South Korea's foreign minister urged North Korea on Wednesday to be "realistic" by not linking its return to international nuclear disarmament talks to a dispute over U.S. sanctions for alleged currency counterfeiting. Washington slapped sanctions on a Macau-based bank in September after it allegedly helped the North distribute counterfeit currency and engage in other illicit activities.
Pyongyang reacted angrily, threatening to boycott nuclear talks with the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia unless the sanctions are lifted. "The international community considers it undesirable for North Korea to link this (sanctions) issue to the six-party talks, regardless of whether" it's true that the North produced fake bills, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon told reporters.
"If the North links them, then both issues won't be resolved," he said. "I hope North Korea will look at the realistic side of things." Ban said the prospect for resuming the six-party nuclear talks "doesn't look so bright" because of the sanctions dispute, but South Korea is making its best efforts to reconvene them in mid-January.
Washington says it has convincing evidence that the North manufactured fake US$100 bills. Pyongyang dismisses the accusations as a "sheer lie" and part of a U.S. plot to overthrow the communist regime.
South Korea, which shares key intelligence on the North with Washington, has been noncommittal, apparently out of concern that criticism of North Korea could complicate efforts to reconvene the nuclear talks.
Seoul officials have said the sanctions issue should be dealt with bilaterally between Pyongyang and Washington so that the six-country talks can focus on the nuclear problem. The nuclear talks took a recess last month. The negotiators agreed to meet again, but didn't set a date, reports the AP. I.L.