Source AP ©

N.Korea wants access to international banks before acting on nuclear pledge

A pro-Pyongyang newspaper said Friday that before North Korea  would act on a nuclear disarmament pledge it wanted to regain access to the international financial system. 

North Korea has been effectively cut off from international banks after the United States blacklisted a Macau bank in 2005 for allegedly aiding the communist regime in money laundering and counterfeiting, scaring other banks away from dealings with the North.

The North has denied the charges against, it and has boycotted negotiations on its nuclear program for more than a year, during which it conducted its first-ever test of a nuclear device in October.

In an effort to break the deadlock and move forward on disarmament, the United States earlier this month helped unfreeze US$25 million (EUR18.4 million) in North Korean money held in the Macau bank, Banco Delta Asia. But the North has not withdrawn the funds for unknown reasons, and it has refused to act on its February pledge to start dismantling its nuclear program.

North Korea "did not place its primary goal on withdrawing the frozen US$25 million," said the Choson Sinbo, a newspaper based in Tokyo that has links to the North's government and is considered one of the North's propaganda tools.

The North's demand for resolving the issue requires that "normal transactions take place with the funds according to the international financial regime," the paper said.

Although the U.S. helped unblock the North's money, Washington maintained the blacklisting of the Macau bank, barring it from access to U.S. financial institutions. That designation makes it difficult to find a bank willing to accept the North's money, the paper claimed.

It was unclear, however, if North Korea was demanding the U.S. to lift the blacklisting from the Macau bank.

North Korea said last week that it remained committed to the February deal in which it promised to shut down its nuclear reactor in exchange for economic aid and political concessions, although it missed an April 14 deadline to do that because of the bank dispute.

Washington has urged North Korea to act on the nuclear disarmament pledge, warning the United States' patience was limited.

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