Nuclear talks won't take place 'in the near future', North Korea says

A North Korean official said Monday it was unlikely that international talks on the country's nuclear weapons program will resume soon because of Washington's refusal to lift financial restrictions on businesses connected to the North.

"I don't think such six-party talks will take place in the near future," So Chol, section chief of the European Department of the North's Foreign Ministry, told Associated Press Television in an interview in the North Korean capital. "It is because our people cannot find any evidence that the Americans are moving to lift the financial sanctions against our country."

Last year, Washington slapped restrictions on a Macau-based bank and North Korean companies it said were helping the communist government engage in money laundering, counterfeiting and weapons proliferation.

The North has said it will stay away from the six-nation nuclear talks until the sanctions are lifted, but the United States insists they are a matter of law and a separate issue from the arms negotiations.

So dismissed that argument by Washington, saying the recent restrictions were directed against the North.

"They are misusing these financial sanctions in a move to isolate our country," he said.

The North has previously cited a U.S. "hostile" policy toward it as a reason for staying away from the nuclear talks, and So repeated the North's contention that a removal of sanctions would show that Washington has shifted to a benign posture toward its longtime foe, reports the AP.

I.L.