April 24, 2006

N.Korea says no nuclear talks under US pressure

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea will not return to stalled
six-party talks on its nuclear programs unless the United
States ends financial curbs, official media said on Monday.

Washington has accused Pyongyang of boycotting the talks
and said its crackdown on firms it suspects of aiding North
Korean counterfeiting, money laundering and drug trafficking is
a separate issue.

North Korea has criticized the crackdown before. Monday's
comment was the first significant statement from the North on
the financial measures since President Bush met Chinese
President Hu Jintao last week in Washington when they touched
on the nuclear stalemate.

The signed commentary was on the North's KCNA news agency
and carried by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

China is North Korea's main benefactor and last remaining
key ally. The United States has asked China to use its
influence to help persuade North Korea to return to the table.

"The U.S. sanctions against us are the deterrent for the
resumption of the six-party talks," Yonhap reported KCNA as
saying in a commentary.

An English-language version of the report was not
immediately available.

The United States has repeatedly denied it has imposed
sanctions on the North.

The participants in the nuclear talks -- the two Koreas,
the United States, China, Japan and Russia -- agreed in
principle in September that Pyongyang would dismantle its
nuclear programs in exchange for aid, security assurances and
improved diplomatic ties.

But the last session in November ended without progress.