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26 October 1998

TRANSCRIPT: 10/24 BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON KOREA FOUR-PARTY TALKS

(U.S. considers Third Plenary "a successful round")  (1870)



Geneva -- The United States believes the Third Plenary of Four-Party
Talks among North and South Korea, the United States and China was a
"successful round," and hopes it will lead to more substantive
discussions in the future, according to a senior U.S. official.


During a background briefing in Geneva October 24, the official said:
"We have moved this process forward, we have removed underbrush from
beneath us, and we will be able to, I think, conduct some very useful
meetings from here on out, particularly at the subcommittees level."


The official said the United States initially hoped that it would be
possible to form and convene the subcommittees during the Third
Plenary. "We came prepared to do that, but in all fairness to the
other delegations, when you begin to break down to the subcommittee
level, you require some degree of expertise."


The official explained that the two new subcommittees, which will
begin their work during the Fourth Plenary, "will not have negotiating
power" in that their decisions will not be binding on the parties to
the talks. "They will report their work to the plenary and
heads-of-delegation. It is the right and responsibility of the heads
of delegation to review that work, to modify it, and accept or reject
it."


During the latest round, the official said, North Korean delegates
"did reassert their desire to have the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a
separate peace agreement as agenda items up for discussion." The
previous round of talks, held in March 1998, concluded without
agreement after the North Koreans made similar demands.


"The United States very clearly, unequivocally, said that that is not
an agenda item which we are prepared to discuss," the official said.


Asked whether Ambassador Charles Kartman, U.S. Special Envoy for
Korean Peace Talks, will travel to Pyongyang in the near future, the
official responded that the topic of whether the U.S. should "got to
North Korea to begin the process of talking about issues of concern to
us" did come up in bilateral discussions between the U.S. and North
Korea delegations.


"We talked at length in terms of the date and venue where those talks
should take place, and I think we will be prepared soon to make an
announcement about that, but I am not here today to make that
announcement," the official said.


Following is a transcript of the briefing:



(begin transcript)



U.S. DELEGATION TO THE FOUR PARTY TALKS

BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR AMERICAN OFFICIAL



Geneva

October 24, 1998





SENIOR AMERICAN OFFICIAL: What I'd like to do its to give you a slight
flavor of how the process went and then I will be glad to answer your
questions.


First of all, we started on the 21st, on Wednesday. That day was
dedicated to a plenary session. All of our delegations of
approximately seven at the front table on each side were here. The
Chairman, Ambassador Park from the Republic of Korea, opened the
session and quite frankly he did a marvelous job throughout the four
days. I cannot say enough about his leadership that provided quite
frankly a very fair setting for all sides to air their comments and to
respond without concern.


The plenary session opened with opening remarks, a keynote, in which
the positions that we all know were repeated, basically to put us back
into a frame of mind where we left off last March when we were unable
to conclude that meeting successfully. The afternoon was spent in
responding to those remarks and putting together the positions that we
would take for the rest of the week.


On Thursday morning, as you may be aware, there was another forum and
that was a head-of-delegations meeting that occurred in the morning
that was attended by the heads, the deputies, and the note taker and
that was the extent of who was in the room. There was a good deal of
discussion there, and it was decided that it would be a good
opportunity to yet again break down to a smaller and a lower level
grouping and so by the direction of the four heads of the delegates,
the deputies met Thursday afternoon for about two hours, in a room
adjacent to here very similar to this setup, with interpreters, and a
couple of people on each side. We began the process of putting
together a draft of the memorandum on the establishment and operations
of the subcommittees. That process ultimately lasted seven hours.


We reconvened the following day, Friday, and went for about five hours
continuously without breaking. So what I'd like you to understand is
not that the paper that you see is just the representation of some
very basic agreements on how we would conduct subcommittees in the
future, but also during this seven hours period, we had an opportunity
to talk at great length on issues that are of concern to each party.
So the point that I make is that we are further down the road on
understanding each party's position, so that when we meet again and
the subcommittees are convened, we would be at the point in time to
begin substantive work as it is outlined here in this paper.


That's not to say that the deputies saved the day or did anything
other than provide a basic document, which the heads of delegations
then began to examine, first yesterday afternoon, then for about four
and half hours today. What they did was to change the character of it,
move things around, and quite frankly came up with a better document,
which is why they are the heads of delegation. (laughter.) And in the
end, we were able, at 2:30 this afternoon, to conclude the agreement
that you see before us. Now from the American point of view, this is
the progress which we expected and anticipated, and the minimum which
we would consider successful.


So we do consider this a successful round. We have moved this process
forward , we have removed underbrush from beneath us, and we will be
able to, I think, conduct some very useful meetings from here on out,
particularly at the subcommittees' level.


The one item that we wish that we would have been able to do was to be
able to convene the subcommittees during this session. We came
prepared to do that, but in all fairness to the other delegations,
when you begin to break down to the subcommittee level, you require
some degree of expertise. We took that into consideration and
ultimately agreed, and this is the product that you have . So with
these openings remarks, I'll turn it over to questions.


Q: The North Korean head of delegation was outside just now speaking
to the press, and he said that his country still insists on the
withdrawal of the U.S. troops from South Korea, and on a separate
U.S.-North Korea peace treaty. How does this position affect the
process, is the U.S. position negotiable, is there flexibility? Also,
will the subcommittees have negotiation powers?


SENIOR AMERICAN OFFICIAL: First of all, Minister Kim, who is
representing himself, is correct. The North Korean delegates did
reassert their desire to have the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a
separate peace agreement as agenda items up for discussion. The United
States very clearly, unequivocally, said that that is not an agenda
item which we are prepared to discuss. In terms of flexibility, there
are a great many things within the full range of tension reduction
measures that we are prepared to talk about. And there are a number of
things from which the Korean peninsula, I believe, can benefit , if we
get on with our business and begin with those steps that quite
obviously must occur, moderately and first, to build the confidence
that allows you to move on.


You asked about the level. The subcommittees will not have negotiating
power in the sense that they will reach an agreement that is binding
on the groups. You may tell by looking at the document that they will
report their work to the plenary and heads of delegation. It is the
right and responsibility of the heads of delegation to review that
work, to modify it, and accept or reject it.


Q: Can you tell us anything about the bilaterals discussions that were
held. And will Ambassador Kartman go to Pyongyang in the future?


SENIOR AMERICAN OFFICIAL: As you know, we always attempt to take the
opportunity when we meet in this setting for bilateral meetings. This
time we had bilaterals not only with the North Koreans, but with the
Chinese delegation and with our Republic of Korea allies as well. We
did have bilateral sessions, more than one, with the North Korean
delegation and discussed a complete range of issues that are of
interest to the United States, and we listened to those that are of
interest to the North Koreans. You asked specifically if Ambassador
Kartman was going to North Korea, and expanding on what your question
is, do we have an agreement to go to North Korea to begin the process
of talking about issues that are of concern to us? Well the answer is
that we did talk about that issue. We talked at length in terms of the
date and the venue where those talks would take place, and I think we
will be prepared soon to make an announcement about that, but I am not
here today to make that announcement.


Q: Was there any discussion of the enlargement of the talks to include
Japan, Russia, and Mongolia? What are the prospects for this?


SENIOR AMERICAN OFFICIAL: That subject was not brought up by any
delegation and was not talked about at all informally or during
bilateral sessions.


Q:  Did you notice any change in North Korea's negotiating position?



SENIOR AMERICAN OFFICIAL:  No I would not characterize a 

change in the North Koreans' tactics or policy. I would just merely
comment. We have a new series of delegates for the Chinese here today,
and I should have mentioned earlier when I talked about the quality of
the chairmanship by the Republic of Korea, likewise Ambassador Qian of
the Chinese delegation, and his entire delegation, most of whom were
new to us, came in as though they were here for the previous two
meetings. They were a major contributor to the arrival of this
agreement.


Q: In your bilaterals with the North Koreans, did you discuss the
problem of the subterranean installation and the rocket launch?


SENIOR AMERICAN OFFICIAL: As I said, we talked about all of the issues
of concern to us. We began that discussion of those topics when we met
bilaterally with the DPRK in New York from the twenty-first of August
to the fifth of September. You know those results. Each and every time
we have an opportunity, we continue that discussion.


Thank you.



(end transcript)