Cablegate: Deputy Secretary Steinberg's Xxxxxxxxxxxx Meeting with Xxxxxxxxxxxx

DE RUEHBJ #2964/01 2990023
O 260023Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: decl: 09/29/2029

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson. Reasons 1.4

1. (SBU)xxxxx

2. (SBU) Participants:

The Deputy Secretary
Amb. Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., Embassy Beijing
Joseph Donovan, EAP Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of
Rear Admiral Charles Leidig, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Amb. Joseph DeTrani, Mission Manager for North Korea, DNI
Amb. xxxxx
Derek Mitchell, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of
RDML Bradley Gerhrke, U.S. Defense Attache in Beijing
Pamela Park, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary
Ryan Hass, Embassy Political Officer (notetaker)
James Brown, Interpreter


3. (S) SUMMARY: XXXXXXXXXXXX Deputy Secretary Steinberg stressed that the U.S. remains committed to the Six-Party process and to
the verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. The Deputy
Secretary emphasized the importance of continued, close
contact with the XXXXXXXXXXXX on North Korea and stressed that the
U.S. would not compromise its relations with China or other
Six-Party Talks partners in pursuit of bilateral contact with
the DPRK. The Deputy Secretary noted that the U.S. was not
willing make concessions to entice North Korea to abide by
its previous commitments. Ambassador DeTrani assessed that
the DPRK was ready to return to multilateral talks on its
nuclear program, but that it had not made a strategic
decision to abandon nuclear weapons. XXXXXXXXXXXX encouraged the
U.S. to engage in direct contact with the DPRK, which he felt
could spur the DPRK to return to the Six-Party Talks. xxxxx
speculated that DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il's deteriorating
health and his desire to cement a legacy provided an
opportunity for the resolution of the nuclear issue. In
order to protect the gains that had been made and also to
advance the Six-Party Talks, XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted, all parties had
to remain committed to the September 2005 joint statement on
denuclearization. XXXXXXXXXXXX reiterated China's commitment to
implementation of UNSC Resolution 1874 and offered a read-out
following Premier Wen Jiabao's October 4-6 visit to
Pyongyang. End Summary.

Positive U.S.-China Relations

4. (S) Deputy Secretary Steinberg met with XXXXXXXXXXXX for a
fifty-minute discussion on North Korea. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that
the Deputy Secretary would have an opportunity to meet with a
number of Chinese leaders during his visit, which spoke of
the importance that China attached to its relationship with
the U.S., as well as the respect that Chinese leaders held
for the Deputy Secretary. XXXXXXXXXXXX commented that the Deputy
Secretary's visit occurred on the heels of President Obama
and President Hu's September 22 meeting in New York. The two
Presidents had reached consensus on key issues in the
bilateral relationship, and now it was each side's
responsibility to work together to implement that consensus.
XXXXXXXXXXXX described himself as an outsider to U.S.-China
relations, and even as an outsider he had met the Deputy
Secretary three times over the past year, a fact that XXXXXXXXXXXX
said spoke volumes about the positive development of
U.S.-China relations.

U.s. Is the missing element

5. (S)XXXXXXXXXXXX raised "The Red Cliff," a John Woo-directed

Beijing 00002964 002 of 005

movie about the Battle of Red Cliffs 1,801 years ago along
the banks of the Yangtze River, as a metaphor for the current
diplomatic situation with North Korea. At that time in
China, three states were in conflict. Two overmatched
southern states had joined forces to fight the
numerically-superior northern state. The two southern states
planned to use fire as a weapon to defeat the northern state,
but in order to do so, the southern states required an
easterly wind. The battle ensued in November, when the
prevailing winds normally came from the west. During the
battle, an easterly wind arrived, which enabled the southern
forces to use fire as a weapon to defeat the superior
northern forces. This story was an aphorism, XXXXXXXXXXXX
suggested. In the story, the southern forces had all of the
elements in place except for the crucial one -- the east wind
("dong feng"). The same was true with the Six-Party Talks.
There have been positive interactions among the parties to
the Talks, and the U.S. and China saw eye-to-eye on issues.
There was only one missing element: only the U.S. could
bring the east wind, XXXXXXXXXXXX declared.

XXXXXXXXXXXX rationale behind high-level visits to dprk
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (S)XXXXXXXXXXXX explained that XXXXXXXXXXXX President
Hu's Special Envoy, and Premier Wen Jiabao would pay a visit
October 4-6. The purpose of these visits was to persuade
North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks. North Korea's
"supreme leader" called all of the shots. China sometimes
had sharp debates with North Korea at the working-level, but
when big matters were raised to the "supreme leader" for a
decision, they were often easier to resolve. That was why
China had sent XXXXXXXXXXXX and would send
Premier Wen to Pyongyang in rapid succession, according to

7. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX explained that his visits to Pyongyang had left
him with a clear impression that bilateral contact with the
U.S. was the issue most on the minds of North Korean leaders.
It was possible to revive the Six-Party Talks, but only if
the U.S. would engage North Korea. XXXXXXXXXXXX observed that the U.S. was at times capable of taking diplomatic initiative, and at
other times was cautious in its diplomatic approach. In this
instance, the U.S. had been overly cautious. China hoped the
U.S. would initiate contact with North Korea, which XXXXXXXXXXXX
stressed was crucial to re-convening the Six-Party Talks and
to the larger goal of denuclearization of the Korean

Chinese assessment of kim jong-il

8. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX allowed that DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il might have some realistic ideas, and stated that Kim Jong-Il wanted to
engage the U.S. soon. Kim had been impressed by President
Clinton's visit, and had come away from his meeting with
President Clinton with an understanding that there were areas
for discussion with the United States. XXXXXXXXXXXX stressed his
personal feeling that if the U.S. made substantive contact
with North Korea, then positive progress on the nuclear issue
was within reach. The U.S. and China should not put off
resolution of North Korea's nuclear issue indefinitely, XXXXXXXXXXXX stressed.

9. (S)XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that he had read a statement after
President Clinton's visit that suggested that Kim Jong-Il was
in good health, and speculated that the medical experts that
accompanied President Clinton to Pyongyang might have arrived
at a different conclusion. XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested that Kim Jong-Il
would like to resolve outstanding issues in the near future
because his health might not permit him to put off decisions
for too long. This dynamic created a favorable moment for
resolving the nuclear issue; it was important for the U.S.
and China to seize this moment and bring North Korea back to
the path of consultations and negotiations, XXXXXXXXXXXX stressed.

U.s.-prc shared assessment on North Korea

10. (S) The Deputy Secretary expressed appreciation for XXXXXXXXXXXX insights on North Korea and for China's decision to send senior representatives to North Korea to press for the early
resumption of the Six-Party Talks. The U.S. and China shared

Beijing 00002964 003 of 005

common goals and a common assessment of the path forward on
North Korea. Both countries had the confidence to send
parallel messages to North Korea, and when we were able to
engage North Korea at high levels, it reinforced shared
U.S.-Chinese objectives. Regarding U.S.-DPRK contacts, the
Deputy Secretary suggested, China already understood from
Ambassador Bosworth's September 3 visit and our ongoing
bilateral contacts that the U.S. was prepared to have direct
contact with North Korea as a way to bring North Korea back
to the Six-Party Talks.

Learning the right historical lessons

11. (S) The Deputy Secretary noted that some people carried
history forward through their own experiences. It was
important that the U.S. and China drew from their shared
history of dealing with North Korea to determine the best way
forward. The Deputy Secretary noted that the chief obstacle
to progress at the end of the Bush Administration had not
been a lack of U.S.-DPRK contact. In fact, the frequency of
direct contact became a source of criticism, with some
observers suggesting that the U.S. had too much direct
contact with North Korea and not enough coordination with
Six-Party partners.

12. (S) The Deputy Secretary observed that North Korea had
established a pattern of provocation followed by conciliation
to ameliorate pressure from the international community
resulting from its actions. It was imperative to break this
pattern, which was counter-productive to shared U.S.-Chinese
goals on North Korea.

Key elements to current approach

13. (S) The Deputy Secretary asked XXXXXXXXXXXX what missing
element, or "easterly wind," would lead to a change in North
Korea's behavior and produce a different outcome than during
the 1980s and 1990s. The Deputy Secretary offered three
elements that could affect North Korea's decision-making.

14. (S) The first element was the unified position on North
Korea among the Six-Party Talks partners. The U.S. wanted to
ensure that if it proceeded to bilateral contact with North
Korea, such contact would not undermine in any way the strong
unity of approach among Six-Party Talks partners.

15. (S) The second key element was the strong unity of action
among Six-Party Talks partners, particularly in
implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874. It
would be important for Six-Party Talks participants to
continue full implementation of this resolution, the Deputy
Secretary stressed.

16. (S) The third key element would be to articulate clearly
to North Korea precisely what steps the Six-Party Talks
partners expected the DPRK to take to irreversibly
denuclearize, while also making clear exactly what benefits
the DPRK would derive from such actions. The Deputy
Secretary acknowledged that significant work had already been
undertaken in this regard, but much more work was needed to
establish a specific, common understanding among Six-Party
Talks participants.

17. (S) The Deputy Secretary acknowledged that although he
was not certain whether these three elements would be enough
to convince North Korea at a strategic level to decide it was
better off without nuclear weapons, the U.S. was willing to
test the proposition. The U.S. was prepared to have
bilateral contact with North Korea to determine whether a
different outcome was possible now that the Six-Party Talks
participants held a clear, unified position.

U.S. Caution on bilateral u.s.-dprk contacts

18. (S) The U.S. "caution" in re-engaging with North Korea
stemmed from its interest in ensuring that any contact would
be done on the clear basis that bilateral contact was not
about managing North Korea's nuclear program, but rather
about taking concrete measures to dismantle it, the Deputy
Secretary stated. North Korea had recently sent several
positive signals, including through xxxxx and State

Beijing 00002964 004 of 005

XXXXXXXXXXXX meetings, North Korean public comments that
walked back its previous rejection of the Six-Party Talks,
hints that there could be a new formation for international
talks on denuclearization, and statements that North Korea
understood the goal was denuclearization. Premier Wen
Jiabao's October visit would present another opportunity to
convey to North Korea that the Six-Party Talks partners
shared a common position.

19. (S) On the current status of U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks,
the Deputy Secretary explained that there had been exchanges
in recent days through the New York channel on modalities for
bilateral contacts. The U.S. wanted to ensure that if direct
engagement occurred, the DPRK would participate at a high
level. This would be the only way to determine whether North
Korea was serious about engagement. While the U.S. was
prepared to have bilateral contact with North Korea, it was
not willing to engage in extended bilateral negotiations in
which an agreement would be reached outside of the Six-Party
Talks framework. The only way to ensure an effective
solution was to guarantee that all of the Six-Party Talks
partners' interests were brought into play, the Deputy
Secretary said, while also noting that Six-Party Talks
partners' interests were similar, but not identical.

Key question: kim jong-il's calculus

20. (S) The Deputy Secretary suggested that the key questions
concerned Kim Jong-Il's motivations, specifically how he
viewed his interests, and how much emphasis he placed on
reaching a solution to the nuclear issue and normalization of
relations with the U.S. as part of his legacy. The Deputy
Secretary emphasized the need for continued, close dialogue
with China.

Dprk not clearly committed to denuclearization

21. (S) Ambassador DeTrani said that the U.S. assessed,
largely as a result of XXXXXXXXXXXX seemingly successful efforts, that the DPRK was ready to return to multilateral talks on its nuclear program. The U.S. further assessed that North Korea at a strategic level
had not committed to the goal of complete, verifiable,
irreversible denuclearization. North Korea wanted to be
accepted as a nuclear state with ICBM capabilities. The
DPRK's September 3 letter to the UN was indicative of this
point. In the letter, the DPRK acknowledged that it had
reprocessed spent fuel rods and extracted plutonium that was
being weaponized, and after six years of denial, admitted to
possessing a uranium enrichment program. A key question
would be whether North Korea would negotiate while UNSC
Resolution 1874 sanctions were still in place, Ambassador
DeTrani noted.

22. (S) Ambassador DeTrani observed that North Korea had
established a pattern of walking away from negotiations as a
sign of displeasure, such as its 13-month hiatus from the
Six-Party Talks after the U.S. had suggested it possessed an
HEU program and its similarly long absence in protest of
reports of money laundering through a Macau bank (BDA). In
both of these instances, the Six-Party Talks partners had
conceded something, after which the DPRK returned to the
Talks. The U.S. intelligence community assessed that if the
Six-Party Talks partners did not concede something, the DPRK
would be reluctant to move the Six-Party process forward.
Ambassador DeTrani emphasized the shared U.S.-China objective
in achieving progress in the Six-Party Talks building upon
the September 2005 joint statement that XXXXXXXXXXXX was so
instrumental in crafting.

China committed to 6-party talks, denuclearization
--------------------------------------------- -----

23. (S) The Six-Party Talks, on the whole, "have been
positive," XXXXXXXXXXXX declared. XXXXXXXXXXXX recounted that he had told North Korean counterparts on numerous occasions that the
Six-Party Talks enabled the U.S. and North Korea to feel
comfortable with bilateral engagement. China supported
U.S.-DPRK bilateral engagement, and such contact would not
affect U.S.-China relations, XXXXXXXXXXXX assured, allowing that other Six-Party Talks partners might not share the same view.

Beijing 00002964 005 of 005

24. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX affirmed that China was committed to getting
North Korea back to the negotiating table. In order to
protect the gains that had been made and to advance the
Six-Party Talks, all parties had to remain committed to the
September 2005 joint statement on North Korea's
denuclearization. XXXXXXXXXXXX allowed that in light of the
current situation, it might be necessary to refine the
statement, but nonetheless, the September 2005 statement had
to serve as the starting point.

25. (S) On North Korean denuclearization, XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed with the U.S. assessment that it would be difficult to obtain
North Korea's commitment. The U.S. should inform North Korea
that improved U.S.-DPRK relations depended upon verifiable
steps toward denuclearization. XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed with the U.S.
assessment that North Korea had not made a strategic decision
to forego its nuclear weapons program. North Korea was
looking in particular at its relations with the U.S. and was
not moved by Chinese representations of what steps the U.S.
would be willing to take. North Korea often insisted that it
was an independent country and did not like having China as a
go-between with the U.S., according to XXXXXXXXXXXX.

China urges bilateral, multilateral combination
--------------------------------------------- ---

26. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX proposed that Six-Party Talks partners
consider using bilateral mechanisms within the Six-Party
Talks framework to improve relations with North Korea.
Through a combination of bilateral and multilateral channels,
it might be possible to persuade North Korea to abandon its
nuclear program. Because the opportunity to persuade North
Korea still existed, China would continue making vigorous
efforts in this pursuit. XXXXXXXXXXXX stressed that the Chinese
government was serious about UNSC Resolution 1874
implementation, adding that there had not been any change in
China's policy.

27. (S) The Deputy Secretary agreed with XXXXXXXXXXXX basic
conclusions, expressed appreciation for XXXXXXXXXXXXxxxx leadership on the North Korea issue, and reiterated the U.S. interest in
continued close contact with China. xxxxx offered to
provide a briefing for the U.S. immediately following Premier
Wen Jiabao's October 4-6 visit to Pyongyang.

28. (U) The Deputy Secretary cleared this message.

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