Tokyo: China’s top negotiator with North Korea doubted on 4 April that Pyongyang would meet next week’s deadline to shut down nuclear facilities in line with a breakthrough US-backed deal, reports said.
Wu Dawei, speaking to Japanese journalists in Beijing, said a row has yet to be resolved over transferring funds to North Korea that were unfrozen in a concession by the US, Kyodo News and Jiji Press said.
“There is a gap of a certain size,” Wu said, as quoted by Kyodo News.
Asked if North Korea would meet the deadline, Wu said: “I think that will be the outcome. It cannot be helped.”
China is North Korea’s main ally and the broker of the six-nation talks that led to a 13 February agreement with nuclear-armed Pyongyang.
Under the deal, North Korea promised to shut down and seal its plutonium-producing Yongbyon reactor and other plants by 14 April in exchange for energy aid.
But Pyongyang last month stormed out of talks, which group the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US, unless it receives some $25 million of its funds frozen in a Macau bank.
Washington in 2005 blacklisted the money in Macau due to accusations of money laundering and counterfeiting. It announced the end of the sanction last month and said it was up to the Macau authorities to release the cash.
But the funds were not immediately transferred and North Korea has insisted it will not cooperate further unless it sees the money. The problem has reportedly stemmed from finding a bank to handle the cash.
Japan has also voiced pessimism on North Korea meeting the deadline.