Saturday, May 19, 2007

Things are getting more desperate for the hardliners on North Korea...

There are encouraging signs that the bizarre inability of the world’s only hyperpower to enable the remittance of $25 million to North Korea is attracting more and more skeptical interest.

And there are signs that the hardliners are getting desperate. John Bolton has been summoned to muddy the waters with a conspiracy theory op-ed.

Arms Control Wonk posts critically on a John Bolton op-ed in the Wall Street Journal attempting to create a narrative involving “secret agreements” to explain why the Banco Delta Asia issue is still holding up the Six Party Agreement.

Now, the Wachovia bit. Bolton is obsessed that the North Korea deal has some secrety side arrangement including US bankers (code word!), the Trilateral commission and the Illuminati. Well, at least one bank, Wachovia:

Third, we now face the nagging question whether there are other secret side deals beyond BDA. Of course, the BDA agreement was not so secret that Kim Jong Il was barred from knowing about it, by definition. Most troubling, however, is that State apparently thought it too sensitive to share with the American people until the February deal broke down in an unavoidably public way. (blockquote from Bolton’s op-ed)

I haven’t got my hands on the full op-ed yet, but it appears that Bolton is pushing the idea that there is a conspiracy between the State Department and Wachovia to appease the North Koreans by using the BDA remittance to provide North Korea with a permanent conduit to the world financial system.

For that premise to work, you’d have to believe that a U.S. bank would be willing to defy the Treasury Department for the sake of North Korean business and whatever goodies the appeasement-happy State Department can push its way.

Not too likely. There’s a more logical explanation.

I added my two cents in the comments:

Bolton’s argument makes no sense. He’s trying to substitute an implausible narrative (the North Koreans are scheming not to get their money back) for a more plausible one: that hardliners in the Treasury Department allied with Bolton are scheming to block the BDA resolution so the Six Party Agreement will fall apart. His gyrations have to be even more difficult and contrived because the State Department is seeking to force the issue by identifying a bank (Wachovia) that is willing to take the money if Treasury agrees.

So here come Bolton’s bizarre conspiracy theories about “secret side agreements”.

It’s all rhetorical chaff, thrown with increasing desperation because, if there’s another Condi talks to Hank moment, Treasury grants the approval and the money goes to North Korea and the Six Party Agreement proceeds, journalists and Congresscritters are going to start thinking: it looks like some people in Treasury held up this agreement for three months. What was all that about?

I’m glad ACW is paying attention to this issue. Maybe other outlets will follow.


Anonymous said...


This may be of interest to you and your readers, Oh My News are doing a series of articles pulling to pieces the UST and Asher accusations.

The fundamental issue in their first piece being that there is no evidence:

Here is the Bolton piece in full.

I refer you to one scene in "Carry on Cleo", from that fine series of British comedy films from the 60's/70's. Caesar, having just been stabbed, cries out:

"Infamy..Infamy, they've all got it in for me!"

Bolton's epitaph:)

Pyongyang's Perfidy
May 18, 2007; Page A17

Over a month has passed since sweetness and light were due to break out on the Korean Peninsula. On Feb. 13, the Six-Party Talks in Beijing ratified a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and North Korea, providing for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs. The first step, 60 days after ratification, was to be that North Korea "will shut down and seal for the purpose of eventual abandonment" the Yongbyon nuclear facility, and readmit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Other steps were to follow, but the first move was unequivocally to be made by Pyongyang. The 60 days came and went, and indeed, another 35 days have come and gone. No IAEA inspectors have been readmitted, and not even Pyongyang claims that it has "shut down" Yongbyon.

Instead, observers -- especially Iran and other nuclear weapons aspirants -- have witnessed embarrassing U.S. weakness on a supposedly unrelated issue, unmentioned in the Feb. 13 agreement. That issue involves North Korea's widely publicized demand that approximately $25 million frozen in Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA) accounts be released and transferred to Pyongyang. The funds came from North Korean counterfeiting of U.S. currency, money laundering and other fraudulent activities uncovered by a U.S. Treasury investigation begun in 2003. The accounts were frozen in 2005 and the BDA was promptly put on Treasury's blacklist for illicit activity.

While the Bush administration denies a direct link, the North Koreans have said publicly that they will not comply with the bilateral agreement until the BDA funds are safely under their control. This obvious quid pro quo is not only embarrassing, it sets a dangerous precedent for other regimes that would blackmail the U.S. What are the consequences of the BDA meltdown?

First, the timetable of the Feb. 13 agreement is already shredded. President Bush said at the time of the deal: "Those who say that the North Koreans have got to prove themselves by actually following through on the deal are right, and I'm one." Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, the deal's U.S. architect and chief negotiator, said: "We need to avoid above all missing deadlines. It's like a broken-window theory: one window is unrepaired, and before you know it you'll have a lot of broken windows and nobody cares."

Those statements were correct when made, and they are correct today. Sadly, however, they no longer seem to be "operative."

Second, by making secret side deals with North Korea, the State Department has left itself vulnerable to future renegotiation efforts. This is the North's classic style: Negotiate hard to reach an agreement, sign it, and then start renegotiating, not to mention violating the deal at will. America's serial concessions on BDA simply confirm to Pyongyang that State is well into the "save the deal" mode, which bodes well for future North Korean efforts to recast it. Consider the sequence of administration positions on BDA: Initially, the criminal investigation and the nuclear issue were not supposed to be connected, but the North insisted and the U.S. gave in.

Then, North Korea moved the renegotiation into high gear, demanding the return of the funds as a precondition to complying with its own commitments. Unwilling to "just say no," the Bush administration tried to distinguish between "licit" and "illicit" funds, returning only those that were legitimate. (This, of course begs the question whether anything that the criminal conspiracy running North Korea does is "licit.") Even the "licit" funds returned, however, were to be used only for "humanitarian" projects in North Korea rather than returned to Kim Jong Il's grasp -- although how in an age of the U.N.'s "Cash for Kim" program the State Department thought this was to be verified remains a mystery.

Nevertheless, North Korea was not satisfied, insisting that all the funds had to be returned to the actual account holders, with no restrictions on their use, even though all agree that at least some were acting illicitly. This, too, State accepted.

Third, we now face the nagging question whether there are other secret side deals beyond BDA. Of course, the BDA agreement was not so secret that Kim Jong Il was barred from knowing about it, by definition. Most troubling, however, is that State apparently thought it too sensitive to share with the American people until the February deal broke down in an unavoidably public way. But even this was not enough for North Korea, which, sensing U.S. weakness, continues to press for more. Although conflicting stories abound, North Korea may be seeking not just the return of the BDA funds, but something much more significant: guaranteed access to international financial markets, even through an American bank. Indeed, this week Wachovia Corp. confirmed that it had been approached by the State Department to assist in the transfer of funds.

Here, the issue is inescapably related to North Korea's nuclear program. The North's access to international financial markets to launder its ill-gotten revenues is critical both to continued financing of its nuclear regime and to keeping Kim Jong Il in power. If this is even close to what the State Department is prepared to do, who will ever again take us seriously when we threaten financial strangulation of rogue states and terrorist groups? Granting this North Korean demand would make U.S. concessions on BDA look paltry by comparison.

Fourth, the BDA affair calls the remainder of the Feb. 13 agreement into question. Just to remind, 2007 is the 13th anniversary of the Agreed Framework, a predecessor U.S.-North Korean agreement, and the 15th anniversary of the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In all likelihood, it is also the 13th and 15th anniversaries, respectively, of North Korea's first violations of those agreements. No serious observer contends there is any sign of a strategic decision by North Korea to give up its nuclear program, which means, therefore, there is no more reason to believe the North will comply with the Feb. 13 deal than it has complied with its predecessors.

It is not even clear if North Korea actually gave up anything significant in the Feb. 13 deal. It is entirely possible, for example, that Yongbyon is now a hulk, well past its useful life span, and that the North agreed, in effect, to shut down a wreck. Even if Yongbyon is not in such parlous condition, it may be that the North has extracted all the plutonium possible from the fuel rods it has, and that Yongbyon therefore offers it nothing more. Here, the omissions in the Feb. 13 agreement become significant. The deal says nothing about the plutonium, perhaps weaponized perhaps not, that North Korea has already reprocessed.

How these issues play out will have ramifications far beyond North Korea, particularly for Iran. Some say the Bush administration entered the Feb. 13 deal because it desperately needed a success. One thing is for certain: It does not need a failure. The president can easily extricate himself from the deal, just based on North Korea's actions to date. He should take the first opportunity to do so.

Mr. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the U.N. and Abroad," forthcoming this fall from Simon & Schuster.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but worth reading:

"If Bush and Dick Cheney, his vice-president, are the last men standing with responsibility for the Iraq war it is only because they are protected by their four-year terms of office. One former Bush stalwart told me: “If we had a parliamentary system, Bush would have lost a vote of confidence and have resigned by now.” ..

Unknown said...

hello mr ch,

i am a bit intrigued by the sites you link to,
not lease the peking duck.
the web master mr richard has this habit of threatening to ban
any posters whose posts offended him in some way,
in my case, i didnt even get the beneift of a forewarning before being kicked out from that site some yrs back.
all i did was challenging some china bashing fest which is so prevalent at peking duck, usually chaired by one mr raj and richard himself. [tibet, taiwan, uighurs blah blah [sic] , u get the drift]
you seem to be very discriminating in linking to other sites as evident by the scarcity of links on your site.
but as i said , i am really intrigued by your selection of sites like the peking duck, firstly for its propensity to highlight negative alligations about china, while that in itself doesnt consitute a crime, its owner richard's propensity to censor out dissenting views is really disturbing.
i wonder what do someone with such a discerning taste like you see in the peckin duck, for it to be bestowed the honour of being one of the very few sites you link to.?
oh yes this is a bit off topics, i know.