Seoul (AsiaNews) – The North Korean funds blocked by the United States in a Macau bank “ are now available to the Pyongyang government”, which “ must proceed without further delay in shutting down its atomic programmes”.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and principal delegate to negotiations during the crises that followed North Korea’s nuclear missile test, made the announcement today. Wendy Au, a spokeswoman at Macau's Monetary Authority, confirmed that “the money is ready to be handed over to the owners of the accounts”.
The 25 million dollars in funds where blocked at the small Macau lender Banco Delta Asia, by the USA in 2005. The money was blacklisted by Washington because it maintained the North laundered the money through the account to finance their arms trade.
The issue was brought up during the last round of “six party nuclear disarmament talks” in Beijing February last. During discussions between the six nations – China, Russia, United States, Japan and the two Koreas – the Pyongyang envoy defined the issue of the Macao accounts as “an issue impossible to ignore”.
The talks, called after the Stalinist regime carried out it’s first nuclear missile test in October last, concluded with North Korea’s pledge to shut down its main nuclear reactor by Saturday in exchange for energy aid and political concessions, among those the release of the Macau funds.
According to Hill, currently in Seoul, “the financial dispute that blocked North Korea's disarmament is now resolved. Now is really an important time to get on with the ever-urgent task of denuclearisation”.
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, currently visiting Korea agrees. During his meeting with President Roh Moo-hyun in Seoul, he said it was “necessary” to undertake concrete steps “as soon as possible” to prevent any new nuclear rearmament of the North.
AsiaNews sources in Korea however relay that the question is “still far from being resolved, Pyongyang committed itself to shutting down its nuclear reactors within 30 days from the signing of the Beijing treaty, but has yet to move in that direction. Moreover the regime lead by Kim Jong-il has no idea where to place these funds: it makes no sense to change them into local currency because they would be devoured by inflation, and no foreign bank wants to become involved”.