MACAO, June 6 -- A North Korean trading official denied reports Monday that his government was attempting to buy large quantities of food in advance of possible trade sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear program.
The South Korean news agency, Yonhap, reported Sunday that North Korea had recently placed big orders for rice, corn, sugar and more than 100 daily necessities with Hong Kong trading companies.
The report, denied by North Korea's trade office in Macao, could not be immediately confirmed in Hong Kong.
'The news by the South Korean news agency Yonhap is completely wrong,' a spokesman for the Zok Wang trading company told United Press International in Macao.
Han Myong Chol, manager of Zok Wang, which is widely believed to be owned by the North Korean government, termed the Yonhap report 'incorrect and pure propaganda directed against the Democracrtic People's Republic of Korea.'
He said his office, which represents North Korean interests in the Portuguese overseas territory of Macao, had not received any information from Pyongyang about a delegation to Zhuhai or about the purchases cited by Yonhap.
The report by Yonhap came amid increasing tension over North Korea's refusal to allow international inspectors to examine its nuclear capabilities, raising the possibility of international sanctions.
The report from Hong Kong cited a Hong Kong trader who said he had received a written order directly from North Korea.
Under terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, North Korea must allow a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its atomic facilities to guard against possible transfer of material that could be used for nuclear weapons.
The United States, Japan and South Korea agreed Saturday that the U. N. Security Council should 'urgently' consider sanctions against North Korea for failing to comply.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry said Washington might seek to impose economic sanctions against North Korea on its own or with allies if the Security Council did not act.
The unpredicable North Korean government said it would consider any sanctions to be an act of war and aggression.
Yonhap, quoting the Hong Kong trader, said North Korea informed Hong Kong firms it would send a three-man team to the Chinese special economic zone of Zhuhai, adjoining Macao, in early June to conclude formal contracts on its orders
The report said North Korea was hurrying to conclude formal contracts on the orders as soon as possible.
To ensure security, the North Korean trade team headed by a deputy chairman of its light industry committee would not use a hotel in Zhuhai but would stay at a dormitory used by North Korean businesses there and contracts with the Hong Kong firms would be concluded in secret, Yonhap said.
During its weeklong stay in Zhuhai, the North Korean team will also discuss with Hong Kong lawyers the issue of $4 million in unclaimed North Korean deposits with the Bank of Credit and Commerce, which went bankrupt in 1991, Yonhap said.
North Korea had $10 million deposited with the bank, of which $6 million has been withdrawn with the rest yet to be claimed, Yonhap said.