updated 3/8/2006 8:23:11 AM ET 2006-03-08T13:23:11

North Korea reiterated its pledge not to return to nuclear disarmament talks after a meeting with U.S. officials about the communist regime’s alleged illicit financial activity, a top North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying Wednesday.

At Tuesday’s meeting in New York, the Americans emphasized that moves against a Macau bank where Pyongyang held accounts were part of regulatory moves “to protect the U.S. financial system from abuse, and not a sanction on North Korea,” according to a U.S. Treasury Department statement.

“Our position is consistent that (North Korea) cannot return to the talks in the midst of the continued pressure (from the United States),” Ri Gun, director-general of North Korean Foreign Ministry’s American affairs bureau, said after the talks Tuesday, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Ri headed the North’s delegation to the meeting.

Last September, the United States blacklisted Banco Delta Asia and several North Korean companies it said were involved in illicit activities, including counterfeiting, money laundering and funding weapons proliferation.

Regime adamant on not coming back
North Korea denies the allegations and has maintained since November that it will not return to six-party talks on its nuclear program until the restrictions are lifted. Washington says the issue is unrelated to the nuclear talks.

Ri, director-general of North Korean Foreign Ministry’s American affairs bureau and the North’s deputy nuclear negotiator, said the North Koreans had offered their own solution to the financial impasse, but gave no details.

“Today, the (North) and the U.S. had enough dialogue on mutual interests and concerns,” Ri said, according to Yonhap. “We got to know each other’s position and confirmed differences once again.”

The North agreed in September at the nuclear talks — which also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea — to abandon its atomic program in exchange for aid and security guarantees. However, no progress has been made since then on implementing the accord.

The North has publicly claimed it has nuclear weapons, but has not performed any known tests that would confirm its arsenal.

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