The U.S. envoy to six-nation talks has
urged North Korea to begin shutting down its nuclear facilities after
Pyongyang indicated it wants a Saturday deadline on the shutdown extended
by a month. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said unfreezing North Korean bank
accounts in Macau has paved the way for Pyongyang to begin shutting down
its main nuclear reactor in line with a February agreement.
North Korea has refused to start shutting down the reactor or to allow
in U.N. nuclear inspectors until it has $25 million held in a Macau bank.
Macau authorities say the money now can be transferred to North Korea.
A U.S. delegation that just ended a trip to Pyongyang says North Korean
officials pledged to invite international nuclear inspectors into the
country the same day they have the funds.
But the delegation reports the North Koreans said they would not likely
meet the April 14 deadline to shut down and wanted it extended by 30 days.
Hill is in Seoul for talks on North Korea. He says now is not the time
to talk about changing deadlines, but for Pyongyang to begin meeting is
"You know, I do not want to get into extending the deadline at this
point. Our issue is, we have welcomed this decision by Macau, we are
expecting the North Koreans to do the same and to get going on its
denuclearization," he said. "So let us see how we do. What is important is
for the North Koreans to get back on denuclearization and off of this
Many regional political analysts say the deadline is not so important
since all six nations - North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and
the United States - are committed to the February deal.
Paul French, a Shanghai-based author and expert on North Korea, says
the impoverished North Korea probably is eager not only to get the money,
but also to get promised oil and other aid once it shuts down its nuclear
"The nuclear weapons are a bargaining chip. Their bomb is for sale.
What this government in Pyongyang is interested in is regime survival.
And, regime survival means keeping the drip feed of energy aid and food
aid going and of guaranteeing their sovereignty," said French. "It has
never been about owning a bomb for the sake of a bomb. The bomb has always
been a tradable commodity."
Macau froze the accounts in 2005 because of U.S. suspicions the bank
holding the money was aiding North Korean counterfeiting and other illegal
activities. The freeze prompted Pyongyang to boycott the nuclear talks for
more than a year.
North Korea returned to talks in December on the condition the banking
issue would be resolved.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is in Japan where he is expected to discuss
North Korea with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
And later this week, U.S. envoy Hill goes to Beijing for meetings on