US and N Korea meet over funds row

US looks to resolve $25m funds dispute that has stalled nuclear talks.

    North Korea says it will return to nuclear talks once the frozen monies are released [AFP]

    Last week, the US agreed to allow North Korea's $25 million in frozen assets to be transferred from Macau-based Banco Delta Asia to an account in the Bank of China.
     
    Legitimacy concerns
     
    The transfer of funds was delayed due to concerns the Chinese bank had about accepting money which may be tied to illegal activities.
     
    Glaser and his delegation also met with officials from China's foreign ministry, Bank of China and China Banking Regulatory Commission.
     
    In 2005, the US blacklisted the Macau bank for suspected money-laundering, attributed it to lax controls.
     
    Banco Delta Asia denied any wrongdoing and responded by freezing all North Korean assets it held.
     
    The latest round of six-nation talks on the North's nuclear disarmament broke down last week after Pyongyang's envoy refused to continue negotiations until the funds are released.
     
    Christopher Hill, chief US negotiator at the talks, said the dispute should be resolved "in the next couple of days", Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.
     
    North Korea's refusal to negotiate until the funds were transferred was a "wrong-headed decision", he was quoted as saying in Washington.
     
    Legal action
     
    In a related development, a majority foreign-owned North Korean bank has threatened legal action if the frozen funds are transferred to the Bank of China.
     

    "Daedong's money must be separated from the political arena"

    Colin McAskill, British businessman

    Colin McAskill, a British businessman, said he will sue through Pyongyang-based Daedong Credit Bank if $7 million is moved to the Chinese bank.
     
    He said the sum was legitimate earnings from joint ventures with foreign companies and North Korea, and rightfully belonged to the bank.
     
    "Daedong's money must be separated from the political arena," The Associated Press quoted him as saying.
     
    "We wish to leave the money in Macau until we can make arrangements to transfer it to one of our normal correspondent banks."
     
    McAskill has reportedly agreed to buy the Daedong Credit Bank and is currently representing it in discussions with Macau authorities.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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