Japan's foreign minister is rejecting North Korea's demand that the United States drop financial sanctions in return for Pyongyang's resumption of nuclear disarmament talks.

Taro Aso said Tuesday, North Korea should return to the talks without preconditions. He says the negotiations and U.S. sanctions are two entirely separate issues.

Stalled since November, the talks include North and South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia. Pyongyang says it will restart negotiations if Washington lifts financial sanctions, including a freeze on its accounts in a Macau bank.

Washington imposed penalties on Pyongyang last year for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting activities.

The United Nations slapped sanctions on Pyongyang this month in response to North Korea's nuclear test.

On Monday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he did not think sanctions would work as a penalty.

Mohamed El-Baradei said in Washington that dialogue is the only real option to make progress in the North Korean crisis.

The head of the U.N. agency said the world should not view dialogue as a reward, but as an essential tool to change behavior.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.