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US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill briefings on North Korea, June 19, 2007

Press Availability With Director General Kenichiro Sasae, Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tokyo, Japan June 19, 2007.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Thank you very much. I just had a very good discussion with my colleague, Kenichiro Sasae. This is in the context of the very close coordination, cooperation that the U.S. and Japan have at all levels on this matter. Certainly, the Japanese Prime Minister and the American President had a good discussion about this in Camp David, and this really continues at all levels.

Obviously, we want to move ahead on the issue of denuclearization. We've been stalled for some time, and now is the time to pick up the pace. And we hope regain some of the timelines that we've fallen behind on. So I think it's a very important period for the Six-Party process, and we want to see if we can re-energize it. We had a very good discussion on some of the issues that are very much treated and dealt with in the Six-Party process, which of course includes not just denuclearization but other issues -- and namely one that I think is very important here in Japan, not only to the Japanese Government, not only to the Japanese people, but also to the U.S. Government and the U.S. people. And that is the issue of abductions.

So we hope that as we make progress on this, as we quicken the pace, we will also -- in addition to quickening the pace -- we will strengthen the foundation by which we will be able to deal with the abduction issue in a positive manner to get results on that issue. I want to emphasize that even though I think we have made important progress in the last few days in getting the talks back on to the issue of denuclearization, we have a long way to go. And those of us who deal with this are very aware of the fact that this is a step-by-step process, with many steps to come.

So, once again, it's a great pleasure to be here in Tokyo. It's a great pleasure to be here with Director General Sasae. We look forward to continuing our very close cooperation as we try to make progress on this difficult issue.

QUESTION: Mr. Sasae said that the BDA issue has been basically resolved. Does it mean that you have confirmed all the funds have been transferred to a bank account in Russia?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think is everyone has heard, the money was passed from Macau to the Russian central bank, and ,as we understand, it has been now transferred to the DPRK bank accounts. But I think you'll have to ask the DPRK that, because we are not directly engaged with that. But we do understand that by now the money has been passed and that we can stop asking and stop answering questions on banking and get back to what we really need to do, which is to make progress on the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: You said that the Six-Party Talks will be resumed at appropriate time. So are you saying that you will have to confirm that North Korea has completed the first-phase measures? After that, do you think that it will be appropriate timing to resume the Six-Party Talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We look forward to convening the talks at a very early date, probably in July. I would like it sooner rather than later. But the real purpose would be to focus on the next phase, because we have had considerable discussions about the initial phase. And we're confident that the initial phase will begin to be implemented in, literally, the days ahead. As you know, the IAEA will be in the DPRK next week at this time. And so we hope that will move ahead, and then the Six-Party Talks can focus on the next phase.

As you know, there's a considerable amount of fuel oil involved, so we have to figure out how the DPRK can absorb this amount of fuel oil. Meanwhile, the DPRK also has considerable obligations, including the obligation to disable the nuclear facilities. So there's a lot of work there, and that will require considerable Six-Party coordination. So I think you'll see a lot of bilateral meetings in the coming few days and a lot of effort to try to coordinate as we try to regain the momentum and make up for some lost time.

QUESTION: You would like to see the work in the working group between North Korea and Japan proceeding. That progress is not really moving forward. In order for that working group to move on, what kind of roles that you think America can play?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, first of all, to be frank, I think a number of the working groups did not get as much done as we wanted them to do. And so I think we all have to redouble our efforts to try to make these working groups more productive. I thought it was encouraging that we were able to schedule this Japan-North Korea working group. In fact, it was scheduled, I think, very closely with the U.S.-North Korea working group. But, clearly, we need to make more progress in the next sessions and certainly will be consulting on how we might be able to do that.

QUESTION: There's been a report of a short-range missile being fired by North Korea just shortly a while ago.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I can't really comment on it. I've just heard about the report.

Press Availability at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Seoul, South Korea June 19, 2007

QUESTION: Do you have any plans to visit North Korea sooner or later?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No. What I'm going to do today is I'm going to go to Tokyo and use this occasion of consultations to meet with my Japanese counterparts. We need to assess how quickly we can move to catch up to some of our timelines, as we know the IAEA is getting in to the DPRK next Monday. So we want the IAEA to quickly make an agreement and get on with shutting down the reactor. We all have a lot of a work, so I'm looking forward to getting to Tokyo this afternoon and talking to the Japanese.

As you know, the Japanese have some special interests on the very difficult matter of the abductions. It's my view, though, that the progress we make on denuclearization will help make a stronger platform, a stronger foundation for dealing with some of the other tough issues, including the abduction question. So, I'm going to be talking to my Japanese counterparts about that.

Here in Korea, we have continued our very close cooperation on the issues of how to move forward, what the timing of the next Six-Party meeting should be, what the timing of the ministerial should be. Again, we're going to have to pick up the pace on our timelines and get through this very crucial phase of disablement.

QUESTION: Is the IAEA entering Korea on Monday or Tuesday?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I do not know whether it's Monday or Tuesday. I think their press release said the week beginning on Monday. You will have to ask them what flight they're taking.

QUESTION: Is the US setting any sort of deadline for the reactor closure, and would there be any penalties if North Korea doesn't comply?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I do not like to talk about deadlines and penalties and things like that. Right now, we have a process that is moving forward. We have not been moving forward for many weeks, so we are pleased that our process is moving forward. And what we want to do is continue to build momentum so that, not only can we get through these initial actions, but we can then move to the next phase -- which will involve the considerable amounts of fuel oil. And that is something we have been talking about with our ROK colleagues. So, there is a lot of work ahead of us.

QUESTION: Do you expect the disablement to come in a matter of weeks, as you said before?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think disablement would be the next phase. We need to get this first phase, which involves shutting down the reactor for its eventual abandonment. And then the plan is to have our ministers get together -- all six ministers -- to discuss how we might proceed with the next phase, which has some key elements in it -- including disablement. But also on the North Korean side, for their benefit, there's considerable amounts of heavy fuel oil. And it's heavy fuel oil that will be shared right now among four countries -- the U.S. and ROK and Russia and China. And as Japanese bilateral issues, especially the abduction issues, begin to be resolved or begin to be addressed, we look forward to seeing Japan join in that as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) The countries want to pick up the pace, but North Korea seems to be taking all the time it needs. Do you have any measures to speed up the process?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we are going to have to think about what we can do to pick up the pace. I've always felt that although the timelines were very tight in the first phase, in the second phase of disablement I think there is room to get back on to the schedule -- so that by the end of this calendar year we can see a considerably improved position. So I think the next days and weeks will be critical in our effort to achieve our timelines.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea of when Japan and North Korea should reconvene the working groups?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, we felt that the working groups that we held in March did not achieve all the objectives that we set out for them. And, in particular, we felt more work needed to be done on denuclearization. But also the Energy Working Group, we felt, needed a lot more technical discussion. For example, the agreement is for an additional 950,000 tons of fuel oil, and it is not clear what the storage capacity of the North Koreans is for the fuel oil. So is it going to be fuel oil at a certain rate per month, or is it going to be fuel oil that they will have the right to gain access to at a rate to be determined? Hard to tell. So the nuclear working group needs to be worked on, the energy working group, and I would say, based on the reports that I got from Hanoi, obviously we would like to see more progress on the Japan-North Korean working group.

I said to my DPRK counterpart on many occasions that a good relationship with Japan is very much in their interest, and I think they need to understand the deep concerns that there are in Japan about some of these issues --especially the issue of abductions. And so I hope that some progress can be made on that. We will continue to be in very close contact with the Japanese Government on this working group.

QUESTION: Do you think that they should reconvene the discussion as soon as possible?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I'm always for reconvening things as soon as possible. But let me just say that I think they need to work on getting a resumption -- but make sure that it is planned in a way that, not only do they resume it as soon as possible, but they resume it in a way that progress can be made.

QUESTION: Shutdown can be appropriate conditions for your visit to North Korea. I just want to know the timing, what you think about your visit DPRK.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I've just made some consultations in Beijing, I'm here in Seoul, tonight. I'll be in Tokyo. I've been in contact with the IAEA. I think we need to try to make sure that we make progress as soon as possible. So I'm not really discussing further travel at this time.

QUESTION: What did you discuss with the IAEA? Did you discuss the procedures for the shutdown or even --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, we've had those discussions earlier. Basically, I was curious about the timing. As you know, they've had an exchange of letters. I want to make sure that everyone understood the need to move quickly. I think the IAEA has understood that need, and a number of us would have liked to see things happen this week. But they are going to happen on Monday instead, or the week starting on Monday. I think we have a good deal of respect for the IAEA personnel involved with this, and I'm sure they are trying to work as hard as they can.

QUESTION: Regarding the banking issue, have you heard anything new from (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I was hoping no one would ask me about banking again. But as long you've asked me, I understand that everything was clear as of last night. And there are a number of time zones to be concerned about, because the Far East Bank is in Vladivostok and the Central Bank is in Moscow. But if it has not been transferred by now, I'm sure it will be very, very soon. We really are done with that issue. So no more banking questions, please.

QUESTION: In the morning, you met Minister Song. What did you discuss about?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We discussed a broad number of subjects, including our bilateral relationship. We discussed issues of U.S.-Korean cooperation in the third country situations, such as in Iraq and elsewhere. And we discussed, of course, the DPRK denuclearization issue.

See you all later. I've got to get moving and then get on to Tokyo.

Source: US State Department, http://usinfo.state.gov.

© 2007 The Acronym Institute.