U.S. talks with N. Korea slowed by clash over arms-finances link

WORLD DIGEST

December 22, 2006|By New York Times News Service

BEIJING --Talks between the United States and North Korea hit a significant obstacle yesterday, as diplomats said the two sides sharply disagreed over whether relaxing an American-led crackdown on the Pyongyang regime's financial transactions should be part of any deal to roll back its nuclear program.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said yesterday that North Korean negotiators were determined to link the two issues, and that the United States is equally determined not to.

The new difficulties were the latest turn in an up-and-down week of talks given new urgency after North Korea's test detonation of a nuclear device Oct. 9, the country's first.

Hill had even said Wednesday that it was possible the parties could agree this week on rolling back North Korea's bomb-making effort, although the prospects for a meaningful breakthrough remained uncertain.

The six-nation talks opened here Monday on an unpromising note, when the senior North Korean negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan, declared that as a new nuclear power North Korea would engage only in "arms control" negotiations, implying that it had no intention of eliminating its nuclear program. But during a series of one-on-one sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, North Korea's attitude turned more pragmatic, according to Asian diplomats participating in the talks.

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