U.S.: State Department says North Korea sanctions unrelated to nuclear talks

No link exists between U.S. financial sanctions against North Korea and ongoing six-nation talks to persuade the communist-led North to abandon its nuclear programs, the State Department said Tuesday.

North Korea is threatening to boycott the negotiations unless the United States lifts sanctions imposed in October on companies the U.S. calls fronts for spreading weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. also suspects North Korea of counterfeiting and money-laundering. North Korea denies the allegations.

When asked whether the North might use the issue of sanctions as a bargaining chip in future nuclear talks, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States has "made clear that this isn't a matter for negotiation. This is applying U.S. law, and that it should be distinct from and unrelated to six-party talks." He added that "from our point of view, there's no linkage whatsoever between the two issues."

The Koreas, Russia, Japan, China and the United States ended their fifth and latest session of talks in November with no signs of progress on persuading the North to disarm. The parties agreed to meet again at an early, unspecified date. Ereli said U.S. officials "continue to look forward to resumption of the talks at the earliest possible date."

In September, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security assurances. But it quickly backpedaled on the pledge, demanding it be given a civilian nuclear reactor before disarming, reported AP. P.T.

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