U.S. Will Give North Korea "A Few More Days" To Keep Nuclear Deal

By Ralph Dannheisser
USINFO Special Correspondent

Washington - The United States is willing to give North Korea a few more days to make good on a pledge to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear reactor after having missed the April 14 deadline for doing so, a senior State Department official says.

The plant shutdown was one of a series of initial actions that were agreed to February 13 by the United States, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and North Korea aimed at what the State Department calls the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. (See related article.)

In a statement issued April 13, the Pyongyang government said it “remains unchanged in its will to implement the February 13 agreement” and would move to carry out its end as soon as a promise to first release some $25 million in frozen North Korean accounts in a Macau-based bank “is proved to be a reality.”

The senior State Department official, who asked not to be identified, told reporters April 14: “Our patience is not in infinite supply, but we feel that given the kind of unexpected complexities that did arise in connection with some of the banking issues, that it’s probably prudent to give this thing a few more days to see if the Pyongyang statement of April 13 is something they’re going to follow through on and to work with our other partners in the talks to see if we can get the movement we need in the coming days.”

While declining to be specific in terms of timing, the official said it would be “a matter of a fairly short period.”

The official’s background briefing closely followed release of a written statement in which State Department spokesman Sean McCormack took note of North Korea’s April 13 statement and said, “It is time now for the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to make its move so that all of us can move forward.”

McCormack addressed the issue of the blocked funds, reporting, “While a variety of technical issues delayed the unblocking of BDA [Banco Delta Asia] funds to account holders, as of April 10, all North Korea-related accounts that had been blocked at Banco Delta Asia were un-blocked, thus conclusively resolving the issue.”

Now, he said, North Korea must “realize fully its commitments under the February 13 agreement” by immediately inviting back International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear inspectors “to begin shutting and sealing the Yongbyon nuclear facility.”

“This would enable the other parties to follow through with the provision of emergency energy assistance equivalent to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) and move the Six-Party process forward to the next phase of implementing the September 2005 Joint Statement,” the State Department release continued. The reference was to fuel aid promised to North Korea as part of the overall agreement - aid that is to be provided in return for closing down the Yongbyon facility.

A transcript of the background briefing is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policy, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.