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US Envoy In China For Talks On North Korea Nuclear Weapons

US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill with Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 20, 2006
The chief US negotiator in the North Korean nuclear impasse arrived to Beijing on Monday for meetings with China aimed at jump-starting stalled six-nation talks on the crisis. "I'm here to continue discussion with the Chinese," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said on his arrival.

He reiterated the US position that the six party talks, which include hosts China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia, were the best way to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programs.

Hill was due to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, but he ignored questions on whether he would be meeting the North Korean delegate to the talks, Kim Gye-Gwan, during his visit.

"I told the Chinese that I want to leave tomorrow (Tuesday) to get back in time for Thanksgiving," Hill said, referring to the Thursday US holiday.

Hill's visit came a day after the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders called at the end of their annual summit in Hanoi for an early resumption of the talks.

North Korea is not an APEC member and was not at the meeting.

The statement, issued verbally but not through a published document, expressed "strong concern" over Pyongyang's October 9 nuclear test and July missile tests.

The statement was otherwise light on details, such as when the six-party talks might resume. US and Chinese officials have said they would like a resumption as soon as possible.

The six-nation talks, first launched in 2003 with a mission to end North Korea's nuclear ambitions, broke down a year ago when Pyongyang walked out in protest at US financial sanctions against it.

Amid fierce pressure following its atomic test, including from close ally China, North Korea agreed on October 31 to return to the six-way negotiations.

The apparent breakthrough came after a day of secret meetings in Beijing between Hill, Wu and North Korea's Kim.

But negotiators have since been struggling to fix a date for a resumption.

A US embassy staffer said no further details on Hill's plans in Beijing were available.

earlier related report
China unfreezes some NKorean accounts in Macau bank: agency
Seoul (AFP) Nov 20 - China has unfrozen some North Korean accounts in a Macau bank, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Monday, in a move which could pave the way for progress in upcoming nuclear disarmament talks with the North.

The agency quoted a diplomatic source in Beijing as saying China unfroze some accounts of North Korea-based companies in Banco Delta Asia (BDA), apparently with the understanding of the United States. Yonhap quoted an unidentified North Korean official in Beijing as saying: "That is seen as the US accepting some of our demands."

The BDA funds are a key issue in six-nation talks on scrapping the North's nuclear programmes, which are due to resume sometime next month.

The North boycotted the talks for almost a year in protest at a US Treasury decision to blacklist BDA, which held North Korea accounts containing a total of 24 million dollars.

North Korea announced on November 1, just three weeks after conducting a nuclear test, that it would return to the six-party negotiations on condition the financial curbs were "discussed and settled" within the framework of the talks.

The US said it suspected the BDA cash was linked to the counterfeiting of dollars and other illicit activities by the hardline communist regime.

The authorities in Macau, an autonomous southern Chinese territory, formally froze the accounts after the US issued its blacklist.

The US later persuaded other banks in Asia to cut ties to North Korea, severing its access to much of the international banking system.

The chief US nuclear negotiator, Christopher Hill, arrived to Beijing on Monday for meetings with China aimed at jump-starting the six-nation talks. He has said earlier in Hanoi that good progress was being made in setting a date for a new round of the negotiations which began in 2003.

Yonhap quoted the Beijing source as saying the unfrozen accounts are believed to be those unrelated to North Korean financial crimes, and ones suspected of being linked to illegal activities are still under financial restrictions.

The funds in the unfrozen accounts are believed to be total less than 12 million dollars, the source said.

South Korean media said this month that US Treasury investigators have found that up to half of the 24 million dollars in North Korean money is from legal sources.

It quoted one expert as saying the legal funds include six million dollars belonging to Daedong Credit Bank, a Hong Kong-based joint venture, and two million dollars paid by British American Tobacco, which does business in the North.

Experts say North Korea has traded in narcotics, counterfeit cigarettes and other items in addition to fake 100-dollar bills known as "supernotes" for their high quality.

David Asher, from the US Institute for Defense Analyses, in May estimated the total value of North Korea's illegal trade at between 450 million and 550 million dollars per year, as much as 35-40 percent of total exports.

earlier related report
EU imposes sanctions on N Korea over nuclear testing
Brussels (AFP) Nov 20 - The European Union on Monday adopted a series of sanctions against North Korea, in response to the nuclear testing carried out by Pyongyang, a European diplomat said.

The measures, taken to bring the EU in line with a UN Security Council resolution adopted after North Korea announced its nuclear test on October 9, include an arms embargo and an embargo on nuclear and missile technology as well as on "luxury products".

All cargo between North Korea and EU nations will also be subject to inspections.

The decision, formally taken by ministers of the 25 EU nations at a meeting in Brussels, also introduces restrictions of entry to the EU for "individuals designated as being responsible for, including through supporting or promoting, North Korea's policies in relation to its nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related and other WMD-related programmes, together with their family members."

Detailed lists of banned goods and undesirable visitors remain to be drawn up.

The measures were included in conclusions from a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg last month. They also strongly condemned the nuclear testing.

The Korean move "poses a danger to regional stability and represents a clear threat to international peace and security," they said.

The EU urged Pyongyang to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes, and to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including submitting all its nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency for verification.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
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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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