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US stands firm as North Korea threatens boycott
Updated: 2005-12-07 09:03

The United States refused to budge from its position of imposing financial sanctions against North Korea for counterfeiting despite Pyongyang's threat to boycott nuclear disarmament talks.

The new stumbling block to talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons drive, some analysts say, underscored possible differences in US policy over North Korea and could compound the delay in resolving the three-year issue.

North Korea warned Tuesday it would stay away from the six-party nuclear negotiations if the United States failed to lift sanctions imposed on the country for circulating fake US dollars.

It said the financial sanctions breached the spirit of a September agreement under which it agreed in principle to disband its nuclear weapons program in return for economic and diplomatic benefits.

But the US State Department said American legal action on counterfeiting "isn't a matter for negotiation" and should not be linked to the nuclear issue.

"Well, obviously, from our point of view, there's no linkage whatsoever between the two issues," Adam Ereli, deputy State Department spokesman, told reporters when asked to comment on the North Korean threat.

In September, the US Treasury Department blacklisted a bank in Macao which it accused of being a willing front for North Korean counterfeiting.

A month later, the United States blacklisted eight North Korean companies allegedly involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Pyongyang's alleged production and distribution of large amounts of high-quality fake US bills are likely funding proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the US Treasury says.

"Unrelated to the six-party talks, there are measures in the United States to take action against counterfeiting and other activities that can be used to threaten the United States pursuant to the Patriot Act," Ereli explained.

"These measures on counterfeiting and against the Macao Bank were taken as part of that legislative requirement. They're completely unrelated," he said.

The United States has "on an informational basis also made clear that this isn't a matter for negotiation," Ereli said.

"This is applying US law, and that it should be distinct from and unrelated to six-party talks."

The US State Department offered to hold a briefing for Pyongyang officials to explain why Washington had to impose the financial sanctions but North Korea -- seeking negotiations instead over the issue -- rejected the offer.

Rodong Sinmun, the North's newspaper, accused Washington on Tuesday of shunning negotiations to disrupt the six-way nuclear talks among the United States, two Koreas, Japan, Russia and China.

"It is impossible to resume the six-party talks under such provocative sanctions applied by the US upon the DPRK (North Korea)," Rodong said in a commentary carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

Indicating differences in the US administration on North Korea, Charles Pritchard, a former US envoy on the North Korean nuclear issue, said there were "two distinct US policy tracks occurring simultaneously" at present.

"What is unclear is whether or not the two tracks are well coordinated," he said.

The first track, he said, involved a "good-faith" effort by Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator to the six-party talks, who wanted in the short run a negotiated settlement taking into account "the concerns of the other players."

The other track involved UN arms control chief Robert Joseph, who was bent on cracking down on North Koreas illegal activities as well as enhancing the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative.

"The second track is in the enviable position of being able to justify its actions based solely on the illegal actions of North Korea," Pritchard said.

"Under these circumstances, it is difficult to argue within or without the administration that the second track actions are inappropriate," he said.

The nuclear standoff ignited in 2002 when the United States accused North Korea of running a secret uranium-enrichment program.

The North responded by throwing out UN International Atomic Energy Agency weapons inspectors and abandoning the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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