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US Envoy Wraps Up Meetings in China on North Korea Banking Issue

  • Daniel Schearf

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill is heading back to Washington after a day of meetings with Chinese officials. As he left he reported no progress on resolving a transfer of North Korean accounts from a Macau bank. As Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, North Korea has refused to move forward on a nuclear deal until it has the money.

The chief U.S. envoy to six-nation talks on North Korea's denuclearization, Christopher Hill, told reporters Thursday that Washington and Beijing are trying to find a solution to send $25 million from a Macau bank to North Korea.

"We'll just try to get it done as soon as possible. And, when it's done - then we can talk about how it was done and why it took so long," he said.

Hill would not elaborate on what options China and the United States were exploring or when he thought the issue could be resolved.

He says the transfer is a complex governmental issue also involving talks with the private sector.

North Korea missed an April deadline to shut down a nuclear reactor in exchange for aid and diplomatic incentives. It has boycotted talks on its nuclear disarmament until it has the money.

Hill said the United States had demonstrated its willingness to get the money to North Korea and there was no reason for Pyongyang to stall on shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

"The North Koreas are fond about talking about a level of trust. I think we've established that we are really working to resolve this matter," he said. "We will resolve it. And, I think they ought to get going on their obligations because there is no purpose in that reactor operating today and I think they know that. So, rather than stand around waiting for us to do things perhaps they should get going on their own obligations."

The North Korean accounts were frozen in 2005 on U.S. suspicions the bank was aiding North Korean money laundering and other crimes. Washington agreed in December the money could be released if North Korea returned to nuclear negotiations.

But so far, neither side has found a bank willing to handle money that was the subject of the U.S. investigation.

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