U.S. budgets money to pressure North in 2008

Joong Ang Daily
Kang Chan-ho

Budget allocations by the Bush administration show that the United States plans to continue to pressure North Korea about human rights violations and illicit financial transactions, despite the ongoing North Korean nuclear talks.

In its fiscal plan for the year 2008 released Monday, the U.S. State Department said $20 million had been set aside to support refugees in the East Asian region, including North Korean defectors, while $2 million had been earmarked to support activities promoting democracy in North Korea.

In addition, $668 million will be set aside for radio propaganda broadcasts: The Voice of America and Radio Free Asia will increase their combined broadcast hours targeted to the North by up to 10 hours each day. The State Department is focusing its broadcasts on North Korea, the Middle East, Somalia and Cuba.

In addition, the Treasury Department has budgeted $385,000 to hire two more officials to deal with illicit North Korean financial activities and act in an advisory role to bring more pressure on the communist country.

The budget plan by the State Department also outlined a timeline for the ongoing nuclear negotiations. It projects that should the nuclear talks be concluded, the actual process of dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons should start by early 2008. The plan states that negotiations to dismantle the North’s mid- to long-range missiles would begin next year as well.

Meanwhile, with nations involved in the six-party talks getting ready to convene in Beijing on Thursday to resume nuclear negotiations, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that without sincere measures taken by Pyongyang regarding Japanese abductees, Tokyo will not come up with the energy aid measures needed to compensate the North.

Officials involved in the nuclear talks have said they intended to take some initial steps toward implementing an international accord reached in September 2005. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported earlier that Pyongyang was looking to get 500,000 tons of heavy fuel per year in exchange for agreeing to stop operations at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allowing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency back into the country.


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