Talks on North Korea's nuclear program will likely take a recess, an official close to the negotiations said yesterday, after discussions stalled this week over Pyongyang's frozen funds.
The official, who could not be identified further due to the sensitivity of the talks, said there was a "high possibility" the negotiations will recess because some delegations have to leave Beijing.
The six-party talks were supposed to have ended on Wednesday, but were extended after Pyongyang refused to take part for two days because of problems over the transfer of US$25 million in North Korean funds frozen in a bank in Macau.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said North Korea's chief nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan was expected to leave Beijing later yesterday.
The Xinhua news agency said Russian envoy Alexander Losyukov had to return to Moscow to prepare for a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) next week.
The talks foundered on Tuesday due to the dispute over the North Korean funds -- frozen since 2005 at Banco Delta Asia (BDA) under pressure from the US.
Beijing had promised to resolve the issue as quickly as possible by transferring the funds to a North Korean account at the Bank of China.
"Everybody has the political will to resolve the BDA issue fast, but it is yet to be resolved because of technical problems," South Korean envoy Chun Yung-woo said early yesterday.
Officials said is it up to the Monetary Authority of Macau to release the funds. So far, neither the monetary authority nor BDA have indicated when that would be.
But various reasons have been offered by other parties.
A Japanese government official, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the Bank of China was reluctant to accept any money that has been the focus of investigations.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the money transfer was being delayed because Macau authorities were having difficulty confirming the ownership of 50 North Korean accounts, most of which are under the names of the heads of Zokwang Trading, a North Korean-run firm in Macau that US officials have long suspected of being involved in money laundering.
The chief US envoy Christopher Hill said that the Chinese side had "made some progress" since Wednesday on getting the money cleared, but did not give details or give a timeframe.
A woman from the publicity department at the Bank of China, who would not give her name, said she had no information on the issue.