North Korea would consider dismantling its nuclear weapons program if the communist country's relations with the United States, Japan and South Korea improved, China's envoy to Seoul said Friday. "I believe that North Korea is willing to scrap its nuclear weapons," Ambassador Ning Fukui told Park Geun-hye, leader of South Korea's main opposition Grand National Party, according to a party press release.
Six-nation nuclear talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States that began in 2003 have so fair failed to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its weapons programs. Ning said "three keys" are needed for the North to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, the most important of which is the establishment of mutual trust between the United States and North Korea. The other two priorities are normalizing relations with Japan and improving relations with South Korea, he said.
Washington has accused eight North Korean companies of acting as fronts for sales of banned missile, nuclear or biological weapons technology. The U.S. also recently slapped sanctions on eight companies it suspected of involvement in counterfeiting and money-laundering on behalf of the Stalinist state.
Pyongyang has angrily rejected those claims, as well as accusations that North Korea produces high quality counterfeit US$100 bills known as "supernotes." South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator said Friday that U.S. sanctions against North Korea shouldn't have any negative impact on the six-nation nuclear talks.
The fifth and latest session of the talks recessed last month with participants agreeing to meet again at an early, though as yet unspecified, date. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon has told The Associated Press that the next talks could be held in January, reports the AP. N.U.