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USIS Washington 
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12 March 1998

TRANSCRIPT: SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL ON KOREA FOUR-PARTY TALKS GOALS

(U.S. wants peace agreement, reduced tensions in Korea)  (6530)



Washington -- A peace agreement to replace the current armistice and
measures to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula are the principal
goals of the United States during upcoming Four Party talks, according
to a senior State Department official.


During a background briefing at the State Department March 11, the
official said the two goals are interlinked. "Replacing the armistice
with a peace treaty is the simplest of things," the official said.
"But it would be a meaningless step if there were not also substantial
measures for reducing tensions that went along with it."


The United States has proposed that subcommittees be created to
address the two issues, he said. Tangible reduction of tensions, he
explained, can be achieve through the adoption of "confidence building
measures" which are ordinarily tried on "an ascending track from
simple easy ones onwards to more difficult ones."


One example of an "easy" confidence building measure would be the
establishment of a military "hot line" for fast communications between
the parties, the official said.


The official emphasized that the Four Party talks are not a substitute
for dialogue between North and South Korea. The idea for Four Party
talks was first publicly announced jointly by President Bill Clinton
and then-South Korean President Kim Young Sam when Clinton visited the
Republic of Korea in April 1996. The goal was to bring together
officials from North and South Korea along with those from China and
the United States to look for ways to establish a lasting peace on the
Korean peninsula.


"The Four Party talks were proposed at a time when inter-Korean
dialogue had been frozen," the official explained. "It was not
intended to be a substitute for inter-Korean dialogue, but rather to
provide an opportunity to restore inter-Korean dialogue by changing
the political atmosphere." In this regard, the Four Party talks have
succeeded, he said.


A series of talks have been scheduled for mid-March. U.S. delegates
will be meeting their North Korean counterparts for bilateral talks in
Berlin March 13.


On March 14, a preliminary Four Party meeting will be held in Geneva.


Five days of plenary talks will begin in Geneva on March 16.



A trilateral meeting between officials from South Korea, Japan and the
United States some time during this period is also a possibility,
according to the official.


Following is the official State Department transcript:



(begin transcript)



BACKGROUND BRIEFING

BY

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL

ON

FOUR-PARTY TALKS



March 11, 1998

Washington, D.C.





SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, everybody. I have
recently come back from a rather routine round of preparatory
consultations in Seoul and Beijing, getting ready to go off to Geneva.
Before we get to Geneva, however, we are going to meet with the North
Koreans for a bilateral meeting in Berlin. After that, we will have a
preliminary Four-Party meeting in Geneva, following which, on Monday
the 16th, a U.S. delegation, inter-agency delegation, led by Stanley
Roth will commence the plenary session, which is expected to last
through Friday.


We have, in addition, been discussing with the Japanese the
possibility of having a trilateral U.S.-Japan-ROK meeting somewhere on
the margins of all of this. When we have something to tell you about
that, we'll let you know.


If I could just give you a couple of thoughts about this round of the
Four-Party Talks, and then ask you to take this wherever you feel you
would like to go in questions. You will recall that the last plenary
was chiefly notable in that it occurred, but it did not itself
accomplish a great deal since the North Koreans, in particular, were
unable to agree with us on issues related to the organization of work
under the agreed agenda. And I will remind you, the agreed agenda was
to replace the Armistice with a permanent peace structure and to
reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula.


To us, the United States, and to the ROK, although they will speak for
themselves, we felt that that agreed agenda, quite naturally, divided
itself into everything before the "and" and everything after the
"and"; that is, replacing the Armistice would be one topic, and
tension reduction would be the other. And that since there were two
quite obvious topics there, then we could quite easily form up some
subcommittees to begin to work on them. Subcommittees, of course,
would then refer the product of their work up to the plenary for
further discussion and any agreement.


The North Koreans felt that they really needed to have a much more
extended discussion on the subject of the root causes of the problem.
This is a discussion we invited them to begin, but they apparently
weren't ready because there never was any such discussion. So we're
ready for them to commence such a discussion this time, if they wish
to; that is, we will listen with the utmost concentration to whatever
they have to say and will give them an appropriate answer.


But, having said that, we still think that we ought to divide our work
into the two topics that I mentioned, and we are going to go back and
continue to try to obtain from them their agreement that we can
organize our work in that way.


If we did organize our work in that way, then let me just give you
what I think is a realistic sense of what that would mean. First, as
you have heard me say before, replacing the Armistice with a peace
treaty is the simplest of things in terms of simply putting words on
paper and then signing the piece of paper. But it would be a
meaningless step if there were not also substantial measures for
reducing tensions that went along with it. And, therefore, although we
are quite prepared to begin that drafting of a piece of paper any time
the North Koreans wish to, we don't see that coming to a conclusion
until the other subcommittee has really made substantial progress of
its own -- in fact, has come towards the end of its work. And its work
would have to be the tangible reduction of tensions on the Korean
Peninsula.


And we have very specific views that there is a nearly universally
accepted method for the reduction of tensions in a difficult
environment. That is through the adoption of confidence-building
measures -- ordinarily on an ascending track from simple, easy ones
onwards to more difficult ones. So that is the nature of the approach
we will offer in Geneva.


Now, it is our hope that in this bilateral meeting in Berlin, when we
are discussing bilateral subjects, that we will be able to take up
that normal full range of concerns that each side has on bilateral
subjects and, in so doing, make some contribution to the overall
atmosphere that will affect North Korean behavior in Geneva -- just in
the same way that we have hoped that our humanitarian response to
North Korean food aid would also have some positive effect on the
approach that the North Koreans take in these talks. Not linked, but
still we have to be realistic and recognize that there may be some
effect.


I can't tell you what I think the North Koreans will do. We have not
had any real substantive meetings with the North Koreans now for some
time. We had expected to have an intersessional meeting with them.
They canceled that. So our next encounter with them in Berlin is
simply one day before we go on to the preliminary meeting in Geneva.
And believe me, you would not want to have my schedule over the next
few days.


I'm going to stop there and let you pursue any topics that would be
useful to you.


Q: Could you elaborate a little more on the bilateral talk? Is this
going to take place on the 13th; is that correct?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We picked that for good luck. Yes,
Friday the 13th will be for bilateral topics. And there is a very
familiar list. Those of you who have been watching these talks know
that there aren't any really new subjects, but we cover a full range
-- missiles, terrorism, MIAs, opening of liaison offices, et cetera.


Q: Speaking of missile talks, what is the prospect -- because August
(inaudible) you guys ready to have the talks; it was reported U.S. was
prepared for the concrete package to North Korea. Can you tell us
about this package, if possible? When it's possible to resume talks?
Other question is really simple -- why in Berlin this time, not
Geneva?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't intend to tell you any
prediction about what kind of arrangement might be made in order to
obtain changes in North Korean behavior with respect to either missile
exports or their indigenous development program. But suffice it to say
that we have put a very serious proposal before them, and we would
like to hear a serious reply. As for why we haven't heard that reply
yet, you'll have to put that question to them. But there has been
speculation that the delay was related in some way to the defection of
the Chang brothers. So it may be that now that they may be ready to
come back to this, but there is no schedule yet agreed to for a
resumption of the specific missile talks.


Why Berlin? We asked that very question of the North Korean side and,
I'll tell you, their answer didn't leave me deeply satisfied. But I'm
happy to share it with you, and that is that their delegation was
flying from Pyongyang to Europe via Berlin. They've got a large
mission there. They intended to stop there, so this is where it would
be easiest to support their delegation.


Q: Do you have any intention to encourage South and North Korea to
develop direct talk or dialogue?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's one of those things where
you have to always ask yourself, could we do more harm than good? But,
yes, we do have such an intention. We have, in fact, at every
opportunity encouraged North Korea to meet with the South Koreans,
either inside or outside of the Four-Party structure, and we'll
continue to do that. But when the North Koreans decide to come forward
and have such contacts, it won't be because of the United States
making the suggestion; it will be because they themselves have decided
that it's time for them to do that.


Q: South Korea has a new government. How do you see that affecting the
plenary talks?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, first a commercial. Five years
ago, the North Koreans said that they were deeply wounded by various
purported activities by the new South Korean government then of Kim
Young-sam and that these activities and, in one case, lack of an
activity -- the lack of condolences for the death of Kim Il-sung --
made it impossible for them to have dialogue with the Kim Young-sam
government. That was not an acceptable reason for not holding dialogue
then, and it's still not acceptable.


That said, since that is their public position, I think they are going
to have to live with their own words now, and they'll have to come up
with a different approach to the new government in Seoul. And so I
think they are being very careful. If you look and see what is
happening, they are being very cautious about avoiding creating an
overly negative atmosphere with respect to the new government.


I think most of you know me as being much too much the optimist, but,
again, I'm going to say that I'm rather optimistic. I think that there
will be over the next six months a number of opportunities for new
progress in inter-Korean dialogue. The new government under Kim
Dae-jung has lobbed out some initiatives, particularly with respect to
the exchange of special envoys to implement the Basic Agreement of
1991-92. And I think that these are now getting some very careful
attention in North Korea.


Q: The KEDO agreement. The Secretary has, on more than one occasion,
expressed assurance that South Korea, despite its financial problems,
would go through with the deal. But there has been some talk that
South Korea might try to delay its payment for some time. What have
the South Koreans told you about their intentions?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The South Korean Government has
officially reconfirmed its commitment to the KEDO project as
originally stated to us, and there has been no change. Now, KEDO
itself -- as opposed to the U.S. Government or the Korean Government
-- KEDO itself has to continue working on a construction schedule, has
to come up with plans for the payment of whatever work is to be done.
Now, I'm not really the proper spokesman to tell you what that
schedule is or what it's going to cost, but think in terms of a
ballpark of a couple of hundred million dollars over the next 12
months.


Now, when you think of that ballpark, you understand that it's not --
we're really not talking in the realm of this being an impossibility
for a wealthy country to finance, even a country that has just gone
through a serious economic problem. And there are many different ways
to finance something. But also, KEDO is made up of a number of
countries which are making their own contributions. And so if you were
to say is it going to be that the ROK is going to fund X percentage of
this, I don't have an answer to that. I don't even think that's
necessarily a very important question.


Q: So the bottom line is, at least in the short term, whatever
obligation they may have -- first of all, their obligation is not set
at this moment?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Their obligation is for the project.
It is not for the year 1998.


Q: All right. So KEDO may make a decision that it doesn't need money
from South Korea at this moment which, just by happenstance, might
help Seoul. Is that one possibility?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it certainly is a very valid
option for the KEDO board.


Q: Is there any change in the theory that South Korea will bear most
of the financial burden and not the United States?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No change. No change at all. And
that's been reconfirmed to us.


Q: How about the North Korean perception of implementation of the
Agreed Framework? Will they raise this issue in the bilateral meeting
in Berlin, do you expect?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You asked would the North Koreans
raise this with us bilaterally in Berlin?


Q: Yes. Have they already shown some kind of frustration about not
only light water reactor, but also toward the heavy fuel supply and
other things?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that the North Koreans might
very well raise their questions about the pace of the construction
project. And I don't mind telling you now that the answer that I would
give them will be to refer them to KEDO.


Q: What will be the U.S.' position if North Korea again insists to
include the food aid programs and the withdrawal of U.S. troops?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's not an if, that's a when.
The North Koreans always raise their food problem at every single
encounter. And I don't even mind, to be truthful, because I also
regard this as a very important issue. And I think it's important for
the United States to be willing to sit down and give them not only a
sympathetic hearing to this, but also then to take a leadership role
in trying to react to it, since we have evaluated on the basis of
trustworthy analysis that there is a genuine need.


However, we have already made public what our response is, and so I
don't have anything new to tell them.


Q: Question on the inter-Korean dialogue and four-way talks. New Kim
Dae-jung government wishes to push into Korean dialogue in parallel
with the four-way talks, or sometimes they say separate from that. And
I myself am a little bit confused. What is your understanding of new
Korean Government's position on inter-Korean dialogue and Four-Party
Talks? That is the first one.


And the second one is --



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Why don't I answer that, and then
we'll come back to you, I promise.


There really is absolutely no confusion on the subject of the
relationship between the Four-Party Talks and inter-Korean dialogue.
The Four-Party Talks were proposed at a time when inter-Korean
dialogue had been frozen. After the accomplishments of '91-'92, then
it had fallen into a trough, and there was no inter-Korean dialogue.
And, in fact, the North Koreans were involved in a very aggressive
campaign to dismantle the Armistice in a manner that was very
destabilizing along the DMZ. You may recall the stories about armed
incursions of North Korean troops into the DMZ.


So the proposal for Four-Party Talks was made in that context of no
dialogue and a situation that was becoming unstable. It was not
intended to be a substitute for inter-Korean dialogue, but rather to
provide an opportunity to restore inter-Korean dialogue by changing
the political atmosphere.


And I think, if nothing else, those of you who are skeptics about the
Four-Party process, you have to at least grant that things have
smoothed out a bit. And, in fact, the opportunity for inter-Korean
dialogue was created. There were many contacts between South Korean
and North Korean diplomats during the course of preparations for the
Four-Party Talks and then, ultimately, at the Four-Party Talks
themselves.


Now, when you get down to the substance of the talks, the subject of
inter-Korean dialogue is something for the Korean Government to speak
to itself, but I understand that there is a rather broad agenda of
political tension reduction steps that are already on the table. They
haven't been finally agreed nor implemented, but, nonetheless, there
is a fairly well-established agenda of work to be done.


Whereas the agenda for the Four-Party Talks is separate from that, and
has already been stated as the replacement of the Armistice and the
reduction of tensions there. Of course, in this context -- that is,
the replacement of the Armistice -- we're really talking about
military confidence-building measures, as opposed to the kinds of
confidence-building measures that might be addressed in the
inter-Korean dialogue. To give you an example -- although I'm not
trying to be the spokesman for inter-Korean dialogue here -- in the
Four-Party Talks, a very easy military confidence-building measure
would be the implementation of a previously agreed military hotline
between North and South Korea. However, in the political realm of the
inter-Korean dialogue, the cessation of slander would be a very easy
first step to take. So if you can see the distinction between those
two types of things, that might reveal how we would see the difference
of work between the two things.


Q:  Does the U.S. support (inaudible)?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.



Q: Do you expect it to happen, or did you just pull these out of the
air? I don't suppose you pulled them out of the air.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I pulled them out of the air, is the
answer, because I think they're both quite easy to do. And if the
North Korean side is ready to proceed down either of these tracks,
those are among the first things I would expect to see as results.


Q:  Wouldn't you expect that they --



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I'm sorry, I promised --



Q:  I'm sorry.



Q: Yes. I appreciate you reminding me of the situation, the U.S.,
Korea initiated four-way talks. But what is the change, what is the
difference between now and that time of initiation? North Korea is
still not eager to come to the table with a dialogue (inaudible), and
probably they stopped this destabilizing the situation. But what made
the difference? And my second question previously was, when you
setting aside some agenda of four-way talks into the realm of
U.S.-DPRK talks, and hopefully setting agenda for inter-Korean
dialogue setting, what agenda is left for four-way talks?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think that I risk repeating
myself here, but the agenda for the four-way talks is what it has been
agreed to be, which is very similar to what was stated when it was
first proposed -- that is, replacing the Armistice with a permanent
peace structure and the reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.


Now, I think from the way you phrased your questions, you're asking me
to erect very thick walls between each of these things -- the
bilateral U.S.-North Korean talks; the Four-Party Talks; the
inter-Korean dialogue. And in fact, these thick walls don't exist,
because in Geneva at Four-Party Talks, it's very possible for the U.S.
and North Korea to meet; it's very possible for the two Korean sides
to meet. In fact, when this is really working, I expect those sorts of
things to happen. And when we meet, we, bilaterally, have a bilateral
agenda. But if you're saying would I never, ever raise the subject of
the Four-Party Talks, no I think particularly I'd have to be prepared
to respond to the North Koreans if they chose to come at me with
something.


Q:  What are the first two or three items on your bilateral agenda?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, --



Q:  Should you happen to run into North Koreans.



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a very familiar list to most of
you. We are concerned about their missile exports and their indigenous
development program. We're very concerned about the recovery of
remains and getting at any unresolved questions about Americans from
the Korean War. We are still discussing with them whether or not they
can be removed from the terrorism list. They have a very insistent
approach to us about the lifting of American sanctions on them. And
then we have a prior agreement to open liaison offices in each other's
capitals.


Q:  Those are the bilaterals?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.



Q:  Has there been a reduction in political slander since the -- ?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I think -- That isn't really
something that we are the keepers of the score on. But I understand
that there has been a softening of tone from North Korea in an effort
to -- I'm not quite sure what the right phrase would be here, but --
to keep its options open with respect to the new administration in
Seoul.


Q:  Who will be leading the North Korean delegation?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me tell you about the delegations.
First, in the bilateral meeting, Charles Kartman will lead a small
inter-agency delegation to meet with Kim Gye Gwan, Vice Minister Kim
Gye Gwan and his delegation. Then we will go to Geneva, where Charles
Kartman will lead a small inter-agency delegation for the preliminary
meeting of the Four-Party Talks, and his counterparts will be
Ambassador Li Gun from North Korea, who's their Deputy Perm Rep in New
York to the UN; and it will be Director General Wang Yi, from the
People's Republic of China -- he's the Director General for Asian
affairs; and from the ROK, I don't believe there's been an
announcement yet.


At the plenary meeting, the American delegation will be led by
Assistant Secretary Stanley Roth, and our delegation will
approximately double in size. The North Korean delegation will revert
back up to Kim Gye Gwan. The Chinese delegation will be led by
Assistant Minister Chen Jian. And the ROK delegation, I'm not sure
that it's been announced yet, but I am reliably informed it will be
Deputy Foreign Minister Song Young-shik.


Q: This is somewhat unrelated subject. In the past, one of the bones
of contention in the relationship between the United States and South
Korea has been the issue of the National Security Law. The United
States has been demanding, asking for South Korea to repeal the
National Security Law because of its potential for abuse. Yet, the
newly-elected South Korean president, Kim Dae-Jung, also vowed that it
would not -- he would not repeal the National Security Law because he
just said that he would make sure, he would see to it that it not be
abused. What is -- Is the United States ready to condone that, or is
it just going to wash its hands of this matter once and for all?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's an interesting question.
First of all, the United States has not demanded the repeal of any ROK
law. The United States, in its annual human rights report, has every
year pointed to what you have referred to as the potential for abuse
of the National Security Law.


Now that there is a new government in Korea, this may be a subject
that others will be looking for as something that the new government
might have some special interest in. But that isn't our business. At
the end of it all, either it will be changed or it won't be, and we
will make our judgment in our annual human rights report. But we do
not have a demand on the Korean Government to change any of its laws.


Q: There was a rumor last week that a coup attempt happened in North
Korea. Could you tell us information you have on this matter? And how
do you assess political situation there?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's easy to answer. I have no
information, and so I don't -- I'll do you the favor and not then say,
therefore, I don't have anything new to say about the political
situation.


I think that the political situation remains as it has been -- that
is, that there are leadership dynamics in North Korea that we don't
really understand. Therefore, we have a question about why there is
still no one in the position of president, and we wonder whether the
General Secretary of the party, Kim Jong-il, will take on that
position or not. I don't think that any of this is related to the
rumors that were swirling around last week, none of which have been
substantiated.


But I think that from our point of view, since we can't really see
what's going on inside North Korea in the political realm that you're
asking about, we really are confined to evaluating whether or not we
are dealing with a government that seems to be responsive and in
charge. And thus far, we feel that we are dealing with such an entity.
When we pose questions, we get answers, and there is a negotiation
that has been going on in which there seems to be an opposite side
that has a consistent view. So we have no other information about the
political dynamics within Pyongyang.


Q: At the plenary session, what will be the carrot for North Korea to
persuade them to accept them any confidence-building measures?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The carrot is that they can reduce
tensions.


Q:  It is a very philosophical carrot or a tangible carrot?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, certainly there are many people
who are willing to speculate that North Korea has as its policy the
maintaining of a high level of tension. So if that theory were
correct, then this is sort of a dysfunctional negotiation, isn't it,
since what we're trying to do is take away something that they want.


But our operating assumption is that they recognize that reduction of
tensions is in their interest as well as everyone else's. And, more to
the point, their interaction with the outside world depends upon their
ability to convince the rest of the world -- especially us -- that
they're ready to be good members of the international community.


Q: At the bilateral talks, are you ready to offer the easing of
economic sanctions maybe in exchange for certain kinds of measures
taken by North Korea?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The North Koreans are going to raise
their desire to see sanctions lifted; they always do. And we have in
the past always tried to point them towards the way to get that done.
Our sanctions are there because of certain aspects of North Korean
behavior that we judge, and others in the international community,
judge to be unacceptable -- missile exports, terrorism, the state of
hostility on the Korean Peninsula. So over time, we've tried to spell
out for them what we mean when we say changing that behavior and what
we mean when we say that our sanctions are affected by this.


So this is a conversation that we've had in the past, and I expect
that we will continue to have it.


Q: I believe the delegation from China is one ranking lower than the
first time. Does that mean anything about their expectations? The
second question is, several years ago, there was a kind of sense of
urgency in the U.S. about North Korea -- that means that North Korea
may collapse soon. Do you think this kind of sense of urgency still
remains in the Administration, or it's gone?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not aware of any change in Chinese
thinking; but you'll have to ask them for an explanation of why
they've changed their delegation head. But their delegation was, in
the last plenary, headed by Vice Minister Tang, who is an
extraordinarily senior Chinese foreign ministry diplomat. I suspect
that his schedule just couldn't be arranged for him to be there. And
it was with that in mind that we originally set this whole thing up so
that there would be not only a senior representative, but also an
alternate so that schedules could be accommodated with either of these
people. So we see them as being pretty interchangeable.


And as for your second about an urgency about a North Korean collapse,
I don't recall ever having tried to convince any of you that I saw
that as being very urgent or imminent. In fact, just the opposite.
It's the kind of thing that I have a very hard time discussing or
predicting, because we don't really know very much. But certainly one
of the things that would have added some measure of calm to the
situation on the Korean Peninsula is the international community's
willingness to provide emergency food relief after the floods and then
the drought of the last couple of years. Had there not been any
emergency food aid, then I think we would be faced with a much more
dramatic situation. But there seems to have been an adequate response
so far.


Q: On the sanctions, is easing sanctions an all or nothing
proposition?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  That's a good question.



Q: For example, once they sit down to talk, can't you ease some
sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act, for example?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. The answer is yes. That's a good
question.


Q:  Well, can you elaborate?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not really. But -- Let me be blunt. We
would not lift sanctions because the North Koreans have sat down to
talk. There's no reward for talk. But what we have told them is that
as there is tangible progress in tension reduction, there would be
sanctions lifting. And then the next question should be, well, how do
you know it's tangible? That's what CBMs can do for you. When you
reach agreement on specific CBMs and you implement them, then you've
made some tangible progress.


Q: What could you assume the accomplishment is in the upcoming
meeting?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's a bad question. I hate that
question. (Laughter)


Q:  And what is your goal -- minimal goal?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right, all right. I'm going to try
to deal with that seriously, but I hate that question.


What I'd like to see and what I expect to see are two very different
things. What I'd like to see is some immediate progress on confidence
building measures. I'd like to see some immediate progress in reducing
tensions on the Korean Peninsula. I'd like to be assured that the
North Koreans are talking about the same thing that we're talking
about.


What do I expect to see? Something a bit short of all that. What I
think is still perhaps too optimistic -- but at least it's a little
more realistic -- is that they might be willing to begin to discuss
with us what we mean by confidence- building measures, something that
their diplomats could carry back to Pyongyang, report, and engage some
of their people on so that a future round could reach some agreements.


Q: You haven't had any discussions, any detailed discussions on CBMs
so far?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You may recall that there was to have
been an intersessional meeting.


Q:  Right.



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That was then that would have
happened.


Q:  Agreeing on creating a subcommittee is a long shot?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The North Koreans have not agreed to
what should have been easy. So I think it would be foolish to make any
assumptions about their changing their position right away.


Q: You mentioned that there's going to be consultation between Japan
and ROK during the meeting, the period meeting?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what I said was that we are
discussing the possibility of a trilateral meeting among Japan, the
ROK and the U.S.


Q:  Is that during the meeting?  I mean --



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We haven't yet finalized the
arrangements, but --


Q: What are you expecting from that? Are you -- Do you want Japan to
be a cheerleader on the bench --


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hardly.



Q: Or are you foreseeing some financial support might be the issue
among this talk?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no. We're not looking for any
particular support from Japan. But Japan has a legitimate and an
important interest in these talks. And we have -- both the U.S. and
the ROK have worked hard to keep them informed and to consult closely.
So this is just a very standard way of doing that.


Q: I'm sorry if I'm repeating something, but can you go through the
exact schedule for the bilateral and for the plenary?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.



Q:  Thank you.



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We will meet in Berlin bilaterally
with the North Koreans on Friday the 13th. We haven't announced the
venue. We will then meet in Geneva for the preliminary meeting on
Saturday, the 14th.


Q:  (Inaudible)



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's Saturday, so if it turns out we
need more time and we have to slip over to Sunday, I'm sure no one
will object.


Then the plenary talks begin on Monday and are scheduled to last
through Friday, Monday though Friday.


Q:  That's a long time.



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, that's a long time.



Q: Please let me know your comment on the six-party declaration. And
why at this moment, the South Korean Government propose in Beijing
initially such an idea?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as I understand it -- and all
I'm trying to do now is give you our reaction to this. An explanation
of this really should come from the Korean Government. But what the
United States understands is that this was simply a reiteration of a
view that has been held by President Kim for quite a long time. In
fact, it's nothing new -- that is, recognizing that both Russia and
Japan have legitimate interests and a legitimate stake in the outcome
of all of this and, in fact, can play a role in making the outcome of
these Geneva talks that much more assured that they might very well be
brought in in a much later phase to play some role of guarantor or
something of that sort.


And I think that there was a specific reference in one of the
explanations that I read that this would be something like a Helsinki
conference. Now, that is entirely consistent with everything that we
have always been told about the expectations from the ROK side. So I
didn't find it either surprising or alarming to have the news about
this idea coming out of the first few public comments of the new
administration.


Q: Just checking technicalities for planning purpose. Is there a Swiss
official statement just like the last time, this time again? And
another thing, is there going to be a briefing afterwards, just one
time only, after everything gets finished?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I can't predict, sorry.



Q:  Okay.



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We would be delighted to be in a
position to do both those things, but I -- At this point, it's too far
ahead to know.


Q: Why is it going for so long? What do you anticipate that's going to
be new from last time?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You know, this is actually kind of a
funny thing. We did not have any particular need for a specific
duration and felt two, three days would probably suffice. But the
North Korean side said that, well, if you're really serious about all
this, you have to be willing to commit to a longer period of time and
not have your officials rush off when there's still further business
to discuss because of some previous schedule. So what this represents
is a commitment of schedule, rather than a prediction of the agenda.


Q: Yes, I'd like to follow up on the issue of the National Security
Law. In the past, I remember the high-ranking State Department
officials, including the Secretaries of State, saying that they would
prefer, or at least they would like to encourage the abolition of the
National Security Law in South Korea for the reason I cite earlier --
because of the potential for abuse.


Now you seem to be saying that State Department will let go of the law
once and for all. You said the United States does not consider the
National Security Law issue as the business of the United States. So
can I interpret it as kind of you are washing your hands completely of
the matter?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what I said was please refer to
our human rights report, and that's where you'll find our statements
about the National Security Law. But in terms of our providing further
advice to the Kim Dae-jung government, I think that they will quite
independently of us set their own agenda, and they'll have their own
things to say.


Q:  Thank you.



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.





(end transcript)