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N. Korea Negotiator Warns of Partially Foregoing Denuke Steps
North Korea's Kim Kye-Gwan

North Korea's top nuclear negotiator warned on March 10 that his country will forego some of the initial steps for abandoning its nuclear programs if U.S. financial sanctions on a Macao-based bank are not lifted completely.

"There is a promise to lift (the sanctions) completely ... so we are following developments." North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan told reporters at Beijing's airport, shortly before his departure for Pyongyang.

"If all of them are not lifted, our steps will be partial, correspondingly." said Kim, North Korea's chief delegate to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs.

North Korea is eager to see the release of $24 million in North Korea-related accounts at Banco Delta Asia SARL, which were frozen after Washington said the bank was suspected of laundering money and circulating counterfeit bills for North Korea.

Kim said North Korea is "not concerned at all." about Japan's request to the United States that it keep Pyongyang on its list of state sponsors of terrorism until Japan and North Korea solve a row over the decades-old abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.

"We do not place importance on that issue." Kim said. Japan and North Korea are in dispute over the number of Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as over what happened to some of the victims.

Kim was on his way to Pyongyang after meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Christopher Hill, in New York earlier in the week for talks on normalizing relations.

The U.S.-North Korea talks were part of an agreement reached by the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia last month on initial steps toward their ultimate goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Kim said he expects three other working groups under the six-party framework to hold their inaugural meetings beginning March 17, ahead of the start of the next full-fledged six-way negotiations March 19.

Song Il Ho, North Korea's representative to talks with Japan on normalizing diplomatic ties, also left Beijing for Pyongyang on Saturday morning after holding talks in Hanoi with his Japanese counterparts. Song did not comment to reporters. (Kyodo News)






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