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US - DPRK bilateral meeting in Geneva, 13 March 2008

Press Briefing Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs U.S. Mission Geneva Geneva, Switzerland March 13, 2008.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, for those of you who are not jet-lagged, you're up late. For the rest of us, it doesn't matter. [Laughter].

Thank you for coming.

We've had a long day of discussions today in the context of our consultation with the DPRK delegation. We've discussed a number of issues, especially the question of the substance of what has divided us for the last ten weeks, but also format questions. I want to stress this was not a decisional meeting. That is, we had good discussions about it. We looked at some of the issues that have been problematic. We explored some avenues for going forward, but we're still working on these issues. I look forward to communicating with Secretary Rice to give her an update on where we are and where we hope to be.

We agreed that we can sort of proceed on this basis. And our hope is that we can achieve what we need -- which is a declaration which will be complete and correct -- and that the declaration will be provided to the Chinese as the chair of the Six-Party process.

Again, I don't want to get into the substance at this point -- except to say that we talked about format questions, and then we talked about the actual substance. We talked about substance insofar as it relates to the October '07 agreement and the need to cover all aspects of that agreement. That includes such issues as proliferation, but also issues of uranium enrichment, of course. And, I might add, we had a good discussion of the need to address the question of Japanese concerns.

So I would say it was a very good consultation. We certainly are further along in this consultation than we were when we got off the plane this morning. So I would say there's been progress. But we are not there yet, and we still have to continue to work on this.

With those sort of opening comments let me take a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Saki Ouchi with the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan. Ambassador Hill, would you be meeting the North Koreans again tomorrow? And are you so far, what is your analysis of whatever declaration they might have come up with?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I'm sorry, what is my analysis of the --

QUESTION: How would you evaluate? Did the North Koreans come up with a satisfactory list?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: As I said, we had some very good discussions, and we covered all of the issues we needed to cover. I might add that in addition to covering the format questions of how the declaration would look and in addition to the specific issues within the declaration -- as you recall, many of them are contained in the October '07 agreement -- we also had kind of a sneak preview of what the so-called phase three might look like. We discussed all aspects of what we're trying to do in phase three. We also discussed issues such as humanitarian assistance and where that stands. We discussed the issue of heavy fuel oil and the status of that, the up-to-date status of that.

As for tomorrow, our plan is: right now we need to report to our capitals. In particular, I need to report to Secretary Rice. I haven't done that as yet. And I know that Mr. Kim Kye-gwan needs to report to his capital. And so we'll see how it looks tomorrow.

QUESTION: [Inaudible], Fox News.

I know you're careful about the substance, but you haven't been satisfied with what the North Koreans have provided so far regarding this declaration, regarding proliferation and also uranium enrichment. Have they moved at all? Have they gone closer to what you want or expect?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, again, I don't want to get into too much of the substance. Frankly, I'd really rather report that to Secretary Rice. But let me just say we've had some good discussions on all substantive issues, including the ones that you mentioned.

Yes, Mike.

QUESTION: You said that you were coming here with some workable ideas to try to move the process forward. Do you feel after today's meeting that you have a basis for a declaration, to start moving forward on a declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Let me say that I believe that as we meet here at almost midnight Geneva time that we've moved the issues forward compared to when we arrived here this morning. I'm not in a position to say we've resolved these matters. But there's no question we've had a very thorough discussion of the format and of the substance and, I think importantly to us as well, of the next stage. So whether we've resolved these issues and whether we've achieved our goals, I'm not in a position right now to say so -- except to say that there is no question we've had some very good discussions, and I look forward to briefing Secretary Rice on precisely what those discussions were.

QUESTION: Are you starting to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel? [Inaudible]

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: He's asking about light at the end of the tunnel. That's such a cliché. I mean I'm really surprised at you. [Laughter].

QUESTION: [Inaudible].

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well that's a rare example of restraint. But let me say we really went straight on in terms of dealing with some of the problems, especially the substantive problems, because we've had an idea in format terms of how to address this for several weeks now. But I think our problem has been on the actual substance. So we were able to tackle that, and I think we're in a better position now than we were when we arrived here. But if you don't mind, I would really prefer to brief Secretary Rice on this before I brief you.

Tomo, ok. You're kind of a ringer though. I mean, you know all this stuff. (Laughter)

QUESTION: Ambassador, right after the dinner Kim Kye-gwan told us reporters that the two issues -- the proliferation and the enrichment -- that they haven't done it, and they are not doing it right now, and they are not going to do it in the future. So that sounds like they're still keeping a hard stance on it. So do you feel that you have narrowed the distance between you and the North Koreans on today's talk? And do you now have a more clear view that you can get this declaration done within this month?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I have made clear publicly -- and I must say I made clear with the DPRK delegation today -- that we need to pick up the pace. We are already in March of '08. We have some ambitions for trying to get done with this, get through this in '08. And so therefore there's no question we need to move faster.

I want to emphasize that what we did today was not decisional. That is, we did not reach an agreement today that will allow us to move on to phase three tomorrow. We did have, again, very substantive discussions of how to go forward, and we're going to report to capitals and see where we are tomorrow and the next day.

The DPRK has maintained a position on proliferation, on uranium enrichment that we have really had to challenge and had to work with them on. So I'm not really in a position to tell you whether we've resolved that -- except to say that I think we've made some progress today.

QUESTION: [Inaudible], working for the Korean Broadcasting System. Simply, can I translate this question to successfully pave the way to hold next Six-Party Talks or hold Six-Party Talks in a month? And second, are you going to meet him tomorrow again?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: On the second question, we don't have a plan yet. I think we both agreed we need to report to capitals very specifically about some of the discussions we had and the ideas we had. The first question, though, was -- I think you're asking me to write your lead, and I'm not sure I can. But --

QUESTION: Can I translate the good discussion successfully paved way to hold next Six-Party Talks in a month?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I see. Well, we are trying to get ready for making that progress -- that is, for getting to phase three. And phase three would mean a Six-Party meeting, to be sure. This was not a decisional meeting. So I don't want to suggest that we have paved the way, and we're waiting for the cement to dry in order to move forward. I think we still have some work to do on the road forward. But it certainly -- Since we've run into this difficulty in early December, I think these were probably the most substantive discussions we've had on how to go forward. But I'm not prepared at this point to tell you we've paved the way and that this will be a cakewalk from now on in.

QUESTION: Ambassador, did you come up with the agreement or understanding when you can remove them from the terrorism list?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We certainly had a discussion of the terrorism list and what the issues are and what the timing would be for the terrorism list.

QUESTION: You mentioned in your opening statement that you addressed the issue of the Japanese concerns.


QUESTION: Did you talk about the abduction issue --


QUESTION: -- and was there anything new that they said?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No. Nor was there anything new that I said, because I raise the abduction issue just about every time we've met.

I think it's fair to say that as I addressed this issue of the DPRK's bilateral relationship with Japan, I did so in the context of the overall effort to go forward. And I think my comments were very much understood. But I think these issues, just as I need to report some issues to Washington, these need to be reported to Pyongyang. So I would say on this issue we had a very clear understanding of what we need to see happen.

QUESTION: Was there anything different in their position on this and [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, these were points that I made to the DPRK and that they need to report to [their] capital. So I think it was a very useful exchange, but I'm not in a position to characterize their response.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate about what you had talked with Kim Kye-gwan on the terrorist list and trading with the enemy act? And also, what did you talk about to normalize the relation between U.S. and DPRK? And the last question is, are you going to have some kind of a written, formal agreement or promise note or something?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think everything that we discussed ultimately needs to be reflected in some kind of written instrument. I don't think we're going to allow an oral conversation to be part of the historical record on this.

With respect to the issue of the terrorism list, abductions, etc., we also had a very good discussion of this, but we need to report to capitals. We have some ideas of how to move forward. But we need to report to capitals and see whether those are acceptable in capitals. And, in particular, I need to talk with Secretary Rice. So you'll forgive me if I don't tell you more than I'm going to tell Secretary Rice.

QUESTION: Considering the deadline for the terrorism list [inaudible] --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, the issue of the terrorism list -- there is an annual terrorism report, and then the issue of when a country is taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism is quite separate from the publication of that report. So it's not tied to the timing of that report.

QUESTION: I'm from Nippon Television. I just want to ask you, you mentioned that this meeting was proposed by the North Koreans. In that sense, what was the difference in their attitude? What kind of new answers did you get from a week ago or ten days ago?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know, I hate to be the spokesman for the DPRK and to talk about their attitudes or this or that. Certainly I had looked forward to having a discussion with them earlier, about a week ago in Beijing. Indeed, I flew up from Bangkok to do just that. We weren't able to get together. They proposed coming to Geneva.

I can't really give you much more information -- except to say that we had a very substantive discussion about format and about the actual substance, the issues that have really divided us for these last ten weeks. I do believe we're further along now than we were this morning. I need to report to my capital, to Secretary Rice. I know that Mr. Kim Kye-gwan needs to report to his capital. And we will see if this meeting that I believe was very substantive and very useful to all of us, whether it can really lead to or pave the way to the progress that we very much need in order to get on to phase three.

I want to emphasize that as difficult as phase two has been, phase three is going to be even more difficult. For those of you who from time to time look at video games, you know that phase two is always more difficult than phase one, and phase three is always more difficult than phase two. And so we're very much playing that kind of game.

All right? Thank you.

Sorry, one more. I always regret taking one more question, but go ahead. [Laughter].

QUESTION: Mark [inaudible] with Bloomberg News. Did you hear any complaint from North Korea? Did they say that the speed of the promises were too slow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We discussed, as I mentioned earlier, we discussed all aspects of our interaction, and that includes heavy fuel oil. But, actually, I did not hear complaints about the heavy fuel oil -- because I think there was a realization that the U.S. has just in the past few days completed or is completing its requirement under the heavy fuel oil. I know that the Republic of Korea and China are working on heavy fuel oil equivalents. That is part of the issue, or the package with regard to the disablement of the Yongbyon facility. I think there was an understanding, including within the DPRK delegation, that that is moving forward.

So I think we are more or less ok on that. But, again, we're not playing this game for phase two. We're trying to get on to phase three and see if we can finish this job.

Thank you very much. Good to see you all.

Source: US Department of State, www.state.gov.

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