North Korea said Tuesday it cannot return to international nuclear disarmament talks unless the United States lifts sanctions imposed for its alleged currency counterfeiting and other illegal activities. "While under US sanctions, it's impossible to sit face-to-face and discuss abandoning our nuclear deterrent ... with a counterpart who seeks to isolate and stifle us," said the Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling Workers Party newspaper, in a Korean-language commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. "The US sanctions are obviously the fundamental element that disrupts the six-party talks," the newspaper said. The commentary was the first North Korean statement on the nuclear issue this year. On New Year's Day, the communist state issued a joint editorial by major newspapers, but didn't mention the dispute.