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North Korea Demands Money China Bank Declines North Korean Account Application

Bank of China refuses frozen North Korean funds: report
Beijing (AFP) March 22 - The Bank of China has refused to accept the transfer of frozen North Korean funds, an issue which has held-up nuclear disarmament talks with the Stalinist nation, official media reported Thursday. The bank was refusing to accept the transfer of the funds from a Macau bank account, China's Xinhua news agency said, quoting the chief Russian envoy to the talks, Alexander Losyukov. Top negotiators to the disarmament talks expressed frustration Wednesday as North Korea refused to attend a series of six-nation meetings here as it awaited the promised return of the frozen 25 million dollars.

The latest round of the talks began Monday with the United States announcing it had resolved the long-running financial sanctions dispute with North Korea that had been the major stumbling block in the forum. Washington had frozen the Macau bank account amid allegations of money laundering and counterfeiting by the North Korean regime. Macau authorities said the money would be transferred into a North Korean account, but by Wednesday the funds had yet to be delivered. The Xinhua report did not provide details on why the Bank of China was refusing the transfer. The six-nation talks involve the two Koreas, Russia, the United States, Japan and host China.

by Hiroshi Hiyama and Jun Kwanwoo
Beijing (AFP) March 21, 2007
North Korean nuclear disarmament talks stalled again on Wednesday as Pyongyang refused to come to the negotiating table until 25 million dollars in frozen funds were back in its coffers.

Planned meetings of the chief envoys to the six-nation talks on Wednesday morning did not take place, officials involved in the negotiations said, as North Korea insisted it would not talk until the money was safely returned.

"It is difficult for me at the moment to predict when the plenary meeting among the chief delegates will open today," chief South Korean envoy Chun Yung-Woo told reporters.

"It depends on North Korea... If North Korea keeps insisting that it should not take part in the discussions at all before the transfer of the money, it will be difficult to have the plenary talks."

Authorities in Macau, where the money has been frozen since 2005 due to US accusations of North Korean money laundering and counterfeiting, said this week it would be released to a North Korean bank account.

But no-one involved in the process has said when this will take place.

North Korea has repeatedly said it will not begin implementing a six-nation disarmament accord signed on February 13 until the money is safely back in its hands.

The United States announced on Monday, at the start of the latest round of six-nation talks, that it had struck a deal with North Korea to end the dispute and the frozen money would be returned.

The United States insisted that it had received assurances from North Korea that the money would be used only for "humanitarian and educational purposes," however officials from Pyongyang have not said where the funds will go.

Despite the hold-up in the talks, which have been plagued by delays and arguments since beginning in 2003, parties remained confident that the key initial steps of the February 13 accord could be implemented on schedule.

North Korea, which conducted its first atomic test in October last year, agreed in the deal to close its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon by mid-April and allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors back into the country.

In return, North Korea would initially receive 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel for energy use.

Reporting "good progress" at the talks, China's foreign ministry on Tuesday afternoon said the North had indicated it would abide by the accord.

"We found that North Korea is ready to shut down and seal the facility in Yongbyon and accept the monitoring and supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency," ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters.

Chief US envoy Christopher Hill also said on Tuesday night, after meeting with North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan for an hour, that achieving the initial phase of the agreement remained a realistic possibility.

"We are pretty much on schedule," he said.

North Korea would eventually receive one million tonnes of heavy fuel or equivalent energy aid if it permanently closed its nuclear facilities and completely disbanded its atomic weapons programme.

The six-nation talks involve China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia.

earlier related report
Frustration builds as NKorea talks extended
Beijing (AFP) March 21 - Top negotiators to the North Korean nuclear disarmament talks expressed frustration with the Stalinist nation's negotiating tactics Wednesday, as discussions were extended at least an extra day.

North Korea refused to attend a series of meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday as it awaited the promised return of 25 million dollars frozen in a Macau bank account.

With talks stalled most of Wednesday, host China called a meeting of chief delegates late in the evening to get the agreement of all sides to extend negotiations.

"At the chief delegates' meeting we decided to extend the meeting by one or two days," Japan's chief negotiator Kenichiro Sasae told journalists.

"The current situation does not seem like it is going to be resolved immediately."

The latest round of the six-nation talks began Monday on an optimistic note with the United States announcing it had resolved the long-running financial sanctions dispute with North Korea that had been the major stumbling block in the forum.

Washington had frozen the Macau bank account amid allegations of money laundering and counterfeiting by the North Korean regime.

Macau authorities said the money would be transferred into a North Korean account, but by Wednesday the funds had yet to be delivered.

North Korea, which conducted its first atomic weapons test in October last year, agreed last month to shut down its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon by mid-April and allow UN inspectors back into the country.

In return, the impoverished regime would initially receive 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel for energy use.

"We all have jobs to do. Waiting around for some forms to be filled out is not usually in our job descriptions," US envoy Christopher Hill told reporters after spending the first part of Wednesday in his hotel room.

"You cannot expect these large delegations to sit around while it is being sorted out."

Chief South Korean envoy Chun Yung-Woo said the North Koreans had taken the other negotiators by surprise.

"Nobody expected that such a problem would arise. There are some technical problems that are beyond our control," Chun said, while holding out hope that talks could progress.

"At the moment nobody is proposing to suspend the talks, even the North Koreans and the Chinese do not propose to suspend talks."

An official involved in the talks said problems included a time-consuming clearance process, as some North Korean bank account owners turned out to be already dead or not living in Macau.

Macau authorities also had to go through the strict procedures required to remit such a large amount through the international banking system, according to the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

China's Xinhua news agency reported that the Bank of China was refusing to accept transfer of the funds into one of its accounts in Beijing.

The report, quoting Russian envoy Alexander Losyukov, did not give details.

This week's round of talks was meant to consolidate the initial terms of the agreement and then look forward to a longer-term road map for complete disarmament.

But Hill earlier Wednesday said the longer-term aspects of this week's talks now looked to be off the table.

"Right now it looks like we are not going to be able to make progress on the denuclearisation issue," he said.

However, he and others voiced confidence that the key initial steps of the accord could still be implemented on schedule.

"I think (the North Koreans) have made it clear on several occasions, including yesterday, that they will live up to the February agreement," Hill said.

Reporting "good progress" at the talks, China's foreign ministry on Tuesday also said the North had indicated it would abide by the accord.

Under the deal, North Korea would eventually receive one million tonnes of heavy fuel or equivalent energy aid if it permanently shuts down its nuclear facilities and completely dismantles its atomic weapons programme.

The disarmament talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China.

earlier related report
Six-party talks on NKorea extended until March 22
Beijing (AFP) March 21 - Six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programmes will be extended until Thursday, following a five-minute meeting by chief delegates, officials said.

"The talks will be extended until tomorrow," South Korean officials told journalists late Wednesday.

The announcement comes after North Korea refused to attend a series of meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, until after it had received 25 million dollars from a frozen Macau bank account as promised.

Officials said the funds had still not been transferred to a North Korean bank account in China.

The latest round of the six-nation talks began Monday on an optimistic note with the United States announcing it had resolved a long-running financial sanctions dispute with North Korea that had been the major stumbling block in the forum.

Washington had frozen the Macau bank account amid allegations of money laundering and counterfeiting by the North Korean regime.

Macau authorities said the money would be transferred into a North Korean account, but by Wednesday the funds had yet to be delivered.

North Korea, which conducted its first atomic weapons test in October last year, agreed last month to shut down its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon by mid-April and allow UN inspectors back into the country.

In return, the impoverished regime would initially receive 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel for energy use.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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