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Chris Hill Comments Upon Arrival In South Korea

Christopher R. Hill
Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Gimpo International Airport
Seoul, South Korea
January 8, 2008

Comments Upon Arrival in South Korea

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Great to see you all. All right.

QUESTION: Shall we just get right into it, or -

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Shall we get right into it? Sure, sure.

QUESTION: OK. Where are we on the declaration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Where are we on the declaration? Well, first of all, let me just say it's a pleasure to come back to Seoul. I wish everyone a happy new year. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to consult with the ROK Government on the way ahead I'll also look forward to having some meetings with the transition and to get ready for I think what will be a very busy year for us.

Obviously, we need to get through this second phase. And it had been our hope that we would be able to complete the second phase by the 31st of December, with the key issue being the DPRK's requirement to give us a correct and a complete declaration. Well, it was pretty clear they were not ready to do that, and I'm not too concerned about them being a little late. Of course, we always like to be on time with everything, but that's not the main concern. The main concern is that when they do give a declaration, we want it really to be complete.

So I've had some discussions in Tokyo with my counterparts there. I look forward to discussions here in Seoul, and I'll go on to Beijing and Moscow. Then we'll kind of assess where we are and where we need to be.

QUESTION: Have you had any indication on when the declaration would be expected? When do you, at least, want the declaration to be handed in?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, obviously, we would have liked to have it handed in by the 31st of December, and it wasn't. I think the problem is that the DPRK is not quite ready to give us a complete listing of all their programs, of all their facilities, of all their nuclear materials. So that is the key issue. And I know everyone's concerned about the date, but the real issue is to make sure we get something that's complete. So we'll see what it looks like.

Of course tomorrow I'll talk to my Chinese counterparts. As head of the Six-Party process, I think they have a special interest and a special responsibility to try to complete the phase two. Obviously the US., we have some other things that we're prepared to do. But we need to do them in the context of a complete and correct declaration.

QUESTION: What would constitute a complete list? Are you waiting for them to include a [inaudible] or what ?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, again, I don't want to get into the specific elements of it, except to say that we've had considerable detailed discussions with the DPRK. I know other delegations have done the same thing with the DPRK. So I think they understand what we are looking for in a complete declaration. So I don't think there's any misunderstanding there. I think the problem is the DPRK is not often automatically inclined to transparency, and so I think it's a little difficult for them. But it's a very necessary step, and I think with that step we can really move ahead with some of the things we need to do.

QUESTION: North Korea obviously told you something. They said they gave some sort of declaration in November. What did they say? Did they talk about plutonium production?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I don't want to get into the specific elements, except to say that they, first of all, introduced what type of declaration they would have. They introduced it as early as August, when we all met in the denuclearization working group in Shenyang. But since that time, there've been some -- Especially on the programs that they have, that they have not wanted to list certain programs that we know about and they know that we know about. So, again, I think it's necessary to be patient, and what's most important is to get that complete declaration.

QUESTION: They claim they've actually made a declaration.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know, they've certainly -- I mean, they can make as many declarations as they want. The issue is, have they made a complete one, and the answer is no.

QUESTION: We have a new government in South Korea now that's going to take a different stand on North Korea. What do you think about the change in South Korean policy as announced by Lee Myung-bak, and how will that affect the Six-Party Talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, you know, I don't want to be coming here to compare and contrast the current government with the expected policies of the next government. Of course, we would look forward to having a very close relationship with the next government And I hope that in visiting here now, I can be a part of that process. I think the U.S. and ROK need to really work together on this problem. We both have great interests in solving it, and I have no doubt that with the new government we'll be able to continue that process.

QUESTION: Are you planning a North Korea trip during your -

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No plans right now for a North Korea trip. As you know, I went, I think -- I lose track -- but sometime a month ago. Maybe I could go in the future, but right now we're talking about a trip from Seoul to Beijing to Moscow, back to Washington.

QUESTION: Will you be meeting Kim Kye-gwan in Beijing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: No plans to meet him on this trip, actually.

QUESTION: When can we go to Beijing for another Six-Party Talk?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Again, I will talk to the Chinese authorities on that. Tomorrow night I'll be meeting my counterpart, Deputy Minister Wu Dawei --

QUESTION: Is there a target date for [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: And I'll hear from him whether he has a target date for a next Six-Party Talk. I think the problem we have right now is to try to complete the actions on phase two We need to see what the Chinese, in particular, have heard from the DPRK with respect to the DPRK's plans to submit a complete and correct declaration.

QUESTION: For disablement, how far along are we?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, disablement has gone well. It really has gone well. I know there's talk about it slowing down. But, frankly, a lot of actions have been completed. I think everybody involved in the process has been very satisfied with the pace of disablement. It's not finished, of course. It needs to be completed as well. But some of the things that held us up in disablement had nothing to do with any negotiation elements; rather, it was a safety and technical issue. So disablement, I think, has been a very important part of the Six-Party process. After all, we never achieved disablement in the 1990's. So it's been a very important element, and yet it's gone well.

QUESTION: Is there any date for completion that you think -


QUESTION: Completion of disablement.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, there are a couple of actions there that we're anticipating, and I think probably the DPRK will try to time some of those for some of the actions that we've got to take. For example, we are providing heavy fuel oil there. I believe there's a Russian shipment that's now in train, and the US. is getting ready for another shipment. So we have to keep going with some of the things we're doing on heavy fuel oil. But we have reason to believe that we'll be OK on disablement. The problem we have right now, the bump in the road -- And as you know, we have a lot of these issues with the Six-Party process. This, as I've said before, offers no refuge for those in need of instant gratification; it takes a while. But the problem we have is getting that complete and correct declaration -- because that's the declaration against which we need to measure the abandonment of all their nuclear programs so that we can really, really get on with the things we want to do.

QUESTION: Does this bump in the road mean an overall delay in the dismantling process that you hope to complete?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I think you recall in previous delays, we may be able to make up some time. You know, we were almost on schedule for getting this done at the end of the year, even though we were much delayed. Remember, we had originally talked about getting going very early in the year. We ended up with an October agreement, so I think it's too early to talk about the degree to which we'll be delaying the next phase. Of course, the next phase is a very crucial phase -- because that's the phase where we anticipate dismantlement and abandonment of all their nuclear programs. So that's in many ways a decisive phase. But to set up the decisive phase, we need to get this complete and correct declaration. So I don't think there's any reason to panic -- no reason to get upset or turn this into a crisis. For those of us who work on it, it tires us out from time to time. But I think we need to kind of stick with it, be a little patient with it, but be tough and try to get through it.

QUESTION: Minister, some experts are saying that DPRK might be afraid of the aftermath of confessing for the nuclear program. What do you think about that idea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We've made very clear to the DPRK that we are not seeking to turn a declaration into some sort of means by which we start asking them a thousand new questions or in any way causing further problems to the process. But what we can't do is to pretend that there are not programs when we know there are programs. So I think we have tried to emphasize to the DPRK that we are not looking for problems. Rather, we're looking for solutions, and we're looking to keep moving on this process.

QUESTION: What would you like to discuss with president-elect Lee Myung-bak?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I think in all my meetings in Seoul I'd like to stress the great importance we attach to the ROK alliance -- the fact that we consider this alliance to have been very, very positive for both the American people and the Korean people, the fact that we'd like to continue it, continue to modernize the alliance, and to talk about some of our issues that we work on together. Obviously, the Six-Party process is an important one. But our relationship with Korea now goes well beyond the Korean Peninsula. We deal with Korea on Middle Eastern issues, we deal with Korea on world-wide issues. And so that kind of strategic alliance is one that we want to continue, and I look forward to discussing that.

QUESTION: OK. Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: OK? Great to see you all. All right.

Released on January 8, 2008


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