North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has told a Chinese envoy that the decision as to whether to carry out a second nuclear test hinges on US policy toward the country.
Kim made the remarks to Chinese envoy Tang Jiaxuan during talks in Pyongyang as the discussed the country's first-ever nuclear test on October 9.
Kim told Tang that while there is no plan to hold a second nuclear test for the moment, North Korea would have to respond if the US continues to pressure the country. Kim also said he thinks the US is trying to crush North Korea with its hostile policy, and complained about US financial sanctions, which have been in place since September 2005.
Kim reiterated that the financial sanctions were an obstacle to six-way talks on the North’s nuclear program and Pyongyang could return to the talks – stalled since last November – if the US lifts the sanctions.
US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, meanwhile, arrived in Hong Kong for talks on frozen North Korean bank accounts in neighbouring Macau, according to a spokesman for the US Consulate General.
The US banned transactions between Macau-based Banco Delta Asia and American financial institutions in September 2005, characterising the bank as a "willing pawn for the North Korean government" and alleging that its clients were involved in smuggling and counterfeiting.
North Korea has denied the allegations and has made the lifting of the freeze a precondition for its return to the talks.
Hill came to Hong Kong after accompanying US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing to rally support for a UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions against the North.
Rice cast doubt on reports that Pyongyang promised not to conduct more nuclear tests saying Chinese hadn’t told her any such thing when she was in Beijing.
"Councillor Tang did not tell me that Kim Jong Il either apologised for the test or said that he would never test again," Rice, who had met with Tang in Beijing, said during a visit to Moscow on Saturday.
Kim also told China the North would adhere to a 1992 treaty signed by South and North Korea to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. Kim said abiding by the agreement was the wish of his late father, Kim Il Sung. The 1992 non-nuclear agreement specified that neither South nor North Korea were to make, possess, test, or deploy nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
In Seoul, South Korean nuclear envoy Chun Yung-woo said he was briefed on Kim’s meeting with Tang, but he wouldn’t provide details.
Chun said he had no information on whether North Korea would conduct a second nuclear test, and also said there was no indication that the North was interested in resuming the nuclear talks.
North Korea has refused since last November to return to the nuclear negotiations. It has sought to bolster its negotiating position by a series of provocative actions – test-firing a barrage of missiles in July and conducting its recent nuclear test. The North has insisted its nuclear program is aimed at deterring a possible US invasion, and that having the bomb enhances regional stability by putting it on equal terms with Washington.