North Korea Time

Wall Street Journal Editorial
5/3/2007
Page A16

It’s been two and a half weeks since the 60-day deadline passed on April 14 for North Korea to comply with the first part of the nuclear accord reached in February. That includes shutting down the Yongbyong nuclear reactor, letting in U.N. inspectors and providing a list of all nuclear programs. But so far no word from Pyongyang, and nothing from Beijing or Washington either. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both recently claimed their “patience” is not “endless,” contrary to all available evidence.

Meanwhile, another North Korean deadline has been allowed to lapse. On January 19, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon ordered an “external inquiry” into all U.N. programs in North Korea, including the United Nations Development Fund, Unicef, the World Food Program and the U.N. Population Fund. Mr. Ban’s announcement followed our report on irregularities in UNDP programs in North Korea and U.S. concerns that tens of millions of dollars in hard currency were funneled to dictator Kim Jong Il.

Mr. Ban imposed a 90-day deadline for the audit, but it appears to be lost somewhere in the U.N. bureaucracy. The auditors spent two weeks in March at UNDP headquarters in New York interviewing staff and looking at the books, but they have yet to set foot in North Korea, much less file a report. Oh — and the “independent” and “external” audit Mr. Ban ordered is being conducted by the U.N.’s own Board of Auditors, consisting of a team from South Africa, France and the Philippines.

We had a challenge gathering even these details. The Board of Auditors refuses to talk to the press. The UNDP understandably feels it lacks standing to comment on an investigation of itself. And Mr. Ban’s press office can’t seem to get the facts straight, first telling us the auditors were in Korea and then informing us they weren’t. You’d think someone at the U.N. would show more interest in explaining one of the boss’s priorities to the public.

It will be interesting to see how Kim Jong Il responds if the auditors get around to asking for visas. The dictator recently told the last two UNDP officials left in Pyongyang to get out. The UNDP suspended operations there in March, after our reports and after the Kim government refused to let aid officials visit the projects they fund.

Mr. Ban is staying mum on the missed U.N. deadline. But on the evidence so far, Kim can be forgiven if he concludes that the world isn’t serious about enforcing any of its deadlines concerning North Korea.

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One Response to “North Korea Time”

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