- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

BEIJING — The United States said it was willing to give Pyongyang a few more days to meet its commitments after North Korea missed a deadline yesterday to shut down a nuclear reactor.

Under a Feb. 13 multilateral deal, Pyongyang agreed to shut down its Soviet-era Yongbyon plant within 60 days, but it has not made good on that pledge because of a dispute over millions of dollars frozen in North Korean accounts at a bank in Macao.

The United States has said the funds have been unblocked and should no longer be an issue.

“Our patience is not infinite … but we feel that, given that 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,” a senior U.S. official who asked not to be identified told reporters.

The United States had pledged to resolve North Korea’s concerns about $25 million deposited in Macao’s Banco Delta Asia by March 15, but because of unexpected difficulties, the money became available to Pyongyang only on Tuesday.

North Korea said Friday it would soon check to see whether it could access its funds, which were frozen after the United States said it suspected the bank of being involved in money laundering.

Pyongyang also said it remained committed to carrying out the Feb. 13 agreement “and will also move” when the money in the Macao bank is released.

“It is time now for the DPRK to make its move so that all of us can move forward,” the State Department said in a written statement, referring to the country by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The statement also said North Korea must immediately invite back International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear inspectors and begin shutting down Yongbyon to get energy aid promised under the Feb. 13 deal.

“It remains for the DPRK to realize fully its commitments … by inviting back the IAEA immediately to begin shutting and sealing the Yongbyon nuclear facility,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Mr. McCormack said that would allow other nations to provide North Korea with the equivalent of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil as promised under the agreement among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

That deal called for North Korea to shut down the Yongbyon plant by yesterday as a first step toward ending its nuclear program.

“The Chinese wanted us to show some patience for a couple of more days. There’s a sense that the communication lines are open and the North Koreans understand the fact that these accounts are accessible to them,” Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill said before the U.S. statement was issued.

Mr. Hill, the top U.S. negotiator with North Korea, also said he hoped for a resumption of six-party talks by the end of the month.

He said there had been a big diplomatic push to end the crisis. “We’d like to see a similar level of effort from the DPRK — a level of effort that, frankly, we haven’t been seeing.”

North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test in October, has insisted the Macao bank money must be freed before it will comply with the February agreement.

“The Chinese made very clear to us that they support the arrangements in Macao,” Mr. Hill said. “They support the decision of the Macao authorities to unblock the accounts.”

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