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Remarks Upon Arrival in Japan Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Narita Airport Tokyo, Japan January 7, 2008.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: How are you? Happy New Year. Good to see you.
QUESTION: Just lay out a little bit about some of your hopes, just lay out some of the plans for this particular trip.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, first of all, as you know, we're trying to complete phase two, and we had a deadline in mind -- which was the 31st of December. And, of course, earlier in December we had several discussions with the DPRK, and it was pretty clear they were not prepared yet to give us a complete and correct declaration. They were prepared to give a declaration. It just wasn't going to be complete and correct, and we felt it was better for them to give us a complete one and correct one even if it's going to be a late one.
So what I'll do on this trip is talk to my counterparts here in Tokyo -- and also in Seoul and in Beijing and Moscow -- and compare notes and see where we think we ought to be heading in the next few weeks. I must say, I think everybody saw the KCNA statement the other day. You know, there were obviously some positive elements in the statement, but there are also some signs that they're not yet ready to make a complete and correct declaration. So I think we understand that this is always a difficult process, one that is rarely completed on time. So I think we have to have a little sense of patience and perseverance, work closely together. I think we can do that and see if we can keep making progress.
QUESTION: If you could, sir, tell me a little bit about December 31 and the disappointment felt by that missed deadline.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What do you mean? Personal disappointment? Look, we need a complete and correct declaration, and we need that in order to move forward. We're prepared to move forward, but we need it to be complete and correct. So, of course, no one likes being late, but I think being late is probably preferable than being wrong or giving us something that we can't work with.
Look, I'm going to talk to my counterparts. I'll see Director-General Sasae in a couple of hours. And we'll see where we are and try to continue to make progress on this.
QUESTION: 2007 was marked by such progress. How do you see 2008?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I'm glad you point out the 2007 was marked by some progress, because when you do have the disappointment of missing a deadline, it is important to remember that we actually were able to get some things done -- namely the shutdown of the facility at Yongbyon and the fact that we have, I think, some 75% of the disabling actions done. But, as I've said many times, 2008 needs to be an equally energetic year. We've got to not only complete these tasks from December 31, but also move ahead and, I think, achieve final denuclearization. So that's going to be very tough. And then the North Koreans have produced a certain amount of fissile material, a certain amount of plutonium, and that needs to be abandoned pursuant to their obligations under the September '05 statement. It's going to be an important phase, but we're looking forward to getting it done. And as that's done, we are prepared to do all of the things that are called for us to do in the September '05 statement, including reaching a peace agreement on the Korean Peninsula, creating a Northeast Asian peace and security mechanism, but also achieving normalization with the DPRK in the context of complete denuclearization. So it's a big agenda for '08, and we'll see if we can do it.
QUESTION: You mentioned that 75% of disabling is done. What have they done so far, and what is left?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, there's something like 11 tasks, and they've done most of those, 75% of those. They are discharging the reactor, which is, I think, a very important task that's currently underway; it's not yet done. So I think the disabling has gone on pretty well and continues to go on. But there's another element, which is the declaration. And when that declaration is ready, we are prepared to take a number of steps on our part.
QUESTION: Do you have any new proposal to talk about with Mr. Sasae or anyone?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No, we're not sharing any new proposals. You know, we're only a few days into January, so I think it's important to compare notes. I try to stay in very close contact with Director-General Sasae, and this is part of that process.
QUESTION: Is this a critical juncture, do you believe?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Oh, I don't write headlines. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: But this is an important time?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I think it's always important, when we hit these bumps in the road, that we need to work very closely together in the Six Parties. So yesterday -- I guess it was Friday -- Secretary Rice asked me to go out to the region and talk to our partners and see where we are and see where we can get to in the next few weeks. We'd really like to continue this process.
QUESTION: Do you have any plans to send a special envoy to the DPRK?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I've been to the DPRK. Sung Kim has been to the DPRK. I mean, we're prepared to do things like that again, of course. We have no problem with that. But we'll do it when we feel there's a need to do it, and of course when the DPRK feels it's necessary.
QUESTION: What is your plan here in Tokyo?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I'm going to go to the hotel, and then I'm going to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and see Director-General Sasae. All right? See you.
Source: US Department of State, www.state.gov.
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