North Korea has rejected New York as a venue for talks on US financial sanctions which it insists must be lifted before any further nuclear negotiations, a South Korean newspaper reported yesterday.
Chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan was speaking on Saturday, the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported, the day after a week of six-party nuclear talks ended in Beijing without any apparent progress.
The talks -- the first for 13 months -- closed without even setting a date for the next round. They aim to persuade Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear programs in return for aid and security guarantees.
US Treasury and North Korean officials held two days of discussions on the sidelines about the US banking curbs imposed for alleged counterfeiting and money laundering, but reached no agreement.
US officials said they hope to meet again in New York next month.
"We have no intention to go to New York. The two sides should find another place," Kim was quoted as telling the paper in an interview in Beijing.
Asked when the next six-party round may be held, Kim added: "The sanctions issue should be resolved first."
The US blacklisted Macau's Banco Delta Asia in September last year, saying it suspected that US$24 million in North Korean accounts was linked to counterfeiting or money laundering.
The accounts have been frozen and other Asian banks have taken similar moves.
North Korea boycotted the six-party talks -- which link the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia -- for over a year in protest. After conducting its first nuclear test in October, it agreed to return on condition the banking issue is "discussed and settled."
Kim accused US Treasury officials of not being serious.
"The US didn't even offer evidence that North Korea committed illegal activities," he was quoted as saying.
"The US wasted time, insisting that the BDA issue is a legal matter. Sanctions should be resolved through political decision," he added.
Kim also reiterated that the North would not begin nuclear negotiations until the BDA issue is settled. "Once the US lifts its financial sanctions, we can discuss freezing nuclear activities, not doing it right away," he said.
"The US wants to see North Korea freezing its nuclear facilities by lifting its financial sanctions alone, which is unacceptable," he added.
The negotiator also repeated demands for construction of a light-water reactor in exchange for suspending its existing reactor, along with interim energy aid.
The US and its allies reached a deal with North Korea in 1994 to supply fuel oil and light-water reactors, which are less vulnerable to proliferation, in exchange for a freeze. The deal fell apart in 2002 when the US accused the North of running a secret uranium enrichment program.
North Korea warned the US on Saturday of retaliation if it stepped up sanctions after the six-party deadlock, saying its armed forces "are not afraid of war."
PASTA PUNCHLINE: Billy McLean’s spoof poking fun at misinformation on the coronavirus was meant for friends, but is being eaten up by frazzled Britons It started off as an ad-libbed joke for some friends in a soccer banter group and ended up being heard by vast numbers of Britons within hours. However, the man responsible for a joke WhatsApp audio clip that claimed the UK Ministry of Defence was about to requisition Wembley Stadium to cook the world’s biggest lasagna has said his viral success also shows the risks of believing everything that gets sent to you on the messaging service. Billy McLean, a 29-year-old Londoner who works in software sales, came forward to the Guardian to identify himself as the creator of the much-shared clip
‘AN HONORABLE TASK’: The brigade to Italy is the sixth contingent of doctors the nation has sent abroad to aid governments contending with the COVID-19 pandemic Cuba has dispatched doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help fight COVID-19 at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy, it said. The Caribbean nation has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution, with doctors on the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s. Yet with the 52-strong brigade, this is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of
EASING RESTRICTIONS: After there were no new locally transmitted cases for three consecutive days, officials have started to relax limitations on freedom of movement China on Friday reported a record rise in imported COVID-19 cases as expatriates returned home from the US and Europe, sparking fears of a second wave of infections just as the country recovers from the initial outbreak. All 41 of the new confirmed cases in China were imported from abroad, the Chinese National Health Commission said yesterday, bringing the total number of such cases to 269. Beijing and Shanghai were the main entry points for the returnees, many of whom are students who were studying abroad, official reports said. They have come back after many campuses in the US and Europe shut
There are growing concerns for the health of Rokia Traore, a Malian singer who has been on hunger strike at the Fleury-Merogis Prison near Paris since she was arrested on March 10 on allegations of kidnapping her daughter in a child custody dispute. “I am very worried,” said Kenneth Feliho, her lawyer. “She is only drinking. She has not been eating for over a week and her immune system is weak.” Among those calling for the musician’ release are African stars including Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo. Damon Albarn, who performed with her in the group Africa Express, wrote: “We demand,