Six-Party Process Entering New Phase, U.S. Envoy Says

By David McKeeby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The Six-Party Talks process on North Korea's nuclear weapons program is entering a new phase, says the lead U.S. envoy for the talks.

“The goal here is for North Korea to get on with denuclearization,” Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill told journalists in Washington December 13.  "We have got to get changes on the ground.”

Hill will be leaving for the latest session of multilateral talks in Beijing, which will include representatives from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the United States and North Korea.  On the way, he plans to stop in Tokyo and Seoul to consult with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, and then meet with the Chinese, Russian and North Korean delegations.  (See related article.)

In the wake of its October 9 nuclear test, North Korea “needs to demonstrate that it is in fact committed to denuclearization,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said December 12.

If Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear weapons program, it will receive a package of benefits from its neighbors that was outlined in a September 2005 joint statement.  The benefits include economic assistance, energy assistance and increased political contact, which Rice said could in time lead to a normalization of relations between the United States and North Korea.  (See related article.)

Since North Korea announced October 1 that it would return to the talks after a 13-month hiatus, Hill said, the United States has pursued an active diplomatic effort that has included discussions on how to move the process forward.  The United States met with its partners in the talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in November, as well as in several bilateral meetings in Moscow and Beijing.  (See related article.)

Hill praised China’s “unprecedented” close cooperation during preparations for the latest round of talks, which he said was instrumental in facilitating discussions between the United States and North Korea on November 27-28.  During those discussions, Hill said “there were indications that the North Koreans would be prepared to deal in specifics at the coming round.”

“The Chinese have also been in direct contact with the North Koreans on several occasions, and they also have reason to believe that we will see some specific ideas for moving ahead” in this round of talks, Hill added.

The United States' and China’s goals in the talks, he said, “are pretty close to identical.  We have a very, very strong view that we need to achieve complete denuclearization here.”

In parallel bilateral talks, U.S. and North Korean officials also will discuss the incident that caused the delay in the Six-Party Talks: financial sanctions against Banco Delta Asia, a China-based bank accused of money laundering and distributing counterfeit U.S. currency on behalf of Pyongyang.  (See related article.)

Hill said even though he expects “very tough negotiations” in Beijing, all six parties are coming to the table with implementation of the September 2005 agreement in mind.  That is an important development that represents “a new phase in the Six-Party process,” Hill said.

“If we can do this successfully, I think we can look ahead to the full realization of this agreement,” he added.

Transcripts of Hill’s December 13 remarks and Rice’s December 12 remarks are available on the State Department Web Site.

For more information, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.