BEIJING - North Korea is refusing to back down from its demand at
international arms talks that US financial restrictions be lifted before it
dismantles its nuclear program, delegates said Wednesday.
Korea agreed to end a 13-month boycott of the talks - which also include China,
Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US - to discuss a US campaign seeking to
isolate the nation from the international banking system. Washington alleges the
North is involved in a range of illegal activity, including counterfeiting $100
bills, money laundering and selling weapons of mass destruction.
US and North Korean experts discussed the US financial restrictions for five
hours Wednesday, their second day of meetings this week that are separate from
the arms talks, but made no breakthroughs and planned no further meetings.
Daniel Glaser, the US deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and
financial crimes who is leading the American delegation, said the talks at the
North Korean Embassy were "businesslike and useful."
Glaser said he would possibly meet the North Koreans next month in New York.
"For this process moving forward to be productive and useful, it's going to
have to start focusing very, very closely on the underlying concerns of illicit
finance," he told reporters. "We hope to get to do that."
The separate, six-nation nuclear talks are to continue until at least Friday,
but negotiators said that does not mean results are guaranteed by then.
"The financial issues are a major interest for North Korea," Japanese envoy
Kenichiro Sasae said after the third day of discussions in Beijing.
Sasae pleaded with the North to put aside that issue at the nuclear talks.
"I think it is not realistic to treat the financial issue as a major block
while putting the broader discussion on hold," Sasae said.
However, the North said it would be willing to halt operation of its main
nuclear reactor and allow international inspectors "under the right conditions,"
a South Korean official said on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing
"We are focusing our discussion on what those conditions would be," he said.
At the nuclear discussions, South Korea's main envoy, Chun Yung-woo, said it
remained to be seen whether delegates could make progress by Friday on
implementing a Sept. 19, 2005, agreement in which North Korea pledged to disarm
in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
"We cannot predict that we will be able to produce a document of breakthrough
agreements after two days," he said.
"We cannot be just optimistic about the situation since this round of talks
opened after many difficulties," Chun said, referring to the long break, the
North's nuclear test and U.N. sanctions.
Earlier Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met with all
delegates and pressed them to find consensus.
"In order to realize a win-win situation, the urgent thing is to make some
plans to enact the joint statement and to realize all the commitments every
party made in the joint statement," Li said, according to a ministry statement.
"We should make concerted efforts to overcome all differences in order for the
talks to move forward and reach practical results."
Before talks began Wednesday, the main US envoy urged the sides to start
hashing out substantive details on disarmament or risk squandering the
"At this point I don't want to say I am pessimistic or optimistic," US
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters. "I just don't know
where we are going to end up or when we are going to end up."
Hill has declined to release details of any US proposals to North Korea, but
a news report Wednesday said the Americans had outlined a process in which the
North would first freeze its nuclear program, followed by inspections and
Washington would be willing to give the North a written security guarantee -
a pledge that it would not seek to topple the regime by force - as soon as the
North allows the return of international nuclear inspectors, South Korea's
Yonhap news agency said, citing "diplomatic sources" at the talks.
South Korea's Chun declined to confirm specifics, but said the ideas were
simply "an official detailed and concrete proposal" of what the sides had
North Korea's state media on Wednesday kept up its tough rhetoric against
Washington, saying US-South Korean military preparations showed "the United
States is trying to pull a dirty business against the (North) behind the curtain
"This is clear proof that it is seeking to vanquish (North Korea) with a
military strong arm, whetting its sword of aggression under the mask of
dialogue," the North's party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary
carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.