Remarks to the Media With Asia Bureau Director General Shinsuke Sugiyama
Special Representative for North Korea Policy
(Director General Sugiyama opening statement in Japanese)
We’ve just finished an hour’s worth of very in-depth, detailed discussions. I briefed the Director General on the results of our meetings with the North Koreans on Thursday and Friday of last week. I sought the counsel of Director General Sugiyama on the way forward. I’m very pleased that I’ve been able to have the opportunity -- so soon after completing these discussions with the North Koreans -- to consult with first, of course, in Beijing, Wu Dawei, our counterpart in the Chinese government; then in Seoul with Ambassador Lim Sung Nam; and now here in Tokyo with Director General Sugiyama. As I’ve said before, and I’ll repeat it here, the talks in Beijing were serious and substantive, and we covered all of the issues. I reported to the Director General that among the topics I raised was, of course, the abductee issue. We always raise that issue when we meet with the North Koreans; we did it on this occasion quite early in the discussions, and of course we will do it on every occasion when we meet with the North Koreans.
So, I’d like to thank the DG. I look forward very much tomorrow to further meetings with Vice Foreign Minister Sasae and Vice Foreign Minister Yamaguchi. Thank you.
QUESTION: May I ask the Ambassador two questions, if I may: what did the North Koreans suggest to do within the nuclearization sphere during the talks? That’s my first question. And my second question is: what fell short between the two governments to come to an agreement to put forward nutritional assistance, which you were at one point very optimistic about?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Yes, well, I appreciate so much the spirit behind the question and I understand the curiosity of everyone to know in detail what transpired in our discussions in Beijing. But as I explained in Beijing when I sought to brief members of the press on what was happening, I am now engaged in a diplomatic process of, first of all, reporting to and consulting with our friends and allies, and then I have to go back to Washington and report on the results there. So, with apologies to you, what I’m not going to do is get into a great deal of detail about what it was that we discussed, and where there may still be differences that exist between the United States and North Korea.
Ultimately, this challenge is a challenge for all members of the Six-Party process. And I realize that there’s a great deal of focus on the, let’s call it “bilateral” piece – the so-called “pre-steps” phase. I understand that. But quite frankly, what will be important, in terms of achieving the ultimate goal, which is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, will be a combined multilateral effort involving all members of the Six-Party Talks. So I’m dodging your question, I admit that, but I’m doing it for good diplomatic reasons – because I have to carry this forward in kind of a straight-line fashion and report first to my Secretary of State and to officials in Washington. And I’m hoping, before too long, some of these details can be made known. But thank you anyway.
QUESTION: Can I also ask the Ambassador: you were describing before this round of talks that “the ball is in their court.” Where do you describe the ball is now? And also, do you still, are you discussing having trilateral talks before moving on to North Korea?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I’m sorry, am I discussing any “trilateral talks”?
QUESTION: Japan, the U.S., South Korea? Or…
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, that’s a good question. That gets a little bit ahead… your second question gets a little bit ahead of where we are. Because where we are, of course, is seeking with North Korea in our bilateral engagement to get to a point where we can obtain certain actions from them on the nuclear issue in particular, so that we can then begin to discuss how a Six-Party round might look. If we get to a stage, past this bilateral phase, where we are actively discussing a Six-Party round – if we do – there will be all manner of discussions. And I’m sure one of the most important aspects of it will indeed be, not simply bilateral discussions between the United States and Japan, the United States and South Korea, but we’ll seek to have discussions in all kinds of different geometrical configurations.
Your first question: the sort of “sports” question about “where’s the ball, and in whose court?” It’s a bit subjective. We kicked the ball back and forth with the North Koreans over two days (laughter), and I don’t know that it’s useful for me to say that the ball is one or the other courts. I guess it’s in both courts at the moment, when it comes to this bilateral phase. Which is why, I presume, Kim Gye-gwan is going back to Pyongyang to report; I’m going back to Washington, with the benefit of the advice and good ideas of our allies and partners in the process, and we’ll see where we go from there. Whether we can make progress quickly, whether it will have to take a while, not sure. But, so, I would say that that was the value of these discussions in Beijing, is that we were able to go into some depth about our mutual positions and try to narrow differences a little bit, and I said that we were able to do that, I think. We’ll see what it amounts to; that, only time will tell.
(Question and answer for Director General Sugiyama in Japanese)
QUESTION: So when you raised the abduction issue, what was the response from North Korea?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I don’t have anything hopeful to report to you on that. All I can tell you at this stage is, they’ve listened. And I raised it early; I raised it with some force; I raised it with the image in my mind of the conversations that I had when I first came to Tokyo in this position and spoke to the Yokotas about Megumi, talked to the representatives of the families of the abductees. This is, we know, from the standpoint not just of the Government of Japan but the people of Japan, an issue of fundamental importance -- which is why, when we have these occasions to talk to the North Koreans, it’s one of the very first issues that we raise. But in terms of their reaction, in terms of my being able to report to you any progress, I’m sad to say I don’t have anything positive to report to you. But I think, in the business of diplomacy, this is the sort of issue that you continue to raise every single time you meet with them, and you look for openings, and you continue to impress upon the North Koreans that this is an issue that must be resolved if there is ever to be any sort of a normalization of relations between North Korea and the outside world.