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US official in China over North Korea row

US official in China over North Korea row
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First Published: Sun, Mar 25 2007. 05 29 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Mar 25 2007. 05 29 PM IST
Beijing: The US Treasury’s top official on financial crime arrived in China on 25 March to try to solve a banking dispute that has stalled negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.
Daniel Glaser, also Washington’s point man on terrorist finance, is part of efforts to keep the six-nation nuclear talks on track, after an impasse over frozen North Korean led Pyongyang to break off negotiations last week.
“The policy and diplomatic issues have been solved — this is now down to implementation,” Glaser said in a statement issued by the Treasury.
That means finding a bank willing to receive $25 million of North Korean funds frozen in Macau’s Banco Delta Asia.
The US has cleared the way for the release of the money but the designated recipient, state-owned Bank of China, has allegedly refused to accept the money for fear the transaction may hurt its credit rating.
“Although the Bank of China will be able to undertake this transaction, we need to consult with them,” Chinese chief negotiator Wu Dawei said after last week’s talks went into recess.
“The bank has its own concerns, and the government needs to help them in addressing these concerns.”
Glaser said that authorities in Macau and Beijing had made clear that they wanted to ensure implementation of the agreement was “consistent with their own laws and with their international obligations.”
“We are bringing Treasury expertise to help the Macanese and Chinese wade through some of these implementation issues,” he said.
Glaser made no further remarks when he arrived at Beijing airport. A US embassy official said no talks were scheduled between Glaser and Chinese officials on 25 March.
On the afternoon of 25 March, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing held a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
“The two sides exchanged views on pushing forward the development of the Sino-US relations and the process of the six-party talks,” Xinhua said, giving no other details.
The latest round of six-party disarmament talks — involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia — ended abruptly in Beijing on Thursday after Pyongyang refused to negotiate until it received the cash.
In late 2005, the United States effectively blacklisted Banco Delta Asia on suspicion it was handling the proceeds of North Korean counterfeiting and money-laundering, prompting Macau to freeze the North’s accounts there.
Envoys to the six-party talks came together last Monday for their first meeting since a 13 February accord that set a timetable for the North to begin disarming.
The talks were launched in 2003 aimed at ending the North’s nuclear weapons ambitions. But they have been plagued by disputes, amid which Pyongyang shocked the world by conducting its first atomic test in October.
With three weeks to go before North Korea is due to close its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and allow United Nations inspectors back into the country, US envoy Christopher Hill insisted Friday the deadline could be met.
“I don’t think there is a broader point here about whether they are committed to the nuclear deal. I think they are. Throughout the week, they reiterated that,” Hill said.
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First Published: Sun, Mar 25 2007. 05 29 PM IST
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