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Envoys Seek New Bank To Settle North Korea Cash Dispute

The Administration Centre of Banco Delta Asia in Macao, and no, we did not make this story up...
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 23, 2007
Negotiators are trying to find a bank outside China to receive North Korea's frozen funds in an attempt to settle a banking dispute that has stalled nuclear disarmament talks, South Korea's envoy said Friday. The United States on Monday said it had cleared the way for the release of the 25 million dollars from a Macau bank, in an attempt to move the nuclear talks forward.

But the designated recipient, the Bank of China, has refused to accept the money for fear the transaction may hurt its credit rating, said Chun Young-Woo, Seoul's chief nuclear negotiator.

"It seemed possible that the money will go to a bank in a third country by way of the BDA (Macau's Banco Delta Asia). That way, a solution is being worked out," Chun was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.

The latest round of six-party disarmament talks -- grouping the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia -- ended abruptly in Beijing on Thursday after the North refused to negotiate until it receives the cash.

The US in 2005 blacklisted BDA on suspicion it was handling the proceeds of North Korean counterfeiting and money-laundering, prompting Macau authorities to freeze the North's accounts there.

The US Treasury Department also persuaded banks in Singapore, Vietnam and elsewhere to shut down North Korean accounts -- effectively shutting the communist state out of much of the international banking system.

Chun said the communist state wants normalised relations with the international financial system, as well as its money back.

"I believe North Korea learned a hard lesson this time -- (no matter) how much other countries try to resolve the issue, there is another cruel face with the international financial world," he said.

"I believe North Korea clearly saw an aspect of this world where it will have to live in case it doesn't denuclearise."

Before leaving Beijing, Chun had said the dispute might take two or three weeks to resolve. His boss, Foreign Minister Song Min-Soon, was more optimistic.

"By next week, (the six) will resolve the Banco Delta Asia problem and discuss ways to begin the actual implementation stage of the February 13 agreement," Song told journalists.

"Because North Korea doesn't have much contact with the outside, it can be difficult even to transfer money. Likewise, there can be unexpected obstacles in the six-party talks," Song said.

Despite the recess, he said he and his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice are committed to the February nuclear accord. They discussed the money transfer issue by telephone Thursday night.

Song was also due to talk to his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing later in the day.

The six nations reached an agreement on February 13 on scrapping the North's nuclear programmes.

In the initial 60-day phase the North should shut down its Yongbyon reactor by April 14 and invite UN nuclear inspectors in exchange for 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.

In the next phase, for which no time limit has been set, it should declare and disable all of its nuclear programmes in exchange for 950,000 more tonnes of oil or equivalent aid, as well as political and economic benefits.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US Troops Would Have Defended Themselves Against Iran
London (AFP) Mar 26, 2007
American naval personnel would have defended themselves against Iranian forces, who seized 15 British sailors and marines last week, were they faced with a similar situation, a US commander said in an interview published Monday. Speaking to The Independent daily, Lieutenant-Commander Erik Horner, second-in-command on the USS Underwood in the Gulf, said the British personnel had "every right in my mind every justification to defend themselves."







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