Thursday, May 31, 2007

What's going on with the nuclear deal with North Korea?

Apparently, the breakdown in negotiations regarding North Korea’s agreement to shut down a nuclear reactor in exchange for aid and diplomatic incentives is not being reported in the mainstream news.

I Googled “North Korea” and only found US Envoy Wraps up Meetings in China on North Korea Banking Issue, posted today by the Voice of America. The “banking issue” is a problem related to North Korea’s agreement to stop its nuclear weapons program.

I’ve been keeping my eye on what’s going on with North Korea, having posted about it twice on February 12, here and here and again on March 22, when it was reported that the North Korean nuclear talks had broken down.

The reason the talks broke down in March? The “banking issue.” My March 22 post explains the problem, but the link to the Kansas City Sun no longer works, so I went back to the Nuclear Threat Initiative's March 21 e-mail alert, North Korea Refuses to Talk, Nuclear Negotiations Recess.

Excerpts: “Pyongyang said it would not begin to follow through on its Feb. 13 denuclearization agreement until the United States lifted economic sanctions. Washington closed its investigation of the Banco Delta Asia in Macau, which has been linked to illicit North Korean financial activities, which opened the door for the bank to transfer $25 million in frozen funds to the Stalinist state.

"That has not yet occurred, and in the meantime the delegation from Pyongyang refused to participate in multilateral meetings.

"U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice successfully led the press within the Bush administration to release the $25 million in order to promote progress on the nuclear deal, the Financial Times reported.”

So here we are, on the last day of May, and the problem still hasn’t been solved, despite Rice’s “success.”

According to today's Voice of America article, “U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill is heading back to Washington after a day of meetings with Chinese officials. As he left he reported no progress on resolving a transfer of North Korean accounts from a Macau bank. As Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, North Korea has refused to move forward on a nuclear deal until it has the money.”

Yesterday, the Nuclear Threat Initiative posted a news alert, North Korea Blames U.S. for Nuclear Deal Delays, and today it posted U.S., China Unable to Loosen North Koren Nuclear Logjam. Same problem, the “banking issue.” Excerpts from today's article: “North Korea has had difficulty finding a bank willing to accept about $25 million in accounts once frozen by the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia after U.S. officials said the money was tainted by counterfeiting and money laundering.

"Washington has since encouraged the bank to release the funds, but no other bank has been willing to accept the money, reportedly out of fear that U.S. sanctions would result.”

My question: What can the U.S. do to allay the fear of sanctions? I can’t believe there isn’t something that would work.

Based on our track record regarding agreements with North Korea, which I describe in more detail here, I’m not surprised at this impasse. However, if the nuclear deal with North Korea falls apart, I won’t be surprised if North Korea is blamed.

(photo- cover of North Korea, South Korea, by John Feffer, which I referred to in my February 12 post.)


Anonymous said...

Do you think for a moment that Cheney, Bolton, and Addington aren't doing their best to keep the banking problem alive?


Gail Jonas said...

I think you are right. You've picked the "Three Buccaneers" who want war at all costs.

On a positive note, go to Steve Clemon's blog this morning; he says the "realists" are finally being appointed to positions where adults need to be making the decisions.