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Hill With Reporters Outside Ministry of FA Tokyo

Speaking With Reporters Outside Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs;
Kenichiro Sasae, Director-General
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tokyo, Japan
December 16, 2006

DIRECTOR-GENERAL KENICHIRO SASAE (through interpreter): Let me first say what I would like to say. We talked about how we are going to attend the six-party discussions, and we agreed that we are going to have close consultation. I think we are at a very critical juncture. And everything depends on whether North Korea takes specific actions or not, particularly towards dismantling of its nuclear program. Unless the North Koreans do so, the situation will be very, very difficult. However, at the same time, we are ready to have a positive attitude toward the six-party talks. The relationship between North Korea and Japan or between North Korea and the United States -- we will be in close consultation in order to deal with the situation. In this context, the abductions are a very big issue for us, and in order to solve the abduction issue, we are doing our best. We would like America’s cooperation on this point, and the United States promised the utmost support for that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Thank you very much. It’s always a great pleasure and privilege to come here to the Foreign Ministry and talk with my counterpart, Sasae-san, about what should be a very long and difficult week ahead of us, which is to begin once again the six-party negotiations. As you know, the six-party negotiations have been out of session for over a year, and so it is very, very important that we make progress in this next round. And that's why we have devoted a considerable amount of effort to coordinating our positions and to planning for this next round. We’ve just had a very good discussion, which I should say is in the framework of our continuing planning for this round. Sasae-san and I had a considerable discussion about the bilateral matters between Japan and the DPRK, and specifically about the abduction issue. We had a very good discussion about that. And we also discussed some of the other bilateral matters between the DPRK and the United States, and overall, the issue of denuclearization. So we’ve all been in very close contact in recent weeks. I look forward to having additional bilateral discussions when I arrive in China tomorrow. I'll be seeing my ROK colleagues, and of course, we will all be seeing the Chinese later in the day tomorrow. So it’ll be, I think, a very long and very difficult week, but we look forward to it because we believe that, really, now is the time to make real progress on the ground, not just on papers but actually on the ground.

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QUESTION (transcriber’s translation from Japanese): Kim Gye Gwan said in Beijing that lifting the financial sanctions is a necessary precondition. What do you think is the bottom line for Japan and the United States regarding specific steps that you want North Korea to take? This is a question for both of you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Let me just say there are no preconditions to the resumption of the six-party process. And I think that Mr. Kim Gye Gwan knows very well what our position is, and I think we know what his position is. And I don't think it's helpful if I try to debate with him through the media, but let me just say that we look forward to meeting with him starting tomorrow and to get on with the task of implementing the September statement.

QUESTION: Do you think you can be flexible on the financial sanctions issue? Do you have the mandate to show some flexibility on the issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, I want to emphasize we've had considerable discussion with the DPRK about this matter, and what we've agreed to do is to set up a mechanism for discussing this and to bring our experts together. And the purpose is to discuss it, and of course, as we have said to the DPRK, we want to resolve this. But that will, of course, depend on their cooperation, and depend on legal matters as well. So I think we will be setting up a mechanism for this, and that meeting will take place about the same time the Six-Party Talks get underway. But I think it's very important that we not focus on those financial issues but rather on the central matter of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. The presence of nuclear weapons and nuclear programs in the DPRK is, I think, extremely worrisome to all of us who care about the peace and security of Northeast Asia. And I think we need to stay very much focused on this matter.

Thank you very much. Released on December 17, 2006


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