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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 10, 2008

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Good evening.

I think I told you this was going to be a difficult round. I hate to be proved correct, but indeed it’s a tough, long day today. We tried to discuss the Chinese draft, and we had some real difficulties getting consensus on moving forward there. And I had a bilateral meeting earlier today with the North Koreans. Let me just say without going into too many details that it was a difficult meeting. We’ve had several plenary sessions or sessions with all six parties. We had considerable discussions about the issues. I can’t say there are any breakthroughs. So, I’m back here. I’m going to report back to Washington.

QUESTION: What is the most sticking point on your negotiation? Verification or --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, it’s verification, yes. Verification. I don’t want to say it’s any one issue.

QUESTION: What is the status of the talks right now?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we’re waiting to hear from the Chinese on what they want to do.

QUESTION: Is it about --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’re waiting to hear from the Chinese on what they want to do. So, I don’t know if we’ll have a session in the morning. We may; I just don’t know.

QUESTION: You said earlier, in the beginning I think, you said it was a difficult --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: A very difficult session today.

QUESTION: Is it about a wording issue, or putting it on the paper?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we’re having -- I mean, most delegations were prepared to work on the Chinese text. I think among most of the delegations, there was a consensus on how to move forward. That consensus was not shared by the DPRK.

QUESTION: So the clear understanding of the scientific procedure is now gone? Or is it still there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m talking about getting something in writing.

QUESTION: So are they negotiating or they’re not even talking about --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’re having some negotiations, but I can’t say we got very far today.

QUESTION: The Chinese have revised the draft? Or are you discussing the same draft from yesterday?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t think the North Koreans want to use the draft as a basis to discuss.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, the North Koreans don’t want to use the draft as the basis of their negotiation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, you need to talk to them. But we were not able to have a discussion based upon on that draft.

QUESTION: Has the North Korean position remained consistent throughout these talks? Or have you found that their position is shifting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It’s not trending in the right direction. I’ll tell you that.

QUESTION: Have they received any instructions from the capital and came back?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Beats the heck out of me. I have no idea.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, are they waiting for a new foreign aid policy?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You’ll have to ask them. I have no idea.

QUESTION: When you say it’s not trending in the right direction, can you clarify that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That it’s not going in the right direction.

QUESTION: As in terms of verification, or --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: In terms of coming up with a verification agreement. We don’t seem to be now --

QUESTION: Do you think that gap has narrowed during this round of talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Is what?

QUESTION: The gap between you and your partners on specifically on the verification issue, do you think that gap can be narrowed during this round?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We did not make much progress today. We didn’t make any progress today.

QUESTION: Not at all?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Not at all. Not with me.

QUESTION: Will there be another heads of delegation next week?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. We’ll have to check with the Chinese. We’ll do whatever they want us to do in terms of meetings.

QUESTION: Are you done with talks for today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think I’m done. I’m going to go report to Washington.

QUESTION: Do you expect at least some meeting tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know. It’s up to the Chinese whether they’ll call a meeting or not. I’m here through the day, so I’m obviously prepared to attend the meeting.

QUESTION: So it’s still a possibility that you might have another meeting today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Today? I’m not aware of any possibility of that.

QUESTION: You said that DPRK is not going in the right direction. What do you think is the biggest obstacle for them?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think the issue is to get a verification protocol. I don’t see an effort to get a verification protocol along these internationally recognized lines that we’ve been talking about for weeks now.

QUESTION: What are the consequences if you walk away this time without a deal on verification?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know what the Chinese will try to do. If we don’t have an agreement, they’ll probably call a recess. As a consequence of that, I don’t know. I’ll need to report to Washington and wait for some instructions.

QUESTION: Will sanctions be a way forward?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I’m going to report to Washington and get some instructions on what to do.

QUESTION: How did the North Koreans explain the reason why they don’t talk about --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m not a spokesman for the North Koreans. You’ll have to ask them.

QUESTION: Are they still talking about the energy issue? About sequencing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’re looking at a number of issues we wanted to get resolved at this head of delegation meeting. I said in the beginning it was ambitious, and it certainly has proven to be ambitious.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, we were never really notified of the beginning of these talks by the Chinese side. Was there any disagreement in these talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, not that I’m aware of. We all knew it was on Monday. You’ll have to ask them, but there was no confusion. Everyone was there. There was no problem with that.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, let me clarify the answer to her question. So the energy assistance and disablement schedule is not done yet?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We’re not doing -- we had a session where we were trying to solve several issues, and we don’t seem to be solving those issues right now.

QUESTION: Is part of the problem them wanting to get done with this (inaudible) issue before the verification?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You’d have to ask them. We needed a verification protocol - a verification agreement. We needed an energy agreement and disablement, with the understanding that all three of these affect the others. We don’t seem to be making progress on that as of today.

QUESTION: Is the Chinese side considering releasing another draft?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m not aware of that, but you’ll have to ask them.

QUESTION: Has the Pentagon listed the DPRK as a nuclear weapon state?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t know what that’s about. I’ve seen articles about that - I guess in the Korea press - but we don’t consider North Korea a nuclear state. We consider it a state that really ought to consider producing more food. Okay?

QUESTION: Are the Chinese going to notify you about what you are going to do tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, I’m here. We’ll see what the schedule is tomorrow.

QUESTION: So we might have another meeting or we might not?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, I just don’t know at this point. But we’re here, and we’re prepared to have a meeting whenever they call one.

QUESTION: What you talked about in Pyongyang, the understanding between the U.S. and North Korea, is that still there, or --?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The issue has always been - I think I’ve explained this before - the issue has always been whether we could take understandings reached in Pyongyang and get them onto paper and get them into a workable verification agreement. To date, this is proving to be very difficult.

QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, can you describe in plain language how you would like the verification to work? What do you think would be a fair and sensible way?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: First of all, what we’re looking for in verification is a system - a process that is known throughout the world. We’re not looking to create some kind of North Korean exceptionalism. We’re just looking for a system that works throughout the world. It obviously involves scientific procedures, which involves taking samples and other nuclear detection activities, so-called forensics activities. We’re not looking for anything new and different. We’re looking for tried and tested ways of conducting verification. We’re looking for a system that -- at the end of verification, that is, at the end of the full implementation of the September ’05 statement, where North Korea agrees to give up all of their nuclear weapons and all of their nuclear programs and re-enters the NPT with IAEA safeguards -- and that’s when the verification would end, because you have to come back full circle with IAEA safeguards.

I just want to emphasize that we’re not doing anything unusual. I must say, my Russian colleague was quite eloquent on this point today, pointing out to the DPRK that the DPRK is not being treated badly or being treated as some kind of defeated state in any regard. It’s simply international processes that we’re looking to see upheld.

QUESTION: It’s been reported that the Chinese will take a leading role in this verification. Is that designed to reassure the North Koreans?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Verification was to be conducted by the six parties, and we have a role for the IAEA in this. Again, what we’re trying to stress is to conduct this verification in a way that lives up to international standards, so it has credibility and everyone understands what is being done. So obviously China would play an important role in that.

QUESTION: You said yesterday that if we get this done, it’s going to be a milestone. How would [you] characterize where things are right now?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: As I suggested to you, it’s been a very difficult day. Indeed it’s been a difficult week. We have not achieved our goal quite yet.

QUESTION: Today’s meeting with the North Koreans -- yesterday’s was a deputy level, but today’s was -- you met with them yourself?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, I attended that.

QUESTION: How was the atmosphere?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Business-like.

QUESTION: Constructive?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I wouldn’t go that far. Let me just call it business-like.

QUESTION: How long did it go?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I’m not sure. I would think maybe an hour - something like that.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, [the idea for] calling the recess [this evening] is totally up to the Chinese?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes. The way that works is that they will talk to the parties and see what the recommendation is from the different parties, then make a decision on whether further progress can be made now, or should there be a recess to give people the opportunity to go back to capitals and get additional instructions or something. They have not called a recess. But obviously that’s one of the options if there’s a judgment that we’re not making more progress.

QUESTION: So you don’t have to get together again to make the decision?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I don’t know. That’s up to the Chinese. I’m not in a position to speak for them.

Okay, I’ve really got to get upstairs and call home.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Thank you.


Released on December 10, 2008

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