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Christopher R. Hill - East Asia Press Briefing

East Asia Update

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary, East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
July 21, 2006

10:00 A.M. EDT
Christopher Hill at FPC


MODERATOR: Good morning. I'd like to welcome all of -- those of you here in Washington, anyone joining us in New York and anyone watching on the web to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Our briefer today is Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Christopher R. Hill. He will brief you on updates from the region.

Please, Ambassador Hill.

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well,thank you very much. A pleasure to see you all here. Some real familiar faces out there, so good to see you. Why don't I just make a few -- a couple of opening comments and then I'll go right to your questions. Does that sound about right? Is that okay?

MODERATOR: (Off-Mike.)

AMBASSADOR HILL: Sure. Okay. Well, first of all, I think notwithstanding the fact that there are a lot of things going on in the news today in various parts of the world, I think we have come to -- a kind of an important juncture in the six-party process. For the first time, this Korean nuclear issue has been referred to the UN Security Council. I think the UN Security Council spoke with one voice and a very powerful voice. All countries coming together, including China, to condemn these missile launches. The Council Resolution called on -- required that all member-states exercise vigilance. And what will now happen is these member-states need to exercise vigilance to deny D.P.R.K., the -- to deny them the capability of funding these programs of, you know, weapons of mass destruction, but also to deny them the ability to traffic and the technology.

It's a very strong resolution, uses very strong words and it's very strongly supported and I think it's a very important message. When we set out to do this, we wanted to make sure the D.P.R.K., the North Koreans, got a very strong and unified message and I think we did that. It's a big step, but of course, it's not the only step. And I would also call your attention to the other provision of the Security Council resolution, which calls on North Korea to come back to the six-party talks and to implement the September statement.

To date, as you know, the North Koreans are not very enthusiastic about the UN Security Council Resolution and in fact they've indicated that they would like to violate the Security Council resolution. We hope that this is an initial reaction and that in time they will understand that they need to come into compliance with the Security Council resolution. It is very important that the six parties work closely together now. It's very important that we stay in close consultation. It was, in fact, the close consultation that we have enjoyed in the six-party process that I think was so instrumental in getting this very strong resolution so universally supported and so we want to continue that.

I will be going out to the region shortly. As you know, Dr. Rice will be in Kuala Lumpur and we will see how we can advance the six-party process in Kuala Lumpur. I'm not here at this point to make an announcement to you about what format we're going to do this. And at this point, we don't know whether there could be a meeting of six parties. What we do know is all the six parties are going to be in Kuala Lumpur which is convenient to be sure. And we want to see what we can do to get this diplomatic process going again.

While we strongly support the provisions of the resolution that deal with the need of all member-states to exercise vigilance, to prevent North Korea from funding and trafficking and weapons of mass destruction, we also strongly support the provisions of the resolution to get the six-party process going.

We have to see what the D.P.R.K. is prepared to do. We have made clear that we will be there at the six-party process. We are prepared to meet with the D.P.R.K. in the six-party process. We're frankly prepared to have as many bilateral meetings as the North Koreans can stand, provided they're in the six-party process. And it's very important to us that it be in the six-party process because this is the process by which the D.P.R.K. will make what we believe to be a very fundamental, a historic decision to do away with its nuclear programs and begin the long and difficult, but very important road toward joining the international community.

We will be -- we have been in, as I said, in constant communication with our partners. Just a few hours ago or late last night, I was talking to my Japanese colleague. I also talked to my Korean colleague. I know that our Embassy in Beijing was talking to the Chinese colleagues. I know our embassy in Moscow has been talking to Russian colleagues. We want to stay in close contact and we really want to see if we can get this process going. We believe it is the right process.

You know, it has been a difficult road, of course, but we feel that the missile launch was a real sign that we need a six-party process because those missiles were not all directed at the U.S. On the contrary, those missiles were various sizes and shapes and I think they're frankly a threat to us all, so I hope we can make some progress here.

We will, as we have always, done, we will look to the Chinese as hosts to the process to do what it can. I think China made a very important and a very correct decision to support the Security Council resolution. We in respect of the Chinese diplomacy, gave them the time they felt they needed to get up to Pyongyang. Regrettably, the DPK did not respond well to the Chinese diplomatic overture, but we still believe that China has a lot of influence and we'll continue to work with China to try to get the D.P.R.K. to do what is now required of it, not only by the six parties, not only by its own agreement to the September statement, but also now by UN Security Council 1695.

So those are opening comments, why don't I go to questions.

MODERATOR: Why don't we take a question from the end here? Please wait for your microphone and please state your name.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador Hill. Tsukasa Ariza from Kyodo News, Japan. I'm going to Malaysia next week to follow you, so I hope to see you there.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I look forward to seeing you there. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And my question is on five party talks. So, you are saying that you prefer six, but five is better than nothing. So, do you think that it's high time already to hold such a five-party talks in Malaysia, I think?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: You know, I think for months and months now, the D.P.R.K. has essentially boycotted the six-party process I think fundamentally because they haven't made up their mind to implement the September statement now. I know they came up with the excuse for -- that they were upset about the action against the the Macau bank. As I recall a year ago or 13 months ago, the excuse was they were concerned about the -- I guess it was the expression "outpost of tyranny." Six months before that, they were worried about -- what was it -- the "axis of evil" comment, I think. Now it's Macau -- I don't know what it'll be next month. They need to come back to this process. But I think what we need to do is to make sure that in boycotting the process, they don't make the rest of us boycott the process. And so we certainly would like a six-party process, but you know if they're not going to attend, maybe the rest of us should meet and have a discussion about what we could do at five.

There's a lot to discuss. We do need to discuss how we would implement this resolution, but we also need to discuss how we would organize for a next round of talks of the six-party talks. So, I hope North Korea will want to come back. But if they don't, I hope the rest of us can meet because we need to do that.

MODERATOR: Please state your name and your news organization and when asking a question, wait for the microphone. We'll take a question from the right, the woman here.

QUESTION: Thank you. Nike Ching with Voice of America. Ambassador Hill, your remarks on Iran -- Iranian observers to the missile test?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I'll be happy to take that question.

QUESTION: Right. Is that supposed to be classified information?

AMBASSADOR HILL: No.

QUESTION: And could you further classify -- I mean --

AMBASSADOR HILL: No, what I -- you recall the senator asked me about these reports that the Iranians were witnessing, I guess, the missile launches. And what I said was that I understood. I mean, I've heard those reports. I didn't mean to confirm them because frankly, I don't know. I don't know if they "witnessed" the July 4th or the July 5th missile launch.

What I do know is that the D.P.R.K. has had a great interest in commercializing their missile production and we do know that the D.P.R.K. is in touch with various customers and one of the customers for D.P.R.K. missiles is Iran. But I did not mean to sound -- and in fact, I never said that I could confirm what the senator said, which was that the North Korean -- that the Iranians were witnessing the -- or that were actually in -- present in Pyongyang or, I guess, in Taepo Dong witnessing the launches.

MODERATOR: Actually, we'll take our next question from New York through DVC. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Good morning, Ambassador Hill. This is Siu-Wai Cheung from Ta Kung Pao, Hong Kong. Nice to take this opportunity to ask you a question. Yesterday, in the testimony to the Congress, you stressed that the UN Security Council resolution is binding and it must be implemented. And given the fact that you have no direct links with North Korea and no economic leverage on that side, what kind of follow-up you can have -- I mean, the United States Government would have to implement this resolution from the UN? And what measures or steps would trigger that follow-up action from the U.S. side? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR HILL: Thank you. Yes, we do consider this a binding resolution, but what it clearly is, is that the UN Security Council has spoken unanimously and has required member-states to comply. North Korea is a member-state and therefore, North Korea must comply. If North Korea does not comply, North Korea will be in defiance of UN Security Council 1695 and we have to deal with that appropriately.

I'm not, at this point, going to talk about how we would deal with the fact that North Korea does not comply with the Security Council resolution, what measures we might take. But I think it's pretty clear that they need to conform to it, as do all other member-states. And we will be very interested in working with other member-states, especially member-states that have had substantial contacts with the DPRK to make sure those contacts are brought into conformance with the Security Council resolution, especially with respect to the requirement that these member-states exert vigilance on financial interactions and interactions in these various programs.

MODERATOR: Okay. Why don't we take a question from the front row. Please wait for the microphone.

QUESTION: Hi, Seung Ryun Kim, Dong-A Daily from Korea. Two quick questions. What's the level of formality for the five-party meeting or talks when the countries gather in Kuala Lumpur and when you --

AMBASSADOR HILL: You mean am I going to wear a necktie?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, I mean is it just a gathering, meeting, or informal talks?

AMBASSADOR HILL: You know, Americans aren't very good at that. You mean whether it's formal or informal? First of all, I don't know if we'll have a meeting and nothing's been decided yet about what we might or might not do in Kuala Lumpur. I guess the regular sessions of the six-party talks take place in Beijing. And so I guess you would not -- if we did something in Pyongyang, it would not be a regular session, you know, the kind of things that we do in Beijing. First of all, there's not enough time for that. I mean, Kuala Lumpur would just be a meeting rather than -- you know, I don't think anyone's planning to spend two weeks abusing the hospitality of the -- of our Malaysian hosts there. So it's not a regular session. Now, does that mean to you informal? I don't know. Again, Americans are not very good at that, but I will wear a necktie.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: And since you -- now that you've mentioned that United States -- will safety regime behavior change, so how likely the factor of human rights issues will take place amongst these further discussions?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, you know, look, I don't want to lecture the North Koreans. But I think they might want to have a look at their behavior and try to objectively think about it, think about what they need to do to be a member of the international community, producing -- you know, firing off seven missiles of all kinds of ranges is not a very neighborly thing to do. That's one element of their behavior and I would urge them to consider seriously implementing the Security Council resolution which, in part, calls on them to reimpose their missile moratorium.

With respect to human rights, you know, human rights is -- and you know, many of you have heard me many times on this subject. This is not some bilateral issue. This is not some American issue. This is not some American code of conduct. This is an international standard and every day, every country needs to measure what it is doing to reach proper standards. And I think every day, every country realizes that -- you know, we don't all achieve it every day, you know, and we all have things we need to do. That's true in my country, probably true in your country as well.

In the case of the D.P.R.K., I think they need to understand that these are rules that everyone has to follow. Sometimes, it's not pleasant having people look at your human rights record. It can be very unpleasant. But I think if they really want to join the international community, this is going to be part of the process. They won't like that, but as I said, you know, a lot of countries don't like that. But they have to get over the idea that they should have separate rules for them. Everyone else has to live by these rules and they should start thinking about these rules as well.

No one is expecting their human rights problems, which are enormous -- no one is expecting those problems to be solved overnight. But certainly, we are looking for a direction. We're looking for an acknowledgment that they need to address this. We're not looking to make the nuclear process more difficult than it already is, but I think rather than look at human rights as somehow something in competition with denuclearization, I would urge you to think of it as all part of the same overall picture. And so I hope the D.P.R.K. can come to this realization.

Frankly, in light of their behavior with this missile launch, in light of their behavior in response to the Security Council resolution, I'm not sure they're doing any thinking at all right now. But at some point, they will, and I think when they do start thinking about it, they should think about human rights and international -- you know, missile regimes and nuclear matters all together and try to work on this.

MODERATOR: Okay. Why don't we go to Russia and take a question from the second row. Andrei?

AMBASSADOR HILL: But then you need some geographic distribution, because there are all these guys in the back -- you know, so -- (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thanks. My name's Andrei Sitov. I'm with the Russian news agency, ITAR-TASS, here in Washington. Thank you. And thank you, Ambassador, for coming over and speaking to us. Again, referring back to your testimony yesterday, you were looking forward to some future hopes and suggested that, for instance, the South Koreans might play an important role in providing for energy needs for North Korea. And as I understood you, you also said that the Russians could play an important role in terms of dismantling the weapons and presumably verifying the compliance and all of that. Could you elaborate on that a little bit?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Sure. I mean, I think it was in the context of explaining why we have a six-party process and why we think this needs to be addressed in a multilateral process rather than a bilateral process. And my point was that I think all of the partners have something to bring to the table and especially something to bring to the key phase of implementation. And I mentioned the fact that Russia has an extensive, extensive experience during the Soviet period with arms control, arms verification, with denuclearization or these various talks and that therefore, there is a body of expertise that Russia has, people who know how to do this, who know how to ensure that nuclear materials have been properly accounted for, that nuclear sites have been properly cleaned up. And so I was simply referring to the Russian historical experience with this.

But I don't see Russia's contribution in the six-party process to be limited to nuclear cleanup. For example, I would think that since one of the key elements of this entire process is the energy question in North Korea, I mean, it is a human tragedy, a human tragedy to see these satellite photos and see the darkness of North Korea. I mean, to think of the -- you know, hundreds, maybe thousands of villages that have no electricity. And so Russia has, also, an enormous experience as an energy producer, as an energy transmitter, and I would imagine, depending on how we -- you know, what kind of arrangements, that it would not just be South Korea working on energy, that Russia, as a neighboring state, might also have a contribution there.

So what I wanted to urge the senators yesterday to understand is that everybody has a role and I would expect Russia to play a very important role.

QUESTION: And these roles are not formalized?

AMBASSADOR HILL: No, no, not formalized at this point, but I would say that when we get to implementation of the September statement, we would begin to formalize roles and that's why we want to get on with this. And that's why we don't want a situation where North Korea holds up everything. So we'll see what our Russian friends and colleagues can come up with.

But we have in the -- what is important about the September statement is it's a holistic approach to the problem, it's not just denuclearization. It's also energy, it's economic support, it's reintegration of North Korea. So I think Russia will have an important role in this implementation.

MODERATOR: Okay. Now that we've gotten questions from four of the six-party countries, we'll go to the back of the room. Why don't we go to the gentleman in the yellow shirt, China in the back?

QUESTION: Thank you. Donghui Yu with The China Press. Two days ago, Chinese General Guo Boxiong said China gathered information South -- North Korea launching missile from American media. And when he checked with North Korea, North Korea just gave unclear respond. And he also said China doesn't know what step, what next step that North Korea will take. So do you believe the situation that General Guo Boxiong described?

And my second question is, what measure do you think that China should take to impose more pressure on North Korea? You know, China has sent a high delegation to North Korea, but no resolve coming out. Thank you.

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, first of all, I heard those comment from General Guo. And to me, it was unusual that the Chinese military would get information about missile launches from a neighboring state through U.S. mass media, but I really don't want to comment on that, except that I certainly heard that comment, that statement by General Guo.

You know, I was in Beijing twice in the last couple of weeks. And what struck me and -- you know, I can't speak for the Chinese people. You can do that much better and you can speak to the Chinese people as well, but -- you know, China has done an awful lot for the D.P.R.K. China has helped the D.P.R.K. for decades. In one case, during the Korean War, it was help to the D.P.R.K. that really put China at war with the United States. It's a very serious thing.

So over the course of the decades, China provided all kinds of economic assistance and to this day China provides fuel oil. China provides food every day. China has built some factories; actually, there's a glass factory that China has built. China has hosted senior delegations from the D.P.R.K. China, as you mention, has sent senior delegations to the D.P.R.K. The D.P.R.K., frankly speaking, ought to be saying thank you to China, maybe not every day, but once in a way they should kind of show, I think, a little -- I don't know how to put this delicately -- a little respect for what you have done for that country.

And so I don't know about you, and I don't know about the Chinese people, but I would have been a little surprised to have seen a senior Chinese delegation go to Pyongyang with a rather fair request and to see the D.P.R.K. not receive the delegation at an appropriate level. And what was interesting was, of course, at about the same time there was a D.P.R.K. delegation in Beijing that was received at an appropriate level. Your President who's a very busy man, who has -- your President has worldwide responsibilities, and without stretching the imagination too much, I suspect he has more responsibilities than Kim Jong-Il does. And yet he found time to meet with the D.P.R.K. delegation and Kim Jong-Il did not find time to meet with the Chinese delegation.

So again, I don't want to tell you how you should regard this, but it worries us a little. It worries us because China's a country that really counts, should count not only in Northeast Asia but all around the world. And what you have done for that country, and you ask one thing, one very reasonable thing. So I, again I don't want to put thoughts in your head or in the heads of the Chinese people, but maybe you ought to have a look at this, maybe you ought to think about this. I mean, you should think about your interest and how to fulfill your interest. And I just feel that was not an appropriate way to treat your country. And I have the impression that maybe some of you feel the same way and I have the impression that may have been part of the -- one of the factors that caused China to take a very unprecedented step at the UN.

Again, one has to be very respectful of geography. One has to be very respectful of the fact that countries have neighbors and dealing with neighbors is not always easy. There's often a lot of history, so I understand that. But I really believe that it is in all of our interest to do everything we can do and I'm not going to tell China what it needs to do. But I think China can do things to do something about this nuclear problem in North Korea.

You know, one hears from commentators concern that China has concerns about whether the D.P.R.K. could suffer some sort of instability or whether there could be problems that would spill over into China's borders. I understand that. But let me tell you, if the D.P.R.K. is allowed to go ahead with nuclear weapons, if they are allowed to go ahead with missiles, they will have an effect across the region that, in my view, will be much greater than the concerns that one might have about stability and cross-border problems, et cetera.

So what we want to do is work very closely with China and we do it on the basis of mutual respect. We do it on the basis of trying to work out realistic plans, realistic ways to cooperate with each other. And I have nothing but respect for my Chinese counterpart Deputy Minister Wu Dawei (ph), works very, very hard and I look forward to working more with China to get this problem solved, a solution that will bring America and China even closer together in a very positive and then we'll go on and solve some other problems.

MODERATOR: Okay. There's a gentleman in a white shirt on the left here who's had a question for quite some time.

QUESTION: Gregory Ho from Radio Free Asia. Just wanted to know what is America's latest assessments for North Korea after their financial network in Macau was shut down? How is the impact on North Korea's financial ability, its counterfeiting ability and its (inaudible) ability?

AMBASSADOR HILL: Well, this is a -- you know, something we try to evaluate to see whether they have stopped engaging in some of the illicit activities. As you know, we invited a senior delegation from the D.P.R.K. to New York. They came in March. I think in January as well. I met with D.P.R.K. government officials in Beijing and we talked about this. We do know that they certainly appear to be quite concerned about Macau. It's in many of their public presentations. I don't feel that it is appropriate for the D.P.R.K. to use the case of Macau to shut down the six-party talks. There was nothing in the six-party talks that suggested that the U.S. should not be vigilant about illicit activities. So I think -- I don't know if it's a sincere step to boycott the six-party talks over their concerns about Macau.

But with regard to the specifics of your question, I mean, we monitor this every day. We are really not going to allow them to continue business as usual in illicit activity. We're simply not going to allow that. I know some people say that this is inconvenient for our six-party process, but you have to tell me what is a convenient amount of counterfeiting or illicit activity. And I think it behooves the D.P.R.K. to really stop this practice and to come clean and to acknowledge that they have had -- that they have succumbed to the temptation of being involved with counterfeiting and show that they've stopped this. There are plenty of technical ways to show us that they have dealt with this problem. So I would hope they could do that. But they should not expect us to ignore this problem for the sake of a negotiation.

MODERATOR: We've got time for maybe one or two more questions. I'll take a question from Michael Lavallee here from Japan.

QUESTION: Michael Lavallee from Tokyo Broadcasting. I was just wondering -- a week ago that you presented the idea of the five-party talks and you've had a chance to talk to all of your counterparts at this point. Japan and South Korea are onboard. I was wondering if you could comment on China's reaction to the idea of five-party talks and how they're feeling?

And secondly, in Kuala Lumpur is the goal to have a minister-level meeting and what would be the hopeful objective of a minister-level meeting?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I think the goal is to make some progress in the process, so I don't want to get into precisely how we might do that. I mean, we're looking at a number of possible options there. You know, whether meetings in some configuration could make some progress on that. I think we would all prefer six. You know, we'd prefer the North Koreans come to a six-party meeting. At this point, I can't say whether such a thing would happen in Macao, but we certainly want it to get going soon.

And as I mentioned earlier, everybody's going to be in Macao -- I mean not (laughter) I'm sorry -- Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur. Every -- back up the tape there (laughter) -- everybody is going to be in Kuala Lumpur. But at this point, I'm not sure how much -- precisely what sort of format we're going to have. But as I said earlier, you know, we just cannot allow this just to drift on and on with no meetings because the North Koreans don't want to come to a meeting. So let's see what we can do to advance the process.

Secretary Rice really looks forward to Kuala Lumpur to be sure to see where we are and where we can go in the six-party process. But I also want to make clear that we have great interest in furthering other agenda in Asia, namely, our relationships with ASEAN. As you know, we're working to establish a trade and investment agreement with -- a framework agreement with ASEAN countries. We're looking to enhance our -- you know, we have this process with ASEAN and we're looking to formulate an action plan, so we're going to be doing a lot with ASEAN. We're looking to see what greater role the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ARF, can play. We value -- you know, Southeast Asia, I mean, there are 500 million people there. It's a very, very exciting, robust part of the world, so we have a lot to do there.

But we do want to see what we can do on the Northeast Asian side and so I would just say stay tuned.

MODERATOR: We have time for one last quick question. Let's conclude with --

AMBASSADOR HILL: I'll try to be quicker on the answers. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Hyung-du Choi, Munhwa Daily from Korea.

AMBASSADOR HILL: From which daily, I'm sorry?

QUESTION: From Korea.

AMBASSADOR HILL: Which newspaper?

QUESTION: Munhwa Daily.

AMBASSADOR HILL: Okay.

QUESTION: Regarding the implementation of the UN resolution specifically to stop (inaudible) of North Korea missile program, do you think South Korea better not send the money to Kaesong Industrial Park or Kumgang Mountain, because Korean Government believe it's necessary to enhance the inter-Korea economy cooperation?

AMBASSADOR HILL: I think we understand that, you know, the whole issue of the North-South issue in Korea, Korea has special concerns in North-South and that's why you continue -- you had the ministerial even though you changed the agenda for the ministerial that took place in Busan. Unfortunately, I think the North Koreans walked out over the ministerial.

I'd rather not get into the sort of specifics of how you would implement your part of the resolution. I think what's important is that we try to coordinate what we're doing and stay in close contact. I think we're trying to do that. I don't want a situation where -- in trying to deal with this tough problem in North Korea that we create problems between us and South Korea. I don't that would be in anyone's benefit except maybe North Korea's. So I think we need to work through these things. So I'm not going to get into, you know, what we think about remittances in Kaesong or remittances on that tourist -- Kumgang Mountain project. But I (inaudible) think we need to try to be in close contact to see what we can do to implement it in a way that produces the behavior that we want to get produced.

I can do another question.

MODERATOR: Okay, one final question. Let's go to the back of the room, the gentleman on the right.

QUESTION: Yes. Richard Finney with Radio Free Asia. Could you tell me are there any bilateral meetings planned with Laos during the Kuala Lumpur meetings? And then also, will the U.S. take in any of the Hmong who are being threatened with repatriation by Thailand?

AMBASSADOR HILL: To the latter point, I don't know the answer to that question. I would need to talk to our refugee people and get back to you on that. I don't believe -- to my knowledge there's nothing scheduled involving Dr. Rice. But if I'm correct, I hope to be meeting with some Laotian representatives when I'm in Kuala Lumpur and I think we will raise some issues, including the issue of the Hmong that you're talking about. But to your first question about the U.S. taking them, I just can't answer that. I need the refugee people to get back to you on that.

MODERATOR: Thank you everyone for coming. That concludes our briefing today. Thank you.Â

Released on July 21, 2006

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