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North Korea Nuclear Talks End with No Progress


A dispute over frozen funds has scuttled yet another round of North Korea nuclear talks. They ended abruptly in Beijing Thursday after North Korean negotiators left the six-nation talks - complaining they have yet to get back nearly $25 million frozen in a Macau bank. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Beijing.

The North Koreans left Beijing suddenly on Thursday, leaving participants in the talks with virtually nothing to show for the four days they spent meeting in the Chinese capital.

North Korea wants to confirm receipt of nearly $25 million that had been frozen in an account at the Banco Delta Asia, a small bank in Macau, before it continues talking.

U.S. envoy Christopher Hill says the delay is due to technical issues. Even as talks ground to a halt, he expressed confidence the matter would be resolved soon.

"My sense is that we are not talking weeks, we're talking days," he said.

Washington said the money was to be transferred into an account at Bank of China in Beijing.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department banned U.S. banks from doing business with the Macau bank. It was then agreed North Korea could have the money back after it promised to use it for domestic aid projects.

On Thursday, top Chinese negotiator Wu Dawei said the problem is over who will handle the money.

He said Chinese government officials have to discuss with the state-run Bank of China whether the bank will accept the money.

Neither he nor bank officials gave any details of why the bank might not want to receive the funds.

Hill and other participants, including delegates from China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, are leaving Beijing without accomplishing their goal for this round. They had hoped to set a timetable for the disabling of North Korea's nuclear facilities according to the terms of a February 13 preliminary agreement.

In that accord, North Korea agreed to shut down and seal its main nuclear reactor and plutonium factory by mid-April in exchange for energy aid and diplomatic concessions.

Hill says he had hoped to get into detail on the timing of the denuclearization process, but it was clear that North Korea did not want to engage in that until the banking issue was resolved.

Earlier Thursday, he spoke of the North Koreans' refusal to deal with what he said are the substantive issues.

"The day I'm able to explain to you North Korean thinking is probably the day I've been in this process too long," quipped Hill.

None of the participants have said when they plan to call the next round of talks.

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