Bush administration declines to withdraw North Korea sanctions

The United States on Tuesday rejected a North Korean demand that it lift sanctions as a way of possibly resuming stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

The two issues are unrelated, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "I don't see in what way they are preventing North Korea from going back to the six-party talks."

The sanctions were imposed for alleged currency counterfeiting and other illegal activities.

In June, the &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/20/91/368/16266_espionage.html' target=_blank>White House acted to block international business with three North Korean companies it claimed were fronts for proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

And in September, the Treasury Department cautioned other countries to steer clear of a Macao-based bank, calling it a willing pawn of North Korea and alleging it had helped North Korea distribute counterfeit currency and had engaged in other illict activities.

"While under U.S. sanctions, it's impossible to sit face-to-face and discuss abandoning our nuclear deterrent," said the Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling Workers Party newspaper, in a Korean-language commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"The U.S. sanctions are obviously the fundamental element that disrupts the six-party talks," the newspaper said.

McCormack said it was important and reasonable for the United States to protect American currency. "We, the United States, as well as other countries are going to take steps to stop, inhibit or prevent illicit activities," he said.

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