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Exploratory Talks in Geneva Seek to Determine if North Korea is Serious About Fulfilling its Commitments
October 20, 2011

Excerpt from Transcript of Daily Press Briefing

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 19, 2011


Excerpt from TRANSCRIPT:

1:02 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: Welcome to the State Department. A few things at the top:

First of all, I can finally announce some of the news that I know some of you have been waiting – anxiously awaiting, and that is that an interagency team of U.S. officials will meet with a North Korean delegation led by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan in Geneva on October 24th and 25th. Excuse me. This is a continuation of the exploratory meetings to determine if North Korea is prepared to fulfill its commitments under the 2005 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks and its nuclear – international obligations as well as take concrete steps toward denuclearization. And as always, we’re going to remain in very close coordination with the Republic of Korea, as well as other partners, as we move forward.

On a related note, after two and a half years, we regrettably announce that Ambassador Stephen Bosworth has decided to step down from his position as special representative for North Korea policy following the October 24th and 25th talks in Geneva. As you all know here, Ambassador Bosworth is a storied diplomat and a dedicated public servant. He has an exceptional record of public service, of government service, including his role as special representative, which helped advance our North Korea policy. We applaud him, not just for his service as special representative, but also for a truly remarkable career devoted to serving our country.

Ambassador Bosworth will be succeeded by Ambassador Glyn Davies, who is currently our ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, and has previously served as principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, as well as at the National Security Council, among other very important diplomatic assignments. It’s important to stress this is a change in personnel, not a change in policy. And our goal is to ensure a smooth transition and to reinforce the continuity in U.S. policy toward North Korea. Ambassador Bosworth is going to lead the delegation to the meetings in Geneva as well as introduce Ambassador Davies to the DPRK delegation.

I do want to add that Clifford Hart will replace Ambassador Sung Kim as special envoy to the Six-Party Talks, and he’ll work under Ambassador Davies and have the lead on day-to-day engagement with Six-Party partners. Robert King will continue to serve as special envoy for North Korean human rights and will also work under Ambassador Davies and have the lead on human rights and humanitarian affairs.

I’ll take your questions with that.

QUESTION: Before we talk about the personnel, just on the talks —

MR. TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: — what do you hope to accomplish specifically at this meeting next week, and what type of concrete steps are you hoping to see from North Korea?

MR. TONER: Well, as you know, Brad, this is the next meeting in a series. We had the meeting in New York in July, and that followed on several meetings between the DPRK as well as the Republic of South Korea. We’ve said before that we’re open to talks. These are exploratory in nature, like the one in New York.

We want to see if North Korea is indeed prepared to take steps to fulfill its commitments under the 2005 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks, and we want to see it take steps toward denuclearization. I’m not going to give specifics on what those steps are, but what we want to see is a seriousness of purpose. We’re not going to, as we’ve said many times, reward North Korea just for returning to the table, nor give them anything new for actions they’ve agreed to take. But we want to see, as I said, signs that they are committed to moving the process forward.

QUESTION: And just one more: Three months ago, you said that you were open to these talks when – right before you went to New York, but you said you wouldn’t have talks for talks’ sake. What has happened between then and now that has prompted you to seek another set of talks?

MR. TONER: Again, we don’t want to get into the substance of these negotiations as they go on – or these talks, rather. These are – I would insist and maintain these are exploratory. We did feel – and I think we said after New York that we felt – that there was a good atmosphere there, and that we saw enough to have another round of talks.

QUESTION: Yeah. Just on Bosworth himself —

MR. TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — why did he step down at this point?

MR. TONER: I mean, certainly, you’ll have to – it’s best to talk to Ambassador Bosworth. He’s – he is – he has been in this job for nearly three years and he does have significant responsibilities in his job at Fletcher – the Fletcher School at Tufts University, so I think he wanted to focus on that.

QUESTION: Is there a concern that perhaps we need somebody who’s more Washington-based, somebody who’s going to devote – make this more of a full-time position than a part-time?

MR. TONER: Not at all. Again, I think this was a personal decision on the part of Ambassador Bosworth. Our – as I said, our priority here is to continue on the same policy track that we’ve been, and we believe that Ambassador Davies provides that kind of continuity.

QUESTION: And who’s going to – is Robert going to take over in Vienna, then, for (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: That’s a good question. I would assume he’d at least be a chargé.

QUESTION: A chargé, okay.

QUESTION: How many —

MR. TONER: Robert Wood he’s referring to —

QUESTION: How many U.S. —

MR. TONER: — who was formerly in this job.

QUESTION: How many U.S. delegations attended the meeting?

MR. TONER: How many in the U.S. delegation? I don’t have a number for you. (Cell phone rings.) You can get that. (Laughter.) I don’t have a number, sorry. And we’re not likely to give a full breakdown. But as we said, it’ll be led by – sorry – it’ll be led by Ambassador Bosworth, and he’ll, in fact, take that opportunity to introduce Glyn Davies as the new special representative to the DPRK delegation. And again, that just underscores the kind of continuity that we’re seeking to achieve here.

QUESTION: Do you think Six-Party Talks will resume within this year?

MR. TONER: Within the D.C. area?

QUESTION: This year.

QUESTION: This year.

MR. TONER: Oh, I’m sorry. Within this year.


MR. TONER: I apologize. Didn’t hear you correctly. Look, it’s impossible for us to say. As I just told Brad, we had those initial set of talks in New York. We still feel that they’re best characterized as exploratory this time around. We’re still seeking firm signs that the DPRK is serious about engaging in talks and fulfilling its commitments, so let’s just let these happen and judge from there.

Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Who’s going to be in that? What are —

MR. TONER: I’ll try to get a breakdown for you on that.

QUESTION: I know you said that this is – that there’s continuity of policy, but is there a sense that with a new team there, with new people there, that this will give more momentum to the talks going forward in particular?

MR. TONER: Well, I would just say that Ambassador Glyn Davies is, again, a seasoned diplomat, has a tremendous amount of relevant experience that he brings to the job, and as well as high energy and a commitment to the job. So he’s an excellent choice, and we’re – I would just stress again that there’s – this is going to be a seamless transition.

QUESTION: Do you have to send his – do you need a confirmation to – for Mr. Davies from Congress?

MR. TONER: That’s a fair question. I don’t believe we do. No.

QUESTION: Who else is attending the meeting?

MR. TONER: If that changes, I’ll let you know. Or if I get different information, I’ll let you know, but I don’t believe we do.

QUESTION: So he’s official day one, today? From today he’s official, he’s taking over? No, no. Sorry.

MR. TONER: No. They’re going to go to –


MR. TONER: Ambassador Bosworth is going to lead the delegation to Geneva. I don’t know when exactly the switchover date is.


QUESTION: And who else is attending the meeting, Ambassador King, Clifford Hart?

MR. TONER: Again, I’ll try to get you more details on the delegation that will be going there.

Yeah. Go ahead, in back.

QUESTION: Mark, doesn’t this —

MR. TONER: You want to know – sorry?

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

MR. TONER: I would imagine Clifford Hart would attend. I would – I’ll find out about Ambassador King.


QUESTION: North Korea always seemed to want a direct dialogue with the United States, and this appears to – this process we have unfolding appears to give them that. Are you, in a way, sort of downplaying the Six-Party aspect of this now?

MR. TONER: Not at all. And let me be clear again, if I wasn’t before, that we’re not seeking to reward North Korea in any way by holding these talks and we certainly don’t want to have talks just for the sake of talking. We want to see, again, as I said before, a seriousness of purpose and a commitment to moving this process forward; to taking the steps that they’ve already committed to take. I think, as I said before, we saw enough in New York that led us to believe a second round would be useful.

QUESTION: Mark, why are you calling these exploratory again? If you’ve already had one exploratory, and as I gather, you want clear commitment from the North Koreans, that seems to go well beyond exploratory.

MR. TONER: Well, again, I just – these are – I don’t know how to characterize them otherwise. They are not – as David said, they’re not part of the Six-Party process. But we’re seeking to see if there’s enough movement on the part of the DPRK to lead to further and broader talks.

QUESTION: But you’re looking for them to go beyond where they were in your initial talks.

MR. TONER: Indeed. I mean, we’re looking for more progress. We’re always looking for more progress.

QUESTION: To follow on the Six-Party aspect of this, have you heard from any of the other parties to the Six-Party Talks whether they view this step as worthwhile and —

MR. TONER: We’ve been – obviously we had the South Korean president here last week, and we’ve been consulting closely with South Korea throughout, as well as the other partners. So they’re —

QUESTION: Russia and the others?

MR. TONER: Russia and Japan and others.


MR. TONER: Yeah. China, of course.

Yeah. Go ahead.


MR. TONER: Are we switching topics?

QUESTION: Yeah. To Venezuela.

MR. TONER: Let’s finish with North Korea first.
Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) what is going to be the top priority this time? Even though you say you might not come with a real substantive talks, is uranium, of course, going to be one of the top priorities?

MR. TONER: Well, I do think they’ll be substantive talks. I think we’re very clear what we’re looking to see, which is a commitment on the part of North Korea to fulfill its commitments. There was the 2005 joint statement of Six-Party Talks that it committed to do, as well some of its international obligations that have been spelled out by the UN Security Council. So we’re going to look for those steps for movement on those pieces.

QUESTION: And – I’m —

QUESTION: Where in Geneva is this going to take place?

MR. TONER: I don’t know.

QUESTION: And another thing about the timing of this – we shouldn’t read into why it happened just now? Is it like purely from – should we understand this happened right now because he decided to step down?

MR. TONER: I’m sorry. You’re saying that —

QUESTION: I’m saying why —

MR. TONER: — we’re saying — your question

QUESTION: — why this is happening right now. Is there anything – any reason behind this, other than Mr. Bosworth decided to step down now?

MR. TONER: No. There’s no – I mean, they’re not connected in that way. We view this as an opportunity for Ambassador Bosworth to lead this delegation, as I said, to introduce Ambassador Glyn Davies to the North Korean delegation. And that, in our view, allows for us to really maintain that continuity of policy.

QUESTION: Change? Change of subject?

MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead. Oh, that’s right. And then I’ll get to you, (inaudible).

QUESTION: It’s a different subject.


QUESTION: Just briefly, food aid – I mean, that’s been something that Ambassador King, when we went to North Korea, talked about.

MR. TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: There’s been no —

MR. TONER: I don’t have any updates. I’ll try to see if there’s been any updated information on that.

QUESTION: Is it something that potentially could come up in Geneva?

MR. TONER: Again, I’m not aware that it’s going to come up in Geneva, but I’ll certainly check on that.

I promised her, and then I’ll get to you guys. Sorry. Go ahead.