N. Korea refuses to budge on dismantling nukes

Talks set to resume Thursday; N. Korea won't retract demand that US lift financial restrictions.

n korea talks 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
n korea talks 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
North Korea has refused to scrap its demand that the US lift financial restrictions against the communist country, but talks were still to resume Thursday to resolve the broader issue of persuading the North to renounce its nuclear efforts. Officials said Wednesday that North Korea is still refusing to back down from its demand that US financial restrictions be lifted before it dismantles its nuclear program. US and North Korean experts discussed the US financial restrictions for five hours Wednesday, their second day of meetings this week that are separate from the arms talks, but made no breakthroughs and planned no further meetings. North Korea agreed to end a 13-month boycott of the talks - which also include China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US - to discuss a Washington campaign seeking to isolate the communist nation from the international banking system. The US alleges the North is involved in a range of illegal activity, including counterfeiting $100 bills and money laundering. Daniel Glaser, the US Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes who is leading the US delegation, said the talks at the North Korean Embassy were "businesslike and useful." Glaser said he would possibly meet the North Koreans next month in New York. "For this process moving forward to be productive and useful, it's going to have to start focusing very, very closely on the underlying concerns of illicit finance," he told reporters. "We hope to get to do that." The separate, six-nation nuclear talks are to continue until at least Friday, but negotiators said that does not mean results are guaranteed by then. "The financial issues are a major interest for North Korea," Japanese envoy Kenichiro Sasae said after the third day of discussions in Beijing. Sasae pleaded with the North to put aside that issue at the nuclear talks. "I think it is not realistic to treat the financial issue as a major block while putting the broader discussion on hold," Sasae said. However, the North said it would be willing to halt operation of its main nuclear reactor and allow international inspectors "under the right conditions," a South Korean official said on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing negotiations "We are focusing our discussion on what those conditions would be," he said. Negotiators were addressing the implementation of a September 2005 agreement where the North pledged to abandon its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees and aid. "Whether we can start implementing the agreement this week, time will tell," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Wednesday evening. He said the talks focused on specific steps toward the North's disarmament that the US hoped would happen in a timeframe "a lot shorter than a year." The North Koreans appeared interested and there were many questions between the sides, Hill said. Hill declined to release details of US proposals to North Korea, but a news report said the Americans had outlined a process in which the North would first freeze its nuclear program, followed by inspections and eventual dismantlement.