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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1997
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

NORTH KOREA
1-4Readout on the US-DPRK Bilateral Meeting


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 136
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1997, 1:05 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)


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QUESTION: Could you tell us what you can about the bilateral with the North Koreans yesterday?

MR. RUBIN: We regarded the talks as useful and constructive. They were conducted in a business-like atmosphere. The entire range of bilateral issues were discussed. We informed the North Koreans of a technical step we intend to take in the near future to conduct a survey of the number and the size of outstanding financial claims by US citizens against the DPRK.

This survey would be the initial step necessary to eventually resolve the issue of remaining frozen North Korean assets in the US. It would allow American claimants to register their claims against the DPRK. It would not be sufficient in itself to unfreeze DPRK assets. An unfreezing of those assets would be an independent decision as part of the step-by-step process we are hoping to achieve in normalizing to some extent the economic and political relations with the United States.

QUESTION: How much money is involved; do you know?

MR. RUBIN: I can't give you a numerical figure on that, but there's obviously a significant amount of assets that have been frozen in the past.

We also, during yesterday's meeting, discussed the food shortage in North Korea. We proposed to send a team of experts to North Korea to assess food needs at the end of the harvest and to work to further strengthen monitoring of food aid. This would be the first team of this nature sent by the United States Government. The North Koreans welcomed this proposal, and agreed to continue to discuss a concrete date for this mission.

QUESTION: What about the defector?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware that came up in any significant way. I mean, as we have stated earlier, we regard the defector issue as not linked to the four-party peace process or to other issues. As I understand it, they did raise it, but I doubt it got into much detail.

Yes.

QUESTION: -- offset American claims against North Korea with the assets that are now frozen in the United States; is that your intention?

MR. RUBIN: Well, what this is is a survey. It's designed to try to determine who has what claims. That's a first step if you're ever going to get to a point where you then unfreeze things and figure out how you're going to match unfrozen funds with any other claims. But first you need to figure out exactly who thinks they're owed what, and that's all this is at this point.

QUESTION: There's been no decision about --

MR. FOLEY: Correct.

QUESTION: We'll just absorb some of that money without -

MR. RUBIN: No decision on what would result from this, other than that it's a first step to eventually resolving it and that it's designed to determine the number and the size of claims. But there's been no decision to unfreeze them.

Any more on North Korea?

QUESTION: What is the status of the various talks with the North Koreans?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we did discuss with them the possibility of resuming the missile talks. We proposed new dates for resumption of the talks in October, and urged the North Koreans to accept those dates, and they said they would get back to us.

As far as the four-party talks are concerned, what is our latest date on that? Thursday.

QUESTION: There will be talks on Thursday?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

Yes.

QUESTION: People who feel that they have claims, legitimate claims against the frozen assets, should they contact Treasury, or should they come to the State Department?

MR. RUBIN: I think that once this team gets down to business, they will have some announcement as to how to go about making those claims, and we will pass them on.

More on Korea?

QUESTION: Do you know how long these assets have been frozen? Are we talking about since 1945 or what?

MR. RUBIN: I think it's been part of it since the Trading With The Enemy Act, so it's been a long time. I don't have the exact date. I suspect there are different phases in which assets were frozen, but we can get you more details on that.

Any more on North Korea?

Yes.

QUESTION: Just one more. Jamie, the issues that hung up the last four-party talks, that of US withdrawal from Korea, was that discussed yesterday? Was there any --

MR. RUBIN: This meeting, as I understand it, was a bilateral meeting discussing bilateral issues like this claims issue, like the question of food, whether we could have missile talks resumed, not the specifics of the four-party process.

Yes.

QUESTION: Jamie, a new subject.

MR. RUBIN: More on Korea?

QUESTION: Yes, one more question. Was the chance of a consulate discussed? Was that issue moved forward at all?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything for you on that; I can try to check.

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