example, the fact the verification needs to include site visits, needs to include documents, needs to include interviews. But -- we had a few more details than that -- but those are examples of the principles. The key thing will be tomorrow when the denuclearization working group meets and actually works out the actual protocol. So they have a lot of work ahead of them. So I hope they are getting a good night’s sleep. Better than we’re getting here at midnight.

QUESTION: How much of the protocol are you aiming to agree upon?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think the hope is the denuclearization working group can go through this and try to reach an agreement. I can’t tell you how quickly it will happen or how many days it will take, but let’s see what they are able to do. Again, there was a consensus around the table on the principles we have discussed before. There was actually some discussion of some of the details of the principles, which is beyond what we have discussed before. But we will have to see how they do.

QUESTION: Ambassador, (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL:I’m sorry, the protocol? You will have to ask the Chinese how they are going to handle that. I presume the Chinese will have some kind of chairman statement of some kind. And presumably we’ll have to see how quickly the verification protocol -- which has a lot of details -- and so we’ll have to see how quickly that can be done. I don’t want to predict which day or how many days it will take. We will have to see.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, in the past couple of days has there been any discussion of the declaration as well? In particular [are there] any omissions or gaps in the declaration that will be dealt with?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: There was some discussion about the actual declaration. And the various representatives -- heads of delegation -- gave some opinions about the degree of its completeness. So there was some discussion about that, but I don’t really want to go into details at this point.

QUESTION: Were there any surprises today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No surprises today. I think we had a lot of bilateral meetings. And, if you consider that we had six delegations, just about all of the six delegations met with their five counterparts, so you do the math. There were a lot of meetings.

QUESTION: If Japan does not participate in economic or energy aid, have you agreed upon how the remaining countries will --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think there will be a discussion tomorrow about the energy assistance, so I don’t want to speculate on that.

QUESTION: Will the verification process have all six or all five -- the remaining five countries -- going to be involved? Or will it be nuclear powers only? Or how is that --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh no, verification will definitely include all the members of the six parties.

QUESTION: What about monitoring? Will IAEA be involved?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL:There’s a discussion about IAEA. But I don’t want to go into the details. Certainly there was a full discussion about that and the relationship of the IAEA role versus the Six-Party role.

QUESTION: The monitoring mechanism -- does it include the HEU and the proliferation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, the concept is that there are certain commitments made. For example, in the October statement, there is a commitment by the DPRK that they would -- that they are not proliferating and will not proliferate in the future. So that’s a statement whose veracity needs to continue to be monitored. That’s one example. But there are others. And certainly the DPRK has been concerned about whether countries that have taken up the obligations to provide energy assistance -- whether they are actually doing that. And so they want those situations monitored as well. So that’s the concept of what we’re talking about. And, again, I think when the Chinese complete this as the chair, they will probably describe that. So I don’t want to get into the actual description of it. I think it’s for the Chinese chair to take care of there.

And, by the way, I should say that the Chinese did a really excellent job, not only of the preparations for the meetings. In fact, we decided to go further tonight, to do more tonight, and the Chinese were able to put together a dinner at the Daioyutai on something like two hours notice. And then they went through this agenda, and I think we did pretty well to get all of these details. Again, tomorrow is going to be important because the denuclearization working group meets to do its thing.

QUESTION: Is this monitoring mechanism something that will be set during this meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, there’s an agreement on it. And let me just have the Chinese describe that. It’s really for them to describe.

QUESTION: Is North Korea insisting that they first need to agree on energy assistance and then agree on the verification process?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t want to characterize their position, except to say that we are working on what the energy assistance will look like. This would follow up on the meeting in Panmunjom which, I believe, was on June 10th. So we’ll be following up with further details on that. So I think this is obviously an issue of importance to the DPRK, and we’ll have to work this through.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, the verification steps under discussion apply only to declared sites?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t want to get into details on it. We have to negotiate these issues and what the actual verification protocol will look like. There’s going to be a lot of discussion. There are differences on how it’ll work. I don’t think there are surprises, but certainly there are differences. So, you know, the six teams of experts need to get together and try to work that through.

QUESTION: Would you say that the gaps have narrowed between the North Koreans and the other parties?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t want to talk about gaps yet. The negotiation hasn’t even gotten underway; that’s to be done tomorrow. So it is really too early to talk about widening or narrowing gaps. I would just say all six delegations really came having done their homework and obviously taken this first meeting in some nine months with great seriousness. And I would say that applies to all six delegations.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, are you going to be here until the details are all sorted out or --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. We’ll see. Again, we have to see how long the heads of delegation meeting goes on.

QUESTION: But that is your --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: My function is in the heads of delegation meeting.

QUESTION: Are we to understand that the heads of delegation meeting is setting the guideline -- or the basic frame -- and then working groups will handle all the details?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Something like that. It is not just that they are handling details. The devil is in the details. So details are very important. But that is why they have some technical people who really know the meaning of these details.

QUESTION: Ambassador, are there any discussions about making the declaration public?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We didn’t get into that. I know that is foremost on your minds, but it is not foremost on our minds. What we are trying to do is deal with the declaration and the whole verification issue.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion about the Six-Party ministerial meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Some discussion. I think we will do more of that tomorrow.

QUESTION: Do you think you will be able to start mapping out the third phase in this session?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We are supposed to have a discussion on that sometime tomorrow. In fact, we will have our first meeting of the heads of delegation tomorrow at nine o’clock. So we have got a whole day. And we have got to discuss the energy issues that we didn’t get to. We have to discuss the ministerial. We also have to discuss looking ahead to what phase three might look like. So there is a lot going on. And denuclearization -- although a working group -- I think is a very key development, which only begins tomorrow. I am not going to predict when it will end.

QUESTION: What time are you going to come out tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Seriously, I have to go to the embassy at 8:00, so I am going to come out here at 7:30. But I will have no new information between now, which is – last time I checked my watch – midnight, and 7:30 when I walk out of here. All I can tell you is how I slept.

QUESTION: Can you say that the negotiation is going to continue after Sunday?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t want to predict how long the negotiation goes on.

QUESTION: Before you go on to the third phase, when would be the starting point? Would it be after a protocol --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We are going to discuss some of those timing issues tomorrow. What we have discussed today is what I have already told you today. That is a fair question. But it is best answered maybe tomorrow and probably even better answered by the Chinese. Thank you very much.

Released on July 11, 2008

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