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US Opposes N. Korean Demand for Civil-Use Nuclear

U.S. Opposes North Korean Demand for Civil-Use Nuclear Reactor

Ambassador Hill says proposed draft still a good basis for final agreement

The United States continues to oppose North Korea's demands for a light-water nuclear reactor to generate electricity, and believes that North Korea should focus on abandoning its nuclear weapons programs before striving for civil-use nuclear power, says Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.

The "most urgent task," Hill told reporters in Beijing September 14, is "to get the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] out of the nuclear weapons business."

Hill is the top U.S. negotiator at the fourth round of Six-Party Talks, which have resumed after a hiatus of more than four weeks. The United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia are seeking a satisfactory end to North Korea's decades-old nuclear weapons programs.

Acknowledging that the United States had "some minor issues" with the current draft proposal, which was put together by China, Hill said it is nonetheless an excellent draft and the basis for an agreement. "I think there is a strong willingness to work with the fourth draft," he said.

"I don't detect among any of the parties a willingness to construct a light-water reactor [for North Korea]," Hill said, noting the expense and time involved in such a project.

Although North Korea does have a severe shortage of electricity, South Korea has offered to provide "a very significant conventional energy program" that could be up and running in just a few years if North Korea agrees to denuclearize, Hill pointed out.

"If it's electricity that they want, the draft certainly provides electricity. And, there are many other elements in that agreement that I think are very, very important for the DPRK," Hill said.

"The key element is denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Hill said.

Talks will continue September 15. No deadline has been set for an agreement.

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

Following are the September 14 briefing transcripts provided by the Department of State:

(begin transcript)

Assistant Secretary [of State] Christopher Hill
Six Party Talks
Morning Transit China World Hotel
Beijing, China
September 14, 2005

A/S [Assistant Secretary] Hill: I'm just off for what should be a pretty full day of bilateral talks, meeting all of the delegations, I think starting with the Japanese, then the Russians, then the Koreans - that is, the South Koreans, then the North Koreans, after we have dinner with the Chinese. We anticipate this being a very long, very important day, because we hope to really go through the fourth draft and see where our differences are, and see where our similarities are, and see if we can make progress on the basis of the fourth draft. As you know, we got here with the idea that we will pick up where we ended in the fourth session, not where we began in the session. So where we ended was with the fourth draft, with the U.S. side wanting to make some small modifications, with the DPRK side wanting to make some large modifications, so we'll have to see where we are today.

Today should be an important day. It's the first full day of the talks. I think they got off to a good start last night, with very good atmospherics. But, we'll have to see where we are today.

QUESTION: Would you confirm with us whether the fourth draft has mentioned about peace regime on the Korean peninsula?

A/S Hill: There is a very general reference to this subject. The issue of a peace regime is one that I think many of us are interested in, but we are interested in pursuing it in an appropriate forum - that is, an appropriate place, at an appropriate time, with appropriate partners. While I think the six party process is a good place to support a peace regime, it's probably not a good place to negotiate a peace regime, because it's not the appropriate place and not necessarily the appropriate partners, and probably not the appropriate time, given that we're working on this nuclear question. But, obviously, it is an important issue and, indeed, we would like to use the momentum of the six-party process - that is, this process dealing with the issue of denuclearization. If we can succeed with this process, we'd like to move on and see what can be done in terms of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula. But, it's a very complex subject. It's obviously a historical subject. It's a subject that has to be pursued with great care, and with a view to maintaining the stability that we've all been a part of keeping over the decades.

Question: What is the most important point [inaudible]?

A/S Hill: Well, in the near aside we had some wording issues. I don't really want to get into the particulars. I don't think we have any major issues. We consider the fourth draft to be really an excellent basis for reaching the goals and principles that will guide us in the eventual agreement. So, we don't have any strong problems with the fourth draft. How the DPRK reacts to the fourth draft is something we'll have to see today, and that's why I consider it kind of an important day. At the dinner last night I did have the opportunity to sit next to the DPRK representative, Mr. Kim Gye Gwan. We did have some good general discussions. We both reiterated our desire to reach an agreement in this session. But, as is often the case in these sorts of issues, these sorts of negotiations, really the devil will be in the details. So, we have to look very carefully at how this all works.

Question: Do you have any indication that the North Korean position is changing, and if so how do you plan to deal with this?

A/S Hill: Well, I mean, for me the big questions is: What did they do during the past month? We broke up in early August. We reconvened in mid-September. I know what my delegation did: We worked very hard to go through the fourth draft to make sure that we do consider it a basis for the agreement. We worked very hard to review all of our positions in it, and really worked hard to develop consensus on coming back here and achieving an agreement. I'd like to see - and I know that several other delegations did that as well. But, what I'd like to see is what the DPRK did back in - their delegation back in Pyongyang - in the last month. And I think I'll find out today. And as soon as I know, I'll tell you. [Laughter]

Question: Mr. Ambassador, did you get any news, perhaps in from Washington, based on what was discussed at the New York meeting between President Bush and President Hu this morning?

A/S Hill: And - President Hu?

Question: Hu. Yes, sorry.

A/S Hill: Actually, I talked to Secretary Rice before that meeting. So, thanks to jet lag, I was up after that meeting, but I did not have a communication after that meeting. But I hope to get some report when I go into the Embassy.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, North Korea has asked for a light water reactor. If it would drop that demand, would you then be willing to accept a premise that the North has the right to develop peaceful nuclear programs?

A/S Hill: Well, you know, I know there's been a lot discussed about the issue of eventual use of civilian nuclear power. My main concern here is in achieving a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and in reviewing the general principles that we need to have agreement on in order to achieve denuclearization. To be sure, there are some issues in the draft that I know there'll be some discussion on, but I want to make sure that on the fundamental issues that confront us in this draft - that is, namely, the denuclearization and ridding the Korean peninsula of these terrible weapons; weapons, really, of mass destruction - that we can achieve agreement on that. And when we do that, we can look at some of these other questions.

So thank you very much. Have a good day.

(end transcript)

(begin transcript)

Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill
Six Party Talks
Midday Transit Chang An Club
Beijing, China
September 14, 2005

QUESTION: Do you have any plans (inaudible) North Korea (inaudible)

A/S Hill: Well, look, let me say, first of all we had a very good lunch together with the ROK's Song Ming Soon. We have cooperated very, very closely throughout this six party process and continue to do so. I am going to see the DPRK delegation for the first time, for the first time in a bilateral meeting, this afternoon. When we left Beijing in early August we had a pretty good proposal on the table with a very good draft which our Chinese host put together, the so called fourth draft, and it's on the basis of that draft that we think it's possible to reach an agreement. It's a very good draft, we've got some minor issues that we wanted to address in it, but we think it's really a basis for agreement.

Now, I need to find out what the DPRK delegation feels about it. We had a lot of time to think about it, read it very carefully, to go through it very carefully, and we have come back to Beijing in the same mood that we left it in. That is, with the sense that this is an excellent draft and the basis for an agreement. I don't know where the DPRK delegation is. I know they're talking about some other elements that are not contained in that draft, like the light water reactor. I think they should focus on what is on the table and I think what is on the table is something their country very much needs. And, one of the most important elements on the table is the significant proposal of the ROK, which is a very significant conventional energy program, which would get for the DPRK electricity at a very early date. So, if it's electricity that they want, the draft certainly provides electricity. And, there are many other elements in that agreement that I think are very, very important for the DPRK. But, you know, they've had a lot of time to think about it so we'll want to hear what their conclusions are.

QUESTION: Deputy Minister Song, you have talked to both the Americans and the North Koreans now, what can you tell us about your optimism?

Deputy Minister Song: Well, I had a short discussion with my North Korean counterpart yesterday and based on the conversation I had, I shared the contents with my American colleague. With that in mind, I think that my American colleague will continue discussions with Deputy Minister Kim Gye Gwan today. Well, I think we have some middle ground agenda. We are making the minimum adjustments to the construct of the last round quotes. I think we can reach some agreement in case we keep some flexible objectives (inaudible). I'm not, I don't have any reason to be optimistic but still we have to be in this and involved, to be more optimistic.

QUESTION: Now that you have talked to both parties, now are you confident that all five parties are really unified on the issue of light water reactors and peaceful use of nuclear energy and how to deal with it?

QUESTION: I'm sorry, Mr. Hill could you maybe cover this please, I'm sorry.

A/S Hill: Well, let me just say that of the five parties, the US and the other four parties, I think there is a strong willingness to work with the fourth draft, the draft as put together by the Chinese side. With respect to the light water reactor issue that has come up in the discussions, I don't detect among any of the parties a willingness to construct a light water reactor, which after all is a very expensive and very long term type project. So, I've not seen any of the parties come forward to say they're prepared to fund such a thing. So, I think we're talking about a theoretical issue at best. But, I think what's important is to stick with the fourth draft, to try to make minimal changes to the fourth draft. That is, not to engage in any sort of major surgery on the fourth draft but rather keep it at minimal changes and see if we can get an agreement on the fourth draft and move on to the next phase. So, I need to see what the DPRK thinks.

QUESTION: Deputy Minister Song could you confirm that five parties in the six party process at least agree on one premise not to build a light water reactor for North Korea?

Deputy Minister Song: Well, now we are talking about the concepts of the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy. We are not in the space to discuss in details about how these concepts can develop into a greater thing. So, it is a little too early to talk about that much detail but North Korea, when they complete the dismantlement of their nuclear weapons and nuclear programs, they can enjoy, they can have their rights to peaceful use of nuclear energy. And then on top of this, it is something to be discussed further. But still, as we proposed to strive with that issue that will be, that will meet their interests and needs at such span of time, that would be good grounds and then peaceful use of nuclear energy is something to be discussed and formulated in detailed form at the later stages.

QUESTION: Do you agree with that Secretary Hill? Can that be discussed, the issue of peaceful nuclear energy or is that totally out of the question?

A/S Hill: Well, I mean, as I've said before, we're working on the fourth draft and the fourth draft has a number of elements put forward. The key element is denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and I want to hear from the DPRK specifically how they would see that to be implementation of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. I consider that the sort of the most urgent task, to get the DPRK out of the nuclear weapons business.

So thank you very much.

QUESTION: Are you heading to the Embassy to meet the DPRK?

A/S Hill: I'm heading to Diaoyutai Guest House.

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