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Rice Again Urges Unconditional North Korean Return to Nuclear Talks


The Secretary of State has renewed her call on Pyongyang to return to the nuclear talks, while saying the Bush administration will not relent in what she terms defensive measures to deal with illicit North Korean activity including alleged counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

North Korea has refused to attend the Chinese-sponsored six-party negotiations since November, citing a U.S. move to sanction eight North Korean firms and a Macau-based bank alleged to be a front for money-laundering and counterfeiting by Pyongyang.

North Korea denies the charges and says the sanctions breached the spirit of the six-party talks.

In testimony to the House International Relations Committee, Secretary Rice said the United States is pressing diplomatically for a resumption of the talks though host China, and the other parties including South Korea, Russia and Japan.

She said the talks should resume without conditions and that North Korea's stated reason for boycotting the talks has not swayed the other participants "The United States has been pursuing defensive measures to deal with illicit North Korean activities, for instance counterfeiting of our money, which we are going to have to pursue whether we are in six-party talks or not. It is simply the responsibility of the United States government to pursue these measures if someone is trying to counterfeit our currency. And I think actually the North Koreans are getting very little traction with the other states with the argument that that's the reason they won't go back to the six-party talks," she said.

The six-party talks produced a statement of principles in September under which North Korean would give up nuclear weapons in return for aid and security guarantees.

China brokered a meeting in Beijing last month between the lead U.S. nuclear negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, and his North Korean counterpart Kim Gye Gwan.

But there was no apparent breakthrough toward reviving the six-party talks, which began in 2003.