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Officials Express Optimism After US-North Korea Financial Talks February 1, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News, World News.
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SEOUL (AP)–Financial talks between the United States and North Korea ended inconclusively, but officials expressed guarded optimism Thursday that the meetings yielded enough goodwill to prevent the issue from disrupting negotiations on the North’s nuclear program.

The discussions in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday centered on the financial restrictions the United States imposed over the North’s alleged counterfeiting of U.S. currency and money laundering. The North has denied any wrongdoing and the dispute has stalled six-party talks on the North’s nuclear program.

The top U.S. delegate to the financial talks, Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser, said late Wednesday the discussions had validated U.S. suspicions of illegal financial activity by North Korea. But he also suggested the dispute could see an end.

“I think we are now in a position after a very lengthy investigation… to start moving forward and trying to bring some resolution to this matter,” Glaser said, without saying how the dispute would be settled.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Thursday that Washington considers the financial talks “very constructive” and Tokyo hopes it will have a positive impact on the six-party nuclear talks.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official also said there was no indication that the meetings could negatively affect next week’s nuclear talks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

North Korea has claimed the U.S. financial restrictions are evidence of Washington’s hostile attitude toward it and prove it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself.

The financial row has been a key impediment to the six-nation nuclear talks – involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States – as Pyongyang refused to address disarmament unless the financial row is resolved.

The North repeated the demand during this week’s talks, according to the Choson Sinbo, a Korean-language newspaper based in Japan that has links to the Pyongyang government.

The North is “demanding that the United States show an attitude of lifting the financial sanctions and not expanding them so as to create an atmosphere for entering into discussions on denuclearization commitments” in a 2005 accord, said the report posted on the paper’s Web site seen in Seoul.

That agreement – the only ever made at the nuclear talks – calls for North Korea to trade away its nuclear programs in exchange for security guarantees and aid. But it was never implemented because of the financial row.

North Korea returned to the negotiating table in December after conducting its first nuclear test in October, but the talks didn’t achieve a breakthrough.

The North agreed in January to resume the nuclear negotiations after the United States offered unspecified concessions during rare bilateral talks in Berlin.

That has raised hopes that the next session, set to begin next Thursday, could see real progress.

There have also been media reports that Washington was considering declaring some of the North’s assets at a Macau bank as legitimate, allowing the bank to end its freeze on some of North Korea’s $24 million held there.

In Moscow, South Korea’s nuclear envoy, Chun Yung-woo, met his Russian counterpart, Alexander Losyukov, and discussed how to move the nuclear talks forward, according to Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency.

Losyukov was quoted as saying the goal of next week’s nuclear talks is draw up a “road map” aimed at carrying out the 2005 deal, the report said.

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