N Korea, US should agree on sanctions, says S Korea

Nov 17 | Updated: Nov 18 2005, 05:42am hrs
North Korea and the US should reach a bilateral agreement about sanctions imposed on companies linked to the communist state for six-party nuclear talks to proceed, South Koreas vice-minister of unification said.

North Koreas chief delegate to six-party talks last week, Kim Kye Gwan objected to the freezing of assets of a bank based in Macau, China, used by the government in Pyongyang and sanctions imposed by the US against state-owned companies.

North Korea and the US share a common understanding that this should be dealt with in a bilateral framework rather than a six-party framework, vice unification minister Rhee Bong Jo said at a briefing on Thursday in Busan, South Korea. The two countries will come to an agreement in the near future.

Three days of talks in Beijing on dismantling North Koreas nuclear weapons program ended without an agreement on Nov. 11 as the communist nation refused demands to shut a reactor used to make weapons-grade plutonium. Chief US negotiator Christopher Hill said on Nov. 10 that North Korea had objected to the sanctions.

The US Treasury Department on Sept. 15 said Macau-based Banco Delta Asia S.A.R.L. had provided financial services to North Korea for 20 years, allegedly helping officials accept surreptitious multimillion dollar deposits and withdrawals, and working with North Korean front companies trafficking in drugs.

The US last month identified eight North Korean companies it said are helping in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and froze their US assets.

Vice-minister Rhee said while North Korea had recently realigned its criminal and justice system to strengthen the rule of law, the nation still fell short of international norms. The situation facing North Korea is one in which survival rights are threatened, Rhee said.