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North Korea insists on end to US sanctions
Updated: 2005-11-12 15:22

North Korea is insisting the United States lift sanctions against eight companies as South Korea voiced optimism the row would not sidetrack six-way nuclear talks.

"The lifting of sanctions is not something needed to keep negotiations alive, but something that should be implemented as promised," said Kim Gye-Gwan, North Korea's chief delegate to the talks.

Kim was speaking to reporters as he prepared to leave Beijing after three days of talks on his country's nuclear ambitions that also involving China, South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia.

After the talks ended Friday, Kim said it would be impossible to make progress in negotiations on dismantling its nuclear program unless Washington lifted financial sanctions against the North Korean companies.

He was referring to an announcement by the US government on October 21 that it had blacklisted eight North Korean entities as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and frozen whatever assets they had under US jurisdiction.

The action also prohibited all transactions between US citizens and the entities, the Treasury Department said.

"To lift sanctions is not something to be implemented conditionally, but something already agreed on," Kim said Saturday.

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, his nation's chief delegate at the talks, said Saturday he expected the problem could be solved.

"Both sides (the United States and North Korea) know about the problem, so I believe things will go well," Song told AFP.

Even so, North Korea's decision to raise the sanctions issue at the end of the talks Friday could threaten to bring the talks back to stalemate.

"We have seriously proposed the US should lift financial sanctions on us," Kim, the North Korean negotiator, said Friday. "We came out for negotiations because the US said it would stop its hostile policy and co-exist with us."

Aside from the US sanctions against the eight North Korean companies, operations at a bank in Macao were also recently closed down for allegedly doing business with North Korean companies, after a US investigator raised concerns of counterfeiting and money laundering.

The US delegation told the North Koreans the sanctions had nothing to do with the talks and instead restated its demand that Pyongyang immediately and irreversibly begin dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

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