U.S. officials briefed North Korea Tuesday in New York on financial penalties the United States imposed last year because of alleged money-laundering and other illicit activity by Pyongyang. North Korea responded to the U.S. action by boycotting the six-party talks on its nuclear program.
The briefing took place behind closed doors at the U.S. mission to the United Nations and there was little said publicly about it, other than U.S. Treasury Department statement which described it as a useful opportunity to clarify numerous issues.
The United States first offered to give the briefing several months ago and it was unclear why Pyongyang delayed its acceptance until now.
The briefing was given by Daniel Glaser, Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes. Pyongyang was represented by Li Gun, chief of the North Korean foreign ministry's North American section and also the country's second-ranking nuclear negotiator.
Though the United States insists the financial penalties are unrelated to the nuclear talks, North Korea has boycotted the six-party negotiations since November and has said it would not return until the punitive measures are dropped.
Last September, the United States imposed restrictions on Banco Delta Asia, a Macao-based bank that U.S. officials say helped North Korea launder money from illicit activity including the passing of counterfeit U.S. bank notes and drug trafficking.
A month later, the United States blacklisted eight North Korean companies allegedly involved in weapons proliferation.
The Treasury Department statement said the U.S. side clarified that the action taken, under the anti-terrorism Patriot Act of 2001, was not a sanction on North Korea but a step to protect the U.S. financial system from abuse.
At a news briefing here, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack reiterated the U.S. view that there is no connection to the nuclear issue:
"It had to do with the actions the United States took concerning money-laundering activities by Banco Delta Asia, and how we took those actions under section 3-11 of the Patriot Act," said Sean McCormack. "That was really the object of the meeting. And I would only make clear once again that it is our view that the steps the United States took with respect Banco Delta Asia had nothing to do, and is completely separate from the six-party talks."
North Korea has repeatedly denied engaging in counterfeiting or other financial wrongdoing and has boycotted the Chinese-sponsored nuclear talks since a brief three-day meeting in Beijing last November.
The six-party talks produced a statement of principles last September under which Pyongyang said it was willing to give up its nuclear program in return for aid from the other parties and guarantees of peaceful intentions by the United States.
Under way since 2003, the talks include Russia, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States, North Korea and host China.