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US, N. Korean Envoys Trade Accusations on Delayed Nuclear Talks

North Korea's chief delegate to multinational nuclear talks says his country will continue to boost its arsenal as long as the talks are stalled. The top U.S. delegate to the talks says that by refusing to return to the talks, North Korea risks losing out on aid and other benefits.

North Korean envoy Kim Kye Gwan told reporters in Tokyo Thursday he does not view it as a bad thing that multinational talks aimed at ending his country's nuclear programs are being delayed.

Kim says during the delay, North Korea will increase what it calls its nuclear deterrent force.

China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States have tried for three years to persuade North Korea to live up to pledges it has signed to remain free of nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has suspended its participation in the talks repeatedly for various reasons.

Kim says he will not return to the talks until Washington ends financial sanctions against North Korean business interests, including bank deposits that have been frozen.

Washington's envoy to the six-nation talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, told business leaders in Seoul Thursday the sanctions are a legitimate measure to protect the U.S. banking system from North Korean counterfeiting and money laundering.

Hill says a package of incentives offered to North Korea, known as the DPRK, in exchange for nuclear disarmament "may not be there forever" if Pyongyang continues to stall. He questioned why North Korea continues to refuse a deal, which would include hundreds of millions of dollars in energy assistance, for the sake of about $20 million in the bank accounts targeted by the U.S. sanctions.

"What I think is concerning, or what troubles many people, is the question of how serious is the DPRK in following up in the six-party process," noted Hill.

Hill and Kim were both in Tokyo this week to attend a security conference at which all six nations from the nuclear talks were represented. Hill did not meet one-on-one with Kim, because, he says, the proper setting for the two nations to meet is the six-party talks.

"Mr. Kim need not worry that we won't have the opportunity to talk," he continued. "But what I didn't want to do is sit down in Tokyo with a delegation that is, in effect, boycotting the six-party process."

Hill added a country like North Korea should not be surprised to find its activities closely watched.

"You know, there will be an effort to kind of scrutinize the financial transactions of a country that's engaged, proudly engaged, in producing weapons of mass destruction," said Hill. "That's just kind of life in the big city."

Hill says he and the other countries are ready to return to the six-party talks at any time. He says he is willing to hold bilateral discussions on a wide range of topics with North Korea within the six-nation format.