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Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Policy Regarding North Korea

FPC Briefing
Ambassador Stephen W. Bosworth
Special Representative for North Korea Policy, U.S. Department of State
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
April 3, 2009


Date: 04/03/2009 Location: Washington, DC Description: Ambassador Stephen W. Bosworth, Special Representative for North Korea Policy, U.S. Department of State, Briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center on "U.S. Policy Regarding North Korea." State Dept Photo

11:00 A.M. EDT

Video

MODERATOR: Okay. Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. We are very honored to have with us our Special Representative for North Korea Policy Ambassador Stephen Bosworth.

Ambassador.

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Thank you very much. It’s good to be here this morning. I recognize some faces and I suspect I will come to recognize more.

I have now been in this position for about six weeks. It has been a rather busy six weeks. I made, together with Ambassador Sung Kim and colleagues, a trip to the region. We went to Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. In Seoul, we consulted with our Russian partners in the Six-Party process. And I met with the press several times on that trip. This is the first time I’ve met with the press since being back here.

Let me just say a few words and then I’ll take your questions. On the subject of the missile launch, which I suspect is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, I really don’t have anything new to say. We have continued to press the North Koreans and other countries on the issue of a missile launch. We take the position, as you know, that it is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718. We have continued to urge, as we urge now, the DPRK not to launch this. Whether it’s a satellite launch or a missile launch, in our judgment, makes no difference. It is a provocative act. And we hope that they will still reconsider and not do this.

If it does occur, we will be continuing to work closely with our partners and our allies in the UN Security Council to consult vigorously on what action might then be appropriate. We believe that a defiance of a UN Security Council resolution is an action that requires that there be some consequences, and that will be our objective. At the same time, however, I would also say that we continue to look with great interest, and give great priority, to the need to resume the Six-Party discussions with the goal of the denuclearization – the verifiable denuclearization – of the Korean Peninsula. And that remains, of course, our long-term goal. And we would hope to be able to return to that goal in as reasonable a period of time as possible.

So with that brief introduction, I would be happy to take questions. Yes.

MODERATOR: Wait, just one moment, please. I’d ask you, please, to wait for the microphone and identify your media. Start in the back. Sir.

QUESTION: Zoltan Mikes, World Business Press Online, Slovakia. I would like to ask if you have a set of negative incentives, like a set of punishments, what happens if North Korea do not – do not back up, end their launch? This flight, and if – because the positive ones didn’t work in the past, so what do you plan to do if North Korea will go on and they’ll provoke?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I really am not going to get into that question in any depth at all, other than to say that we will continue to consult with our partners and the other members of the UN Security Council on what would be an appropriate response.

MODERATOR: Sir.

QUESTION: Hi, good morning. Tomohiro Deguchi with Kyodo News, Japanese wire. It looks like the North Koreans are trying to link the missile issue and the Six-Party Talk issue. It’s – if you bring the missile issue to the UN Security Council, then they are going to leave from the Six-Party Talk framework. And is that your position to – I mean, if they move forward on the denuclearization, are you willing to give them the remaining assistance, which is the Japanese portion, about 200,000 tons? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I’m sorry, the two questions seem conflated somehow. Whether the North Koreans step back from the Six-Party Talks as a result of what might happen in the UN Security Council as a result of their decision to launch a missile is up to the North Koreans. We can’t obviously control that. I would hope that they would not link the two issues because from our point of view, both are important.

With regard to fuel deliveries, that’s something we continue to consult with our partners about, and I am confident that when we get back to the negotiating table in the Six-Party process, that we will be able to find solutions to that question.

MODERATOR: I’m going to take a question from New York via videoconference. Go ahead, New York.

QUESTION: Okay. Hi, Mr. Ambassador. My question is about the UN Security Council discussion and – well, actually, given the fact that North Korea is threatening to withdraw from the Six-Party Talks, do you think – if there’s any chance for the U.S. to make a compromise in the discussion to talk them into coming back to the Six-Party Talks?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I really do not want to prejudice the outcome of discussions that may occur in the UN Security Council, so I really can’t comment on that. As I just said, we would hope and believe strongly that everyone has a long-term interest – regardless of this short-term problem, everyone has a long-term interest in getting back to the negotiations in the Six-Party process as expeditiously as possible. I’m not able to predict when that might occur, but we will be talking vigorously with our partners in the process to try to bring that about.

MODERATOR: Okay. Back there.

QUESTION: Arshad Mohammed of Reuters. Ambassador Bosworth, one, can you tell us how it is that you are urging the North Koreans not to go ahead with this proposed launch? Is it in direct contacts with them in – through the New York channel or otherwise? Or is it simply through intermediaries or is it just the sort of – you know, the comments that we’ve heard in public from the State Department spokesman and now yourself?

And secondly, are you not – you know, the Administration has made very clear from the Secretary on down that a launch would have consequences. Are you not concerned that consequences, whatever they might be, will simply push the North Koreans further away from returning to the Six-Party Talks?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: We have been communicating our position to the North Koreans in a variety of ways including most of the ones that you enumerated – through the New York channel, through our partners who are doing so directly, and through our public statements.

And my concern that acting to show that there are consequences would have an impact on the Six-Party – on the Six-Party Talks, obviously, there are connections here. But as I said, we believe that one, we have an obligation to demonstrate that there are consequences for the defiance of a UN Security Council resolution, and we believe that a missile launch, satellite launch, whatever it is, is in violation of that resolution.

We also believe quite strongly that all parties concerned, including the North Koreans, have an interest in coming back to the table to complete the discussions and the negotiations on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

MODERATOR: Yes, right here.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. My name is Ai Awaji. I’m from Japanese newswire Jiji Press. So how are you going to get them back to the negotiation table? Are you still prepared to go back to Pyongyang if they invite you after the missile launch?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I don’t know what’s going to happen specifically after the missile launch, but I am prepared to go to Pyongyang whenever it appears to be useful. Whether we will be invited or not, I don’t know. We will be, as I said earlier, working very closely with our partners to ensure that after the dust of the missiles settles a bit, we get back to the longer-term priority of the missile – of the Six-Party Talks.

MODERATOR: I’ll take the next question from New York. Go ahead, New York.

QUESTION: Yes, it’s Ronda Hauben and I’m from Ohmy News International. And my question is: Is it possible that this is, in fact, not a provocative act of North Korea, but it’s a modification of its activities? Because it isn’t launching a missile; it’s saying it’s launching a satellite, and a satellite is not a missile. And so has that been considered? And has it been considered that there’s an – this is part of an effort to have the talks resume and that this should be looked at that way?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I think it’s a stretch to characterize this as part of an effort to have the talks resume. That the rest of the international community reacts adversely to a launch will come as no surprise to the North Koreans.

In our view, and this is a view shared by many others, UN Security Council Resolution 1718 prohibits any launch, whether it’s a ballistic missile or whether it’s to launch a satellite. And the reason for that is that we are concerned that even a satellite launch would advance North Korean capabilities in a way that would prove provocative and destabilizing.

MODERATOR: Okay. Here, this lady.

QUESTION: Good morning, Rosslyn Jordan with Al Jazeera English. Much was made during the last administration about the efforts between the United States and China to put positive pressure on Pyongyang. What can you say about a similar relationship in order to make Pyongyang back away from this planned launch?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I would only say that we’ve been working very closely and productively with the Chinese, and I think that that line of cooperation will continue. We share a broad range of common interests with regard to the region and particularly with regard to North Korea.

MODERATOR: Okay. The gentleman in the middle.

QUESTION: Hawon Lee, Washington correspondent for South Korea newspaper Chosun Ilbo. When – could you – according to the formula within the Six-Party Talks and bilateral talks in the Obama Administration, it seems that there are some concerns that having bilateral talks by you will weaken the Six-Party Talks.

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: The Six-Party Talks, we believe, must be at the center and forefront of our efforts to deal with the issues of North Korea and their nuclear program. So that will not change. We will continue to have bilateral contacts with the North Koreans. And we are prepared to open that channel at any point. Now I don’t think that bilateral contacts of the sort, that have occurred in the past, and that, I believe, will occur in the future, weaken the Six-Party process. I think, indeed, that it is possible they will strengthen the Six-Party process.

And I would note that during the last administration in Washington, many of our partners and allies were urging that we have bilateral contacts with the North Koreans. And indeed, in the last couple of years of that administration, we did have bilateral talks, and they proved to be quite useful.

MODERATOR: Microphone.

QUESTION: My name is Alison Smith. I’m with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I’m curious to know what real leverage, what real pressure can be brought to bear on the North Koreans at this point. There’s an assessment that, in fact, their brinksmanship is working and that they have little to lose by firing off this missile. So what real leverage, what range of options do you have to pressure them not to do so?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: In my experience in dealing with North Koreans, pressure is not the most productive line of approach. You have to combine pressure with incentives and I think we are in a position to begin doing that.

QUESTION: What are the incentives?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I would rather not get into the incentives at this point, just to say that I think there are things that we can provide and do that the North Koreans would find positive.

QUESTION: My name is Hyunju Yi from KBS, Korean Broadcasting System. And you have emphasized the visiting schedule through the -- Pyongyang several times, including Hillary Clinton, and she also mentioned about regret about North Korea’s reject of – for the invitation to North Korea. But what could be the agenda you can talk with North Korean authority when you are allowed to visit there?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Well, I think there’s a wide range of issues that we would have on any agenda, and it would be on their agenda as well, having to do not only with the denuclearization issue, which is of course foremost in our thinking, but also with what might be required to normalize the relationship between the DPRK and the United States.

And one further point: how we can facilitate North Korea’s accommodation, integration into the region, which is another, I think, very important question.

MODERATOR: The gentleman in the front here. The microphone, please.

QUESTION: Mike Lavallee from TBS. You keep on saying that everybody wants to get back to the Six-Party process as soon as possible, but as you said, there has to be consequences if they fire off this missile. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect some cooling-off period after – if they do go ahead and fire off this missile?

And secondly, North Korea will most – if there are consequences, North Korea will mostly go into a mode of escalation. Are you confident that you can stop that escalation? Are you concerned about escalation, if there are consequences after this?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: First of all, I’m not in any way predicting that they will go into a mode of escalation. They might. They might not. I’ll come back and simply reiterate that in the period after the launch, we will be coordinating very closely with our partners to determine what steps would be most appropriate.

I think we all share the long-term objective of a negotiated, verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula. That is not going to disappear as a result of the missile launch. It complicates the equation, without question. And it may be that a cooling-off period is the inevitable result. I don’t know. I’m not predicting that. I still hope that they decide not to launch the missile.

QUESTION: Is that realistic?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Realistic or not realistic, it’s still my hope.

MODERATOR: Okay. I’ll take a question from New York next.

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Joe Geni of Yomiuri Shimbun. Regarding consequences for North Korea after – assuming they do go ahead with the launch, could we see the U.S. seeking enforcement of existing sanctions under 1718, either through further Security Council action or through multilateral action with our partners?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Again, I’m reluctant to get into that question, because I do not want in any way to prejudice the outcome of the discussions that are going to be underway in New York at the UN. That’s a question that at an appropriate time you might address to the UN, to the U.S. Mission to the UN.

MODERATOR: Okay. The gentleman in the back there.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yonhap News Agency, South Korea. Some say you may not be able to focus on (inaudible) North Korea because your job as special representative is part-time. What do you think? Also, North Korea rejected the offer – proposal to visit Pyongyang in February. What does that mean?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Well, the part-time issue is not, for me, an issue. I have committed to devote as much as time as is necessary to this position, and I have been doing so. I think that the two roles that I have are very compatible, one with the other, so I’m not concerned about the part-time issue. And I think I’ve demonstrated to our partners that I am accessible, I’m available, I can -- I’m able to travel, whatever.

And the second question you had was?

QUESTION: North Korea rejected your proposal to visit Pyongyang in February. What does that mean?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I don’t think it means anything. So – I’ve been there actually, in February, in the first part of February, in a private capacity before I was appointed to this position. So I don’t think that my – the fact that I did not visit there in early March is relevant at this point.

MODERATOR: The lady here. Sorry, could you pass the mike?

QUESTION: Bagya from the Straits Times, Singapore. Do you think the hardliners have the upper hand in North Korea now?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I think I know relatively little -- in fact, very little about who’s hard line, who’s soft line in North Korea. And you know, my view is that we must deal with North Korea as we find it, not as we would like it to be.

QUESTION: Thank you. Nami Inoue from Tokyo Broadcasting System. Once you get back to the Six-Party Talks, how would you try to put together the verification protocol which the North Koreans have been rejecting? Are you -- do you have any different tactics or new ways to construct the verification protocol?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: We’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to that question. We’ve been discussing it very intensively with our partners. I think we have some ideas about how this could be done. Our immediate goal, of course, is to complete so-called phase two of the process, and move on to phase three of the dismantlement phase. And I’m quite confident that with some intense negotiating and diplomatic activity, we can get over that question.

MODERATOR: This lady here.

QUESTION: Kim Ghattas from the BBC. Ambassador Bosworth, when were you appointed, just over a month ago, you seemed to indicate that you believe the North Koreans were willing to engage with a new administration in the United States. And yet, now you are still waiting for an invitation to visit Pyonyang. Is the task proving much more difficult than you expected? How frustrated are you?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: I’ve been dealing with North Korea on and off for 15 years or so. And I’ve long since suppressed my tendency toward frustration. I think that what is required is patience and perseverance. I think with patience and perseverance, we can make progress. So I’m not really frustrated. There are times in a negotiation process with the North Koreans where everything just stops for a time.

MODERATOR: Okay. The gentleman in the back.

QUESTION: Libo Liu, Voice of America, Mandarin Service. Ambassador, what’s China’s position on the North Korea launch that is related to you? Thanks.

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: As I understand the Chinese position as explained to me by the Chinese Government, they have taken a very strong position that this is an act of provocation and that it should not occur.

MODERATOR: Okay. In the back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Korean newspaper. My question is about the journalists that were detained by North Korea recently. So I wonder who are in charge of this issue in Department – State Department or U.S. – or Obama Administration? Are you also in charge of this issue of the journalists who are detained?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Well, let me just comment – to just say briefly, there is no higher priority for American foreign policy and the Department of State than the protection of American citizens abroad. We have been working with the Government of Sweden who, as you know, represents U.S. interest in North Korea, and we will continue to do that. We are fully engaged with the Swedes diplomatically.

As to who is responsible for that particular problem within the bureaucracy, there are a lot of us who are responsible for that, starting with the Secretary of State and going down from there. As I said, there is no issue on which we give higher priority than the protection of American citizens.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Kaori Arioka with NHK Broadcasting Corporation. Ambassador, are you willing to start the missile talks – I mean, missile negotiation with North Korea? And if so, would you rather do it in a Six-Party context or, I mean, rather separately from the denuclearization issue?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Well, I don’t want to get too much into the details, but I think it’s – the current situation demonstrates quite effectively why it’s important for us to engage with North Korea on the subject of missiles. As you will recall, this was a topic that was under discussion at the end of the Clinton Administration. And we had made substantial progress – did not have an agreement, but we had made progress. We think it’s time to come back to that. Obviously, we think that it’s a subject that requires discussion, negotiation, as to precisely how it would be handled within the Six-Party process, I’m really not able to say right now. This is something on which we’ve been consulting with our partners. And I think we will work out an acceptable approach.

MODERATOR: We’re going to have time for about two more questions. I’ll start here and then go back.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Jimkule Kim with Radio Free Asia. I know you went to the Capitol Hill last Wednesday to brief on North Korean issues. And as you know, some of the U.S. congressmen and senators have urged that U.S. should intercept North Korea missile. How much are you concerned about those opinions on the North Korean missile launch – those so-called hardliners?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: We had very useful consultations on the Hill with the House leadership and then with staff directors on the Senate side. I found a considerable amount of support for the approach that the U.S. is taking.

MODERATOR: The next question. This gentleman here.

QUESTION: Ambassador, I was wondering if you could comment a little on how the negotiating tactics might have changed for you with the Obama Administration coming in? And conversely, also, do you feel there’s been any change in reaction from the North Koreans in how their response may have altered over the last few months?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Well, I wasn’t here in the last administration, so my point of reference is not all that clear. But I think I would say that clearly the Obama Administration is committed to diplomacy to solve problems of this sort. That does not mean that it is a diplomacy without strength. My own view is that diplomacy is most useful when it reflects strength and that will be our effort in this negotiation.

And the second part of your question?

QUESTION: Has North Korea changed its response in any way?

AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Oh, I don’t know. We’ll see. I would hope that perhaps they are little less difficult than I’ve found them in the past, but my expectations are well under control. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Thank you all for coming. Ambassador.

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