Evening Walkthrough on Six-Party TalksChristopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
St. Regis Hotel
December 19, 2006
QUESTION: How was the second day?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, it was long. It was a long day. It was a day where we really got down to work. We had an opening plenary session again, but then we got down to work with a series of bilateral meetings. I think every delegation met every other delegation. In our case, we met with all of the delegations and we had a lengthy discussion with the DPRK delegation. We don't have any breakthroughs to report. I would say though it was a substantive discussion in which we went through some really specific ideas as to how to get going on implementing the Joint Statement. I think we will meet again tomorrow and try to continue those discussions. This evening we had a dinner that was hosted by the Senior Vice Minister, Dai Bingguo, and we were able to continue some of the discussions at dinner and then after dinner as well. I'm not predicting that we have anything to announce, except to say that I think it was a day in which we were able to exchange a lot of important information.
At the same time as we were having these discussions, of course, the financial working group discussions were going on, and those also were very substantive. I'll be going out to Diaoyutai tomorrow morning and I think we'll be again meeting with all the delegations, but in particular, I'm sure we'll have an early discussion with the DPRK delegation.
QUESTION: Did you see a change in attitude today from yesterday with the North Korean delegation?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I would say, without revealing the elements of their position, there was certainly a willingness to listen and engage on some of our ideas. I think they wanted to reserve their own position as they listened to what we had to say to them. I continue to emphasize that the purpose of these Six-Party Talks is to achieve denuclearization. With that, the denuclearization, many things are going to be possible. Without it, we're going to have pretty tough sledding.
QUESTION: Can you tell us some more about the financial talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I really can't. Those are separate. They did take place at the American Embassy today. I think they lasted about three hours. They represented a good exchange of views and some ideas for how to continue the process of exchanging views, but beyond that, I don't have much more to share.
QUESTION: The Chinese proposed the working groups today. The South Koreans seemed quite positive, the Japanese seemed quite negative. What was your view on the working groups?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don't think the Japanese were negative. All of us listened to the ideas of the working groups. These were not new ideas. We had discussed these with the Japanese and with the South Koreans in Hanoi. I know I discussed them with the Chinese. We had also talked to the Russian delegation in Hanoi about these, so I don't think there is anything new and I would say there was support for these ideas throughout the six parties.
QUESTION: Concerning the BDA problem, do you think there is some progress?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I'm reluctant to talk about progress. Certainly, the fact that we have financial experts who are able to get together and talk in specific terms, as financial experts can do, I think that was considered helpful to both sides. I don’t want to characterize the discussions so much, except to say that these were lengthy and substantive discussions.
QUESTION: After the first time you've met the North Koreans, do you think you're going to be able to have by the end of this week some real steps towards implementing the September agreement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That's the $64,000 question. That's the big question. We do feel a real sense that our six party process needs to do more than just form working groups and talk about process. We need to engage in progress and find ways to move forward on the goal of denuclearization. That's certainly what we are trying to do in these days.
QUESTION: Do you think steps can be made? Concrete steps?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Concrete steps. Steps in concrete? We're looking for very specific things. I think the six party process, which I am strong believer in -- by the way, I think the Chinese hosts did very well today -- but I think we need to show some progress. We need to show some things that have really happened. As you put it, concrete steps, but I'm not ready today to announce any. I tell you we worked hard today. We really did. It was a very long day and I suspect we'll do something similar tomorrow.
QUESTION: What are you looking for for a timeline right now? What are you thinking? You said today was the important day.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I know why you are asking that, but again, today was an opportunity to sit down with a lot of bilateral meetings and really try to work through some of these issues. In terms of timeline, we set for this week for us -- again, I don't want to predict that we wind up on Thursday or Friday or Saturday -- but we've kind of set this week as our timeline to see what we can do. The thing about negotiations is, if you set a year for a timeline, you'll probably take a year. If you set a month, you'll probably take a month. And if you set a week, you'll probably take a week, so let's see what it looks like at the end of the week.
QUESTION: Since the nuclear test, have the Chinese been more energetic in pursuing these talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think since the nuclear test, the Chinese have been quite energetic in achieving a resolution in the UN Security Council. It's fair to say we've worked very well together with the Chinese. I think we've been working well together throughout the six party process, but maybe since the nuclear test, the quality of that relationship has actually improved. We really share the goals of the six party process. The Chinese really want to get this done.
QUESTION: What more have the Chinese contributed?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: First of all, I think they are very much engaged in some ideas of their own, and very much engaged in talking to the parties and making sure that we can come up with something. We don't have a piece of paper yet during the round. That's something we did in previous six party meetings, and I suspect it will come at some point in this meeting as well.
QUESTION: Is it a welcome development, that China is putting more energy into the talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: To solve the problem of the DPRK's nuclear ambitions is going to require a great effort by China. The United States cannot do it by ourselves. We need to work in this multilateral framework. We need the six parties. Frankly, we need all the six parties, but I would say the Chinese have a very special role to play.
QUESTION: Is it possible the DPRK [inaudible] illicit financial?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I'm sorry, it is possible what?
QUESTION: The DPRK admit the illicit activities, the financial…
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don’t think you need me to talk about what the DPRK is willing to acknowledge, or deal with; I think you should ask the DPRK. It was a lengthy discussion on precisely those sorts of issues today. And we are pleased we bought our delegation out here and I think our delegation is pleased that there is a serious delegation from the DPRK side.
QUESTION: Do you have a sense now that North Koreans are serious?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: In these negotiations, you always have to see what you end up with. It is kind of hard to talk about it when we don’t yet have any agreement, so let me withhold comment on that and see how we do in the next couple of days.
QUESTION: DPRK said yesterday that they cannot talk about nuclear issues before resolving the financial issue. So did you talk about this sequencing? You know, which one first and which one second?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We've taken the position, the fairly strong position, that the financial issues really are separate. They follow a different track, but certainly they are related, in certain respect to a sort of overall pattern of behavior that we would like to see changed. So, yes we talked about the overall difficulty and not only the DPRK’s relationship with us but frankly its relationship with the rest of the world, so I guess in that sense we touched on all of these issues.
QUESTION: You emphasized the DPRK has to do homework. What do you think about that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Homework… what I can tell you is my delegation work very hard: weeks and weeks; trips and trips; lots of airplane travel. I have seen every single movie on every single airplane. I think the DPRK needs to work on this because I really do believe that at the end of this six party process, however turns out, it will help determine that country’s future in a way that I think is fairly profound.
QUESTION: Yesterday you said that you had not heard in a realistic terms what the North Koreans were looking for in this round. Today did you begin to hear that, have you heard anything?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Today it was a much more substantive discussion, so I think we have a better idea of how they are looking at issues. I must say, in terms of the quality of the discussion that we had, the bilateral discussion, there is a healthy exchange of information that helped us understand things better than before. It was a step.
QUESTION: Yesterday they set out a long [inaudible] in their presentation. Was that just posturing? Do you think there is more credibility than there was in the first [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t like to talk about another delegation’s posturing. I felt that some of the positions that were laid out yesterday were not sustainable. That is, if you are interested in a settlement, you wouldn’t put forward those positions, but I don’t want to label them as posturing. I don’t want to get into sort of mode of attribution.
QUESTION: Did they ask again about the lifting of the UN resolutions today?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Frankly we have made very clear what the UN resolutions are, and how long they stay in effect. Frankly I don’t recall whether that came up today. It came up yesterday, but really doesn’t change anything as far as the UN Security Council resolutions are concerned.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what is your goal of these talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: My goal is first of all to begin the process of implementing the September statement. As I mentioned today to some of my colleagues, I think the international opinion in some ways represents a market, and I think the market needs to believe that what we are doing in the six party process is positive. I think we need to establish credibility with that marketplace of opinion, and we need to show that in fact this can lead us to the goal, because we cannot accept anything less than the goal of denuclearization. I really want to see something get done this week. I really do. Whether we get there, I don’t know, but I can tell you I am really working on this, and I might add that we have worked on this for weeks and weeks now.
QUESTION: The North Koreans seem to be pretty upset with the financial sanctions. Do you think they have separated somehow what can be really achieved and what cannot be?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Hard to tell. We’ve told them that the financial issues are really on a different track. What I would like to do in the six party process is to focus on the denuclearization issues. Thank you.
QUESTION: And they understand that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You have to ask them if they understand it. It is not for lack of hearing it, because I said it several times.
QUESTION: What’s your plan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What’s my plan? Oh, I'll get up in the morning. I think we are going to have, as I recall, a bilateral with the Japanese early on in the morning. I had a number of discussions with the head of the Japanese delegation, Ken Sasae, and I think we are going to have a full bilateral, and then I expect to do that with some other delegations including the DPRK. I think tomorrow is going to be a day of bilaterals through the morning and I think at some point the Chinese Foreign Minister will take part in the talks. But you would have to check with the Chinese Foreign Ministry about his participation. OK? I really need to get some sleep and so do you. Sorry to keep you waiting here. See you later. Thank you.
Released on December 19, 2006