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Monday, March 26, 2007 : 0410 Hrs


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    US official arrives in China

    Beijing, March 26 (AP): A senior US Treasury Department official arrived in Beijing on Sunday to try to untangle a dispute over North Korean funds frozen in a Macau bank that led to a breakdown in talks over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

    Daniel Glaser, deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, is set to meet Chinese officials to discuss the frozen money held at Banco Delta Asia, a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau.

    North Korea refused to participate in six-nation disarmament talks that started March 19 until the US$25 million (euro19 million) in frozen funds were released.

    The U.S. has agreed to let the money be transferred to a North Korean account at the Bank of China account in Beijing, but its release was delayed by the Chinese bank's concerns about accepting money that had been linked to counterfeiting and money laundering.

    Glaser declined to comment when he arrived at Beijing's international airport, but said in a statement before he left Washington that ``the policy and diplomatic issues have been solved _ this is now down to implementation.'' Authorities in Macau and China ``have made clear that they want to ensure implementation of the agreement is consistent with their own laws and with their international obligations,'' Glaser said.

    A statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry Web Site said Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by telephone on Sunday to discuss bilateral relations ``and progress of the six-party talks.''

    It gave no other details.

    The disarmament talks were aimed at fine-tuning a Feb. 13 agreement under which North Korea would dismantle its nuclear programs in exchange for energy aid and political concessions, but they never got off the ground because of the drawn-out dispute over the money transfer.

    North Korea refused to participate in full six-party talks and its chief negotiator Kim Kye Gwan flew out of Beijing on Thursday, not even waiting for China to issue a statement saying there would be a recess in the talks.

    No restart date was given, although U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said before leaving Beijing on Friday it was ``quite possible'' the talks could start again within a week or two once the financial issue had been cleared up.

    The United States has accused Banco Delta Asia of helping North Korea launder money from counterfeiting and other illegal activities. The U.S. government recently moved to cut off the bank from the U.S. financial system.

    The U.S. first took action against Banco Delta Asia in 2005, putting it on a money-laundering blacklist for what the department determined were lax money-laundering controls. As a result, Macau regulators froze North Korea assets held by the bank.

    That so angered Pyongyang that it refused to participate in six-nation nuclear arms talks for over a year. The North returned to disarmament talks in December, and the mid-February deal was struck in part because of an agreement to resolve the frozen funds dispute within 30 days.


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