SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said Wednesday it would return to nuclear
disarmament talks in an effort to get access to frozen overseas bank accounts, a
vital source of hard currency for the nation.
The North's Foreign Ministry make only indirect mention of its
headline-grabbing atomic test last month, saying in a statement that it hoped to
resolve US financial restrictions by going back to six-nation arms talks that it
has boycotted for a year.
Confirming US and Chinese reports of
the agreement Tuesday, the North's Foreign Ministry said Pyongyang decided to
return to the arms talks "on the premise that the issue of lifting financial
sanctions will be discussed and settled between the (North) and the US within
the framework of the six-party talks."
North Korean soldiers observe the
south side through binoculars at the truce village of Panmunjom in the
demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas since the Korean
War, on Wednesday, November 1, 2006. North Korea affirmed Wednesday it
would return to nuclear disarmament talks to seek a resolution of a US
campaign aimed at choking the nation's access to foreign banks.
Washington had banned transactions between American financial institutions
and Banco Delta Asia SARL - a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau -
saying it was being used by North Korea for money-laundering.
US officials also sought to rally other countries to prevent the North from
doing business abroad, saying all transactions involving Pyongyang were
suspected of being involved in counterfeiting and money laundering.
The Macau ban is believed to have blocked the North's access to some US$24
million (euro18.9 million), and is thought to have hit the country's leadership
in particular, who indulge in luxury goods like cognac and fine wines while the
vast majority of North Koreans live in poverty.
In Seoul, South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said Wednesday he
expects leaders of the countries involved to discuss the issue when they gather
in Vietnam for an Asia-Pacific summit in mid-November and that the six-party
talks were expected to take place after that. He did not indicate when.
However, South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying by
Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency that the talks could resume as early as this
Ban, who will be the next UN secretary-general, also said sanctions against
the North would remain in place until the six-nation talks make progress, and
that Pyongyang must halt all nuclear testing activity and invite inspectors to
examine its nuclear program, ITAR-Tass reported.
According to Interfax, Ban also said the international community should
provide North Korea with security guarantees and economic aid.