Meetings with North Korean Official "Positive," Says U.S. Envoy

By Melody Merin
USINFO Special Correspondent

Washington – U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill arrived in Seoul, South Korea, January 19 saying his recent discussions in Berlin with his North Korean counterpart were “very useful” and “positive.”

Hill told reporters that he had the opportunity to meet with Kim Kye Gwan, vice foreign minister for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), three times over the course of three days while Hill was in Berlin to brief German officials on the situation in East Asia. Based on these meetings, Hill said, “I feel we are going to be able to make some progress at the next session” of the Six-Party Talks. (See related article.)

The assistant secretary, who is the lead U.S. envoy for the Six-Party Talks, noted “we had some bilateral discussion with the DPRK at the end of November, in anticipation of the Six-Party meetings at the end of December. And I would say that, compared to the meetings at the end of November, the meetings that I just had were more substantive and more useful.”

The Six-Party Talks include representatives from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the United States and North Korea. Among the U.S. goals for the talks is the realization of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. The November meeting Hill referred to took place in Beijing where he met with delegations from North Korea and China to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Hill stressed that the Berlin discussions with Kim were exchanges of views, not negotiations, on how to implement the agreement signed by the six parties September 19, 2005. (See related article.)

He drew attention to recent reports issued by the government-run North Korean News Agency (KCNA): “I’m pleased to see that KCNA, which is not always positive about everything, actually felt that those discussions were also useful and positive.”

While in Seoul, Hill will brief South Korean officials on his meeting with Kim, and then he is scheduled to go to Tokyo to do the same with Japanese officials. Hill said the starting date for the next round of Six Party Talks in Beijing is up to the Chinese hosts to determine, but he added that he “would hope it would be before” the Lunar New Year (February 17).

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