While America Drifts, Japan and S. Korea Stand Firm

Does it ever seem that U.S. policy toward North Korea is intentionally designed to clash with those of Japan and South Korea?  No matter how necessary a coordinated approach may be to the success of any policy, and even when Japan and Korea are newly aligned toward the same strategy we’d been pursuing until February 2007, our State Department seems to delight in creating diplomatic chaos at the first sign that order might break out.  Ironically, it’s now America that undermines the hopes of disarming and changing North Korea though the coordinated denial of easy money.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso still stands despite his inaugural kick in the teeth by President Bush.  Aso will refuse to give any aid to North Korea absent an accounting for Japanese citizens abducted by the North.  North Korea’s reaction is to restate its demand to expel Japan from the six-party talks.

Meanwhile, Lee Myung Bak’s government is doing what we should have done from the beginning — linking economic aid to tangible progress on disarmament:

South Korea will prioritise implementing the inter-Korean projects agreed in last year’s summit once North Korea makes further progress in denuclearising its nuclear programmes, Seoul’s unification minister Kim Ha-joong said yesterday (Oct 23).

The remark came in a bid to reaffirm Seoul’s commitment to the October 4 declaration, which the North has accused the Lee Myung-bak government of denying.

“If the disablement of the North’s nuclear facilities are completed and the denuclearisation process makes more progress, the Seoul government would actively take measures aimed at expanding economic cooperation between South and North Korea,” Kim said during an annual parliamentary audit on his ministry.

“The measures will be based on the government’s Vision 3000 plan, but we will preferentially consider the projects included in the October 4 declaration.”  [Korea Herald, via Asia News Network]

Lee’s government might start by taking a closer look at how North Korea is spending those Mt. Kumgang tour subsidies:

Former president of Hyundai Asan Corp Yoon Man Jun attended the meeting as a witness and verified that “All money sent to North Korea vis a vis Mt. Geumgang tourism has been deposited to accounts in either Europe or Southeast Asia. Assemblywoman Song pointed out that “North Korea’s accounts in foreign countries belong to the “royal court economy” under Kim Jong Il, which means all funds eventually go to Kim Jong Il’s own pockets.

When Assemblywoman Song asked Yoon whether Hyundai Asan sent money to accounts held by the Kim private economy or for use in the civilian economy, he answered that it was not possible to know what type of accounts they were because the money was only sent to designated accounts.

Assemblywoman Song stated that “Banks related to the civilian economy deal with North Korean Won alone, and do not have any branches abroad. Exchanging to Dollars or Euros abroad signifies that the money is going to Kim Jong Il’s personal royal court economy.   [Daily NK]

Ms. Song says that the Kumgang subsidy has paid for North Korea’s nuclear programs.  If this is true — and it’s consistent with other reports I’ve read — then the Kumgang subsidy would violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, which requires member states to “ensure” that funds they provide North Korea do not fund its weapons development.  I’m not exactly caught up on whether these tours are even still operating, but any tourist who would go there is a candidate for a Darwin Award.