BEIJING The United States has told North Korea it can access funds that had been frozen at a Macau bank and urged Pyongyang to start shutting down its nuclear reactor and invite back international inspectors.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told reporters in Beijing on Sunday he had also urged China to help ensure that Pyongyang complied with a multilateral disarmament deal struck in February.
"We had over the weekend sent a message to the DPRK to confirm that ... the accounts are open and therefore there is really nothing more we can be doing," Hill told reporters, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"It's their turn now, the ball is in their court."
Under the February 13 agreement by the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia, North Korea had 60 days to shut its nuclear facilities in return for energy aid.
But Pyongyang apparently missed the deadline on Saturday. It has insisted that it must first have access to millions of dollars in accounts at Macau's Banco Delta Asia that were frozen after the United States accused the bank of being involved in money laundering.
"Needless to say, we are not happy that the DPRK essentially has missed this very important deadline," Hill said.
Hill reiterated that Washington was willing to wait a few days, but also asked Beijing, which has hosted the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program, to help.
"The Chinese hosts asked us to be patient and hold on a few days, and we're quite prepared to do that. But clearly we have to be in close contact and see what our next steps are," Hill said.
"They have been in touch with the DPRK and as chair of the process they obviously have a special responsibility to ensure that the obligations that countries have undertaken are fulfilled."
North Korea had said on Friday it would soon check whether it could access about $25 million in the Banco Delta Asia accounts.
It was not clear whether Pyongyang had already sought access to the money.
In Pyongyang, the official media made no mention of the deadline, dwelling instead on a huge ceremony marking the birthday of the late Kim Il-sung, founder of communist North Korea and father of the current leader, Kim Jong-il.
But number-two leader Kim Yong-nam omitted the customary diatribe against Washington in a report on progress to realize the late founder's "immortal" ideals, serving only a passing and vague warning not to take North Korea's military lightly.
Earlier on Sunday Hill said he had been talking with his counterparts in the six-party nuclear negotiations, including Japan and South Korea, and they had also agreed to give North Korea a few more days.
"We're not planning to issue any more deadlines, but I think the idea is to give this a few more days and see how it goes. "
Pyongyang, which conducted is first nuclear test last October, has said it remains committed to implementing the February 13 denuclearization agreement.