Friday, April 13, 2007

China suggest North Korean funds issue not resolved

I have been skeptical of this all along. Many times now the issue is announced as resolved by the US but not by North Korea. I also wonder if fuel oil is also being delivered as per the agreement.

China suggests N.Korea funds issue not resolved
Thu Apr 12, 2007 6:06am ET
SEOUL (Reuters) - China suggested on Thursday the release of North Korean funds blocked in a Macau bank, the trigger for Pyongyang to start shutting a nuclear reactor, was still not quite resolved, but the United States said it was.

Washington said Macau authorities had unblocked about $25 million of North Korean funds at Banco Delta Asia (BDA) frozen for about 18 months and Pyongyang could now pick up the money.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news conference in Beijing: "We hope the issue of the bank funds can be properly resolved as soon as possible."

He added: "The legitimate and reasonable concerns and interests of all parties should be addressed so we can find a way to properly resolve the issue as soon as possible." This was a reference to concerns in China about how to handle the funds from the BDA which Washington accuses of money laundering.

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North Korea insists the money be returned before it starts shutting down the Yongbyon atomic reactor, which supplies it with weapons-grade plutonium, as part of an international deal for its nuclear disarmament.

"Their money is available, so this is no longer about BDA in my opinion. This is about their undertakings with respect to denuclearization. BDA is over," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters in Seoul, where he met officials.

South Korea's chief envoy to six-country talks on ending the North's nuclear ambitions said it could take a few days to resolve the hold-up over the funds.

"It's time for North Korea to move and until North Korea moves, there is nothing we can do," Chun Yung-woo said after a meeting with Hill.

That means North Korea is likely to miss a Saturday deadline to start shutting down the reactor under the February 13 deal reached with China, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

North Korea told a U.S. delegation led by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Pyongyang this week that it could start the shut-down process within a day of receiving its money by inviting back International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors for the first since 2002.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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