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According to Reuters Tokyo:

– North Korea has demanded the United States allow it to open an account at a bank in New York and its funds at a Macau bank be transferred there, a Japanese daily reported in Sunday.

Quoting an unspecified source in Washington linked to relations between the United States and North Korea, the Mainichi newspaper said the United States had rejected Pyongyang’s demand.

“The United States hurt the credibility of North Korea by imposing financial sanctions. The United States must correct this,” the source quoted an unnamed North Korean official as saying, according to the Japanese daily.

“We can prove to the international community the funds are clean by transferring them to a bank in the United States.”

North Korea was believed to have made the demands when the Bush administration’s top Korea expert, Victor Cha, contacted North Korean representatives at the United Nations on April 24, the Mainichi newspaper said.

A couple things here:

First, this looks like an indirect confirmation that the U.S. did back down on its protracted efforts to tie up the North Korean funds in BDA, and agreed to some kind of lump-sum repatriation.

The North Koreans are, as a result, emboldened to take the provocative step of demanding that the lump-sum remittance be made to a bank in the United States.

Second, I can’t imagine that the US will acquiesce to this humiliating demand, since it has spent almost two months insisting that these funds were too dirty for any bank in the world to accept—let alone a US bank.

Also, beyond the amusing spectacle of the Treasury Department sullenly allowing the Norks to open an account in New York, it’s a little premature for the US to openly welcome North Korea back into the world financial community. That’s a concession that should be part of a general strategic rapprochement between Washington and Pyongyang.

President Bush is no friend of the Pyongyang regime, so this episode of overreach by the North Koreans might arouse his deep resentment and poison the well for a broader engagement between the two countries.

Perhaps the North Koreans feel that the possibilities of a “Nixon Goes to China” moment for Kim and Bush is so remote that their iron-assed diplomats will concentrate on wringing as many concessions as they can from the current BDA imbroglio, even if it means antagonizing President Bush.

Maybe the BDA affair will just drag on and on, reflecting the fundamental stalemate in US-North Korean relations.

That’s a dismal, dreary prospect, even for this writer, who has made a specialty of blogging the BDA matter into the ground.

Maybe that’s why Victor Cha decided to go back to Georgetown.

(Republished from China Matters by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: BDA, North Korea, Victor Cha 
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