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US Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill on the North Korea deadline, April 10, 2007

Remarks Prior to Meeting With South Korean Officials,Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Arrival at Incheon Airport, Seoul, Korea, April 10, 2007.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well I've just been in Japan for a day to do some consultations and I'm going be doing the same here. I'll be meeting with my counterpart Chun Young-woo and other senior officials in the ROK government. I think we're in an obviously very important week for the Six-Party process. As you know we're getting up against the sixty day time period. Clearly, this banking issue in Macau, which many of us had hoped we had resolved some weeks ago, still has not been finalized. We've been working very hard over the weekend throughout the day today, and I'm hopeful that we can resolve it in the very very near future. At which point, I hope we can get on with the task of denuclearization. So, I'm looking forward to consultations with ROK officials and I hope also to see Governor Richardson when he comes out of the DPRK tomorrow.

QUESTION: How worried are you about missing the deadline hurting the Six-Party Talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, obviously the deadline is important. We set up the deadline for a purpose. Clearly, if we don't get denuclearization, we're going to have problems on other tracks as well. I think one of the things this banking issue has shown is that the DPRK faces a very uncertain future if it doesn't get on to the task of denuclearizing. So we understand that they want to see a finalized resolution of BDA and we've worked very hard on that, and I hope that we will be able to succeed on that in the next couple of days. But certainly, every day that we have to work on this banking issue is a day that we haven't worked on denuclearization, and we're coming up very close to the sixty day period.

QUESTION: Do you think it's still possible to meet the deadline?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, let's see. I mean, we've got a few more days. Let's see how we do in the next couple of days. Obviously, it's a very important week and a crucial couple of days, so let me see how it goes.

QUESTION: Are you scheduled to meet with Kim Gye-gwan in Beijing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I have no schedule at this point to meet with him. I think if, assuming we get through this banking issue and onto the issues that I work on -- that is, denuclearization -- maybe we could schedule something. But I think until we are able to resolve the banking issue we're not there yet.

QUESTION: What's the one thing the North Koreans are not doing in order to finalize this banking issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know, there have been a number of ideas for how to resolve this. I don't want to go into the details because these were diplomatic discussions, but there were a number of ideas on how to resolve this and the ideas required cooperation on all parties. So, we weren't able to get those done. Now let's see how we do in the next couple of days and once it's resolved we can talk about who held it up.

QUESTION: Do you think the February 13 Agreement is losing this credibility because of all these complications?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I think everything we've ever done on the denuclearization has been difficult and certainly this phase has been no exception. We've had a lot of difficulties. On the other hand, I think we have a very good approach to denuclearization. I think the September 2005 Statement laid the foundation for how we're going to approach this. I think February was the first, very key moment when we set up the very first effort at actually implementing. So we have to see. Obviously as we get closer and closer to the 60 days, and we haven't fulfilled all our tasks, one has to be concerned. But, once again, I think we have to be a little patient and see how we do in the next day or two.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, about the banking (inaudible) - whose fault is this really do you think?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know, I am not sure it would be helpful if I stood here and told you whose fault it was. I'm just trying to resolve it and if telling you whose fault it was would help me resolve it, I'd tell you. But I don't think it will.

QUESTION: When do you think the Six-Party Talks will resume?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: It's very clear we've got to get through this- we've got to finalize this banking issue- so I'll be in a better position to answer that when we get through this and I hope we will in the next day or two.

QUESTION: Do you think the police can still get through disablement within the year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I do, I do. And I think that is the next phase in many respects an even more important phase than this first phase we're talking about, and I do believe that there are timelines there that are quite attainable. As I said earlier, nothing about this process has been easy, so I'm sure that disablement will be difficult.

QUESTION: Is it true that North Korean funds will be released to each account holder separately?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well again I don't want to get into the specifics until it's done, and when it's done we can talk about it.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador was there a special specific role Victor Cha and his advisor played in North Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think he was asked to accompany the Secretary of Principi and Governor Richardson and I've had the opportunity to talk with him several times today, so it's been very useful for me to have someone who knows so much about the Six-Party process on the trip. But I want to stress that the trip was about the recovery of Korean War remains and that is what has been the focus of the trip throughout.

QUESTION: What is it say about the process when North Korea's being so insistent about seeing money first portably? Are we going to see this continually where the other parties have to take the match when North Korea moves ahead?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, we have a number of sequenced actions. So in some cases they will take action and we will follow. In this case, they put an interpretation on resolving the matter, an interpretation which was beyond an interpretation that anyone else had. So I think it's an example where they approach things from a very literal point of view. And when we talked about resolving the matter in the sense of getting the U.S. investigation finished, they had a concept that was far more literal, which was they wanted to see the money. So, does it have a broader meaning for the rest of the Six-Party process? I think it just highlights the fact that it's a very difficult issue to deal with. Secondly, I think with respect to this banking question, as long as the DPRK is engaged in nuclear weapons production, they're going to find their external accounts very much scrutinized and they're going to find many international financial institutions rather reluctant to take on the issue. So, I'd like to get on to my meeting. Great to see you all. I mean, for me it's somewhat of a homecoming here. So, great to be back.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Hope everything's going well here. Congratulations on the FTA.

QUESTION: Are you going to have dinner with Mr. Chun tonight?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh yeah, I'll see him tonight. I'll see him right now and then I think I have dinner with him as well.

QUESTION: Can you tell us where you are meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don't know if I'm supposed to do that, but I think it's a dinner. I think the American Ambassador is hosting it so I don't think it's open to the press. So take the night off. Study some baseball scores or something.

QUESTION: What about meeting with Mr. Cha?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: He comes in tomorrow.

QUESTION: So are you going to meet him?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I'll try. Yeah, I've been talking with him a lot on the phone so I'll try to see him.

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

© 2007 The Acronym Institute.