Russia Opposes Sanctions Against North Korea
Russia opposes any kind of sanctions against what the United States calls rogue states such as Iran and North Korea, Glev Ivashentsov, Moscow's top diplomat to Seoul, said on Tuesday. His remarks came as U.S. and North Korean officials were to hold a meeting in New York later in the day amid Washington's financial sanctions against Pyongyang for the communist state's alleged counterfeiting of U.S. dollars.

``In principle, we are against any economic sanctions because they do not work,'' Ivashentsov told The Korea Times after a forum hosted by the Korea News Editors' Association in Seoul.

``There should be dialogue, there should be consultation, but sanctions do not work neither against North Korea, nor against Iran, nor against any other country,'' he said.

In New York, North Korean officials were to receive a briefing by U.S. Treasury Department officials on the ``financial restrictions'' Washington imposed in September against a bank in Macau for its alleged money-laundering service to Pyongyang for over 20 years.

Calling it ``financial sanctions'' targeting the Pyongyang regime, North Korea said in November that it will not return to the six-party denuclearization talks unless the United States gives up such a hostile policy.

The talks _ attended by the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan _ have been in limbo since a three-day meeting in Beijing ended with no tangible results in November.

``I think we all should work for the progress of the Beijing talks,'' the Russian envoy said. ``We hope that these discussions there in New York would contribute to the progress of the talks about the North's nuclear programs.''

U.S. Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser, who handles terrorist financing and financial crimes, represents the ``working-level'' briefing team that is expected to strictly limit its role as a technical information provider, according to wire news services.

The United States reportedly turned down North Korean requests in December that they hold ``high-level'' meetings, attended by the two states' top nuclear negotiators Kim Gye-gwan and Christopher Hill, to find a political way out of the current impasse.

A number of U.S. State Department officials, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Stephens, will attend the briefing session. But they are not in charge of the North Korean nuclear issue, the wire news services said.

Pyongyang's top delegate to the briefing session is Ri Gun, director of the Foreign Ministry's of North American affairs. He concurrently works as the North's deputy envoy to the six-party talks.

As for the claim that Moscow was one of the venues North Koreans used to circulate the bogus U.S. dollars, Ivashentsov said that his government is not aware of any substantial evidence to prove it.

``Our law-enforcement agencies have not seen substantial evidence, regarding such claims,'' he said through an interpreter during the forum. ``What we've heard of till now is at the level of rumor.''

Quoting unnamed U.S. officials, the Washington Times reported last year that North Korean diplomats and Sean Garland, head of Ireland's communist Workers Party, and part of a ring that allegedly trafficked in the North Korean counterfeit notes, met at the North Korean Embassy in Moscow.

Ivashentsov said that the United States should present concrete evidence that can entangle Pyongyang in financial illegalities. ``The party that raises such suspicions should present the corresponding evidence,'' he said.