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World News

CHRONOLOGY: North Korea's frozen funds saga

(Reuters) - North Korea said on Friday it may be ready to move in a standoff over frozen assets it insists be unblocked before shutting down its nuclear reactor, just ahead of the deadline on an atomic disarmament deal.

Here are 10 key moments in the 18-month-long saga.

MONEY FREEZE:

** September 15, 2005: Some $24 million is frozen in North Korea-linked accounts in Macau’s Banco Delta Asia (BDA), after the U.S Treasury labels it a “willing pawn” in Pyongyang’s alleged counterfeiting of millions of U.S. dollars, drug trafficking and other illicit activities.

TALKS BOYCOTT:

** November 11 2005: North Korea withdraws from six party nuclear talks, which began in 2003, and boycotts them for over a year, blaming the U.S.-led financial crackdown.

-- In the year before resuming talks it launches a volley of missiles in July, explodes its first nuclear device in October and makes release of the funds, or part of them, a precondition for negotiations with the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

CRACKDOWN DEFENDED:

** NOV. 3, 2006: The United States announces its investigations confirm illicit activity by North Korea and the BDA; saying the Macau bank took a fee from Pyongyang for lax due diligence on their accounts.

BILATERAL MEETING:

** December 18, 2006: Nuclear talks restart in Beijing. North Korea and U.S. Treasury officials meet to discuss the financial curbs on the sidelines, and organize a bilateral meeting to continue discussions in New York in January 2007.

BREAKTHROUGH AGREEMENT:

** February 13, 2007: The U.S. agrees to resolve the frozen funds issue and North Korea says it will take steps towards nuclear disarmament in breakthrough agreement at six-party talks.

U.S. BARS BDA:

** March 14: U.S. Treasury formally bars American banks from dealing with the BDA, signaling the end of its investigation and allowing Macau to free the funds.

TRANSFER AGREED:

** March 19: U.S. official Daniel Glaser says the funds will be transferred to a North Korean account at the Bank of China in Beijing, as Pyongyang has requested, and used for benign humanitarian and educational purposes.

QUITS TALKS AGAIN:

** March 23: North Korean envoy Kim Kye-gwan abruptly quits nuclear talks in Beijing, with North Korean officials saying the four days of talks have been derailed by lack of progress in freeing the frozen funds.

BILATERAL DISCUSSION:

** March 27: U.S. Treasury officials meet with North Korean diplomats in Beijing to discuss transferring the funds.

UNBLOCKING ANNOUNCED:

** April 10: The U.S. says Macau has unblocked all the funds that North Korea has cited as a reason for refusing to shut its nuclear facilities. It urges Pyongyang to meet the April 14 deadline to close down its Yongbyon nuclear plant that it agreed to in six-party talks on February 13, 2007.

Source: Reuters

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