October 12, 2008

Special Briefing On North Korea

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Opening Statement, October 11, 2008
Washington, D.C.

MR. McCORMACK: Good morning, everybody. I want to thank you for coming in on a Saturday morning. I see a few faces that we don’t normally see in the briefing room.

You have a couple of pieces of paper in front of you. One of them is a fact sheet that I’m going to read here just for the record. You also have in front of you a fact sheet called Existing Sanctions and Reporting Provisions Related to North Korea. I think that’s a useful reference for part of our discussion a little bit later on. So let me get started here. I’m going to read a couple of statements which we’ll have in paper form for you, and we’re also going to invite a couple of other guest speakers up here: Ambassador Sung Kim from the EAP Bureau, Acting Assistant Secretary Patty McNerney, Assistant Secretary Paula DeSutter. They’re going to make brief statements and then we can get into a Q&A session and talk about this morning’s events.

The participants in the Six-Party Talks have, for some time, been discussing the importance of verification measures that will allow the parties to reliably verify North Korea’s denuclearization as the process moves forward. The Six-Party heads of delegation met in July to discuss verification measures and draft papers were exchanged among the parties. On July 12th, China, the chair of the Six-Party Talks, released a press communiqué stating that verification measures would include visits to facilities, review of documents, and interviews with technical personnel as well as other measures unanimously agreed among the Six Parties.

Upon the invitation of the North Korean Government, a U.S. negotiating team, on behalf of the Six Parties, visited Pyongyang from October 1st to the 3rd for intensive talks on verification measures, and Ambassador Sung Kim was part of that delegation. He can talk a little bit in depth and from firsthand accounts about those negotiations.

Based on these discussions, the United States and North Korea negotiators agreed – and I have to emphasize this is an agreement – on a number of important verification measures, including agreement that experts from all Six Parties may participate in verification activities including experts from non-nuclear states; agreement that the IAEA will have an important consultative and support role in verification; agreement that experts will have access to all declared facilities, and based on mutual consent, to undeclared sites; agreement on the use of scientific procedures, including sampling and forensic activities, and agreement that all measures contained in the verification protocol will apply to the plutonium-based program and any uranium enrichment and proliferation activities. In addition, the monitoring mechanism already agreed by the Six Parties to monitor compliance with the Six-Party documents applies to proliferation and uranium enrichment activities.

The U.S.-North Korea agreement on these verification measures has been codified in a joint document between the United States and North Korea and certain other understandings, and has been reaffirmed through intensive consultations. The agreement and associated understandings have been conveyed to the other parties and these measures will serve as a baseline for a verification protocol to be finalized and adopted by the Six Parties in the near future.

And let me just a couple addenda to this, and our experts can speak to this in a bit more depth. Every element of verification that we sought is included in this package. That’s an important point. Every single thing that we sought going in is part of this package. And on the point about the intensive consultations, I think Ambassador Kim can speak to that a bit more, but we also had intensive consultations with our Japanese colleagues. And in the course of those consultations, Japan made it clear that the agreement should be formalized, including in writing, at the level of the Six Parties. And we agree with that, and I have to emphasize here that this is already in agreement.

So what you are, in essence, doing is – the next step is living up to a key tenant of the Six-Party Talks, and that is that an agreement between any two parties will ultimately be guaranteed and formalized by all the Six Parties. So again, Ambassador Kim can speak a little bit more to that, but that’s an important point. And you already have the fact sheet on the existing measures, and then this is a statement from me and we’ll put this out on paper form afterwards.

The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has agreed to a series of verification measures that represent significant cooperation concerning the verification of North Korea’s denuclearization actions. Those understandings are detailed in a separate fact sheet which I have just read to you. Based upon the cooperation and agreements North Korea has recently provided and the fact that the DPRK has met the statutory criteria for rescission, the Secretary of State this morning rescinded the designation of the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism, and that was effective with her signature.

North Korea has stated it will resume disablement of its nuclear facilities. This demonstrates that the Six Party principle of action for action is working. We welcome the recent progress made in discussions between Japan and the DPRK toward addressing Japan’s concerns, particularly those arising from the DPRK’s past abductions of Japanese nationals. We strongly urge North Korea to address Japan’s concerns without further delay. The United States wholeheartedly supports Japan’s position on the abduction issue. We have not forgotten and will never forget the suffering of the abductees and their families.

North Korea remains subject to numerous sanctions resulting from its 2006 nuclear test, its proliferation activities, its human rights violations, and its status as a communist state. You have a list of those. The United States will continue to work toward the verifiable end of all North Korean nuclear programs and activities. We will not stop until this work is done.

Please click here for the full State Department transcript of the Special Briefing.