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US Negotiator: North Korea Talks to End Friday

  • Kurt Achin

Washington's chief envoy to multinational talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program says discussions will continue for one more full day before he returns home. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Beijing, where the talks are being held, Pyongyang reportedly remains intensely focused on financial sanctions issues.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, visibly fatigued from four days of intense talks, described the latest session as "difficult." He said there had not been as much progress as he had hoped, and added that he intends to leave Beijing for the United States on Saturday.

China, Russia, the United States, South Korea and Japan are meeting in Beijing for a sixth formal time in three years to try to persuade North Korea to live up to its pledges to be nuclear weapons-free, in exchange for financial and diplomatic benefits.

Hill expressed frustration that North Korea, also called the DPRK, refuses to discuss virtually anything other than U.S. financial measures aimed at North Korean interests.

"I am not here to talk about financial issues," he said. "I am here to talk about getting the DPRK out of the business of weapons of mass destruction."

Last year, Washington charged North Korea with money laundering and counterfeiting through a Macau-based bank and froze $24 million in North Korean assets, which resulted in restricting Pyongyang's access to the international banking system

North Korean and U.S. delegates held side meetings on the financial issue this week, and have tentative plans for further discussions next year.

Hill hinted North Korea was not doing enough to engage with the other six-party nations on matters separate from the financial issue.

"We all did a lot of work - we have done a lot of work in the last few weeks. And we would like to see the DPRK delegation match that amount of work and show that they are looking at the proposals," he said.

In September of last year, North Korea agreed in principle with the five nations to dismantle its nuclear capabilities within the framework of dialogue and cooperation. Hill says since it tested a nuclear weapon in October, it is urgent to arrive at credible steps Pyongyang can take to implement its promise.

"We are not prepared for a situation where somehow we pretend that they are doing things; they pretend to disarm, and we pretend to believe them. This has to be real. It is on the ground, it is tough stuff," he said.

While he did not explicitly warn of more sanctions if there is no progress, he said the United States and its partners would take steps to "protect themselves."

"There is one thing that anyone involved in denuclearization can predict; that as long as they stay in this nuclear business, they are going to have more and more and more financial problems," he said.

Hill declined to say whether the United States is ready to agree for a date for more six-party talks, saying that may become clearer by Friday night.

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