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Technical Problems Key to Next Step of 6-Party Talks
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South Korea will not provide energy assistance to North Korea unless it announces when to shut down its nuclear facilities, top South Korean negotiator Chun Yung-woo said Wednesday afternoon.


Only when North Korea makes clear the timetable on closing the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and accepts the personnel of the UN's IAEA will South Korea provide heavy oil to it, said Chun.


Chun made the remarks after having lunch with chief US negotiator Christopher Hill in a hotel.


According to a February 13 deal, North Korea shall shut down its nuclear facilities while the other parties shall provide emergency energy assistance to it and the shipment will commence within the next 60 days.


The six-party talks, grouping China, the US, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea, remained stalled on Wednesday after a delegation heads' meeting, initially scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, was canceled because of North Korea's refusal to attend the talks until its frozen funds at a Macao bank are transferred to its account at a Chinese bank in Beijing.


Chun said Wednesday morning that when to hold chief negotiators' meeting will be up to the North Korean reaction toward the settlement of its frozen funds issue.


Chun said the negotiation can only move forward until the technical problems of the frozen funds are completely settled. So far he didn't hear any development of the issue.


However, Chun said the talks will wrap up as scheduled on Wednesday.


The US agreed to transfer the funds of US$25 million frozen at Macao-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA) to a North Korean account at the Bank of China in Beijing, paving the way for progress of the talks.


But the money has not reached the designated account yet, according to Chun.


The account held by North Korea at BDA was frozen in 2005, after the US Treasury Department, suspecting BDA of helping North Korea launder money, ordered American financial institutions to suspend business ties with the bank.


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.


(Xinhua News Agency March 21, 2007)


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