The United States (U.S.) and North Korea (NK) seem to have resolved a dispute over $25 million of frozen funds, a key point that stopped the progress in negotiations to dismantle the NK nuclear weapons program. U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said that the six-party talks will now "move on to the next problem" indicating that are "many" more problems with the NK weapons program. U.S. Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser clarified that the frozen funds in a small Macau bank would be transferred into a North Korean account at the Bank of China in Beijing. NK, which proposed this arrangement, has "pledged" to use these funds only for "the betterment of the North Korean people,: for education and humanitarian purposes. A State Department spokesperson confessed that the U.S. will have no means to monitor how the funds will be used. However, newswire reports cite unnamed sources to say that North Korea's top nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan had promised the work at the Yongbyon reactor would stop as soon as the money was released.
The U.S. had leaned on banks and world governments to freeze NK funds because it has circumstantial evidence of money-laundering and counterfeiting by Pyongyang Government. After last year's shocking nuclear test, the six-nation negotiation process got rekindled again primarily because of Beijing's leadership. On February 13, the six nations agreed on a disarmament agreement gave NK 60 days to shut down its main reactor and its plutonium unit and allow U.N. inspectors to verify the closures. In return, NK was to get energy and economic aid and a possible lifting of financial sanctions starting with the said USD 25 million. While NK is cash-strapped and desperately needs the money, it is more a prestige issue than the money that irks Pyongyang.
Japan agreed to the agreement but also laid many conditions on Japanese hostages and missile tests. Responding to continued Japanese criticism, according to Japan's chief envoy Kenichiro Sasae, Pyongyang questioned Japan's right and "qualifications" and "commitment to meet its requirements" to be part of the negotiations. Tokyo and Pyongyang have been exchanging verbal barbs publicly in the recent weeks. Sasae has said that Pyongyang's question "is not worth a comment" and said that NK's "argument is totally off the mark." Despite this serious dispute, Hill feels that it will not obstruct negotiations but insisted that "Japan is an important country" and urged NK to improve its relations with Japan.