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Meeting on nuclear talks possible in Dec - report
Updated: 2005-12-07 13:31

The United States has proposed that informal talks by chief delegates to multilateral discussions on dismantling North Korea's nuclear arms programmes be held on December 19 in Cheju, South Korea, Kyodo news agency said on Wednesday.

North Korea has said a U.S. crackdown on Pyongyang's financial assets had made it impossible to resume the six-party talks, the most recent round of which broke off last month with the United States and North Korea far apart.

Seiji Maehara, head of Japan's opposition Democratic Party, was quoted by Kyodo as saying that Jim Foster, head of the U.S. State Department's Office of Korean Affairs, had told him of the proposal during a meeting in Washington.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Akira Chiba said, however, that no formal proposal had been made.

South Korea had offered to host an informal gathering on Cheju, a southern resort island, at the end of the fourth round of talks, which include Japan, China, Russia and the United States as well as the two Koreas, in September.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said on Wednesday that Seoul had been in touch with the other parties about holding talks in Cheju. No one has committed to the talks and no date has been set for the talks.

The U.S. Treasury has launched a crackdown on companies and banks accused of involvement in counterfeiting, money laundering and narcotics trafficking that Washington says finance Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

On Tuesday, commentary in North Korea's official media termed the U.S. freeze "sanctions" and demanded that they be lifted.

The United States said the crackdown should be seen as a separate issue from the six-party discussions and urged all sides to resume nuclear talks.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a news conference: "North Korea is bringing up an issue outside of the framework of the six-way talks and using it as a precondition.

"We believe this is not constructive."

In the latest diplomatic dispute between the two countries, a planned December 9-11 meeting between North Korean and U.S. Treasury officials was cancelled after what U.S. officials said were differences over the nature of the discussions.

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