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Fate of nuclear talks in N.Korea hands Seoul aide

By Staff
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SEOUL, Feb 25: The fate of talks on North Korea's nuclear programmes depends on whether Pyongyang takes action on illicit activities that prompted a U S crackdown, a South Korean official was quoted as saying today (Feb 25, 2006).

North Korea knows what it is expected to do on charges raised by Washington that it is behind counterfeiting of U S currency and money laundering, said Song Min-soon, the chief national security adviser to South Korea's president.

''The six-party talks can go forward only if the North takes the necessary action on currency counterfeiting,'' Song was quoted as saying in Washington by South Korea's CBS radio and other media.

South Korea's presidential Blue House could not immediately confirm his remarks.

Song was previously South Korea's lead negotiator to the talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear programmes, which also involve North Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China. The talks have been stalled since November.

Song was in Washington to meet White House national security advisers and State Department officials.

North Korea has said it would be unreasonable to continue the talks until Washington ends a crackdown on firms suspected of being involved in the North's illicit financial activities.

It also said in a letter to U N Secretary-General Kofi Annan that U S efforts to draw South Korea into a campaign against the spread of weapons of mass destruction -- called Proliferation Security Initiative -- would create new obstacles to the talks.

''South Korea joins the international community in its concerns about illegal activities that North Korea has been linked to,'' Song was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

''It is very clear what that means,'' he was quoted as saying in the same meeting with South Korean reporters.

''North Korea needs to see what that means, and we don't need to play the prosecutor, the defence lawyer and the judge for all the world to see,'' he said, in an apparent reference to criticism that South Korea has not more directly confronted the North.

The South's National Intelligence Service (NIS) said early this month that it had no conclusive evidence that the North Korean government was counterfeiting U S dollars recently.

The spy agency said today its director, Kim Seung-gyu, went to Washington in January and met with the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But an NIS official declined to say whether the purpose of Kim's trip was to discuss North Korea's counterfeiting.

Song played down a planned meeting by North Korean diplomats and US officials in New York on the financial crackdown, saying such a meeting would probably not automatically yield a breakthrough.

But all the countries involved in the talks, including North Korea, believed the next round of the talks should be held in the first half of April, he said.

In September, the countries agreed North Korea would give up its nuclear programmes in return for aid and better diplomatic ties. But there has been no progress on drawing up a plan to implement the goals.

Reuters

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