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Press Availability With Japanese Director

Press Availability With Japanese Director General Kenichiro Sasae
Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Tokyo, Japan

June 23, 2007

(Note: Director General Sasae spoke in Japanese, and his comments are not included.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Thank you very much. It's a great pleasure to be back here in Tokyo. Ambassador Sasae and I were in touch yesterday when I returned from the DPRK to the ROK. So I discussed on the phone yesterday some of what we've done. But today was an opportunity to go into greater length. Indeed I had good discussions with the DPRK on the initial actions that need to be taken pursuant to the February agreement, and we also looked ahead to the actions leading to full denuclearization.

I think it's very important that Japan and the U.S. work very closely together. We are close friends and close allies. And I think as we go through this process -- which is a step-by-step process -- in taking these steps we can never forget where we're going, and we're headed toward full denuclearization. So we look forward to our continued consultations.

We're expecting -- I think there is a consensus among all the Six Parties that there should be a head of delegation meeting sometime in the early part of July. We're not prepared at this point to say precisely when, but we would expect that to come sometime after the initial actions -- that is, the shutdown of the Yongbyon facility would get going. And then we're looking forward to figuring out how to arrange -- both from the point of view of scheduling, but also from the point of view of the content -- how all of our ministers could get together.

We think now is the time to quicken the pace. We've had many weeks, indeed several months, in which the process slowed down. Certainly, as we try to quicken the pace, we will encounter additional difficulties ahead. The Six-Party process offers no refuge for people in need of instant gratification. It's going to take some time. But I think together, if we work very closely together -- especially Japan and the U.S. -- we can achieve our destination.

Let me just add a couple of points. In my discussions in Pyongyang, we discussed the whole Six-Party process. And I think, as you all know, the Six-Party process is an effort to build a broader and sturdier framework to deal with many of the problems in the region. And one of the problems has to do with legacies of the past -- very difficult legacies.

And certainly one of the things I talked to the officials of the DPRK was about our view that it's very important that the DPRK improve its relations with Japan. I told them that Japan is the second-largest economy in the world and a country with a global scope. It is a country that they should desire good relations with. And, therefore, we think that addressing some of the difficulties -- and I mentioned in particular and specifically the abduction case -- we think is very important. Now I have on every occasion with the DPRK raised abductions, so they were not surprised by my raising it. Nor can I say that there was a different answer this time. But what I can assure you all of is that we will continue to raise this issue.

QUESTION: Regarding the initial steps, you said that Yongbyon will be shut down within three weeks. When is the beginning of this three weeks, and which facilities do you want to see closed at Yongbyon?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, we expect Yongbyon to be shut down after there has been an agreement between the DPRK and the IAEA on how to monitor this shutdown. We do expect this to take place soon and within probably three weeks. I don't want to be pinned down on precisely the day, but probably in that timeframe. And as for which facilities, these are technical matters that have been discussed not only with the IAEA, but also with IAEA members. So I think there's a good understanding among members as to how this shutdown can be accomplished.

QUESTION: Ambassador, about the head of delegation meeting -- is that to come after the actual shutdown of Yongbyon reactor?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: I think we would expect -- In July, there’s 31 days in it, and so we need to figure out how to use those days. But I would expect it to happen soon after shutdown begins. But I cannot at this point give you precision as to whether it would happen after the conclusion of the shutdown or after shutdown is underway. I think some of those factors will depend on simply the scheduling questions and of course on our Chinese hosts, who will be responsible for scheduling the Six-Party meeting. So I know the Chinese will be reaching out bilaterally, and we've had some conversations with the Chinese. I'm sure others will as well.

QUESTION: So you don't think we have to wait for the conclusion of the initial steps. We have to wait to finish [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: What we don't want is to have the Six Parties meet and be discussing initial steps. We want the Six Parties to be discussing the next steps. So what we don't want to do is to have some uncertainty about the initial steps that would require another Six-Party meeting.

ENDS

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