Friday, November 17, 2006

More on BDA and North Korea

Following up on the question of whether the U.S. financial pressure exerted against Pyongyang was truly effective, a hat-tip to reader Mahathir-fan for finding an article in the Turkish press reporting that at least $8 million of the $24 million in frozen North Korean funds in the notorious Banco Delta Asia of Macau come from legitimate sources, including $2 million from those legendary nicotine buccaneers, British-American Tobacco:

Don Oberdorfer, a Korea expert, told JoongAng Ilbo newspaper that US investigators had found that "at least eight million dollars" of the funds in Banco Delta Asia (BDA) in the southern Chinese territory of Macau were legal.

Oberdorfer was quoted as saying that six million dollars belonging to Daedong Credit Bank, a Hong Kong-based joint venture, had been verified.

Also verified was two million dollars paid by British American Tobacco, which does business in the communist state.

The U.S. Treasury Department weaseled gracelessly, trying to put the onus for the freeze on the Macau banking authorities:

The US Treasury refused to comment on the claim and stressed it was the Macau government which had blocked the accounts.

Spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said BDA was blacklisted under Section 311 of the US Patriot Act "given the illicit financial activity it facilitated for the North Korean regime".

But she added: "Designations under Section 311 do not freeze funds, and any money that has been blocked in BDA has been blocked by the Macanese authorities."

Washington effectively froze the funds by blacklisting the Macau bank in September 2005, almost the same day the six-party talks made an apparent breakthrough.

The U.S. record on delivering accurate, honest, and useful intel on North Korean illicit financial transactions, clandestine shipping movements, and WMD proliferation is so dismal, it recalls unpleasant memories of how wrong the US was concerning Iraq—or how cynical the US was in manipulating intelligence in order to promote pre-existing regime change objectives there.

One would think the United States would understand that, if it wants to claim leadership of even selective—as opposed to universal--global non-proliferation initiatives, it might want to put in more effort to appear as a credible and honest broker of information.

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