China: N.Korea nuke talks back on Feb. 8

Updated: 2007-01-30 14:21

BEIJING - International talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs will resume Feb. 8, China said Tuesday, as Washington and Pyongyang began a new round of meetings over North Korea's alleged illicit financial dealings.

The president of North Korea's Foreign Trade bank Oh Kwang Chul arrives in Beijing, China Tuesday Jan. 30, 2007.
The president of North Korea's Foreign Trade bank Oh Kwang Chul arrives in Beijing, China Tuesday Jan. 30, 2007. [AP]
The duration of the nuclear discussions "will depend on the progress made during the talks," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

She said the key goal would be to take "substantive steps" toward implementing a September 2005 pact where the North Korea pledged to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees - the only agreement ever reached at the six-party talks, which include China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas.

"We hope the relevant parties can make joint efforts ... toward implementing the joint statement in a comprehensive way," Jiang said at a regular news briefing.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday that the talks were expected to end before the Chinese New Year - China's biggest holiday - that starts Feb. 18. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing Ministry policy.

Last week, envoys from South Korea, North Korea and the US held meetings with their Chinese counterpart in Beijing, a move that helped establish when the next round of nuclear talks would begin, Jiang said.

Russia's nuclear envoy said Tuesday he had cautious optimism for the talks.

"The very fact that there was agreement to hold a new round testifies to signs of small movement in the positions of the participants," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Lusyukov, who will head the Russian delegation attending the talks, was quoted by RIA-Novosti as saying. "We're going to Beijing next week with cautious optimism."

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it "expects the participating countries to produce a substantial agreement for early steps" to implement the 2005 agreement.

Meanwhile, a US Treasury official in Beijing for negotiations with North Korea over its alleged illicit financial dealings said he was "hopeful" of progress on the issue, which has stymied progress at the nuclear talks.

Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser was set to meet his North Korean counterparts Tuesday to talk about US financial restrictions, which were imposed due to Pyongyang's alleged smuggling and counterfeiting.

"We're prepared to go through these talks as long as it takes for us to get through our agenda," Glaser told reporters. "I'm hopeful we'll make progress."

Pyongyang has tied the financial and disarmament issues together since Washington took action against the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia in 2005, accusing the bank of complicity in North Korea's alleged illegal financial activity such as counterfeiting and money laundering.

The issue has caused other banks to steer clear of North Korean business for fear of losing access to the US market, thereby hampering the North's access to the international banking system.

The North says the restrictions are evidence of US hostility, and for a year Pyongyang boycotted the six-nation negotiations on dismantling its nuclear programs.

After North Korea tested a nuclear device in October, it agreed to return to the disarmament talks - as long as there were separate negotiations on the financial issues.

However, both the disarmament meetings and the financial discussions, held in Beijing in December, ended inconclusively.

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