A top White House adviser has personally delivered a pointed message to North Korean officials in New York, urging them to act on a nuclear disarmament pledge and telling them that U.S. patience is limited, a U.S. official said.
Victor Cha, President Bush's top adviser on North Korea, and a State Department official told the North Koreans on Tuesday that frustration is rising 10 days after the North missed a deadline to shut down its main nuclear reactor, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the meeting.
"Everyone's waiting on North Korea to act," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "We don't have all the time in the world. We have patience, but patience is limited."
The North Koreans said they would convey the message to officials in Pyongyang, the U.S. official said.
Cha is a deputy negotiator at nuclear talks with North Korea that include Japan, China, Russia, the United States and South Korea.
The State Department occasionally sends messages to Pyongyang through North Korean officials at the United Nations in New York, but it is unusual for a White House official to personally make the trip and indicates the importance the Bush administration attaches to making progress on the issue.
Snagged over $25 million
North Korea pledged in February to begin abandoning its nuclear program in return for energy aid and political concessions, but it missed an April 14 deadline to shut down its nuclear reactor. The North has refused to act until it receives $25 million in cash frozen after a Macau bank, Banco Delta Asia, was blacklisted by the United States for allegedly helping the North with money laundering and counterfeiting.
The funds have been freed for withdrawal, but for unknown reasons the North has not yet acted to recover the money.
The meeting comes on the heels of a visit to Washington by South Korea's envoy at international nuclear talks, Chun Yung-woo. He also expressed frustration with the North.
On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Washington for talks with Bush. The North Korean issue is sure to be a topic of discussion.
"People are starting to ask the questions: What's going on? Does this agreement still have legs?" the U.S. official said. "There's no ultimatum," the official said of the Cha meeting. "But there is a degree of frustration among all parties."