Seoul: The path to disarming North Korea of its nuclear weapons will prove much harder than clearing a deadlock over its funds that took nearly two years, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy was quoted as saying on 15 June.
More than $20 million (Rs81 crore) in North Korean funds once frozen at Macau’s Banco Delta Asia has been remitted and was expected to go through a string of transactions that will eventually end at a Russian bank where North Korea holds accounts.
North Korea has refused to honour the 13 February deal to begin shutting down its nuclear activities until about $25 million at the Macau bank is released.
“The BDA issue was just the first obstacle to implementing the deal, which is now removed,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted Chun Yung-woo, Seoul’s chief envoy to six-way talks on ending the North’s nuclear programmes, as saying.
“The process of denuclearising (North Korea) is much more difficult than the BDA problem,” Chun was quoted as saying on arrival from Washington after meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Christopher Hill.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency, citing Macau authorities, said the funds were expected to be transferred through the New York branch of the Federal Reserve and Russia’s central bank to the Russian commercial bank with which North Korea does business.
South Korean officials could not confirm on 15 June whether the funds had reached Russia, but Japan’s NHK quoted a senior U.S official as saying the funds had been turned over to Russia.
Under the February agreement struck by the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, the United States and China, Pyongyang is slated to get 50,000 tonne of heavy fuel or equivalent in aid once it shuts down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and accepts inspections.
North Korea will get aid equivalent to 950,000 tonne in heavy fuel oil when it completes disabling all its nuclear facilities and makes full disclosure of its nuclear programmes.