The Bush administration on Tuesday rejected a North Korean demand that it lift sanctions as a way of possibly resuming stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

The two issues are unrelated, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "I don't see in what way they are preventing North Korea from going back to the six-party talks."

The sanctions were imposed for alleged currency counterfeiting and other illegal activities.

"While under U.S. sanctions, it's impossible to sit face-to-face and discuss abandoning our nuclear deterrent," said the Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling Workers Party newspaper, in a Korean-language commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"The U.S. sanctions are obviously the fundamental element that disrupts the six-party talks," the newspaper said.

McCormack said it was important and reasonable for the United States to protect American currency. "We, the United States, as well as other countries are going to take steps to stop, inhibit or prevent illicit activities," he said.

The negotiations are designed to halt North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The six nations, which include Japan, China, South Korea and Russia, as well as the United States and North Korea, agreed in November to return to the negotiations as soon as possible, McCormack said.

"We are prepared to do so, and we look forward to the resumption of those talks," he said.

As for the alleged violations, the spokesman said the United States had offered North Korea a briefing and was turned down.