TOKYO Pyongyang is unlikely to meet a mid-April deadline to shut down a nuclear reactor as the United States and North Korea remain divided over a transfer of the North's funds in Macau, a Chinese envoy was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia jointly agreed on February 13 to give North Korea 60 days to shut its Yongbyon reactor, which makes plutonium that can be used for weapons, in return for energy aid and security pledges.
Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted Chinese chief envoy Wu Dawei as telling Japanese reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that it was difficult for North Korea to meet the deadline to close and seal its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon.
"I believe it's definite. It cannot be helped," Kyodo quoted Wu as saying in reference to Pyongyang missing the deadline.
"There is a gap of a certain size" between the United States and North Korea over the transfer of funds in a Macau bank, Wu was quoted as saying. "There are various legal problems."
A Japanese government official expressed hope that the issue of the North Korean funds would be resolved quickly so that the six-party talks could resume soon.
"North Korea is saying the problem rests with the United States, and China is saying it is a problem between the United States and North Korea, and the United States is saying the problem rests with North Korea -- No matter where the problem is, we hope the financial issue will be resolved as soon as possible so that we can resume six-party talks," the official said on condition of anonymity.
A delegation led by Daniel Glaser has been in Beijing for several days to discuss the implementation of a deal in which $25 million was to be released into a North Korean account at the Bank of China.
North Korea has refused to take part in further six-party negotiations on ending its nuclear ambitions until the funds are transferred to its account.
To help get the six-way talks moving again, the U.S. Treasury Department said last month it would release the funds, but the transfer has not been executed and the delay led North Korea to walk away from negotiations last week.