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US briefing on Six Party talks, December 6, 2007

Evening Walk-Through at Six-Party Talks Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kerry Center Hotel Beijing, China December 6, 2007.

Tomorrow morning I go to Tokyo. I talked to Ken Sasae tonight and I'll be meeting with him tomorrow in Narita.

QUESTION: Are you still confident that you can get the declaration by the end of the year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You know, I think we can. Again, as I mentioned yesterday, we had some good discussions in Pyongyang on the declaration on what elements need to be there. And, frankly, the DPRK had fewer elements than I would have liked to see. So we discussed that. I think everyone understands what the situation is, and again we had very good discussions. We can get a good draft in the next couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Sorry, can you give us some details on the letters -- the five letters?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I really can't. You know, when the President sends letters to counterparts, in this case to the Six-Party Talks, I'm not really in a position to elaborate much on what the White House says. And there is some White House guidance which I'm sure you've seen, and I really can't go much beyond that.

QUESTION: But you delivered them at least to the four parties?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, I delivered them to the DPRK. Let me see, I left one for our Ambassador in Seoul; he's going to deliver one. I delivered the one to President Putin to the Russian Ambassador today. The one for President Hu Jintao I delivered with Wu Dawei. And I will deliver the one for Prime Minister Fukuda tomorrow when I see Ken Sasae, but I think we are giving them a fax. We've sent them a fax of the letter to ensure they got their own letter at the same time. They are all different letters, but they all stress pretty similar points.

QUESTION: So is there going to be a heads of delegation meeting by the end of this month?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think it is going to be tough to do by the end of this month. So I think we are looking at a head of delegation meeting probably in January. But I would really refer questions like that to the Chinese. We are in very good sync with the Chinese on what we are trying to do here.

QUESTION: Have you had any response from North Korea or reply for that letter you handed out?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, but in addition to the letter, I spent many hours talking to them during the visit. So I'm sure they are thinking this all over, and I'm sure we will get a response of some kind. I think we anticipate some further discussions among the Six Parties in December even before we go into Six-Party meeting.

I want to emphasize, the day before with the North Koreans, we really went into great detail on the sort of elements we would like to see in the declaration.

QUESTION: Who did you hand the letter to, and during your stay did you get the confirmation that it was actually handed to (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, because I handed it to their Foreign Minister prior to my departure. So I don't have a confirmation of when and how it was conveyed to Chairman Kim Jong-il. But I gathered KCNA made an announcement today about it.

QUESTION: Did you ask the DPRK to meet with Mr. Kim Jong-il because you had a possible letter from President Bush?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: My schedule is pretty much up to Kim Kye Gwan. He determined my schedule. So I did tell him I had this letter, and it was their practice to have letters to their head of state delivered through the Foreign Minister. So I obliged them.

QUESTION: Mr. Dawei said that he is not optimistic that the Koreans will be able to meet the December 31st deadline.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: December 31st deadline for what?

QUESTION: The declaration for the disablement.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think on the disablement things are really moving ahead, and I think anyone who has seen the disablement is impressed with the fact that we are really on schedule. That's unusual as far as the Six-Party Talks go, but we're on schedule on disablement. The one issue of course has been the discharge of fuel from the reactor. And it was our determination that we didn't want to do it in advance of some cleanup procedures, and my understanding is that we're prepared now to do it. But it's a process that if done safely takes many weeks. So the discharge will actually probably

take beyond December 31. But that is not a concern to us. That is a technical matter as far as we're concerned. It will proceed.

So the real issue is when can the declaration be put together with the DPRK. Frankly, they've been ready to give a declaration, but we have wanted them to give a good declaration. So it was useful for us to have the opportunity to share with them some of our specific thoughts on what should be in the declaration. I think some of this was also done in previous weeks when we had this deputy heads of delegation visit to Pyongyang and to Yongbyon.

QUESTION: On discussion with Wu Dawei, have you talked about the possibility of holding a working group prior to the Six-Party heads of delegation meeting?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I have not. My understanding is there is some talk about an energy working group that would be held sometime in the very near future. But I didn't talk to him about a head of delegation meeting or working group. Really, I don't think this is a problem of working group meetings or meetings. I think it's a problem of making sure when the DPRK finalizes their declaration -- that it's a declaration that responds to the requirement to be complete and correct. I want to emphasize the understanding that when they first convey their declaration, we will have some discussion with them. So we will probably go back-and-forth. But we would like it to be as complete and as correct as possible.

QUESTION: Do you know if South Korea has seen the letter yet?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think our Ambassador has either gone in or will go in, but I'm not sure who has seen the letter.

QUESTION: Can you repeat what the letter may say? Congratulations or --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I will refer you to the White House guidance on this, which referred to the facts of what we're doing and the Six-Party process, the need to complete the task and, especially to get on with completing phase two (inaudible) complete and correct declaration.

QUESTION: Just for clarification, for the declaration to be complete, will the Six Parties have to (inaudible) with the heads of delegation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We haven't really determined how we will bless the completed declaration, but I don't think we necessarily need to meet. But I think we need to see the declaration first, and we don't have the declaration yet. So I'm not sure we can answer your question -- except to say that I think there are different ways to handle it, and I think we can proceed before December 31 if it is a good declaration. Remember there are some bilateral issues to look at and there are also some multilateral issues.

QUESTION: Is this the first time that a U.S. president has written to a North Korean leader? And if so --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I don't believe it is, but again I'm not a White House historian in that regard. But I think the decision to send the letter out to all the parties was in connection with the very important moment that we are in-- the end of this second phase, which we hope will be the eve of the third and final phase which will get to the complete denuclearization. So we felt we were in a crucial moment, and it was important to reach out to all the parties and that's what the President did. But again I would emphasize you should check with your White House colleagues to get the White House briefing on that.

QUESTION: So this it the first letter from President Bush?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again I'm not a historian on that. Have someone else check that. I don't want to be the --

QUESTION: So Mr. Hill, just to recap - basically, disablement probably will be on track by December 31st, but the resolution of declaration may go beyond that. Is that correct?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Let me think about that. I was distracted by the hand gestures. (Laughter)

QUESTION: We are expecting you to sign a song for us. (Laughter)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think, again, from the DPRK's point of view two main issues -- disablement, declaration. Disablement is moving ahead. All the actions will be underway well before December 31. Cooperation has been excellent. I think there is a real understanding of how to handle this. Declaration will require the DPRK to give us a complete and correct declaration -- that is, all the programs, materials and infrastructure or facilities, rather. So it is important that that declaration be as complete and correct as possible.


QUESTION: Ambassador Hill, did Mr. Wu Dawei indicate whether the Chinese are in complete agreement with you on what should be included in the declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I had a very lengthy and productive discussion with Wu Dawei on this, and I don't see that we are in any disagreement. So I think we are doing very well with the Chinese on this issue.


QUESTION: What time will you be back down tomorrow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think tomorrow I'm heading off well before you are awake. I'm heading off at 6:30. I have to catch the flight to Tokyo and get on to the States. Six- thirty. Do you believe me? Six-thirty. All right, I'll be here at 6:30. (Laughter)

QUESTION: So when are you going to be back, January? January 1st? (Laughter)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think, realistically speaking, I think we are talking about after the New Year. I don't want to get too hung up on this December 31st. We know what needs to get done in this fairly tight timeframe. But I think in terms of a meeting, we might do it after the 31st.

All right? See you later.

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

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