Talks may lose momentumThe government at one time considered using the Korea Export and Import Bank as an intermediary to help North Korea transfer its funds to a third country, but the plan has been scrapped. This is fortunate, but the outlook for the future is still unclear. This is because the government has declined to comment directly on the issue. The responsibility for the delay in resolving the issue of North Korean funds at Banco Delta Asia, which has caused a halt in the implementation of steps to denuclearize the North laid out in a February agreement for over a month, lies with Washington and Pyongyang. When Washington took the necessary measures to unfreeze North Korean funds at the Macao-based bank, North Korea should have taken measures which it had committed to under the February agreement. If it had done that, the North could have gained trust from the international community and positioned itself better at the negotiation table. The North wasted this opportunity as it was watching Washington concede.
Looking from a different angle, even greater responsibility for the current situation lies with Washington.
The United States changed the logic that it used 20 months ago when it designated Banco Delta Asia as a primary money laundering concern, effectively putting sanctions on it. It argued that the financial sanctions and the nuclear talks are separate issues, but in the end, it has taken measures as if the whole thing never happened. That is why the North is not adhering to measures it had agreed to earlier.
The Feb. 13 agreement is at a crossroads. Even if the BDA issue is resolved so the first steps to denuclearize the North can be completed, heavy fuel oil needs to be sent to the North. This is an issue that could hold up the process.
If that happens, there is a possibility that the six-party talks will lose momentum. The United States could find itself in a position with very little room to move. But even then, Washington has to find a solution to the BDA issue on its own. Whether it uses an American bank to act as an intermediary for the transfer of the North’s funds or persuades Pyongyang, that is up to Washington. The current situation has occurred not because of South Korea but because of the United States.
The government also needs to adopt a clear attitude instead of a vague one. It is out of the question that a Korean bank should take on a role that even a Chinese bank has refused to take on, fearing a problem with its credit rating.