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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
(9:55 AM) | Stephen:
North Korea News

Immediately after the most recent agreement with North Korea regarding its nuclear programs, the North Korean government demanded that approximately $25 million in frozen funds at a Macau bank be released for its use. The US used - wait for it - "a little-known provision in the Patriot Act" to freeze the funds from the US financial system, including any entities connected to US-held financial institutions. So while there was no legal freeze of the money, it was effectively frozen because of how the world's financial systems depend upon the United States.

The US held its ground for quite a while, saying that the funds were examples of North Korean counterfeiting. This idea that North Korea is a notorious counterfeiter, like all accusations made against authoritarian governments in this country, was quickly accepted as a known fact.

Except, of course, that it isn't. The bank in question, Banco Delta Asia, has dealt with North Korea for a while, and made a habit of sending large amounts of US currency to the New York branch of HSBC, which has sophisticated scanning equipment used expressly to find counterfeit currency. The last time any counterfeits were discovered was back in 1994, and the bank immediately made the discovery public and dealt with the situation.

Once again there just doesn't seem to be any "there" there. How typical of the Bush administration to make unfounded accusations in order to gum up the works of agreements our government is bound to honor, but that the Bushies consider to be politically damaging to their base. Remember, right-wingers were not that happy when Christopher Hill announced that the US was agreeing, again, to provide fuel and food aid to North Korea in exchange for them shutting down their nuclear program.

It's also very interesting to note that the deadline for shutting down the plutonium-producing reactor is this coming Saturday. The funds, which North Korea has said are required before they will continue with their end of the agreement, have been frozen despite evidence they should be released until now. What interests me is to see, first, whether North Korea will be able to completely shut down the reactor in time and second, assuming they don't, if the US will use their "intransigence" and "refusal to follow the agreement" as an excuse to further punish them with frozen funds, sanctions, or even a complete dissolution of the agreement.

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