WASHINGTON - The United States is prepared for serious discussion on the
financial assets dispute with North Korea but will not make concessions just to
encourage success in six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program, a senior US
official said on Tuesday.
The official, who spoke
anonymously so as not to upset six-country talks that resumed this week in
Beijing, seemed keen to dampen speculation that separate discussions on the
North's suspected counterfeiting and other illicit activities might show an
A portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung hangs
under a North Korean flag as it snows in Pyongyang, December 19, 2006.
"For there to be progress on these (financial) issues, this will have to be
met with the same seriousness of purpose on the other (North Korean) side" as
the United States is bringing to the discussions, the official said in an
interview with Reuters.
"It can't be viewed as some game where people think we're just going to make
some sort of concession -- I'm not even sure what the concession would be, how
one would even describe it -- just to get somewhere in some other negotiation,"
US pressure led the government of Macau last year to take over the Banco
Delta Asia on its territory.
US officials said the bank, now in receivership, failed to exercise "due
diligence" by handling accounts linked to Pyongyang's drug trafficking,
money-laundering and US dollar counterfeiting activities.
North Korea cited the US-led financial crackdown as a reason for its
year-long boycott of six-country negotiations aimed at persuading the country to
give up its nuclear weapons programs.
Washington's recent decision to set up a separate US-North Korea working
group to address the financial assets issue helped encourage Pyongyang's return
to the six-party talks, which resumed in Beijing on Monday.
North Korea opened the talks by asserting sweeping demands in return for
scrapping its nuclear arsenal, starting with the lifting of US financial curbs
and UN sanctions.
But the senior US official said: "They've earned this terrible
reputation, and the US government can't wave a magic wand and give them a good
His comments seemed to suggest a harder line, after Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice appeared to hint at flexibility in an interview with Reuters on
"We're not going to allow them (North Koreans) to violate our laws, but
obviously we'll look at the totality of all of this and see where we are after
the next couple of rounds" of talks, Rice said.
Although US officials have low expectations for progress, particularly on
financial assets, the senior official who spoke anonymously said the Bush
administration was making a serious effort to engage Pyongyang.
One important measure of that was the fact that the head of the US delegation
handling the financial issues is Daniel Glaser, a Treasury Department deputy
assistant secretary and internationally recognized expert on terrorist financing
and financial crimes, the official said.
"We've put a lot of effort into analyzing the (financial) issue and
approaching it in a constructive way and a serious way," he said, without
Some experts have argued that the United States could show progress on the
financial issues by agreeing to support an unfreezing of North Korean Banco
Delta Asia accounts that relate to legitimate pursuits, like cigarette
But US officials say the accounts are impossible to disentangle, partly
because Pyongyang's entire economy is driven by criminal activity and hence all
accounts are somehow tainted.