As sharp-eyed read DJ pointed out, Bush admits that somebody “screwed up” on the North Korea funds transfer.
Full text of the Kyodo News report :
U.S. President George W. Bush admitted during his talks in April with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the U.S. government failed to fully read North Korean actions over the recent banking impasse, saying Washington ”screwed it up,” sources close to the Japan-U.S. relation said Thursday.
The remark may be seen as a rare acknowledgment by Bush that the United States erred in handling the stalemate over the transfer of North Korean funds that effectively has held up the six-nation nuclear talks since March, the sources told Kyodo News.
Presumably the people that “screwed it up” were in the State Department by being creatively vague in February about what “resolving” the BDA matter actually meant—so they could get the Six Party Agreement first and fight the bureaucratic battles later.
But the fact that Bush is blaming his own State Department instead of North Korea might be an indication that, since the U.S. made the mistake, it will do something to fix it.
Maybe Treasury gets to savor the sweet spectacle of State being taken to the woodshed—in consolation for swallowing the bitter pill of granting a waiver to Wachovia or another bank so the BDA funds can be remitted to North Korea electronically.
The AP version adds tidbits about how angry Bush is with the North Koreans and how much he mistrusts Kim Jung Il.
It’s reassuring to see that President Bush can still claim the moral high ground despite suffering from a self-inflicted wound courtesy of his own Treasury Department—the ridiculous three month charade over the $25 million dollars.
The report also passes on this inspiring piece of lip service to Abe on the abductee issue:
Meanwhile, in his talks with Bush, Abe, mindful of the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals in the past, cited “voices of concern within Japan” about a shift in U.S. policy toward dialogue in handling North Korean affairs, expressing hope that Bush would not readily give in to North Korea, the sources said.
Bush encouraged Abe to express such a view to U.S. foreign affairs officials, according to the sources.
Yeah. Talk to my people. Whatever.
As an interesting footnote (h/t to the Marmot’s Hole), South Korea’s president Roh Moo-hyun confirmed Seoul was ready to provide a channel for the BDA funds, but North Korea and the U.S. weren’t interested.
Roh said his government had hoped to help to resolve the dispute. He did not elaborate on the offer, but local news media have said Seoul was considering asking a South Korean bank to be the middleman for getting the money to a North Korean account.”We have offered to help in resolving the issue to both sides, but after our offer there has not been an answer from either side,” Roh said, referring to Washington and Pyongyang.
I suspect the State Department wanted to control resolution of the BDA matter so it wouldn’t look like Seoul was breaking the ostensible world united front against Pyongyang and running an overtly independent North Korea policy.