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[Opinion] Cutting Kim’s Purse Strings

Posted April. 05, 2006 02:59,   


“We must build situations that will render North Korean weapons of mass destruction useless,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a report released just before the launch of the George W. Bush administration in 2000.

During the Reagan administration, Rice helped draw up the plans to bring down the Soviet Union.

Many scholars interpreted her words to mean some sort of high-precision attack on North Korean military facilities at the time. It turns out they meant putting financial pressure on the North.

North Korean authorities no longer have access to outside financing after fiscal restrictions imposed by the U.S. blocked North Korean access to illegal funds, estimated to be worth 500 million dollars annually. These funds were largely generated from the trading of counterfeit dollars, drugs, and missiles.

The making and selling of weapons of mass destruction has become an impossible task for North Korea now because it lacks sufficient funds to buy the necessary high-tech components. Recent visitors to the North tell stories of how North Korean authorities often express their agonies over the financial crackdown.

Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il met Chinese President Hu Jintao January this year and said, “U.S. fiscal restrictions might disintegrate the North Korean system,” reported an article from the latest edition of Newsweek.

The Bush administration embarked on its research upon the North Korean economy since its launch, and trans-departmental cooperation for putting a stop to all inflowing illegal funds has been going on for three years. What has been established is a tight network. A top official in our government reported how American hard-liners are gaining power in the U.S. executive branch after the unprecedented effectiveness of fiscal restriction. Thoughts skeptical towards the effectiveness of six-way talks are spreading.

A desperate North Korea is leaning more on China. Chinese investment in North Korea saw a drastic increase from a million dollars in 2003 to a billion dollars last year. Trade between the two countries amounted to 1.6 billion dollars last year, exceeding the 1.1 billion dollars accumulated by North and South Korea. China has also won the rights to exploit Musan coalmine for 50 years. Some even fear North Korea becoming economically dependent on China. According to reports, North Korea is getting itself ready for a ‘three-year survival’ plan, until a new administration replaces the current one in the U.S. This seems to be a miscalculation. Even with a change in the administration, American foreign policy won’t change drastically. The real fear stems from our government, from the possibility of helping North Korea’s ‘survival’ on grounds of ‘nationality’ that could foster the problem.

Lee Dong-Kwan, Editorial Writer, dklee@donga.com