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US Aiming for Statement of Principles: N. Korea

U.S. Aiming for Statement of Agreed Principles on North Korea

Pyongyang's position may be "evolving" ahead of talks, Ambassador Hill says

After a four-week hiatus, the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks aimed at removing the threat of nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula resumed in Beijing September 13.

The United States is eager to achieve a statement of agreed principles regarding the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, says Ambassador Christopher Hill, the top U.S. negotiator for the talks that also include North and South Korea, Russia, Japan and China.

Upon his arrival in Beijing September 13, Hill told reporters that after the first session in Beijing, which lasted 13 days and ended in August, "we thought we had a lot of common points … albeit we didn't reach the objective. The point of this session would be to achieve that objective."

Hill said he hoped that there will be no backsliding and that the resumed talks will pick up where they left off. "We'd like to try to move this along in the next few days. We don't feel the need to spend 13 full days here. We think we can progress more quickly than that," he said.

According to Hill, the North Korean position seems "to be evolving a little."

"I think the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] took the time during the recess to think about what it is that they need…. [W]e know from various visitors to Pyongyang and from various press accounts that issues that were not prominent issues in the first round seem to be achieving a little more prominence. Although, I emphasize that they did talk about the light water reactor in the end of the round in August and I suspect that will be an issue as we sit down tomorrow. "

According to Hill, "the fundamental question is whether the DPRK is prepared to abandon its nuclear programs." Its nuclear reactors, he said, are involved with the production of materials for nuclear weapons. "Whether the issue of future civilian use turns out to be an important issue or not, I can't say at this point," he said.

If Pyongyang abandons its nuclear weapons programs, there are proposals for "compensating measures" to address its economic and security needs, Hill said.

"They also include the idea that the energy needs of the DPRK would be met largely through a South Korean conventional energy program which would insure that within just two-and-a half to three years the DPRK would be receiving energy," he said.

Hill noted that North Korea's production and distribution of power has dropped to one-third of what it was 15 years ago. But according to Hill, "a light water reactor really goes beyond what the participants in the process have to offer."

North Korea "should think very hard about" about the offer for conventional power supply "because it really meets a lot of their needs," he said.

Hill said there is no hard deadline for this session of talks. "I think we all have a view of really trying to make progress and trying to achieve an agreement so we didn't pin down too hard the issue of a deadline," he said.

For more information, see U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.

Following are the State Department transcripts of Hill's remarks to the press September 13:

Assistant Secretary [of State] Christopher Hill
Six Party Talks
Arrival China World Hotel
September 13, 2005

A/S [Assistant Secretary] HILL: Hi, how are you? It's nice to see you all. I just arrived here and will be beginning the talks in a few hours. I'll meet with the Chinese delegation in the middle of the afternoon and then we will begin the Six Party Talks just after that. I know a lot of you want to know how long you are going to be here. I know especially for Korean journalists it's tough because we've got some holidays coming up this weekend. I wish I could tell you how long we're going to be here. I'll certainly get a better idea of that when I have the opportunity to talk to the DPRK delegation.

We've all had some four weeks, actually more than four weeks, to look at the text-to review the conversations of the thirteen days that we had at the end of July and the beginning of August. I know that my delegation is coming here to work. We know pretty precisely what the issues are. I hope the DPRK delegation has also done some homework and when they get here, when we talk to them, we'll know where we are. So, I can't really say much more than that at this point.

QUESTION: Will you have a bilateral meeting with the DPRK today?

A/S HILL: I will undoubtedly see them. We don't have any separate bilateral scheduled. I think I am seeing the head of the Chinese delegation at around 3:30 and then we begin the talks at 5:00. Then there's a dinner tonight. So, I assume at the dinner I'll have some opportunities for some bilateral discussions.

QUESTION: Has there been any progress before the talks in private exchanges with the North Koreans that make you more optimistic about this round?

A/S HILL: Well, there have been some discussions privately with the North Koreans. We've had two discussions within the New York channel. I can't say really that there has been progress. We certainly, I think, have a better idea of what there position is. Although, I must tell you that their position does seem to be evolving a little. So, I'm sort of reluctant to put too much emphasis in the discussions that have been carried on through the press or through various intermediaries. So, we'll have a much better idea about it tonight and tomorrow. So, better to meet with them then than to be speculating about it now.

QUESTION: Are you going home this weekend?

A/S HILL: If I were optimistic or pessimistic, it really wouldn't make much difference. The fact is that we've got to talk them and see where we are. Then we will get a better sense of where we are. Thank you very much.

(end transcript)

(begin transcript)

Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill
Six Party Talks
Evening Transit China World Hotel
September 13, 2005

A/S Hill: We just had our introductory meetings tonight. I think we all stressed the need to sort of pick up where we left off; which is to say, we were concerned that we don't want to go back to where we started last time. We want to go back to where we ended last time. I can't say we had too many substantive discussions tonight. The U.S. delegation had a bilateral with the Chinese and we went over what we saw as the modalities of the talks. We'd like to try to move this along in the next few days. We don't feel the need to spend thirteen full days here. We think we can make progress more quickly than that.

I had some brief discussions with the DPRK delegation or the North Korean delegation but we did not have a bilateral. We did schedule one for tomorrow and we look forward to exploring their thinking. Again, I was not able to have a substantive discussion with them at this point. But, I think tomorrow we will know where we are. Obviously, I think everyone would like to move this along. We don't want to spend any more time than we have to here. So, we'll see.

QUESTION: Ambassador, basically the major impasse is the same as last time, that is the civilian use of nuclear....

A/S Hill: Well, I am not even sure I can accept the premise of that. That was one issue that came up but, you know, nothing is agreed unless everything is agreed. So, the question is -- for us the fundamental question is whether the DPRK is prepared to abandon its nuclear programs. And, as you know, its nuclear programs are involved with the production of materials for nuclear weapons. Whether the issue of future civilian use turns out to be an important issue or not, I can't say at this point.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate what you talked about?

A/S Hill: Can I elaborate what I am talking about? I just did. I could have told you this in two words.

QUESTION: There seems to be a feeling among the other delegates that the light water reactors might be a flexible topic. Is that a flexible topic for you?

A/S Hill: Well, I think the issue is that we have a proposal on the table which involves the DPRK abandoning its programs in return for which there is a set of compensating measures. The compensating measures include some economic measures. They include some bilateral recognition issues. They include some security guarantees. They also include the idea that the energy needs of the DPRK would be met largely through a South Korean conventional energy program which would insure that within just two and a half to three years the DPRK would be receiving energy.

As you know, the DPRK's power generating and power distributing has really suffered from losses in recent years due to under investment and that best estimates by experts are that DPRK is producing and distributing about one third of the power that they had only fifteen years ago. So, this is all on the table. Now, the notion that on top of this there should be another element of a light water reactor really goes beyond what the participants in the process have to offer. And, I want to stress that all the participants very much support, I mean all five of us very much support what's on the table today which are the issues that I enumerated. And, it seems that this should be a deal that the North Koreans should think very hard about because it really meets a lot of their needs.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, you mentioned the modalities which you discussed with the Chinese delegation today. Are you going to stick with the same modalities as the last time? I mean, focusing on the bilateral talks with North Korea?

A/S Hill: Well, I think there will be a lot of bilateral talks but I don't want to say they are just with the North Koreans because we.... For instance, today I spent a considerable amount of time in bilateral discussions with the Chinese delegation. Also, I had some good discussions with the Russian and Japanese and South Koreans. Bilateral I think is probably the primary means of exchanging viewpoints but I think what we also agreed is that we will have a daily six party meeting at the level of the heads of delegation. So, I think we'll do both. The purpose here is to exchange opinions, exchange views, exchange ideas and see if we can make some progress quickly so that we can get on to the next stage.

QUESTION: Did you set a time for concluding the meetings?

A/S Hill: You know, we didn't set a hard deadline but I think there is a view that we know each other's positions. We did spend thirteen days working at this at the end of July and the beginning of August. So, I think the sense is that we should be able to wrap this up in a matter of days not weeks. You know, I think we all have a view of really trying to make progress and trying to achieve an agreement so we didn't pin down too hard the issue of a deadline.

QUESTION: You said that the North Korean position seems to be evolving. What did you mean by that?

A/S Hill: I think the DPRK took the time during the recess to think about what it is that they need. And, I don't want to characterize their position at this point because we really did not sit down and have an in-depth discussion with them. But, we know from various visitors to Pyongyang and from various press accounts that issues that were not prominent issues in the first round seem to be achieving a little more prominence. Although, I emphasize that they did talk about the light water reactor in the end of the round in August and I suspect that will be an issue as we sit down tomorrow.

QUESTION: What about the statement of agreed principles? Is that still on the agenda?

A/S Hill: Absolutely, the purpose of this session is to achieve this statement of agreed principles. We thought we had a lot of common points last time albeit we didn't reach the objective. The point of this session would be to achieve that objective.

So, I've got to go make some phone calls and see you tomorrow.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, what's your itinerary like tomorrow? Do you start early in the morning?

A/S Hill: I think we'll start around nine in the morning. So you don't have to be here at six thirty if you don't want to be.

QUESTION: So, you'll leave here around eight?

A/S Hill: I'll leave here around about eight-thirty, something like that. Then we have bilaterals throughout the day. I think I have bilaterals scheduled with all the other delegations including the DPRK delegation.

QUESTION: So you know what time you will meet with the DPRK?

A/S Hill: I think the DPRK delegation is after noon. I can't remember exactly but I think we start with the Japanese. And then, other delegations are having their own bilaterals. There are going to be a lot of bilateral meetings.

Alright, we will see you all later. Bye, bye.

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