North Korea pressed the United States on Tuesday to address the issue of U.S. financial sanctions against the communist country in order to advance nuclear weapons talks, arguing dialogue and sanctions were incompatible. "The U.S. should show sincerity in resolving this issue at a time when the U.S. financial sanctions stand in the way of progress of six-way nuclear talks," the North's Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary.
"Frankly, it is our position that we cannot discuss the nuclear issue with the U.S. under sanctions," the newspaper said, according to the country's official Korean Central News Agency.
In October, Washington slapped sanctions on eight North Korean companies it said acted as fronts for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The United States also suspects North Korea of counterfeiting and money-laundering.
North Korea has repeatedly denied the allegations. The commentary Tuesday said the North's position on establishing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through successful talks remains unchanged.
North Korea claims Washington agreed in the last round of talks in Beijing to hold negotiations on the sanctions, but the U.S. denies making such an offer. The U.S. has said the sanctions issue is a matter of law unrelated to the nuclear talks.
"It is unquestionable that if the two sides had met as promised and resolved the issue smoothly, it would have had a good impact on overall six-way talks," the commentary said, warning that everything agreed at the previous talks is now in the danger of coming to nothing.
In September, the North agreed at the nuclear talks to abandon its atomic programs in exchange for aid and security assurances, but it immediately backpedaled on the pledge by demanding it be provided with a civilian nuclear reactor before disarming.
The latest round of nuclear talks, which include China, Japan, Russia, two Koreas and the United States, ended in November with no sign of progress on ways to disarm North Korea. The parties agreed to meet again at an early, though unspecified, date.
In Washington, U.S. State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli said Monday that the United States looks forward "to those talks resuming as soon as possible," adding that the parties agreed that January would be the time frame.
Meanwhile, high-level officials from the two Koreas were meeting later Tuesday on South Korea's resort island of Jeju, where the nuclear issue was also expected to be raised, reports the AP. I.L.