The United States has urged South Korea to reduce its economic aid to North Korea, expressing its displeasure that the aid is not helping to resolve the nuclear issue, sources close to the matter said Wednesday
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The United States has urged South Korea to reduce its economic aid to North Korea , expressing its displeasure that the aid is not helping to resolve the nuclear issue, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick conveyed this position to South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong Young during their talks Tuesday in Washington, the sources said.
The United States made the rare demand at a time when it has stepped up pressure on Pyongyang. Washington recently imposed financial sanctions on a Macao-based bank suspected of laundering money gained from illicit activities for the North and against North Korea entities for allegedly proliferating weapons of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, South Korea has been promoting a policy of engagement with North Korea. It provides economic aid to prevent unrest in the North as it is worried that tightening the screws further may lead to the collapse of North Korea leader Kim Jong Il.
The sources said Zoellick stressed that North Korea's currency counterfeiting and other illicit activities threaten not only the United States, but also the entire world.
Zoellick explained that the United States is working with Japan as well as European and other nations to prevent the money earned through such activities from falling into the hands of the North Korean leadership and military, the sources said.
Against this backdrop, Zoellick told Chung that South Korea's economic aid undermines these efforts and is making it hard to get DPRK to abandon its nuclear programs, the sources said.
Zoellick also conveyed Washington's policy of refusing imports of products made at an industrial complex being developed in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, which is the core project of an inter-Korea economic cooperation effort, stressing that the United States considers the products to be made in North Korea.
About 300 companies are expected to start operations at the complex next year and plan to export the products to the United States as ''made in Korea.''
At a press conference a day before the meeting, Chung said South Korea has proposed holding an informal meeting in January of chief delegates of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
While Chung is expected to have discussed the proposal with Zoellick, the United States' move to caution South Korea about its aid has placed Seoul into a difficult spot.
South Korea earlier offered to host the informal session on Dec. 19 on Jeju Island to set the stage for Washington and North Korea to hold talks in a multilateral setting to resolve the disputes over the sanctions and get the full six-party talks back on track.
Pyongyang has said it would not return to the talks unless Washington removes the sanctions.
The six parties -- also involving China, Japan and Russia -- last met in November in Beijing for the fifth round of talks.