Briefing on Washington Visit of North Korean Official
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
October 5, 2000
BRIEFING BY COUNSELOR OF THE DEPARTMENT AMBASSADOR WENDY SHERMAN
AND SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE KOREAN PEACE TALKS AMBASSADOR CHARLES
ON THE VISIT OF A HIGH-LEVEL NORTH KOREAN OFFICIAL
October 5, 2000
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Good morning, everyone. I see you have all left the front
seats empty, I guess in honor of our colleagues who are traveling with
the Secretary today. But let me take this opportunity to welcome you
to the State Department on this fine Thursday, October the 5th. As you
are all aware, we have with us today Counselor of the Department,
Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who is also Special Advisor to the President
and Secretary of State for North Korea Policy, to brief us on the
upcoming visit to Washington of Vice Marshall Jo Myong Rok, the first
Vice Chairman of the National Defense Committee of the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea. That visit will take place October 9
through 12. We also have Ambassador Charles Kartman, our Special Envoy
for Korea in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs.
We will have some brief remarks from Ambassador Sherman, and then we
will take your questions. This is a briefing on the record, so you may
indicate the briefers. We will try to have some senior officials after
the formal, on-the-record briefing is done, some senior officials here
for any additional questions, so you may want to stay after the
formal, on-the-record briefing is done.
With that, I'll turn it over to Ambassador Sherman. Thanks.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Thank you. Thank you all for coming this morning.
I wanted to say a few words to frame this visit for you, and then I
would be happy to take a few questions.
The high-level visitor, Vice Marshall Jo Myong Rok, is the first Vice
Chairman of the North Korean National Defense Commission. He is here
as a Special Envoy sent by DPRK leader Chairman Kim Jong Il. He will
be accompanied by first Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju.
You will recall that former Secretary of Defense Perry and I visited
Pyongyang in May 1999. That June, Dr. Perry, on behalf of President
Clinton, conveyed to the DPRK an invitation for it to send a senior
official to Washington. The North Koreans proposed during our most
recent round of talks in New York, conducted by Ambassador Kartman and
others, that First Vice Chairman Jo and first Vice Foreign Minister
Kang make the trip.
We followed the Pyongyang visit in May by issuance of the Perry
report, in which Dr. Perry recommended that we accelerate the
normalization of relations with the DPRK as Pyongyang addressed our
concerns, including missile and nuclear issues.
In the spirit of the Perry report, we conducted a series of
negotiations with the North Koreans, led on our side by Ambassador
Kartman, in the course of which the North Koreans pledged not to
conduct long-range missile tests during our talks, and the US eased
economic sanctions on North Korea, some of which had been in place
since 1950 - some economic sanctions.
Vice Marshall Jo's visit, of course, takes place in the context of
dramatic improvements in the North-South dialogue since the very
historic June summit between President Kim Dae Jung and Chairman Kim
Secretary Albright will be first Vice Chairman Jo's Washington host.
The first Vice Chairman will arrive in Washington on October 9th. The
Secretary will lead substantive talks with the North Korean delegation
during the visit, and I will conduct talks as well.
On October 10th, First Vice Chairman Jo will pay a call on Secretary
Albright and then meet with President Clinton. The Secretary will also
host a dinner for our guest and his delegation the evening of October
10th here at the State Department. The First Vice Chairman will meet
with Secretary of Defense Cohen on October 11th.
We have coordinated our approach to this visit very closely with our
allies, most importantly, of course, the ROK and Japan, and we will be
conducting a trilateral coordination meeting this coming Saturday to
further deepen our consultations.
We hope this visit will improve communication between our two
governments, and set the stage for further progress in US-DPRK
I'm happy to take your questions. And would you tell me who you are? I
would appreciate that. Thank you.
Q: I'm writing for a Japanese daily newspaper called Sankei Shimbun.
Could you kindly tell me -- Ambassador, could you kindly tell me how
far you can make progress on the state-sponsored terrorism issue? Do
you think that you can make progress to the point where you can remove
North Korea from that list?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Ambassador Mike Sheehan, who is our Coordinator
for Counter-Terrorism, did conduct another round of terrorism talks in
New York with Kim Gye Gwan, who was in New York for the talks with
Ambassador Kartman. They were very substantive and useful discussions,
as have Ambassador Sheehan's previous rounds with the North Koreans,
and I personally am very hopeful that, in the coming days we will make
some progress on this very critical and difficult issue.
The North Koreans are very well aware of the steps that they must
take, and our law is very clear about what is required, so I hope that
we can make some progress toward the ultimate objective.
Q: I apologize if you covered this in your statement. No one told us
that you had begun. Anyway, I'm just wondering if you could tell us a
little bit more, logistics-wise, about the trip, especially because
this is an unprecedented visit. I think I'm correct in that there has
never been a North Korean official in Washington before.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: He is the highest-level North Korean to come to
the United States, and the first such visit in Washington.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: As far as I know, yes.
Q: Okay. So what is being done? What are you all planning on doing to,
you know, kind of mitigate the "stranger-in-a-strange-land" feeling in
terms of making them, you know, feel at - you know, they have no
embassy here, they've never been here, they don't know what it's like.
What are you doing to ease the shock - and perhaps that's the wrong
word - especially given the fact that, to put it diplomatically, the
North Koreans have displayed some eccentricities in the past before?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Well, I think we shouldn't overstate the comments
that you're making, because the North Koreans have a mission at the
United Nations. They are seasoned diplomats in that regard. They have
conducted talks here in the United States. And so it is not as if
there is no North Korean who has ever been to the United States and
cannot convey back to North Korea what it is like here and how
business is conducted in the United States.
With that said, we certainly want to give them every courtesy and all
the support that is appropriate under these circumstances, because
this is indeed a historic meeting, as you have pointed out.
We also want to note that when Dr. Perry and I went to Pyongyang, we
were treated extremely well. We had a large - using their terminology
- banquet in our honor the first night that we arrived, which was
quite extraordinary, including a tremendous effort at some Korean
entertainment, that gave us a sense of the culture of their country.
We were taken to some of the important sites in North Korea. We were
put up at a guest house by the North Koreans, and were put in a
motorcade and treated with tremendous courtesy. So we certainly want
to reciprocate in that manner and provide support.
My colleagues have noted to me that Kim Gye Gwan and other North
Korean officials have been in Washington in the past, Matt. But this
is the highest level North Korean to ever come to Washington. So we
will - as has been noted in my opening statement, there will be an
opening meeting with the Secretary of State, and then a meeting with
President Clinton on Tuesday. The Secretary will be hosting a dinner
in the Ben Franklin Room on Tuesday evening.
We are finalizing the schedule, and I hope by the end of the week to
be able to give you all a detailed schedule. But I will probably host
a luncheon for them on one of the days. We hope that there is an
opportunity for at least some of the delegation to, at least by car,
see some of the sites in Washington. Obviously, (we've) also noted
that they will be having a meeting with Secretary Cohen on the 11th.
And what I do want to emphasize, though, is that this is an important
visit. We want it to be a working visit. We want there to be
opportunities for discussions of the range of issues of concern to us
and of concern to them. So we want to ensure that there is time for
plenty of discussion.
Q: Do you know how big the delegation is that are coming out?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I don't think we have a final count on that yet.
Q: USA Today: When this visit was originally talked about, the North
Koreans said that they would not send a visitor - a high-level visitor
- until steps were taken to take them off the terrorist list. They
have apparently dropped this precondition, is that correct, that they
are coming without any preconditions? And, also, what are your
expectations for substantive progress on any of the issues - missiles,
et cetera - that divide us?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think one of the most important things about
this visit is that Chairman Kim Jong Il has clearly made a decision --
personally -- to send a Special Envoy to the United States to improve
relations with us. And, in fact, in their own announcement of the trip
- and Phil, I am sure, would be able to supply this to you all - they
said that during his visit to the United States he will meet and have
an important talk with President Clinton, and the Special Envoy and
his party will also meet the US Secretary of State to exchange with
her views on issues related to bilateral relations. His visit to the
US will mark an important occasion of contributing to the development
of DPRK-US relations.
So we think that it is very significant, and we are appreciative of
Chairman Kim Jong Il's decision to send a delegation to work to
Q: You didn't answer the question, though. Without preconditions?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: None that I'm aware of.
Q: It must be fairly unusual for visits to take place at this kind of
level without - in the absence of diplomatic relations - and I
wondered if you could tell us what the prospects were for an early
opening of diplomatic relations with North Korea. Could you go over
whatever steps need to be taken to make that possible?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Well, diplomatic relations is a process of steps.
It is not all of a sudden one day everything is in place. And as many
of you probably know, when the Agreed Framework was negotiated, there
is language that calls for working to normalize relations with the
United States and the DPRK, and to put steps in place to do so. And
there was considerable discussion, subsequent to that, about opening
reciprocal liaison offices. Those discussions are still under way, and
we are hopeful that, as we move forward in this process, that we can
begin to take additional steps that would move to normalize our
Q: Nikkei Newspaper, Japanese daily newspapers. Three quick questions,
Ambassador. Number one, do you expect any sort of a joint communiqué
at the end of the talks end of the visit? Number two, do you expect
any clear commitment of their stopping missile development? Number
three, do you expect to raise the issue of the kidnap issues of
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Let me see if I can put all of these in a little
bit of context. We expect that, in these talks, we will cover the
range of issues of concern to the United States, and we would expect
the DPRK to address the issues of concern to the DPRK. And obviously,
for the United States, that will include our concerns about missiles,
and I hope that we do have some progress in that regard.
I would note that the very fact of this visit is important; is, I
believe, historic, and is an important step in improve our
relationship. We are hopeful, of course, and based on their own
announcement of this visit and the very clear decision by Chairman Kim
Jong Il to work to improve relations with the United States - that the
visit will not only do that by occurring, but that we will make some
progress on issues as well. But I think that remains to be seen. The
visit in and of itself, we feel, is an important step in addressing
our concerns, because this is a long process in which we are engaged.
Second, to the issue you raise that we know is of great concern to the
Japanese public and to the Japanese Government, we have been in
constant consultation with the Japanese Government. We have had many
discussions about the concerns regarding abductees, and we are, I
think, in great understanding with each other about how to proceed.
And we will continue those consultations in the trilateral meeting
that we will have on Saturday. And whenever we have a trilateral
meeting, we also have a bilateral meeting with the Japanese and with
the ROK as well.
And what was your third question? I've now forgotten.
Q: The second was - the first one is the communiqué. Do you expect a
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I don't know. Generally, out of such meetings,
there usually is something, and I am sure we will find some way to
express the event and the fact of the meeting. But we'll take this a
step at a time.
Q: Two questions: Will there be a joint press conference with the
North Koreans? And the second is, The New York Times about two weeks
ago had a piece, based on a Pentagon report which suggested that,
while there has been movement diplomatically, militarily things remain
very much the same, and North Korea remains as much of a menace as it
ever has been.
Do you have any comment on either one?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: In terms of press events, we hope that by the end
of the week that we can give you, as I said, a detailed schedule as
well as what the press availabilities will be. And as you all can
imagine, we have been scurrying to put together this visit. It has an
extraordinary number of details associated with it, so hopefully we'll
be able to answer your question on, sort of, how we'll do the press
and what availabilities there will be for you. So I can't answer that
In terms of the report that was issued, I think you're referring to
the report issued from the Hill - or from the GAO, was it?
Q: I thought it was a Pentagon report.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Pentagon. Oh, that's right. It was a Pentagon
report, I think, that was required by the Hill. The only comment I
would have in this setting about that is that we believe in a strong
deterrence while we work toward peace and stability on the Peninsula.
The Secretary has been very forthright, as has President Kim Dae Jung
as well, that we believe that US troops need to remain on the
Peninsula, and that it is very critical to the peace and stability of
We are not surprised that the DPRK also believes that it needs its own
version of deterrence, and we hope that as we progress that we can
deal with each other's concerns.
Q: Will confidence-building measures in the military realm be
discussed on this visit?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think that the ROK's recent meeting of defense
ministers is clearly a venue for making some of those decisions
between the South and the North. In addition, as you know, we have a
Four Party process that was put in place to reduce tension on the
Peninsula, and we all strongly endorse that process. And I think those
are two critical venues. Of course, we will talk about the range of
our concerns with North Korea as well.
Q: Jiji Press, Japanese News Agency: Could you tell us when and where
Mr. Jo will arrive in the States before visiting Washington?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Again, we will get you, hopefully, details later
this week. I realize there isn't much of the week left but, in my
view, another 24 hours is great. But we expect that he will arrive in
San Francisco before coming to Washington, and Dr. Perry has offered
to make sure that he is hosted for the brief time that he will be in
San Francisco. And we are working on those arrangements.
Q: On Sunday?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Yes, on Sunday he will be in San Francisco, and
will arrive in Washington on Monday.
Q: So that means he'll be overnighting --
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Yes, he'll overnight in San Francisco.
Q: At Dr. Perry's home?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: No, not at his home. But Dr. Perry will see him
and will make sure that he is hosted while he is there.
Q: It's sort of a two-part question. I think there is a perception
that the North Koreans are interested in a dialogue but are willing to
give as little as possible and gain as much as possible in the
process. I know you said that they are not coming with any
preconditions, but is the US prepared to offer any more aid at this
time or any more financial assistance, whether it be food or anything
And, also, the offer through Russia of the North Koreans to, sort of,
scrap their missile program in exchange for a space satellite program:
Is the US pursuing this and would they be willing to be financially
involved in some way?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think that I would refer you back to the Perry
report, and the principles set out in that report, that we believe
that we should manage this process in a step-by-step fashion, with
reciprocity in that step-by-step process, to address our areas of
concern. And that is how we will proceed: step-by-step, ensuring that
there is some reciprocity as we go forward.
I am not prepared today to say, well, here's what this package would
look like, or this package would look like, because I don't think
we're at that point in the process. We will continue our discussions
with them and hope that, in fact, we can make progress on issues of
concern to us.
Q: And can you speak at all to the offer? How serious do you think it
is, and are you pursuing it? Will you be pursuing it during this
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: As I think we have already said on the record via
the Spokesman at this podium, we find the idea that was presented by
Chairman Kim Jong Il to President Putin as an interesting one, and we
hope that North Korea will directly engage with us on its idea. And we
will see whether that emerges or not.
Q: Radio Free Asia: My question to you, Ambassador Sherman, is that
North Korea wants to be removed from the list of the
terrorism-sponsoring states, and also a US major concern is the
missile issues. Is there any way, in any manner, in any respects, that
this missile issue is linked to the removal of the list in the
negotiation in the past?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I don't think that it is useful - my answer is
that there is no proposal on the table of a fashion - that I am aware
of - of a fashion that you've just described. And I think that it is
never useful to really talk about details of negotiations or
discussions that are ongoing -- and these are ongoing discussions.
Q: One more follow-up: What has been the most difficult obstacle in
the process of negotiating with removal of North Korea from the list?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I don't think it's about a specific obstacle, or a
specific issue. I think it is a matter of understanding each other,
communicating well with each other, and trying to meet our concerns
and objectives. I think Ambassador Sheehan has done a superb job, as
has Ambassador Kartman, in helping the North Koreans to understand
what our law requires, what our concerns are, why we think that
terrorism is something that is not positive. And the North Koreans
have, in their own statements, said that they do not believe that
there is anything positive about international terrorism -- quite the
opposite. So hopefully we will be able to make some progress on this
as we move forward.
Q: The Financial Times: North Korea is already, I think, the receiver
of - one of the largest receivers of US aid of any country in the
region. Do you think the US is getting value for money there, and do
you think an improvement in relations with North Korea will come with
a further price tag?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: When people use numbers about them being the
largest aid recipients, the lion's share of that is when people
monetize our food aid. And the United States provides food aid as a
humanitarian matter. Americans do not like to see people be hungry,
and children not have enough to eat, and elderly people not be able to
sustain their final years. And so the American people and the United
States Congress, and obviously President Clinton and Secretary
Albright, have responded to the needs of the North Korean people.
Besides whatever events may occur in North Korea, there are severe
climate conditions that increase the difficulty that that population
must face, and there is not a great deal of arable land in North Korea
to grow agricultural products. So the large amount of aid is in the
form of food, and the United States has tried to - as we have
traditionally throughout our history - been responsive to World Food
Program appeals. We work through the World Food Program, because they
also monitor the provision of food to ensure that it reaches the
people for whom it is designed. And so I think that the American
people are quite proud of their generosity toward feeding people who
Our second way that we provide assistance is through our obligations
under the Agreed Framework, to provide heavy fuel oil to North Korea
while construction goes forward on light water reactors. And those are
really the two items, as well as a little bit of administrative cost
for KEDO, which operates the process of construction of the light
water reactors, that makes up our aid.
Q: I am the Washington correspondent of the 24-hour cable news network
in Korea. So, according to Country Reports on Human Rights of the US
Department of State, in North Korea the human rights situation is very
severe. So is there any possibility for President Clinton to mention
about that North Korean human rights situation? Meeting with the
Special Envoy Jo Myong Rok? And then, how do you deal with that issue
with the meeting with the Special Envoy Jo Myong Rok?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: As I think most of you know in this room, this is
an issue of importance to the United States. We deal with our concerns
about human rights with countries all over the world. This is not
particular to North Korea. You know that that Human Rights Report is a
volume about that [gestures] wide, and so we detail our concerns about
human rights in countries - in many, many, many countries. We are, of
course, concerned about it in North Korea as well and, as I said, we
will cover the range of the United States concern, including our
concerns about human rights.
Q: AFP: Could you perhaps tell us why you think this meeting is
happening now? I understand the US has been pushing for a high-level
visitor from North Korea for some time. Why is it that they have
decided that now is the right time? Could it be that they see the
approaching election and see a window of opportunity, obviously with
dealing with this administration closing?
The second question is, has there been any thought to some kind of
gesture, above the fact that the meeting is taking place but obviously
less than action on terrorism or missiles -- some kind of positive
gesture to show that relations are improving - perhaps the exchange of
liaison offices or something like that?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: In terms of why the high-level visit now, I think
because Chairman Kim Jong Il made a decision that he thought this was
the right time to work to improve the relations between the US and the
DPRK, and we obviously are pleased that he made that decision. And, as
you know, when Chairman Kim Jong Il makes such decisions, they come
with supreme authority and ability to make an improvement. We think
that obviously the historic summit between President Kim Dae Jung and
Chairman Kim Jong Il is a very critical factor in opening up to the
world. The DPRK has taken steps in regard to many countries, including
Japan, obviously, and many other countries around the world. And so we
look forward to this high-level visit and working to continue to
improve our relationship.
In terms of any specific outcome, we will have to see what happens
during the visit. But, as I said earlier, the very fact of the visit
is, in itself, a very important step forward in our relationship.
Q: Nikkei Newspaper, a Japanese business daily: As you may recall,
General Kim Jong Il told - he mentioned the possibility to stop North
Korea's missile development test launching and even exporting. And
some White House senior official told us that the United States sees
that proposal was a serious one, not a joke. And at the last New York
meeting, clearly I think Ambassador Kartman and other US officials
told their counterparts to explain North Korea's position on that -
Mr. Kim Jong Il's statement.
Number one, my question is, so could you elaborate a little bit
specifically on that point? And, also, do you expect any kind of new
development on that missile proposal made by Kim Jong Il?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think you're referring to the question that was
asked earlier about that, so I would refer you back to that Q&A.
Q: Well, the question, I think, is what did the North Koreans tell you
last week in New York on this subject, is the question that obviously
poses itself in this context.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: We expect to discuss the range of concerns that we
have. Missiles is one of them, and we expect that to be a subject of
discussion during these talks.
Q: I just wanted to follow up on this question that, after he
apparently made these remarks or relayed this message about their
missile program that, according to South Korea broadcast executives,
he said that he was joking.
I'm wondering how much weight can you put on these talks if there is
some type of agreement? And is there a concern that maybe later North
Korea will say, well, we were just joking?
MR. REEKER: Who are you with? I'm sorry.
Q: With The St. Petersburg Times out of Florida.
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: My understanding from some of our
linguists is that that, in fact, was not an accurate translation of
that comment, and that a more accurate translation of that comment was
that he was speaking "casually," not "jokingly." Whatever the reality
of that statement, we believe in our discussions that President Putin
had with President Clinton, that I had on a visit to Moscow, that
Secretary Albright had with Foreign Minister Ivanov and that Mr.
Berger had with Sergei Ivanov, the National Security Adviser, that
this was a serious idea. But it remains to be seen, and we hope that
they - if they want to pursue this, that they will pursue it with us
Q: In terms of when you say that the linguist - in terms of
"casually," meaning it wasn't a formal proposal; it was just an idea
that came to him?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: I don't know. I only tell you that,
Matt, by way of saying that I don't think that we should necessarily
focus in one any one statement in this process. We are looking for
steps that can get taken. We are looking for substance that can be
discussed. And we will look to the substance and the actions, and not
necessarily to each and every word.
Q: And just very briefly, the venue for all the meetings except for
the Clinton meeting is here at the State Department, including
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: No. Secretary Cohen's meeting will be
at the Pentagon.
Q: Okay. So there was no concern about allowing a high-level North
Korean official, a country which we are technically at war with,
inside the Pentagon?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: We are in a state of armistice.
Q: The answer is no, though, to my question?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: It's no.
RETURNING TO ON THE RECORD:
Q: There is a meeting with President Clinton, and that's here?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: No, it's at the White House.
MR. REEKER: That was in the original announcement.
Q: Yonhap News Agency of Korea: I wonder if General Jo has been
authorized to negotiate directly with the United States here in
Washington. I wonder, how much decision power does he have when he
comes here? And another thing is, how high do you expect in these
talks with General Jo?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: How what?
Q: How high are your expectations?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Oh, I see.
MR. REEKER: Let's just clarify that we are back on the record now as
Ambassador Sherman speaking.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: It is very clear that Chairman Kim Jong Il made
the decision to send Vice Marshall Jo to the United States. I think
that you all probably know enough to know that he is a very senior
official of the North Korean Government, so we expect that he is
coming here with the full authority that is behind Chairman Kim Jong
Il's decision to send him. And, as they have said in their own words,
they are having him come here, and the Chairman is having him come
here to work to improve relations. We think that is very positive.
Q: Are you going to address the issue to replace the armistice
agreement with a new peace agreement?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I think that we are in a process here of working
for peace and stability on the Peninsula. As I said earlier, central
to that are the South-North dialogue, the Inter-Korean dialogue, to
ultimately resolve the issues of the Korean people. And the United
States certainly wants to support those efforts, and we want to ensure
that our concerns are addressed in that process. It's why we not only
have very strong and very close consultations with the ROK, but with
Japan as well and trilaterally. The meeting that we are going to have
on Saturday will be the 14th time since April of 1999 that we have met
trilaterally, including a presidential trilateral and a foreign
minister trilateral. So I think that we will all work together to try
to achieve that peace and stability on the Peninsula.
Q: So what did you say? Since April -- ?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Since April of 1999, I believe is the date. All my
colleagues are shaking their head vigorously.
Q: Polish Daily Rzeczpospolita, former correspondent in Pyongyang for
many years: I would like to ask you a question --
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: And I get to talk with you. Yes, everybody?
Q: Speaking of terrorist list, I would like to ask you this question:
Why is North Korean still on this terrorist list? Because it seems
simple, but is there any evidence of North Korea being engaged in any
terrorist activities in last years, for example? Do you have such an
evidence? Or it is because it was in '87 the last example, the blowing
up of the South Korean plane, yes?
And then one more thing: In today's report, one of the conditions for
removal from the list, according to The Washington Times, is provide
evidence that it has not engaged in terrorism in the last six months.
Could you explain, I mean, because these reports are so confusing?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I would refer you to the terrorism report, that is
put out by the State Department, that details how we view each country
and why they are on our terrorism list. So that will give you the
detail of why we have Ambassador Sheehan engaged in these discussions
with North Korea.
Ambassador Sheehan has said that he believes that there are some steps
that North Korea needs to take but that, in fact, they are steps that
they could take, and that they could indeed - if they so chose - find
themselves in a position for the President to begin the process to
remove them from the US terrorism list.
The six months that is noted in that article - perhaps not as clearly
as it would need to be to explain all the details of this - is that
what the law requires is a notification of the Hill, and then a
six-month period of time to ensure that, in fact, the commitments that
a country has made stay in place, at which point they finally come off
the terrorism list. That's a simple way to explain it. I would be glad
to get you a copy of the law.
Q: The terrorism report --
Q: Are the - are the conditions correct?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: I would get the terrorism report, and I will be
glad to give you a copy of that law.
Q: But are the three conditions that were written here correct?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: The conditions that are written there are written
in a sort of strange way, so I would refer you to the terrorism report
- not that The Washington Times is not a superb paper. But I would
send you to the terrorism report and to the law itself.
Q: You have never met this guy before, correct?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: No.
Q: But Secretary Perry has?
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: No. When we were in North Korea, we did not meet
Vice Chairman Jo Myong Rok. We did have as our main interlocutor first
Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju, who we do know.
Q: Okay. But obviously you must have asked around from people who have
met him - and I don't know, maybe you can say this on background or
something - but do you know - I mean, what is - if he an affable guy?
Is he kind of like -
MR. REEKER: Why don't we take that opportunity to bring an end to our
on-the-record, formal briefing? As we promised, we have senior
officials who can speak to you on background as Senior US Official.
AMBASSADOR SHERMAN: Let me just ask one thing. Let me just ask if,
Ambassador Kartman, there is anything you wish to add on the record.
AMBASSADOR KARTMAN: No.
MR. REEKER: So let me just say that then. So we're now on background,
and we'll bring in our senior official to now speak on background.
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: Come on, come on, come on.
Q: Do we know whether this guy has ever traveled abroad?
MR. REEKER: All right, so Matt had a question.
Q: I just - I mean, you must have asked around about him to find out
what he is like, and I'm just wondering what the impression of people
who have met him is. Is he very incredibly stiff, and - or is he - or
I mean, is he - does he have kind of a softer side, like Kim Jong Il
apparently does - (laughter) - and the Foreign Minister?
Q: If I could pile on and ask what his rank is? Is he the Number
Three, or is he just sort of --
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: He is the Vice Chairman of the National
Defense Commission, which - and Kim Jong Il is the Chairman of the
National Defense Commission. So, in that sense, he is Number Two. Of
course, as you all know, Kim Yong Nam is the protocolary head of state
of North Korea, so some would, in that categorization, consider him
Number Three. I think that most people would say that he is to the
right hand of Chairman Kim Jong Il; that he is a very important and
authoritative person in North Korea.
I just asked Senior Official Number Two. To our knowledge, there
aren't Americans who have met him. I would refer you to some of your
ROK colleagues who might have some information about him. We are
trying to ask the North Koreans for some bios and information that
might be helpful to you all, and we will try to supply you with as
much information as we can.
Q: Do you know if he has ever traveled abroad in recent memory? And,
if so, where?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: My understanding is that he has spent
some time outside of North Korea, and I will have to wait to see what
facts we can put together for you.
Q: China? Russia? Any idea?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: We'll have to see what kind of bio we
can put together for you.
Q: You don't have any impression of what his personality is like at
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: I think, Matt, it would be just
speculation on our part. But he clearly is a senior person, and I
would assume that he - and he is a man with a great deal of
experience. So I would expect him to approach this - and he is coming
as the Special Envoy of Kim Jong Il to improve relations, so I would
expect there to be positive discussions and very professional
Q: There had been a question about liaison offices, which I don't
think you answered fully. This has been on the table forever. Is there
any expectation now that this sort of thing might come out of this
visit as a --
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: I'll let the person who has had many of
these discussions take a shot.
SECOND SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: Well, you're absolutely right.
That has been under discussion now for years, and it remains under
active discussion. This isn't something that has just been put in the
pigeonhole. And the North Koreans understand that improving relations
presumably includes steps to establish more regular diplomatic
representation. Now, whether this visit will be the one that uncorks
that bottle, I don't think we can predict. But they know that this is
something that is under active discussion.
Q: ... don't know - whichever of you would like to answer this, but
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: If either.
Q: If either. For so many years, the US has been kind of in more of a
- in the center of the North-South kind of dispute, if you will, and
has been more of a mediator. And now as the North-South relations kind
of warm, and the North opens up to the world, can you explain a little
bit about the shift in developing your own bilateral relationship and
how hard that is going to be outside of the context of the North-South
relationship - intentions on the Peninsula
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: Let me say a couple things, and the
other Senior Official Number Two, who has been at this a lot longer
than I have, might want to add something to that.
The United States feels very strongly that the Inter-Korean dialogue
is central to this process. And the United States obviously hopes as
we move forward to meet our concerns - and they are concerns that are
shared by the ROK, by Japan, and by the international community - to
come into the community of nations, there are certain obligations and
responsibilities, and we all share them. But I want to be really clear
that we do believe the Inter-Korean dialogue is central to getting to
ultimate peace and stability on the Peninsula.
In that context, we have worked very closely with the ROK and Japan.
When the Perry report was developed, it was developed with the ROK and
Japan, and you will probably hear leaders in both of those countries
say that they consider the Perry report as much theirs as ours. And so
everything we have done, and everything the ROK has done, everything
Japan has done, we have talked with each other about it, and we are
moving forward together in support of the Inter-Korean dialogue and
the efforts being made to reach peace and stability on the Peninsula.
SECOND SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: Well, rather than adding
anything, just to reflect a little bit: First of all, one part of your
comment I would take issue with, and that is that the United States
has never seen itself as a mediator between North and South Korea.
Having some background in all of this, I have always felt very much
that the United States was aligned with South Korea; and, in fact,
that has, to some extent, created a limit on how far our own
diplomatic efforts with North Korea could go. And it is really the
breakthrough that occurred in connection with the Inter-Korean summit
that is now making possible whatever will come, in terms of improving
the US relations with North Korea, flowing out of this visit.
Q: You said that you're not sure where he has traveled. But is this
his first trip to the West, as far as you know?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: I don't think we know the answer to
that question. I truly don't.
MR. REEKER: Well, I think as I mentioned, we will try to have copies
of the unclassified Perry report available for you.
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: Oh, yes. Absolutely.
MR. REEKER: We had given that out obviously when it was released, but
the Press Office is going to try to make that part of the packet that
they are working on for the visit.
Q: Briefer Number Two, I have sat in and heard your briefings over the
years, and you have always emphasized the necessity for low
expectations: that this is not something that was going to happen
overnight, in terms of progress with North Korea. And are you
personally surprised by the speed at which things have developed, say
over the past four or five months?
SECOND SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: I take it that you're referring
now to the summit, and everything that has occurred in terms of
Inter-Korean events, and now this --
Q: The whole gamut.
SECOND SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: These events are all things
which we had hoped to see for quite a long time, and so it is not so
much that we are surprised to see them. They are, in fact, the
objectives of what we have been spending all of our efforts on for a
long time. Now, the fact that they are all coming, one after another,
in a relatively short time says more about how long they have been
bottled up, and the sort of the pressure that has been building up
behind them than about the surprise with which we received them. I
hope that's responsive to you, George.
MR. REEKER: Can we do one more? Is there someone who has not asked a
question yet? Yes, our friend all the way in the back.
Q: It's partly a stylistic question, but since he has these dueling
titles of Vice Marshall and First Vice Chairman, should we primarily
refer to him as Vice Marshall in copy and things like that? And then,
secondly, do you have - what kind of sense can you give us of the
responsibilities of those various titles that he has?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: His title is the Vice Chairman of the
National Defense --
SECOND SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: First Vice Chairman.
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: First Vice Chairman of the National
Q: So, in copy, we should refer to him as First Vice Chairman, too?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: I think what people have been doing is
- you can do that, or people have said he is Jo Myong Rok, First Vice
Chairman, National Defense Commission, or Vice Marshall Jo, because it
is his rank.
Q: And we kind of talked about this before, and I know you are still
trying to figure it out, but what exactly, in a nutshell, does that
mean he does within the government?
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: Be my guest.
SECOND SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: First, just look back a little
bit. Those of you who have been watching the US-DPRK dialogue know
that it has been conducted - basically until Dr. Perry and Ambassador
Sherman went to Pyongyang - through a very narrow diplomatic window.
And that was one of the things that was, to be honest, a bit
frustrating to those who are conducting it. Whoever they may be.
However, now - and really for the first time - we are going to be
hearing the voice, one step removed, of Kim Jong Il himself - Chairman
Kim Jong Il. And we are going to be hearing that expressed through
someone who, without question, is a senior figure in a part of the
establishment that we have had very little - almost no - contact with.
These are very significant developments, in terms of our own dialogue
with North Korea.
Now, I think that many of the questions that I overheard this morning
kind of get at that point, and I would like to just call your
attention to who it is who is coming, who it is who is sending him,
and under what circumstances - circumstances being the incredible
developments on the Korean Peninsula itself, and the decision to
improve - the stated decision to improve relations with the United
MR. REEKER: I think that is the perfect place to end, because we are
out of time.
Q: Can you just say a trip by Secretary Albright to Pyongyang is
something you would like to see come out of this? Is it something that
you would be pushing for, or is it really not --
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: The Secretary herself, I understand,
has said on the road on this trip that she would see the potential for
a trip to Pyongyang before the end of her term, if circumstances
allow. And she - as Official Number Two and Official Number One have
both said, we are taking this in a step-by-step process.
Q: Yes, but is that something that you are going to - that you would
like to see come out - an agreement that -
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: We say it as circumstances allow, Matt,
which means we are going to take this step by step. And when we think
the time is right and the circumstances are right, then that would be
something we would consider.
Q: Well, is it something that will be discussed?
Q: In terms of protocol, could it happen in the absence of formal
SENIOR UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: The Secretary of State has already had
a bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of North Korea.
Q: But she hasn't gone.
MR. REEKER: We really need to end it there, because we are out of
time. Thank you very much.
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