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."
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