N. Korea says banking row over, vows to use released funds for humanitarian purposes


North Korea Monday reconfirmed its pledge to denuclearize under a February agreement, saying its funds held in a Macau bank have been transferred to the North to clear away the major obstacle to the implementation of the nuclear disarmament deal.

In an interview carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry also said the funds will be used for humanitarian purposes, as promised.

The announcement came one day before a delegation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday for discussions on shutting down and disabling the North’s nuclear facilities as the first step in the denuclearization program.

The spokesman confirmed that the North would soon get on with implementing the six-nation agreement signed on Feb. 13 in which the communist nation promised to shut down and seal its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

“As part of efforts to that end, (North Korea) is set to start negotiations on the shutdown of the nuclear facility and its verification with a working-level delegation of the IAEA in Pyongyang from June 26,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman confirmed the transfer of the funds to North Korea. “As the money frozen in Macau’s Banco Delta Asia has been transferred as we demanded, the troublesome issue of the frozen funds has been resolved.”

The released money is planned to be used to improve the livelihood of the people and other humanitarian purposes as agreed between the North and the United States, added the unidentified spokesman.

North Korea’s US$25 million in the Banco Delta Asia had been frozen since late 2005, when the U.S. blacklisted the bank as a “primary money laundering concern” because of its alleged link to the North’s alleged illicit financial activities that included counterfeiting U.S. bills and money laundering.

Washington finalized the ruling earlier this year, but agreed to the release of the North Korean funds in March on condition that the money be used for humanitarian purposes.

The transfer of the money to a North Korean account in a Russian bank was completed Saturday, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

This is the first time for Pyongyang to acknowledge the end of the banking dispute, which Washington had declared over in March, then again in April when the Macanese financial authorities unblocked the BDA funds for withdrawal.

North Korea refused to honor the February agreement until the money was released.

“The reason we were so serious about the (release) of the frozen funds was not because it’s a large amount but because it is the key symbol of (U.S.) hostile policy toward us,” the North Korean official said.

In a statement carried by the KCNA Saturday, an unidentified spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said the country has agreed to “start implementing the (Feb. 13) agreement” as soon as the BDA issue is settled.

The statement followed a two-day trip starting Thursday by Washington’s chief nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill to Pyongyang where he held “comprehensive and productive” discussions with his North Korean counterparts on the nuclear issue.


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