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Evening Walkthrough at the Six-Party Talks

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

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ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had an initial meeting of the six parties tonight. It started a little late because the Chinese had spent a good part of the day meeting in consultations with all the other five members. We discussed fuel oil. We discussed the issue of the disablement schedule, and we discussed verification. On fuel oil and disablement, there were no really contentious issues there, so we went right to the subject of verification.

What the Chinese are going to try to do is put together a draft and circulate something tomorrow so we can discuss it tomorrow. The Chinese had some ideas on how to approach the issue, and so they will put it on a piece of paper and we will discuss those ideas in the morning. So that’s about all. It didn’t last very long, just about an hour.

QUESTION: How was the Chinese response when you briefed them about the U.S.-DPRK talks in Singapore?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What do you mean? You should ask the Chinese what their response was.

QUESTION: Did they seem satisfied about what you have --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I’m not here to speak for the Chinese. But I can say from our point of view we gave them, I think, a very thorough version of our understanding of what we did in Singapore. I think they also talked to the DPRK and got their version of events as well.

QUESTION: Do you think that is going to be reflected in the draft that they are going to send around?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think the concept is that the draft will reflect the comments of the different participants, so I would expect so. But I really can’t speak to something I have not seen yet. They promised to get something done and circulate it to the other five.

QUESTION: As usual, each party has expressed their point of view at the beginning and you had some discussion in the talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, the Chinese opened the Six-Party meeting with a prepared statement, and there were short and extemporaneous presentations by the other participants. We agreed that the agenda would be verification, fuel oil, and completion of disablement actions.

QUESTION: Do you now have a schedule for fuel oil and disablement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The Chinese and the South Koreans put forward a proposed schedule on fuel oil. There was a discussion about the need to harmonize the fuel oil with disablement. But a number of us agreed that we weren’t going to agree to anything until we see the overall picture, which would have to include the discussion of verification. So we’ll see what the verification paper looks like tomorrow.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, you heard the opinions of all the members of the six nations, at least shortly, you said. Based on that, do you foresee a long period of negotiation for this round of talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What do you mean by long? One hour is a long time in the six parties (laughter).

I don’t know. We’re looking at trying to do something during the timeframe that the Chinese set out, which I think is some three days or so. I can’t tell you how long it will take, because we haven’t seen what the Chinese want to propose. Presumably, what they want to propose is based on what we did in Pyongyang, but I can’t say that. I have to first see what they’ve actually done. But, they’ve certainly heard all of our positions, and I think their task as chairman is to try to amalgamate those positions into a single document.

QUESTION: Ambassador, the discussion about the energy assistance and disablement is done, or do you have to do more tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t think there needs to be any more discussion on that. Those issues were not particularly contentious. I think the motivation in discussing those today was simply to get them out of the way so we could get on to the main issue, which is verification.

QUESTION: Sir, we have all the list of countries who are supporting on this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had a good discussion. Our South Korean colleague gave a very good report on the status of all of that.

QUESTION: So they’ve finalized it already?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, we gave a report on that, and when we get to the end of the meeting, we’ll discuss what we all agree to. But I think that it’s pretty clear that what we’re going to be focusing on in the next couple of days is verification.

QUESTION: When is the energy assistance going to be concluded?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, it will depend on what the overall agreement is. So I’d rather wait until the end of the Six-Party head of delegation talks to let you know when it’s going to be concluded, because I don’t know yet.

QUESTION: Ambassador, you were saying that China is putting something together for tomorrow. What are the elements of that something? Could you just explain a little more?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, it has to do with verification, and I think the key element will be what we did in Pyongyang. But, as you know, we want to see some further definitions of this. The Russians certainly had some thoughts on this. They have a lot of experience on verification. Again, I can’t really comment on it too much because I haven’t seen it yet.

QUESTION: Is it your sense that the elements of an agreement on this issue are falling into place?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think it’s premature to say that. I need to see what they are going to come up with.

AIDE: We have time for one last question.

QUESTION: What did the North Koreans say about the partition on the verification issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: They didn’t really speak to the verification issue except to join with the rest of us in saying we want to see what the Chinese have produced.

QUESTION: So they didn’t say that they are against sampling or against any specific --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, they didn’t say that they are against sampling. They simply said what the rest of us said, which is we’ll withhold comments until we see what they’ve produced. We can’t comment on a paper we haven’t seen yet. But the paper is obviously going to be based not on the brief conversation today in the six parties, but rather on the more substantial consultations that the Chinese had with all parties.

I think we have to wait and see what they have, and they’ve promised us something tomorrow morning that we can look at and study. Let’s see if we can make some comments on it tomorrow.

QUESTION: Did you get a chance on the draft of the verification paper you can (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Let’s see what it is, and I can have a better sense for you. Okay?

QUESTION: Did you have to make a concession on the sampling issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m sorry, were we what -- make a concession? Look, I’m sorry; we’ve been over this issue. We have nothing new in our position. It’s pretty clear we need a proper agreement that makes it clear what we’re going to be doing when we get onto the process of verification. I don’t have anything new to add to our position.

QUESTION: How about the idea that the North Koreans are waiting to speak with the Obama Administration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That certainly didn’t come up today. I think there’s an understanding that we need to get through some issues now, and let’s hope we get through them.

Okay, see you later.

QUESTION: What time for tomorrow, please?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You know, I’m not sure what time we start. We’ll wait for information from the Chinese. Maybe it will be dependent to some extent on when they can get this paper done because that’s what we’re expected to discuss when we meet again tomorrow.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any plans to leave at a certain time tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t have any plans to leave, so you might want to be here from 4:30 in the morning (laughter). Okay?

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

Released on December 8, 2008

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