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Chris Hill IV Before Departing Narita Airport

Interview With Reporters Before Departing Narita Airport

Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Narita Airport
Tokyo, Japan
November 30, 2006

QUESTION: Did you meet with Mr. Sasae?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE HILL: We had a very good meeting with Mr. Sasae. Our Ambassador Schieffer took part in it, and I wanted to brief him on the second day of the consultations with the North Koreans in Beijing.

QUESTION: What did you discuss together?

A/S HILL: Well, I just told him about the nature of our discussions, the fact that we gave to the North Koreans some ideas for how we might get the talks going when we begin the Six-Party Talks. As you know, as I've said many times, we want to make progress when we meet again. We don't just want to talk. We want to get on with implementing the September agreement. So I laid out -- I explained to Mr. Sasae -- what the reaction of the North Koreans was, and we agreed that, really, the ball is in their court. We have given them the ideas for how we think we can proceed. I invited Mr. Kim Gye Gwan to give me ideas if he had any. Unfortunately, he didn't have anything new, but I told him to take his time, and if he could think of some, we'd be happy to consider them. But I think the ball is very much in the North Korean court, and Mr. Sasae and I will continue to be in regular contact. As you know, the U.S. and Japan are working very, very closely on this issue. We know it's an issue that is very important to both our countries. And we'll continue to be in direct contact.

QUESTION: How long do you think it will take for Pyongyang to consider and respond?

A/S HILL: Oh, I don't know. You have to ask them. Sometimes they work fast, sometimes they don't work very fast; so we'll have to see. I felt, as we get ready for the Six-Party process, it's been important to do consultations with all the parties, and I know that with Japan we've worked very, very closely. We were working very closely in Hanoi when my President met with Prime Minister Abe, when Secretary Rice met with Foreign Minister Aso. And we also had a three-party talk in Hanoi. So this was an opportunity to talk to the North Koreans for the first time [after those discussions]. So we'll see -- we'll see. But the problem is not setting a date; we can set a date any day. That's not the problem. The problem is getting to the talks and making progress, because the purpose of the talks is not to talk.

QUESTION: Do you see any improvement in the North Koreans' attitude?

A/S HILL: You know, I think they were -- It's hard to say, but they were certainly listening very carefully. They asked questions. So I want to stress again: the ball is in their court. They know what they have to do. I explained to them everything is possible with denuclearization, but nothing's possible without denuclearization. We're not interested in having a situation where they pretend to denuclearize and we pretend to believe them. They've got to denuclearize. That is the nature of the deal.

QUESTION: And after the denuclearization?

A/S HILL: After the denuclearization? Well, again, we talked about various things that we would do. But there is such a thing as diplomatic discussions, and not everything in diplomatic discussions needs to be discussed in the press. But certainly we had a full range of ideas.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the discussions, then?

A/S HILL: Yes, I'm satisfied with the talks. I was especially satisfied with the growing cooperation with China, and I think that's been very, very important and very valuable. I think especially since the terrible decision of the North Koreans to explode the nuclear device, I think it's helped bring the five of us -- the five other parties -- much closer together. So if you don't mind, I don't want to miss this plane. I look forward to seeing you all again sometime. Thank you very much.

Released on November 30, 2006


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