Monday, May 07, 2007

This is more like it...

... more plausible, anyway, than North Korea’s reported demand that the BDA money be remitted to a new North Korean account in a New York bank...

From the May 7 Washington Post:

Under South Korea's plan, the Export-Import Bank of Korea will act as an intermediary between BDA and a North Korean bank account at a third country, a high-ranking national security source was quoted as saying by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

"The United States has agreed to the government's plan, and I understand it has conveyed the position that it won't raise issues if the Export-Import Bank of Korea mediates the transfer of BDA funds," the source was quoted as saying.

Nothing in the WaPo article about the interesting element that South Korea is once again undercutting the U.S.-led campaign to isolate Pyongyang financially...

But if you’re paying attention, in early April South Korean Red Cross officials boarded a freighter to deliver $400,000 in cash to North Korea.

And USA Today reported on May 5:

South Korea has agreed to send 500 tons of polyester fiber to North Korea next month as an initial shipment of promised goods in exchange for rights to develop mineral resources in the North, officials said.

Is this some old agreement or a new initiative? A little bit of both. According to the article, last year South Korea promised to provide $80 million worth of raw materials for the North Koreans to produce clothes, shoes, and soap.

In the first shipment of the promised raw materials, South Korea will send the fiber in June, the country's Unification Ministry said in a statement issued late Friday after three days of talks with the North.

In any case, the South Koreans displayed no qualms about executing a barter deal that makes a mockery of US attempts to strangle Pyongyang by cutting it off from the international financial system.

I think we can toss Western coverage of South Korean opposition to U.S.-led financial and economic sanctions, Seoul’s concrete efforts to circumvent them, and how this figures in the State Department’s diplomatic calculus, in the “underreported” file...

...underreported, that is, except by Onefreekorea, which fulminates against South Korean appeasement and Chamberlains in the State Department, and labors to spook Seoul with the threat that U.S. bases in South Korea may not be long for this world:

Conservatives watched the ascendancy of the Korean left, its inexhaustible apetite for appeasing North Korea, its general diplomatic incompetence, and its delusional fulminations of America-hate that reached the highest levels of its government. They watched the Korean right fall silent, barely admitting to its support for America or pointing out the benefits that the alliance brings (it stands for nothing and is paying the political price). Overall, South Koreans are as anti-American as many Muslim populations. American conservatives have come to resent this deeply, and on a more detached level, have come to realize that the two countries no longer share enough common goals, interests, or values to support a military commitment as large, expensive, and risky as USFK...

... Conservatives won’t repeat the mistake of leaving men like Chris Hill,
Nicholas Burns, George Tenet, and Jack Pritchard with the run of their camp to sabotage them again. Plenty of liberals may be sympathetic to South Korea’s instinct to appease, but they won’t expend political capital to keep more of our troops posted in Korea.

Well, then.

Judging from Onefreekorea’s tone, it looks like the party’s over, at least for the time being, for hardliners on North Korea policy.

It’s another indication that the BDA money will make it to North Korea at long last and the Six Party process will limp forward, with efforts to harass, pressure, and destabilize Pyongyang subordinate to engagement, instead of the other way around.

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