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FM: US Penalty on Macao-based Bank 'Regrettable'
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The Foreign Ministry outlined China's "deep regret" yesterday following a US Treasury Department decision to exclude a Macao-based bank, which the US accused of money laundering for North Korea, from any further dealings with the US financial system.


Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that both China's central government and the government of Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) had put forward their concerns to the US regarding Banco Delta Asia (BDA) on many occasions.


"The central government firmly supports the MSAR government in resolving these issues according to the law," he said.


The US Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it was barring US banks from dealing with BDA.


Following the deal reached during the six-party talks on February 13, the US agreed to settle the financial dispute with North Korea within 30 days, specifically lifting the freeze on its funds in BDA accounts.


Qin announced that the working group on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would convene for its first meeting at 10:00 AM tomorrow morning in Beijing at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, the same venue for the six-party talks.


According to Qin, officials from all six parties will be in attendance. Representing each country will be top Chinese envoy Wu Dawei, Minister Kim Song-gi of the North Korean Embassy to China, top US envoy Christopher Hill, South Korea's chief negotiator Chun Yung-woo, Russian Ambassador-at-large Grigory Berdennikov, and Japanese representatives, Suda Akio, Japanese ambassador in charge of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, and its chief negotiator for the six-party talks Kenichiro Sasae.


During the last round of talks that ended on February 13, the six parties arrived at consensus outlining initial steps to be taken toward implementing the September 19 joint statement.


The six parties decided to establish five working groups, each addressing a specific issue, namely the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, North Korea-US relations, North Korea-Japan relations, economy and energy cooperation, and Northeast Asia peace and security mechanism.


Three of the working groups will hold meetings in Beijing ahead of the restart of the six-party talks on Monday.


Turning to the visit of IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to Beijing, Qin stated that he exchanged views with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai on the Korean and Iranian nuclear issues yesterday morning.


ElBaradei visited Pyongyang from Tuesday to Wednesday, during which time he met with Kim Yong-dae, North Korea's deputy top legislator and other senior officials, it was reported by the country's official news agency KCNA.


This marked the first such visit by an IAEA director-general since former head Hans Blix came to Pyongyang in 1992. ElBaradei returned to Beijing Wednesday evening and is set to meet with top US envoy Hill this morning.


Commenting on an accusation by the FBI criticizing Chinese companies for stealing advanced technologies in the US through various means, Qin said the accusation is groundless and therefore unacceptable to China.


Qin pointed out that the cooperation between China and other countries, including that with the US, is based on mutual benefit and win-win principle, adding that the Chinese companies conduct their business in the US in compliance with local laws.


In another development, Qin rounded on the Tokyo High Court's decision to overturn a ruling awarding compensation for Chinese laborers forced to work in Japan during WWII.


Qin said China stands opposed to any "one-sided interpretation" of the China-Japan Joint Statement, including legal interpretations thereof.


The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday threw out a landmark ruling made by Niigata District Court, which had ordered the Japanese government and a Niigata-based company to mete out adequate compensation to Chinese victims, the first instance for a Japanese court to openly admit the state's responsibility for wartime forced labor.


Japan's Supreme Court will begin debating the issue today under intense scrutiny, since this will be the first time that Japan's top judiciary has needed to interpret specific sections of the China-Japan Joint Statement.


Qin reiterated that the joint statement provided the developmental aegis for China-Japan relations, and that neither country should attempt to devise its own interpretation alone.


On Tuesday, the Tokyo High Court further rejected an appeal by five Chinese victims claiming US$684,000 in damages from the Japanese government for injuries caused by leaks from chemical weapons abandoned in China by the Japanese army.


The five victims hailing from northeast China's Heilongjiang Province initially filed the lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court in October 1997.


In May 2003, the court admitted that the discarded weapons were to blame for the plaintiffs' injuries, but rejected any damage claims.


The Japanese government estimates some 700,000 chemical weapon shells were abandoned across in north and east China during its army's pullout at the end of WWII.


Turning to the upcoming visit by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Qin said China hopes the visit will further promote the relations between the two countries.


"We hope the two sides can have an in-depth exchange of views on the bilateral ties and the issues of common concern," he said.


Kasuri will pay an official visit to China from March 18 to 21 at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing.


Chinese leaders are expected to meet with Kasuri, and the two foreign ministers will hold talks, according to Qin.


(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily March 16, 2007)

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