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2 North Koreans hungry for a
deal By Donald Kirk
WASHINGTON - North Korea appears unlikely
to shut down its nuclear facilities within the
60-day time frame prescribed by the agreement
signed on February 13 in Beijing, while upping the
stakes in the great bargaining game for survival
and power on the Korean Peninsula.
for living up to the exact timing of the deal
under which North Korea was to have closed the
nuclear complex at Yongbyon, 100 kilometers north
of the capital, by April 14 faded
after the country's nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan,
broke away from talks in Beijing this week and
returned to Pyongyang.
needs orders from the country's leader, Kim
Jong-il - whether he sees him in person or gets
the word indirectly is not known - in finally
resolving the issue that held up the whole process
for more than a year after the six parties at the
talks had reached an "agreement in principle" on
September 19, 2005, for North Korea to give up its
The immediate sticking point is
clearly all-important to Kim Jong-il amid
increasing anxieties about the terrible state of
the economy and his ability to feed his people.
North Korea wants the US$25 million in its frozen
accounts at Banco Delta Asia in Macau before doing
anything to fulfill the February 13 agreement.
The ruckus raised by North Korea over the
$25 million appears incomprehensible to the other
negotiators in Beijing, notably Christopher Hill,
the chief US envoy to the talks, but it sets a
precedent for more trouble ahead as Pyongyang
addresses a range of issues.
Hill, the US
assistant secretary of state for East Asian and
Pacific affairs, seemed frustrated but optimistic
as usual as he claimed the talks were "still on
schedule" after Kim Kye-gwan, vice minister of the
North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, walked
out of one meeting and failed to show up for
another. The process, Hill said, was "still on
Diplomats were inclined to view
the breakdown of the talks as a glitch that could
be overcome whenever the $25 million in North
Korea's accounts in Banco Delta Asia were
transferred to a bank in Beijing, as demanded by
Kim Kye-gwan, but the possibilities for more
delays and glitches seemed endless.
if the funds wind up in the Bank of China, the
question remains whether the international
financial system will have anything to do with
North Korea while banks and other institutions
worry about their dealings in the United States.
Another issue is whether North Korea after
recovering the $25 million can resume doing
business through Macau, the conduit for moving
counterfeit US$100 bills before the US Treasury
Department blacklisted Banco Delta Asia in late
Rising food shortages in North
Korea, however, lead analysts to believe that the
country is in no position to stay away from the
talks for long - and is indeed willing to give up
its nuclear program, including its 5-megawatt
experimental reactor, after extracting as many
concessions as possible.
The World Food
Program as well as non-governmental agencies say
North Korea is again in the throes of a food
shortage in which many people are expected to die.
Good Friends, headquartered in South Korea,
reports starvation after a "poorer than expected"
harvest last year. South Korea has promised to
resume food and fertilizer shipments, cut off
after the North test-fired seven missiles in July,
but North Korea needs far more to meet its needs
this year, according to the WFP.
analysts in Washington and at the United Nations
in New York believe that North Korea by now is no
longer interested in flaunting its nuclear
strength - one reason it signed on to the deal to
give up its nukes. A number of reports from North
Korea indicate that it had been planning for some
time to discontinue activities at the Yongbyon
complex but is keeping it open for purposes of
negotiations for food, fertilizer and other forms
Assuming the negotiators in
Beijing somehow get past the question of the North
Korean accounts in Macau, they will then