AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Hello everybody, thank you very much for coming. What a nice turnout. I appreciate it very much.
I think what I’d like to do is just say a couple of things at the beginning, and then I’ll ask you to ask any questions that you like.
First off, let me say that I’ve had a very good set of discussions here in Beijing. We had meetings yesterday and today with Special Representative Ambassador Wu Dawei and his colleagues at the Foreign Ministry, and then this morning, a very good meeting with Executive Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, talking about the North Korea issue.
My visit here fits very much in the frame of a series of high level interactions with the Chinese, just most recently, obviously, last month, when the Vice President was here, and then last week there were a number of very important meetings: Secretary of State Kerry with Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Switzerland; Deputy Secretary Burns here in Beijing meeting with a number of officials – Assistant Secretary Russel also was here. In each of those meetings, and certainly the focus of my meetings, has been on the situation in North Korea and how best to seek to move North Korea, to convince North Korea, if necessary, to put pressure on North Korea, to come back to meaningful, authentic, and credible discussions of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. So that was the main topic of discussions.
The other issues that we talked about, I raised the issue of human rights in North Korea. In particular, the fact that the UN is about to receive a report from the Commission of Inquiry that has been at work for a period of months, investigating the state of affairs of human rights in North Korea. I also talked briefly about the refugee situation in China, North Korean refugees, and made the point that it is important that all nations that receive North Korean refugees handle them according to international conventions and international law.
And then, of course, we talked a fair amount about the internal situation in North Korea.
From here, we will go on next, in a couple of hours, to the Republic of Korea, to Seoul, where I will have an opportunity to talk to a number of officials, but in particular my very good friend and colleague and counterpart Ambassador Cho Tae-yong and then, from there, in a couple of days, on to Tokyo, to talk to Director General Ihara.
So with that, let me ask you if you have any questions.
QUESTION: Let me start with the dialogue between the DPRK and Japan. It is reported, some reported, you know they had a meeting in Hanoi. Do you have some information, did you know about it in advance?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I don’t have any information about official contacts between Japan and North Korea. I look forward to my visit to Tokyo, where I will obviously hear from the Japanese government about any efforts they’ve undertaken, but I don’t have any particular information from here. I’m here in Beijing and I have yet to get to Tokyo, so perhaps I’ll know more then.
QUESTION: Which means the Japanese Government didn’t consult the United States in advance?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well I’m not even certain that there have been meetings between Japan and North Korea. If you know for a fact there have been, that’s news to me, but we’ll find out. When I get to Tokyo in a couple of days, I’ll certainly raise that, that issue.
QUESTION: If it’s true, what kind of impact do you think it will have…?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, now you’re asking me to speculate about meetings that haven’t even been confirmed, so I’m just not going to go in that direction. Give me a chance get to Tokyo, to talk to friends and counterparts in Tokyo, before I answer questions like that. Yes?
QUESTION: How do you think North Korea making conciliatory gestures to South Korea recently?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I think you’re referring in that respect to the issue that’s been raised by North Korea, the offer to go forward with family reunions. And, this is a humanitarian issue; it’s a north-south issue between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK. Obviously, we’re very supportive of these reunions going forward. Many of the, of the individuals involved are elderly, getting on in years, they haven’t seen family members in decades, in a number of instances. So it’s exceedingly important that these humanitarian meetings be allowed to go forward. But we’ll see, because we all know that a week and a half or so prior to the North Korean offer, they had rejected a South Korean proposal to go forward with reunification, so it’s very difficult to know what’s likely to happen. But we are supportive of it, we think it’s important, and we hope it goes forward without any linkage to any other issues.
QUESTION: Mr. Davies, about the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, are you looking forward to it, and also what did you and your Chinese counterpart talk about regarding going back to the negotiating table?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Sure, well we both share an interest in getting back to Six-Party Talks as soon as possible. Here, the principal obstacle, and you all know this, has been the lack of not just interest, but meaningful steps on the part of North Korea to demonstrate that it understands that it has to live up to its obligations and its commitments, principally those it made back in September 2005, that’s encapsulated in the joint statement. And it’s, I mean, I’ve been at this job now over two years, and I’ve been struck with the…the lack of interest on the part of North Korea in meaningfully addressing this denuclearization issue, which is the principal issue that underpins the Six Party talks process. We haven’t seen any signs that they are willing to move on that, willing to take steps to address the concerns that we’ve had. What they’ve said are things like that they have…that they’re interested in coming back to talk without preconditions, which means that they’d like to talk about everything except their obligations to denuclearize. So this is of great concern to us. So of course, here in Beijing, the bulk of the time I spent in meetings with Chinese officials was about how best to move the process forward, get back to Six Party, convince North Korea, if necessary, through further pressure, that it needs to begin taking steps now and get back on to that, into that process of denuclearization.
QUESTION: Mr. Davies, did you think Chinese officials were very clear about what’s happening inside North Korea with the execution of Jang Song-thaek issue?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I’m sorry, that last part?
QUESTION: Do you believe Chinese officials are very clear about what’s happening inside North Korea with the, you know, the changes…?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: We spent a lot of time talking about the internal situation in North Korea, obviously, since that has, of course, a direct effect on North Korean actions and attitudes. And what I’m not going to do is get into great detail on our diplomatic discussions about our estimations of what’s happening inside North Korea, but suffice it to say that we talked about it at great depth and had an excellent, very good exchange of views about the situation inside North Korea. And, of course, I will continue that conversation when I got to Seoul and when I go to Tokyo and we’ll continue to talk about that issue.
QUESTION: What is your take on the recent reports of “cleansings” in North Korea?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: About the?
QUESTION: About cleansings in North Korea?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: You’re talking about the purge, the purges?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, we’ve already spoken to that. Within hours of the news of the purge of Jang Song-thaek, we issued a statement out of Washington, and we were quite clear about how we regarded that. So I don’t think I’ll add anything to that, but of course we talked about that development. It was quite dramatic, and it demonstrated, I think, with some great clarity the nature of the North Korean regime.
QUESTION: You said that North Korea was willing to release Kenneth, might be willing to release Kenneth Bae. So how would U.S. interpret that message?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I’m not — did I say that? I’m not sure – we hope that’s true. We hope that they’re willing to release Kenneth Bae. We’ve called on North Korea repeatedly, and we’ve done it again very recently, including directly with the North Koreans, to grant him clemency, and to release him on a humanitarian basis. This is an American citizen who’s been in North Korean custody for over a year, he has some serious health problems, he’s been hospitalized. His family is understandably very worried his fate, and would like him to be returned to them. I believe it’s already been made known that his family is on the East Coast, they’ve come into Washington and will be talking to officials.
So we’ve been calling on North Korea to listen to the pleas of the family, to show clemency, grant Kenneth Bae a pardon, and allow him to return to his family. The North has, of course, arrested him, they’ve incarcerated him, tried him, convicted him, so North Korea, I think, has, made its point about Kenneth Bae. And we are in frequent communication with the North Koreans to find a resolution to this issue. It’s very, very important to us. I’ve spoken to it many times before.
QUESTION: Let’s go back to Six-Party Talks…
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I want to make sure that, you’ve had a couple – if others have questions, I want to – I’ll allow them to ask questions, if not, I’m happy to come over here.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion of contingency planning between the U.S and China in case of unforeseen events in North Korea…?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I’m not going to get into our discussions about the future of the Korean Peninsula. We talked about all issues that relate to North Korea, and I think I’ll leave it at that. Let me come here and then we’ll finish up. Yes?
QUESTION: Ok, about Six-Party talks. Do you think you can narrow differences between United States and North Korea…for resuming Six-Party Talks? You still have a huge gap, you know, United States needs a concrete step, they need to take a concrete step; they are always saying, they don’t have — without any condition…
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Sure, sure, sure…
QUESTION: Do you think you can narrow differences?
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Yeah, I know the North Korean stated position very well. Look, first of all, let me just say – in response to your question, this isn’t just a matter for the United States and North Korea alone. There may have been a day when that was true, but it’s not the case anymore. This right now is about all five members of the Six-Party process, we and our four partners, working together, and being very clear with North Korea about the steps that we’re looking for them to take, and being very clear about our interest in having North Korea move quickly and meaningfully and definitively to address these concerns.
There’s no rational path forward on this issue except through diplomacy, and we have underscored that to North Korea. So, the reason that I am taking this trip out here, after so many other senior officials have been here, is to talk specifically about this issue to see if we and the Chinese can deepen our already very good collaboration on this issue, and coordination, and to exchange ideas about how best to impress on North Korea the necessity of moving in that direction so that North Korea can, you know, rejoin the international community. They have, in North Korea, promulgated a policy of so-called byungjin, where they’ve stressed they’re seeking to perfect their nuclear weapons technology and at the same time develop their economy, and what we’ve said, and I said this last time I was out here in November of last year, they can’t do both. They’re incompatible. Byungjin is a dead-end.
And so, we call on them to take seriously their obligations, to come back in the direction of, not just of the United States, but the Republic of Korea, Japan, Russia, China – all of the countries of the international community, and set a different, more positive path to the future, which begins with taking seriously the obligations and commitments they have to the United Nations, to the other members of the Six Parties as encapsulated in the Joint Statement. And so that’s the mission that I’m on.
Again, I want to thank you all very much for coming out, I look forward to coming back. Happy Year of the Horse to everybody, I hope everybody gets a little bit of a break. And don’t worry, have no fear, I’ll be back. Thanks very much.
- Cross posted from U.S. Embassy Beijing