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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 9, 2008

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Good evening. I don’t really have too much today. The Chinese circulated a draft this morning. We went through it; there were a lot of discussions among the parties. We got our comments back to the Chinese, and we expect to have a meeting tomorrow morning to discuss it in a heads of delegation.

I think the Chinese obviously put in a lot of work on it overnight - tried to address everyone’s concerns. Obviously that’s not easy to do, and so I think it’s fair to say the Chinese really had to work very hard. We’ve taken the draft with great seriousness, worked very hard ourselves through the day to try to make sure it encompasses what we need to do to get on with verification. We’ve submitted our comments.

There have been a lot of bilateral meetings through the course of the day. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the ROK, Japanese, and to the Russians as well. Everybody was putting in their comments. We’ve had some discussions with the DPRK, though not at my level - at a deputy’s level.

So, we’ll reconvene, I guess, in the morning and see how we are.

QUESTION: Can you tell us some of the points of the comments that you made to the Chinese in the draft?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We just want to make sure it was consistent with what we need to get through this phase. As you know, we’re very concerned that we have real verification and that when we get to important stages of verification, there is no confusion and there’s no effort to hide any of the major issues. Our comments were in the nature of trying to make it more precise. And I think that’s what others were trying to do. I’d rather not get into the substance of it, really, because we’re in the middle of negotiations.

QUESTION: Did the draft hit some of the points you were hoping? Or were there points of contention?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Any time you try to put together a draft, you deal with a lot of different concerns. You hit some, and then it’s up to all of us to make sure our concerns are reflected in it. I think everyone was working pretty hard to respond to a piece of work by the Chinese delegation, which reflected a great effort overnight by the Chinese to get that done.

QUESTION: Mr. Hill, is there any sense that these talks will be seen as a punctuation point for the foreign policy of President Bush’s White House?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’re trying to get through what’s a really tough issue - that is North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. I think the President has made clear on many occasions that this is not just a U.S. problem; this is a problem for all the countries in the region. We are very strong believers in the six parties. Certainly the effort that the Chinese made in putting together this draft is indicative of why we wanted China to be in the chair. They worked very hard and very diligently through the night.

We have to get through this phase. It doesn’t mean that the process has ended, because it will end with the fulfillment of the September ‘05 agreement where finally the DPRK should return to the NPT with IAEA safeguards. If we could get through this, this would be an important milestone on that road - but with the understanding that we’d have a long way to go.

QUESTION: Ambassador, where are some of the points that are lacking in the draft which you think is crucial?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I mean -- we put in our comments, and we put in our proposals which - if acceptable - would be acceptable to us.

QUESTION: Ambassador, do you believe the gap between the U.S. and North Korea is (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I can’t really say that. I haven’t seen how the DPRK has responded. As I said, it is a draft that tries to reflect a lot of people’s points of view. And I don’t know where the DPRK is on that. We certainly have worked with the DPRK and in Pyongyang, and a lot of that is very much taken into the draft. So I am sure they don’t have concerns about that.

As I’ve said throughout, we need a verification process that’s clear and does not leave ambiguities. And that certainly, I think, is what the draft tries to address and what we tried to address with our own comments. So how the DPRK regards it, you’ll have to ask them. And we’ll get a better idea of that when we sit down in the six parties tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: Can the meeting conclude tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I do not know. I don’t want to make predictions about that. So we’ll have to see what the party came up with tomorrow.

QUESTION: Do the things you’ve been demanding, the sampling or the visiting of the cleared sites--

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You mean the what?

QUESTION: Some things you have demanding in the verification like scientific procedures, sampling - were those in the draft?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It is fair to say yes without getting into any specifics. Certainly we had some thoughts on parts of the draft. It’s a lot of work, and the Chinese as chair had their staff working very late at night. I am sure they were kept away from their families for most of the night as they tried to get this done. We thought a piece like that deserves work from us, and that’s what we certainly tried to do today in responding to it.

QUESTION: Is the draft going to be in one paper or do you have several pages?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It is several pages.

QUESTION: The draft - is it for the parties, or is it more like a chairman’s statement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t think we’ve gotten into what it would be. But it certainly tries to capture the issues involved in verification.

QUESTION: Is there going to be, like, a revised version to --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Let’s see how we do tomorrow. As I said, all the parties are responding to it with comments - some of them conveyed orally, many of them conveyed in writing - so let’s see when we sit down tomorrow and see what the consensus is. I don’t want to characterize how other delegations saw it.

As I said, we saw that it represented a lot of effort by the Chinese chair. Any time that you see someone put in a lot of effort, you should respect effort. You should respect hard work, and you should respond to it with effort and hard work of your own. And that’s what we tried to do today.

QUESTION: Was there anything that jumped out at you in particular that you would object to, or that you think needs a lot more work?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No. I mean, look, any time you’re trying to factor in the views of six different countries in a multilateral process, there are some things there that you’d prefer were not there. But you try to deal with something and try to make sure that your interests are met and that your interests are satisfied. That’s certainly the nature of our comments, but mainly to take seriously the effort that they put into it.

This is why it’s not easy to be a chair of a process. When you’re the chair, you’re often called upon to do work like that, and the Chinese certainly worked. And now as the chair, let’s see if the Chinese can really impress upon the other participants that they need to work hard and try to get through this in the next couple of days.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, a simple question: Do you expect a solid and satisfactory agreement on verification tomorrow or this month?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. I know what we require in order to move forward. And we need a verification agreement that is very real, very solid, very clear. We can’t have ambiguity. It needs to be clear. We’ve spent a lot of time explaining that, and I think there is a lot of support for that in the six parties. So let’s see. I cannot predict the outcome. We’re in the middle of this game.

QUESTION: You’re saying there is still some ambiguity - there’s still some unclear points in what you’re seeing in the draft?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I’ve tried to say it’s a work in progress, and we’ve given our comments. I know other delegations have given theirs. We’ll have a conversation tomorrow. We’ll get a better idea of what people think.

QUESTION: Ambassador, is this actually going to be made public when it’s done?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. It’s - as I said - a work in progress. Let’s see what it looks like after the other delegations have a chance to talk about it. I know how some other delegations feel about it. But it’s not for me to speak for the other delegations.

QUESTION: Do you think you can wrap it up tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know, I don’t know. I wouldn’t give up your hotel room quite yet (laughter).

QUESTION: What’s the biggest progress made today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’ve circulated a draft. We’ve given comments. It’s an effort to get everyone around the same piece of paper. I’ll be in a better position tomorrow to tell you have far we’ve gotten on it. Okay?

Hey, I’ve really got to take my necktie off and make some phone calls. Talk to you all later.

QUESTION: What’s your plan tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m not sure, but I assume we’re going back to Diaoyutai sometime in the morning.

QUESTION: Do you have a time yet?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t. Maybe someone from the embassy can help you with that. Okay?


Released on December 9, 2008

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