Once burned, twice shyThe Feb. 13 agreement, which was to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, will miss its deadline for implementing first-stage measures. According to the agreement, Pyongyang was to shut down and seal its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon by today, under the supervision of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, due to its frozen funds at Banco Delta Asia, the sixty-day deadline will pass without the first steps toward the North’s eventual denuclearization being carried out.
The United States has done all it can to resolve the BDA problem. At the risk of being criticized for abandoning its principles, it helped North Korea overcome the stigma of having unlawful funds at BDA. Pyongyang’s foreign ministry spokesperson said the North would take action once it confirms the funds are free, but when this will happen is still uncertain. The United States must take its share of responsibility for causing this because it ignored the technicalities of the BDA issue to push through a deal. The United States should have known that it would be difficult to attract the North to the negotiating table unless it forged meticulous strategies and tactics that account for all possibilities.
We have urged the Korean government to keep an eye on North Korea’s actions from the beginning of the Feb. 13 agreement. The government, however, seemed to be overly willing to give unconditional aid, as if the North Korean issue is completely back on the right track. North Korea has not changed at all, as seen by the failure of South and North Korean branches of the Red Cross to resolve differences over long-cherished reunions of those kidnapped to the North and war prisoners with their relatives in the South.
Yet, the minister of unification Lee Jae-joung is taking an optimistic view, saying that a delay of a few days in implementing the agreement is not a big problem. Korea already bought heavy fuel to provide energy aid to Pyongyang (in return for shutting down the nuclear facilities) so it is now incurring a loss of 70 million won per day; a total loss of 3.6 billion won is expected.
His irresponsible attitude, saying that the reserve fund is already secure and there is not much to worry about, is beyond understanding. Is the money to be given to the North not coming from the public’s pocket?
Taking a lesson from the missed deadline for implementing the first steps of the agreement, the government should always prepare itself for the worst and take a cautious approach based on precise calculations in negotiating the North Korean nuclear issue.