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Return to nuclear talks: US urges North Korea

The US has urged North Korea to return to international nuclear talks.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2006 09:20 IST

The United States has urged North Korea to return to international nuclear talks, saying economic sanctions levelled at the communist-led country are unrelated to diplomatic efforts to rid the North of nuclear weapons.

Since the North promised in September to scrap its atomic programs in return for aid and security assurances, US-North Korean relations have grown increasingly tense.

On Monday, North Korea's foreign ministry said six-nation nuclear negotiations are unlikely to resume soon because of sanctions the United States slapped on eight North Korean companies.

US claimed that the eight companies were fronts for proliferating weapons of mass destruction, and on a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau it alleges helped the North distribute counterfeit currency.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack defended the sanctions, saying, "We are going to continue to take those steps, and we believe that any other country would take steps to protect itself, to act to prevent or stop illicit activity."

But, he added, that effort "is whole and apart from the issue of the six-party talks." He called on the North to "abide by their pledge" and "return at the earliest possible date to the six-party talks."

Diplomats agreed at the last round of talks in November to meet again; they didn't set a date. McCormack said US envoys would contact North Korean officials "in the coming days" to try to restart negotiations.

Also on Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said America wants progress made in the negotiations.

First Published: Jan 10, 2006 09:20 IST