Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Pyongyang eyeing second nuclear test if financial dispute with US continues

AGENCIES , BEIJING AND SEOUL

North Korea will feel compelled to announce plans for another nuclear test if a financial dispute with Washington is not resolved, a source said yesterday, a sign of Pyongyang's impatience with a lack of progress in talks.

US Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser resumed talks with North Korean officials in Beijing on Tuesday over the dispute over currency counterfeiting. He said the talks were inching forward and had "established a framework" for more negotiations.

The source with close ties to the North Korean government said the US lacked evidence of wrongdoing, and that the North would likely express its frustration when it comes to six-party talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear programs scheduled for next Thursday in Beijing.

"If the United States does not resolve it, North Korea will have no choice but to announce at the six-party talks that it plans to conduct another test," the source said after being briefed by a North Korean official.

The last session of talks grouping the two Koreas, the US, Japan, Russia and host China was held last month and yielded no breakthrough. The session bogged down over Pyongyang's complaints about a US financial crackdown that led to Macau freezing US$24 million in North Korean accounts.

US officials have held out little hope of a quick resolution to the financial negotiations and South Korea yesterday cautioned against hopes for a breakthrough in the six-party talks.

Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said the new round should produce a document that sets out firm steps toward a nuclear-free North Korea.

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