Nuke talks extended over funds

By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-22 07:02

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and chief negotiator Christopher Hill smiles before meeting journalists at a hotel in Beijing March 21, 2007. Talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear threat languished on Wednesday, as Pyongyang waited to receive freed funds and delegates warned time was running out to press forward a disarmament plan. [Reuters]

Talks to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free were last night extended for at least another day after the original three-day schedule expired without any agreement.

The spokesman for the Chinese delegation, Qin Gang, said all the parties were making efforts to make sure the issue of Pyongyang's money frozen in a Macao bank - a major sticking point at the six-nation talks - can be resolved.

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) insists that resolving the frozen-funds issue is a prerequisite for starting other negotiations, Alexander Losyukov, chief Russian negotiator, said yesterday.

The United States on Monday agreed to transfer the DPRK's $25 million frozen at Banco Delta Asia (BDA) to a DPRK account at Bank of China (BOC) in Beijing.

But BOC refused to accept the transfer of the funds, Xinhua News Agency quoted Losyukov as saying.

Qin said the delay is due to technical problems.

The Macau Monetary Authority said in a statement released two days ago that it would process Pyongyang's accounts in BDA "according to the instructions of the account holders".

The Republic of Korea's Yonhap news agency said the money transfer was being delayed because Macao authorities were having difficulty confirming the ownership of about 50 DPRK accounts

Chief US negotiator Christopher Hill said earlier that the current pace of the talks was slow but was confident that the BDA issue would be resolved.

The US and the DPRK delegations had a bilateral meeting on the bank account and denuclearization issues yesterday, according to Hill.

"We talked a little about the bank account issues and agreed they are technical matters," Hill said.

The scheduled three-day session that began on Monday was meant to focus on implementing a landmark February 13 deal, which called on the DPRK to shut down its nuclear facility within 60 days in return for economic aid and security assurances.

However talks stalled from Tuesday with the DPRK refusing to take further part in multi-lateral discussions until its frozen funds are transferred to BOC.

Hill said it was upsetting that no talks had taken place while the transfer issue was being resolved but added he was confident that the DPRK was still committed to the February agreement.

"We've got more than three weeks to go (for the deadline to shut down the nuclear reactor), so I do believe that we can get there with all the commitments in the 60 days."

(China Daily 03/22/2007 page1)

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