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Macau Authority Denies North Korea-Linked Bank Accounts Unfrozen

French authorities let NKorean ship go after fruitless inspection
Mamoudzou, Mayotte (AFP) Nov 21- A North Korean ship held for 10 days in port in this French island in the Indian Ocean for an extended arms inspection was allowed to leave Tuesday after nothing was found, authorities said. The vessel, a cement freighter called An Nok Gang, had been detained in the port of Longoni under a UN resolution which declared an arms embargo on North Korea following its October 9 nuclear test.

The ship had arrived November 11 from Indonesia to discharge 3,500 tonnes of the 8,500 tonnes of cement it was transporting. French authorities came aboard almost immediately to conduct the inspection. Mayotte's prefecture, or governor's office, said no UN infraction was detected and the ship was free to continue its itinerary in the Comoros archipelago.

France's foreign ministry has said it is being vigilant about cargo transported by North Korean ships, as well as vessels coming from or going to North Korea. Mayotte is the only island of the Comores island chain to remain French after the former colony gained independence in 1975.

by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Nov 21, 2006
Macau's Monetary Authority denied on Tuesday a news report that China had unfrozen some North Korean accounts in the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA). "Up until now, we don't have such information. From what we can see, the assets remain frozen," Henrietta Lau, deputy director of the authority's banking supervision department, told AFP.

"I'm not sure where the source of information came from," she said.

BDA would not comment on the report.

On Monday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Beijing, apparently with the understanding of the US, had unfrozen some accounts at BDA in an apparent bid to make progress on the upcoming nuclear disarmament talks.

BDA, which the US said North Korea had used to launder and counterfeit money, had been a major sticking point in negotiations with Pyongyang.

But US envoy Christopher Hill, who met with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing Tuesday for setting a date for the resumption of six-party negotiations with Pyongyang, also said he found no confirmation of the report. "I found no confirmation of some of these press reports of changing the BDA account," he told reporters before flying back to Washington.

Similar comments were made by Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

"We haven't heard of any relevant information," Jiang said. "On the financial sanction issue, the Macau Special Administrative Region and relevant parties are currently carrying out investigations and we support the Macau authorities in handling this case according to law. "We hope the relevant parties can bear in mind the overall interest of the six-party talks and the denuclearisation of Korean peninsula and handle this issue properly," she added.

North Korea boycotted the six-way talks for almost a year in protest at the US Treasury decision to blacklist the bank, which held North Korea accounts containing some 24 million dollars.

North Korea on October 31 agreed to return to the talks, weeks after it tested its first nuclear bomb, on the condition that the financial curbs be "discussed and settled" within the framework of the talks.

On Tuesday, Hill said the six-nation forum, which involves the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia, are likely to restart in the middle of December.

earlier related report
Talks on NKorea nukes likely to restart next month: US envoy
Beijing (AFP) Nov 21 - The stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program are likely to restart next month, the chief US envoy to the negotiations said here Tuesday after meeting with his Chinese counterpart.

"I believe we will have the six-party talks probably in the middle of December," US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters here before flying back to Washington.

Hill gave his relatively optimistic timeframe after meeting with China's chief negotiator to the talks, vice foreign minister Wu Dawei, for more than four hours in Beijing.

"I came up to talk with my counterpart about the preparations for the six-party talks and see how we'd like to proceed and we had very good discussions on that," Hill said.

The six-nation talks, first launched in 2003 in an effort to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, broke down a year ago when Pyongyang walked out in protest at US financial sanctions against it.

North Korea then joined the global nuclear club by conducting its first atomic test on October 9.

But North Korea surprised the world again when it agreed on October 31 to return to the six-nation forum -- which involve the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

That breakthrough came after a day of secret meetings in Beijing between Hill, China's Wu and North Korea's envoy to the talks, Kim Gye-Gwan.

In those meetings, North Korea and the United States agreed the sanctions issue would be discussed within the six-nation forum.

But negotiators have struggled to fix a date for a resumption, with China and the United States calling for the talks to start as soon as possible.

Hill said it was vital that once all sides returned to the talks that preparations were in place to ensure progress in the negotiations.

"The most important thing is that we are well planned," he said.

To that end, Hill said meetings held on the sidelines of last weekend's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in Hanoi had been constructive.

"This is part of the process of getting very well prepared," he said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters on Tuesday that Wu and Hill had "in-depth exchanges" on the six-party forum, but declined to give specifics about a timeframe for a resumption.

"We still believe the six-party talks are the most effective mechanism to solve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue," Jiang said.

South Korean media said Kim was also scheduled to be in Beijing on Tuesday to meet with Hill and Wu, however both the Chinese and US sides made no mention of the North Korean envoy's presence.

Hill and China's foreign ministry also brushed aside a report by South Korea's Yonhap news agency that Beijing had unfrozen some North Korean accounts in a Macau-based bank blacklisted by Washington.

The agency quoted a diplomatic source in Beijing as saying China unfroze some accounts of North Korea-based companies in Banco Delta Asia, apparently with the understanding of the United States.

Macau's Monetary Authority denied the report, while Hill said Wu had given him no indication during their meeting on Tuesday that the accounts had been unfrozen.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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North Korea Cannot Miniaturise Nuclear Weapons
Seoul (AFP) Nov 20, 2006
North Korea's nuclear test last month was only partially successful and it cannot yet miniaturise atomic warheads, South Korea's next spy chief said Monday. "It succeeded in making a nuclear explosion but did not succeed in (conducting) a complete nuclear test," Kim Man-Bok, director-designate of the National Intelligence Service, told parliament.

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