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New Round of Talks Begins; Frozen Funds Issue Resolved
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The six parties began a new round of talks over the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue in Beijing yesterday with North Korea and the US resolving the issue of US$25-million funds frozen in a bank in Macao.


"We are still faced with a lot of difficulties and obstacles on the road ahead," top Chinese envoy Wu Dawei said in his opening address before the closed-door talks in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.


As the chair of the six-party talks, Wu said the session would review the progress of five related work group meetings and discuss the specific steps for North Korea to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.


Wu called on all parties to take part in the talks with "a flexible, pragmatic and constructive approach and make positive contributions."


"The current session will run about three days," Wu said.


Earlier on Monday, the US Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser said the US and North Korea had reached an understanding on the issue of frozen funds.


"North Korea has proposed the transfer of the US$25-million funds frozen in the Banco Delta Asia (BDA) into an account held by North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank at the Bank of China in Beijing," Glaser said.


"We believe this resolves the issue of the North Korea-related frozen funds," he concluded.


In September 2005, the US Treasury Department, suspecting the BDA of helping North Korea launder money, ordered American financial institutions to suspend business ties with the Macao-based bank, which subsequently froze the US dollar accounts held by North Korea.


Rejecting the charge, North Korea demanded the US lift the financial sanctions before it could return to the six-party talks, which remained stalled for 13 months since the end of 2005.


As part of the nuclear deal reached during the last round of talks in Beijing on February 13, the US agreed to settle the financial dispute with North Korea within 30 days.


"North Korea will shut down its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon if its funds are fully released," top North Korean envoy Kim Kye-gwan told the chief envoys' meeting on Monday morning.


"With the BDA issue resolved, there should be no major obstacles to implementing the measures to shut down North Korea's nuclear facilities within the 60-day deadline," said top South Korean envoy Chun Yung-woo.


"I think tomorrow the focus will turn to the completion of the tasks within the 60 days," chief US envoy Christopher Hill said at his hotel on Monday evening.


Hill also said that North Korea needed to do more to address its relationship with Japan.


A Japan-North Korea meeting took place in Hanoi early March without achieving any breakthrough in resolving outstanding issues preventing the two countries from normalizing relations.


Japan's envoy Kenichiro Sasae said in the chief envoys' meeting that Japan would try to implement the initial steps quickly, adding that parties should start thinking about measures in the second stage.


(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2007)

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