Evening Walkthrough on Six-Party TalksChristopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
St. Regis Hotel
December 20, 2006
QUESTION: How was the day?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We had another long day. We spent most of it in bilateral meetings with all the delegations, although we did meet with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and we also had a heads of delegation meeting. It was decided in the heads of delegation meeting to extend these talks for another two days. Originally the Chinese hosts had in mind three days, but we will go to the end of the week through Friday night. I think the discussions for us have been very useful in the last day and half. I think it's worth our while continuing on this. Whether we are successful at the end of the week, I think time will tell. Certainly we are talking about much more than just agreeing on things on paper. We’re discussing actual developments on the ground and for that reason, these discussions are not easy and, frankly, they’re very difficult. We are encouraged by the process and we’re pleased to stay another couple of days.
QUESTION: You didn’t have a bilateral talk with the DPRK?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, we did have a couple of bilateral meetings -- informal meetings -- with the DPRK. I also talked with Mr. Kim Gye Gwan. We have been in considerable contact with the DPRK. We had a couple meetings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
QUESTION: We’re told that North Korea merely listened to your proposal yesterday, your four-stage proposal. Did they react or give a response to that today?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: There was a lot of give and take and a lot of questions. They have some principled positions on some issues, of course, and really I can’t emphasize enough the fact that we’re moving toward implementation and that means real issues on the ground, and that’s always a more difficult phase then agreeing to things in principle. So, we’ll have to see if we can get to something by the end of the week, but we certainly were pleased to support the Chinese hosts' suggestion for an extension of a couple of days.
QUESTION: Mr. Hill, why are you feeling more optimistic than you were the last couple of days? Did the North Koreans offer you anything concrete?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don't recall saying I was optimistic. I felt that these were good exchanges. I think we understood their thinking better on some of these issues. We hope they understood our thinking. We felt these are discussions worth continuing, but I want to emphasize that these are very difficult discussions because we are talking about actual developments on the ground.
QUESTION: The North Koreans are still demanding and end to the financial restriction, but today the separate talks have ended and Daniel Glaser is going home. How is that going to affect the nuclear talks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Mr. Glaser briefed me this evening, and from what I can tell these were also useful, productive exchanges. To be sure, the North Koreans want to see this issue solved. And you know, I think everyone would like it solved, but it has to be solved consistent with resolving some of the problems it caused in the first place. I think there was agreement both sides felt it was useful, and both sides felt it might be useful to meet again.
QUESTION: You said the North Koreans were more involved with give and take today. Does that mean that they were responding to some your proposals in a positive way?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: That means that they were asking questions, we were asking questions, they were furnishing answers and we were furnishing answers. It was a give and take.
QUESTION: Were those answers something that you were hoping to get?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: In our view, some of the issues are ones we think we can build on, but I want to be very clear we have still a lot of problems ahead.
QUESTION: When you said that the talks could extend to Friday -- some people are saying Friday, and a closing ceremony on Saturday.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I haven’t thought about ceremonies, right now. These are pretty tough negotiations, so I don’t know when there would be a ceremony.
QUESTION: Did you see any change in attitude on the DPRK side?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You would have to ask them. All I can say is we feel it’s worth continuing these discussions. To be frank, Monday was kind of a difficult day, and idea that I would still be here Wednesday night telling you it was useful to continue… I frankly didn’t think I would be saying that on Monday morning, but here I am Wednesday night saying that, so I think we managed to work through some of the issues. But whether we can start implementing the Agreement this week, time will tell. But remember, the whole purpose is to take the September Agreement and start getting it implemented because we think the September Agreement, which I think is a very good agreement, is not going to be of much use if it doesn’t get implemented. So that’s what we’ve been trying to do this week.
QUESTION: For it be useful to continue into Friday, does that mean that North Korea has shown a willingness of some sort to move in a positive direction?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I must say the North Koreans have, as always, shown they're pretty tough on these issues. They’ve got their own views on these things and they don’t give away anything, but you know, we're kind of tough, too. Frankly, I think all sides have very strong views on this issue, so this is a tough negotiation.
QUESTION: Have they shown any flexibility on any of issues on hand? Even in the slightest…
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I feel we had some give and take, but I don’t want to cause problems for them by calling them flexible or something. We had some give and take but we haven’t really put sort of finalized proposals on the tables. We've had some give and take in terms of understanding the motivation of each side and the positions we’ve taken.
QUESTION: In this kind of discussions, are you in talks about the particular sequencing, about action on both sides? When you talk about action on the ground, is that the type of thing you are talking about?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We are talking about taking some of the issues that are in the Joint Statement and figuring out how they would actually happen on the ground. That is, we are working out the implementation of some of these issues. It takes a while because it becomes very real, and it’s requiring people to do things within specific amounts time. So, it’s not easy. It's not a lot of fun either.
QUESTION: What kind of specific amounts of time?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We think for this opening session of the implementation phase, we ought to have an amount of time which is also subject to negotiation, so I don’t want to give you the precise amount of time, but we things should get under way within a matter of… Boy, do I want to give a date? No, I am not going to give you a date, actually.
QUESTION: A year?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, it's a lot shorter than a year. A lot shorter than a year. I really don’t want to get into it. If I give you a date and then I come back tomorrow and say it’s a different date it'll look like I was too flexible or something.
QUESTION: You said the bilateral meetings with DPRK were informal, why were they informal?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We didn’t have the whole delegations meet. Parts of delegations were meeting. We'll probably do some more full delegation meetings, but we just didn’t do them today.
QUESTION: Did you meet with Mr. Kim Gye Gwan in person?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I met with him. I saw him. We sat together in a couple of meetings today. We had a little discussion as well, but members of our delegation met member of their delegation today a couple of times.
QUESTION: Are you going to meet tomorrow again with the North Koreans?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I do expect to see them tomorrow, yes.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything from the North Koreans in the last three days that would make you think that they in fact are willing to negotiate this… You were asked last week if they made a strategic decision to actually give these things up if the price is right. Anything new in that regard that would have convinced you that they are willing to do it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: There were certainly discussions that if they were resolved according to the discussions -- and no one has agreed anything yet. Nothing is agreed unless everything is agreed. But there were certainly some discussions that, if they carried forward to agreement would, have me answer your question in the affirmative, yes.
QUESTION: What is the main obstacle in talks with the North Koreans right now?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Clearly there are a number of issues. They certainly continue to mix the financial issues with some of the things that we are doing in terms of implementation of the nuclear deal, but there are also some questions about how fast they should implement some of their undertakings from the September statement versus how fast we are going to implement our undertakings. As you recall from the September statement, all of us have certain things we are obliged to get done and so there are questions. As alluded to earlier, there are sequencing issues that do come up.
QUESTION: If North Korea is willing to at least freeze its five megawatt reactor and allow IAEA inspections, is your country ready to give them more than just a security guarantee on paper…
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don’t want to get into the specific elements. There are lots of these elements in play but I don’t want to start negotiating specific elements. I have no doubt that you all will keep a good secret, but I just can't be sure of it, so I’d rather not to get into that and what our fallback positions might be.
QUESTION: Do you want the North to move first, can you even say that much?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: This is a question of how we are going to implement something and we are both going to have to move in different ways and, obviously, sequencing always comes up, but I think we can solve it. The issue is whether they are prepared to take some steps, and how far are we prepared to go in taking our steps, during this initial phase of negotiations. We'll see.
QUESTION: Has the issue of the light water reactor come up again and [inaudible]?
A/S: They have taken a position about receiving a light water reactor. We have maintained our position ever since September 2005 that they need to get back into compliance with the NPT, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and they need to get back within IAEA safeguards. They need to establish a record that they don't proliferate, and then we have agreed, and others have agreed, to have a conversation about the subject of the provision of a light water reactor. So this issue of a light water reactor is not really what we're dealing with now. It's an issue out there. It is not what we're dealing with now.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, has that issue been up for discussion in the past three days?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, it hasn't been. As each side, including the DPRK side, reviewed overall positions -- and this was done on Monday -- that's when we heard about the light reactor. But we are talking about our implementation of elements that would come as a result of this first week of negotiations, and no one is talking about that right now.
QUESTION: This morning you said, to show tangible progress you're going to have to start putting things down on paper to get a statement. Did you start doing that today?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: There are some papers going around now, and certainly the Chinese are indicating that they will probably want to be putting something down on paper very soon, but not quite yet.
QUESTION: And the roadmap or the work plan that you referred to earlier, this statement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think I said that we don't have a road map because that expression is used in other parts of the world. We need to have a work plan to try to implement things. That is, we need to agree how we are going to proceed. Are we going to use working groups? Are we going to try to work in plenary sessions? Are we going to have overall six party meetings continually meeting? There are a lot of questions about just the technology of how to proceed with this. We are working on all of those things.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, were your discussions primarily based on your proposal or did you guys give and take or bring in other issues?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Throughout the six weeks since the DPRK announced it would come back, we have worked very hard on some proposals. When I say "we," I mean many of the parties, the United States, the Japanese, the South Koreans, and the Chinese, we've met many times. We've met with the Russians. We've met with the DPRK. A lot of these elements that I don’t want to get into discussing are nonetheless very well known.
QUESTION: So what would be progress by Friday, Mr. Ambassador?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We'd like to see if we can get an agreement that would constitute a first batch of elements for implementation pursuant to the September Agreement. Whether we can do that, it's hard to tell. I suppose one can look at just an overall work plan as being an accomplishment, but we would like to see if we can actually come up with some approaches, some specifics, so that we can really affect things on the ground and, in the process, show you all and show a lot of people, that the agreement in principles is now being implemented.
QUESTION: So if that happens, would you be happy and don't need to come back for a couple of months?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don't know what it takes to make me happy. I'll see. A lot of people really want to see the six party process work, and we think it is the right process. We think we have the right group of countries. We feel the Chinese side has done very well as hosts in this process and as full participants. We are very supportive of the six party process, but we need that process to be more than a process. We need that process to actually work.
QUESTION: Have they objected to anything in the September agreement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No. Actually, I would say all parties, all six parties, have reaffirmed on numerous occasions the commitment to the full implementation of the September Zgreement and that's a good thing, but in and of itself, it's not enough of a thing. We need to do more. Hey, I really need to…
QUESTION: Mr. Hill, do you think it's a good time to have Christmas in China?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think anytime of year is very nice to be in China. I enjoy China very much. I enjoy living here in the St. Regis hotel. It's almost like home now. But probably, it would be better for me to be back at home for Christmas.
QUESTION: What is your schedule for tomorrow?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think tomorrow is all bilateral meetings and I don’t think we've worked out that schedule. Today we had a head of delegation meeting, we also had a meeting with Li Zhaoxing, the Foreign Minister. I think tomorrow it's all bilateral meetings. OK. I'll see you all later. Good night.
Released on December 20, 2006