- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

BEIJING — The top U.S. negotiator for North Korea’s nuclear programs said yesterday that the thorny problem of financial sanctions had been resolved and talks could focus on the real issues.

The sixth round of talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host nation China got under way yesterday with Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill saying, “We’re beyond BDA.”

Mr. Hill was referring to Banco Delta Asia, a bank in Macao suspected of money laundering and other illegal financial activities and the target of an 18-month investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department under provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

The Macao Monetary Authority said yesterday that it will release $25 million in North Korean accounts, frozen since 2005 after the Treasury Department blacklisted the bank. North Korea had been refusing to cooperate in the six-party nuclear negotiations until its funds were returned.

Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser said Sunday that the money will be deposited into an account at the Bank of China in Beijing held by North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank after securing promises that the funds would be used for education and humanitarian purposes.

Mr. Glaser met with finance regulators in Macao then traveled to Beijing for discussions with officials from the mainland’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, and the China Banking Regulatory Commission. He said that U.S. sanctions against Banco Delta Asia will remain in place.

Resolution of the financial sanctions enables negotiators to return to the main diplomatic issue, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The agenda for this round is to maintain momentum toward reaching goals set for the first 60 days after an agreement reached on Feb. 13, in which North Korea would dismantle its nuclear program in phases in exchange for financial aid and diplomatic recognition by the U.S.

The agreement last month called for the creation of five working groups on denuclear- ization, economic and energy assistance to North Korea, normalizing North Korean relations with the U.S. and Japan, and a mechanism for security issues in Northeast Asia.

The agreement also requires North Korea to begin shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear facilities within 60 days and to re-establish monitoring by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency.

Asked what he hoped to accomplish in the remaining two days of negotiations, Mr. Hill was upbeat on prospects of a 60-day review and outlined U.S. objectives for the next phase of the agreement.

“Being an optimist in this business is truly a triumph of hope over experience; nonetheless, I think we’re in good shape,” Mr. Hill said. “It’s the next phase we really need to work on.”

The U.S. negotiator said the “real issue” is to see more clarity after the initial actions period when North Korea is obligated to give a full declaration of all its nuclear facilities and past activities.

“Full means full,” Mr. Hill said.

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