SKorea, China, Japan agree to work closely to implement North Korea nuclear deal

Updated: 2007-06-03 19:53

JEJU, - The foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan agreed on June 3 to cooperate closely with their regional partners in implementing a stalled deal on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

North Korea pledged in February to shut down its nuclear reactor by mid-April, but has refused to do so until it receives funds from a Macau bank that were frozen after the U.S. blacklisted the financial institution in 2005.

The US$25 million (euro18.6 million) in Banco Delta Asia has since been freed, but North Korea has not withdrawn it, stalling progress on its nuclear disarmament.

North Korea has demanded that the funds be transferred electronically to another bank to prove the money is now clean. But the transfer has been delayed because other banks are apparently hesitant to touch the funds, which the U.S. says are connected to money-laundering and counterfeiting by North Korea.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon called for joint efforts to resolve the financial dispute during a series of talks with China's Yang Jiechi and Japan's Taro Aso on the southern resort island of Jeju.

The parties involved in the talks _ the U.S., the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia _ "should come up with a solution that overcomes legal and technical obstacles," Song told reporters.

Song said the current impasse doesn't serve any country's interest.

The U.S. recently urged North Korea to start shutting down its nuclear reactor before receiving the funds _ a demand rejected by the North. However, North Korea has renewed its commitment to its disarmament pledge when the financial issue is resolved.

North Korea boycotted international nuclear talks for more than a year over the release of the funds, during which it conducted its first-ever nuclear test in October.


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