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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to Reporters at the Westin Chaoyang Hotel


Remarks
Glyn Davies
Special Representative for North Korea Policy 
Beijing, China
November 21, 2013

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AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Hello everybody. I hope that everybody’s all set and thank you all very much for coming. And I hope that in the wind my hair looks good.

But, it’s very great, very good to be here in Beijing and to have a chance to spend a few minutes with you, and to say a couple things, answer some questions about what it is that we’re doing here in Beijing, and what is upcoming in the future stops. I arrived here a couple days ago, and I have had many hours of discussions with my good friend and counterpart Ambassador Wu Dawei. Our talks were constructive and intense and we made some good progress. I also had an opportunity, just a few minutes ago, to sit down for about 45 minutes with the Chinese Foreign Minister to talk about North Korea as well. I go on from here to Seoul, South Korea, to hold discussions with my counterpart, Ambassador Cho Tae-yong, and then right after that to Tokyo for discussions with Director General Ihara. And with that I’m very happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little about the progress you have made?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Sure. Well, what I don’t really want to do is to get into too much detail about where things stand. I think, suffice it to say, that these discussions today and yesterday with Ambassador Wu fit in the context of talks that we’ve been having with the Chinese now for many months. Pursuant to the mandate from our leaders coming out at the Sunnylands summit earlier this year and reaffirmed at the Petersburg summit, for the United States and China to work together, to collaborate more closely to address the serious issues that we face on North Korea.

And so what we were doing today was talking about all aspects of the North Korea nuclear issue and also other issues that relate to North Korea, to see whether it is possible to find a way back to diplomacy on North Korea. The problem we face, though, is that North Korea is not making it at all easy to do that.

Many of you, I think, have seen in recent weeks and months the kinds of statements that North Korea has been making and the kind of actions that they have been taking. One thing in particular I would cite, is their continued reaffirmation of what they call their byungjin policy. This is the simultaneous pursuit of economic development and the strengthening of their nuclear weapons program.

As far as we’re concerned, byungjin is a dead-end for North Korea. They cannot hope to develop the prosperity that they seek for their people while at the same time investing tremendous resources in their nuclear program.

QUESTION: Ambassador Davies:, can you confirm that an American citizen has been detained in North Korea and …(inaudible)?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well we’ve seen those reports. I have to say at the outset, what I can’t do is comment in any specificity about them, because we do not have a Privacy Act waiver that permits us to do that. So by law we’re constrained. But I can say a couple things. First of all there is no greater, more important responsibility for the United States of America than to do everything we can to protect and seek the welfare of American citizens abroad. So we are working very hard, in particular through our Swedish protective power in Pyongyang, to try to move this issue along. And we of course are calling on North Korea, as in the case of Mr. Kenneth Bae, who has now been there for over a year, to resolve the issue and to allow our citizens to go free.

QUESTION: How do you think this detainment will impact your ability to restart nuclear talks?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I don’t know that I would draw a solid line, but I think it is an indication that North Korea seems not to be seeking a better relationship with the United States, that they are not taking actions to address our concerns on American citizens being held in North Korea. In the case of Kenneth Bae, we have repeatedly made specific proposals to the North Koreans to dispatch my colleague and friend, Ambassador Robert King, to Pyongyang to hold talks with the North Koreans on humanitarian issues, with a view to securing the release of Kenneth Bae. You all know that not so many months ago, the North Koreans, in fact, allowed, Ambassador King, invited him, to come to North Korea, and then at the eleventh hour decided to pull the plug on that mission. And that was, I think, a mistake on their part. So we continue to reach out to them to find a way for Ambassador King to go back in to North Korea, as he did in a previous case, to bring Kenneth Bae and our other American out.

QUESTION: Do you plan to do the same for Mr. Newman?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Let me go here first.

QUESTION: Are these individual cases a stumbling block to progress between the U.S. and …?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Look, again these are separate matters, but we certainly think that North Korea should think long and hard about these cases and understand that, for the United States, these are matters of core concern to us, the fate of Americans who are in North Korea being held by North Koreans. But I don’t want to make any solid line link between these cases and broader issues.

QUESTION: Do you plan to do the same for Mr. Miller?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: We don’t treat these cases differently and in terms of the case you cite, again, I’m not in a position to provide a lot of the detail because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver on him.

QUESTION: What’s your prospect of restarting the Six-Party Talks after your meetings in Beijing?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: This is really a question I think you ought to put to Pyongyang. Because you know this question of getting back to Six-Party Talks -- talks are a means to an end. The end is to fulfill the mandate of the Six-Party Talks -- the Six-Party process and the September 2005 Joint Statement. And remember that the core issue in the September ‘05 statement is the question of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which means, in effect, the denuclearization of North Korea. So what we’re looking for from North Korea are signs of sincerity that they are prepared to take meaningful steps to address the concerns of the international community that relate to their unrelenting pursuit of nuclear weapons. Instead what they are doing as news reports have indicated is they’re beginning now to restart some of their nuclear facilities. They are talking about the byungjin policy repeatedly, that this is for them a core strategic pursuit of the North Korean nation’s nuclear weapons.

And this to us is completely inconsistent with the notion of successful Six-Party Talks, so we’re calling on North Korea to take seriously its obligations and its commitments and to come back in the direction of the international community. And I think until and unless they do that it’s difficult to imagine how we can get back any time soon to Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: Do you have a message for the Newman family…?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Sorry…

QUESTION: Did North Korea change its attitude toward the resumption of Six-Party Talks…?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: What North Korea has said, and I think this is very interesting, is they’ve said that they would like to get back to Six-Party Talks, they’ve said that all issues, “quote-unquote,” will be on the table. But you have to understand what that means. When they say the all issues are “on the table,” it means they want to talk about every other issue except their own nuclear establishment, their own nuclear devices, and this concerns us, because, of course, if there are to be Six-Party Talks, what they should do is rapidly lead to the elimination, as North Korea has promised they will, of their nuclear establishment of uranium and plutonium.

So, we do not take much comfort from North Korea when it talks about its interest in returning to Six-Party Talks and its commitment to place all issues on the table. A key issue that has to be not simply “on the table,” but addressed in a meaningful fashion, is their nuclear establishment, and we see no signs of the seriousness of purpose on the part of the North Koreans to address that core concern of not just the five parties, but the international community.

QUESTION: Ambassador, the National Security Advisor Susan Rice made some comments on North Korea yesterday, and she said the U.S. government will continue to join with China to increase pressure on North Korea…

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: That’s right…

QUESTION:...and she also said the U.S. government will expand sanctions against North Korea if necessary…

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Right…

QUESTION:...have you shared policy with the Chinese government?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I had hours and hours of discussions with Ambassador Wu Dawei and his colleagues so, yes, we’ve been quite transparent and up-front with the Chinese government about plans, about the need for continued pressure on North Korea in order to sharpen its choices because it’s clear that North Korea has no interest in meaningfully addressing its nuclear program. They have made clear in statement after statement over many months that they don’t wish to give up their nuclear weapons, they don’t wish to address this issues, you know, they’ve changed their constitution to declare themselves more formally a nuclear weapons state. They’ve also, in recent months, declared the Six-Party process dead, said that they do not wish to negotiate on the basis any longer of the September 2005 Joint Statement. Now, they’ve gone quiet on a couple of those points in recent months, but that, to our way of thinking, does not amount to any true change of heart or real indication that they mean to meaningfully address what the international community has called on them to address, which is this issue of their nuclear establishment.

QUESTION: Any chance Dennis Rodman can play a role in facilitating communication?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: On the nuclear issue?

QUESTION: Well, no, on the Americans…

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I don’t know, I think that’s probably a question for Dennis Rodman, a question for the North Koreans, I’m not sure what that’s based on, whether he’s said anything of late…

QUESTION: Did the issue of (inaudible) come up in your talks with the Chinese today, and is there anything that you’re…?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: When I say that we’ve talked to the Chinese about all issues, I mean all issues that relate to North Korea. We’ve talked about everything from the nuclear issue to these consular issues. We’ve also talked about humanitarian issues, we’ve talked about refugees and the need for China to take seriously their obligations under the Refugee Convention, so yes, we’ve talked about all these issues with China.

QUESTION: Do you have a message for the Newman family in California.

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: There are officials in Washington who have been in regular contact with the families of those detained in North Korea.

QUESTION: Ambassador, how far do you think is the present situation to the resumption of the talks?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: How far is the present situation…? I understand why this is of great interest to you, to plan your lives on whether or not the Six-Party is going to happen next week, or six months from now and all the rest of it. I have to say that’s not something I’m concentrating on, what I’m concentrating on is trying to establish an appropriate threshold for Six-Party so that Six-Party can make meaningful progress if and when we’re able to get back to the negotiating table.

And again, this really is up to North Korea. It’s North Korea that seems not to be seriously interested in making meaningful progress on the nuclear issue, and until we see a manifestation of North Korean seriousness, it’s very difficult for me to know what the prospects are for getting back to Six-Party, and I’ll say one other quick thing which is that is National Security Advisor Rice in her speech made the point very explicitly that for us to go back to multilateral negotiations, Six-Party Talks, at a time when North Korea continues to produce nuclear materials – to enrich uranium, to produce plutonium – this makes no sense. And this been often been the problem in years past because North Korea uses negotiations as really diplomatic cover to continue its nuclear program, certainly its covert nuclear program. And we’re not interested in going back to a diplomatic process that provides that cover for North Korea. So if we are to get back to talks, North Korea is going to have to cease its nuclear activities. Otherwise, I think talks would ultimately be meaningless.

Let me take one or two quick questions and then I’ve got to run do something else. Any other questions? Ma’am?

QUESTION: China has played a very critical role trying to (inaudible) push for a resumption of talks here. What has Mr. Wu’s response to your stance?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Sure. Well, here’s what I’m going to do, because I’m in Beijing, and he’s the host, I don’t want to speak for -- I’m not a Chinese diplomat --I’m going to direct you to him. You should talk to the Chinese government about their position. All I can say is the quality of our conversations is excellent. And this is what for me is really quite interesting and notable about the evolution of our diplomacy on this question with our partners in the Six-Party process, our four partners among the five, is that we are more than ever of one mind, we’re more than ever agreed, that denuclearization must be addressed. And all of us agree, for instance, I mentioned this byungjin policy. All of us agree that it’s untenable, going forward, that it can’t work, and as Ambassador Rice put it in her speech, North Korea faces a choice here: either they can continue to go down the road of further isolation and development of their nuclear and missile program, or they can come back in the direction of the international community, fulfill their obligations and their commitments, abide by the terms of, now, multiple UN Security Council Resolutions that address this, and the future for North Korea can be very, very different. And we’ve made this point to the North Koreans directly, and I certainly did it in this very city in February of last year, so it’s not as if they don’t understand this, that this choice that they face is real.

And we’ve demonstrated in other cases, most recently Burma, how quickly the United States can move, how quickly relationships can change and develop in a positive direction if a strategic choice is made to come back in the direction of the international community and their obligations. So that’s really, I think, the message that I’d like to leave with you – that’s what American diplomacy today is all about, is trying to find a way forward to credible and authentic talks, try to find a way to address North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat. And we face a choice, too, which is that if we’re unable to get this process started on a credible basis, we will have to take steps, obviously, to protect ourselves and our allies as well, and others will have to take decisions about how they develop their strategic response to this. So, that wouldn’t be good for the Korean Peninsula, that wouldn’t be good for North Asia, that wouldn’t be good for the world. That’s why diplomacy is so important, and there really is no other solution to this, ultimately, than a diplomatic solution and that’s why our efforts will continue, and we’ll see if we can’t continue to make progress. Maybe someday I’ll be able to answer this very big question about when and if there will be Six-Party Talks, but I can’t do that today.

Anyway, one more question and then I’ve got to go.

QUESTION: Ambassador, you said the U.S. is not linking this issue (inaudible…)?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, because we’re talking about apples and oranges here. The first responsibility of the United States is to protect American citizens abroad, that’s why all Foreign Service Officers, including me 33 years ago when I joined, spent my first couple of years in the Foreign Service doing consular work to train us to understand that that is Job #1 for all of us. And I think it’s very important that, as a matter of principle, we always keep consular problems and issues set aside from political issues, that’s very, very important. But it is true that North Korea could send a very different signal about its interest in having a different sort of relationship with the United States were it to take that step of releasing our citizens and it’s a matter of some wonderment to me that they’ve haven’t yet moved on that. Kenneth Bae has now been in North Korean custody for longer than any American in a generation, and it’s a matter of ever-increasing concern to us, and it’s something we raise with the North Koreans frequently through the New York channel, and I really regret that they chose not to go forward with their invitation to Ambassador King to come to Pyongyang. I hope they renew that invitation, because Bob King, who is intrepid, is ready to go out in moment’s notice to try to resolve it.

In any event, thank-you very much. I’m sorry I went on at such great length, really apologize for being late, but the traffic wasn’t great coming from the Foreign Ministry. Hope to see you all again. I’ll say something in Seoul, I’m not sure when that is, I guess that’s tomorrow, and then again in Tokyo I’ll have a chance to talk to the press, so I look forward to talking to you if you’re there or your colleagues. Thank-you very much.


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