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US Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher R. Hill, Remarks at the ASEAN Regional Forum, August 1, 2007

Remarks at the ASEAN Regional Forum, Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Remarks to the Media Manila, Philippines August 1, 2007.

QUESTION: Did you have a meeting of the Six-Party Talks today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, we did not have a meeting with the DPRK today. I think I mentioned yesterday that the person who deals with the Six-Party Talks from the DPRK is Mr. Kim Gye-gwan, who is not here. So we did not have a meeting with the DPRK.

QUESTION: How about with the North Korean Foreign Minster?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, but last night we talked to him during the meeting with President Arroyo. What I did today was mainly ASEAN issues, but I did have the opportunity to talk to my Japanese counterpart to discuss the way forward in the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: How did that go?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The discussion with Mr. Sasae went well, as it always does. We agreed that we have a lot of work to do this month of August. We thought it was a helpful way to get talks going, with the meeting last night hosted by President Arroyo. We talked about the working groups. There are five working groups coming up this August. They will be followed immediately in the beginning of September by a Six-Party meeting. And then right after the Six-Party meeting, we hope to have a ministerial. So it is a very busy schedule. And we hope that we can get through this and have an implementation plan for the second phase -- which is a very important phase, when the DPRK gives us a full declaration of their nuclear programs and disables those same programs.

QUESTION: So the next Six-Party meeting will be in September or August?.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We expect it to be at the end of August or the beginning of September. I was talking to Mr. Sasae regarding the schedule of our bilateral working groups, because the U.S. has a working group with the North Koreans and the Japanese have the same. Realistically speaking, we are probably looking at a Six-Party meeting at the beginning of September.

QUESTION: Are there any plans to hold a bilateral working group in Southeast Asia?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: With respect to the U.S.-DPRK bilateral working group, we are probably looking at a third country, and we may be doing that in Southeast Asia. But I cannot tell you at this point which country. We need to work that out.

QUESTION: Would it be an ASEAN country?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Probably it will. It has to be a country where both countries have embassies and where we can have proper communications. So this would probably be an ASEAN country.

QUESTION: Will you discuss this with the North Koreans tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I do not have any plans. But if there were some interest on the part of the North Koreans, I would be happy to meet with them. However, these are not the officials involved in the Six-Party process. Those officials are not here.

QUESTION: The Government has offered Manila…

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Really? I do not know if we have talked about Manila. That is very kind, but we will have to work with the North Koreans to figure out a mutually acceptable place.

QUESTION: The five working groups will meet in August?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The five working groups will meet August, starting the seventh or eighth.

QUESTION: What about the others?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: The denuclearization working group will meet shortly thereafter. I think they are working out a precise date, but probably the following week. Then we understand the Russians will host the Northeast Asia peace and security mechanism working group, and we would expect that to be in the third or fourth week in August -- probably after the 20th. Then we would have our bilateral working groups. So there are a lot of working groups.

QUESTION: Will the Energy Working Group be in (inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I think the energy working group will be in Panmunjom. The denuclearization working group will be in Beijing. The Northeast Asia working group will be in Moscow. I do not know about the bilateral working groups yet, but I do think the U.S. one will be in Southeast Asia.

QUESTION: Where do things stand in terms of getting a timeframe set for the next steps that North Korea has to complete?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We lost a lot of time in the spring. We lost several months, and we would like to make that up. We also have a pretty ambitious timetable to try to get through all the steps of denuclearization in 2008. If you start thinking of 2008 and count back, you can see why it is our hope to get the second phase -- that is, the declaration phase and the disablement phase -- done by the end of calendar year 2007.

But we do not have that worked out yet. It depends to a great extent on the working group meetings. Because we need to work out precisely what is involved in disablement, for example. How long does it take? What are the steps involved? We also have a very technical issue having to do with the energy issue, since the DPRK can take only about 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per month. And since under our agreement that would involve some 20 months, we would like to accelerate that. We would like to look at fuel oil equivalents, .building storage capacity, buying electricity or refurbishing electricity plants. These are all very technical questions. And once we have the answers to these questions, then we should be able to answer your question -- which is whether we can get this all done by the end of calendar year 2007.

QUESTION: Ideas on fuel oil options?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We will look at all those in the energy working group. As you know, the February agreement envisioned that we would have fuel oil equivalents. Everyone agreed that we would have equivalents, but we need to work out something that is acceptable to all.

QUESTION: Can you tell us more about your meeting today with China?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We talked a lot about bilateral issues with China. We also talked a bit about the Six-Party process. We agreed that this is a real bright spot in U.S.-China relations, and we want to continue to cooperate on this issue.

QUESTION: What is your opinion on the latest IAEA inspection?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: From (inaudible) understanding, things are going fine.

QUESTION: Can you explain why the U.S. and North Korea do not want to talk here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: If we are going to talk about the Six-Party process, they need people here who deal with the Six-Party process. My understanding is that the people here are those who deal with ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum, not the Six-Party process We have no problem talking with them, and we do not mind talking directly. But this is not the time, because they do not have their Six-Party process people here.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. going to help the Government of South Korea regarding their hostages in Afghanistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We are working very closely with the South Koreans and working very closely with the Afghan Government. We want very much to see these hostages released, and they should be released immediately. It is truly unconscionable to be holding these people. We have a great sense of closeness to the Korean Government and the Korean people on this issue.

Thank you.

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

© 2007 The Acronym Institute.