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US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill press availability in Japan, December 7, 2007

Press Availability With Japanese Director-General Kenichiro Sasae Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Narita Airport Tokyo, Japan December 7, 2007.

QUESTION: Please share your impressions with regards to the negotiation today.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: This was an opportunity to stop and first of all to speak to my ambassador here, Ambassador Tom Schieffer, but also to meet with Director-General Sasae and to brief him on my visit to the DPRK and to brief him on what we discussed in Pyongyang. So I told Director-General Sasae about my trip down to Yongbyon, my assessment that the disabling actions are proceeding on schedule, and then I discussed the challenges ahead in terms of the DPRK providing a complete and correct declaration of their nuclear programs, materials, and facilities. I also conveyed the original letter that is from President Bush to Prime Minister Fukuda.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: You said that you delivered to Director-General Sasae the original letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Fukuda. What message did it carry from President Bush? And what did you discuss about the letter during the meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I just conveyed the letter -- the original text. We had conveyed a copy earlier by fax. Again, the subject of the letter was the Six-Party process. But for discussion of the content of the letter, I'd have to refer you to the White House.

QUESTION: As well as denuclearization, we're also very interested in abduction issues and also if the U.S. is going to delist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. And was there any discussion on that issue?

DIRECTOR-GENERAL SASAE: [in Japanese] U.S. and Japan have closely cooperated to solve these issues; as with improvement of the denuclearization, and also solving abduction issues, our position on these issues are unchanged.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I have nothing to add to that issue, either.

QUESTION: This is a question for Mr. Hill. On this occasion of your second visit to North Korea, how did you work on North Korea to improve DPRK-Japan relations, including on the abduction issue, and what did you talk with the North Koreans about the issue of removing the DPRK from the list of state sponsors of terrorism?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I certainly raised the abduction issue, as I always do. I also raised the issue of the importance that we attach to improved relations in the region, including improved DPRK-Japan relations. And I emphasized our strong desire to see these relations addressed by a robust bilateral working group and emphasized to the North Koreans that we would like to see this going on. And with regard to the terrorism list, yes, we continue to discuss that as we have in the past.

QUESTION: What is your outlook of disablement of nuclear facilities in North Korea, as it was scheduled by the end of this month? And also, when a head-of-delegation meeting will be held?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, we had a discussion with the DPRK about its plans for a declaration. And I emphasized what we've emphasized before, which is the need for the declaration to be complete and correct.

I want to emphasize I was not in any way negotiating the North Korean declaration. That's something they need to come up with. But I was emphasizing our expectation that it be complete and correct and, in so doing, conforming to the needs set out in the February '07 agreement.

So as for the timing of the declaration, I think it depends on decisions, really, made in Pyongyang. But I do believe they can have certainly a draft produced before the end of the year. And, I might add, that in talking this over with the chair of the Six-Party process -- that is, the Chinese -- they are very much seized with the issue and very much working on the issue.

But I do want to mention, because as important as the declaration is, it's also important to understand that the actual work on the ground in Yongbyon is proceeding, I think, very much on schedule. The Yongbyon facility, that is, all three of the Yongbyon facilities -- fuel fabrication, reactor, and reprocessing facilities -- are undergoing disablement as we meet today in Narita Airport. And I think everyone should understand that these are important steps, and we're pleased that the cooperation we are getting with these important steps.

And for those of you who are new to this North Korean nuclear issue, the facilities were never disabled in the 1990s. This disabling is all very much a new activity, and therefore the Six-Party process has taken the denuclearization issue further than it ever was taken in the 1990's.

QUESTION: Is the delisting from the terrorism list or the announcement to the Congress, is it possible to be done before the full declaration comes out?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Can it be done before the declaration? I think we certainly need to see how the declaration is, but delisting also depends on some other issues involved directly in delisting. And so there's more work to be done there.

QUESTION: Have you got any updated information from the teams on the ground about discharging the fuel from the reactor at this point?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Since we're in Tokyo, let's allow the translation to be made and then I'll get to that.

With regard to discharging of fuel from the reactor, this is indeed a very important disabling step. And it was a step that could not be taken without some effort to clean up some contamination, some nuclear contamination. That in turn required some bringing in of equipment to do that. As I understand it, all the equipment is in, and the cleanup is almost, as I understand it, completed or will soon be completed. So I think we can expect the discharging of the fuel to get underway very soon, if it hasn't already gotten underway now. Thank you very much. Have a good holiday.

QUESTION: Speaking of holiday, we're in holiday season now, and we're collecting Christmas messages from leaders across the world. I was wondering if you had one Christmas message for Mr. Kim Jong-il? [laughter]

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, I'm not sending Christmas messages to Pyongyang. I was just there. Any Christmas messages I needed to send, I was able to do in person.

QUESTION: How about Matsuzaka?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Best wishes to Matsuzaka. Keep his arm strong. Treat him well while he's here in Japan. Treat him well. Make him feel good. He needs a break. He was great for us this year. He was so great, and we're looking for even greater things next year. Also, take good care of Okajima.

QUESTION: Would you give a Christmas message to Matsuzaka through our camera?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Daisuke, you were fantastic!

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

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