North Korea Rich Enough for Nukes, Too Poor to Pay for Hotels
Among the stumbling blocks to a DPRK nuclear summit: who's going to pay for Kim Jong Un's hotel room?
From the “You Learn Something New Every Day” department:
WaPo (“The U.S. is trying to find a discreet way to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel during the summit“):
At an island resort off the coast of Singapore, U.S. event planners are working day and night with their North Korean counterparts to set up a summit designed to bring an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
But a particularly awkward logistical issue remains unresolved, according to two people familiar with the talks. Who’s going to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel stay?
The prideful but cash-poor pariah state requires that a foreign country foot the bill at its preferred lodging: the Fullerton, a magnificent neoclassical hotel near the mouth of the Singapore River, where just one presidential suite costs more than $6,000 per night.
This, naturally, brings to mind several questions. How can a country that can’t afford to pay for hotel rooms afford an illicit nuclear program? And, if you’re running a country on a tight budget, have you thought about a cheaper room? Anywho,
When it comes to paying for lodging at North Korea’s preferred five-star luxury hotel, the United States is open to covering the costs, the two people said, but it’s mindful that Pyongyang may view a U.S. payment as insulting. As a result, U.S. planners are considering asking the host country of Singapore to pay for the North Korean delegation’s bill.
The North Koreans apparently have an unusual sense of shame. On the on hand, much like The Temptations, they’re not too proud to beg. Yet they’d get their feelings hurt if they’re negotiating partner paid the bill they were begging someone to pay?
“It is an ironic and telling deviation from North Korea’s insistence on being treated on an ‘equal footing,’ ” said Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
It would be illegal, anyway, for the US Government to foot the bill:
Any payment for North Korea’s accommodations would run afoul of Treasury Department sanctions, said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former Treasury official. The transaction would require the Office of Foreign Assets Control to “temporarily suspend the applicability of sanctions” through a waiver, she said.
The United States is expected to request these waivers from the United Nations and Treasury for a range of payments associated with North Korea’s travel, but a long list of exemptions could draw scrutiny.
“There are legitimate mechanisms built in for exemptions depending on the circumstance, but this could run into public and political criticism and send the wrong message to North Korea,” said Duyeon Kim, a visiting fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum, a nonpartisan think tank in Seoul.
It turns out, the Norks do this sort of thing all the time:
During the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea set aside $2.6 million to cover travel accommodations for a North Korean cheering squad, an art troupe and other members of the visiting delegation.
At the same Games, the International Olympic Committee paid for 22 North Korean athletes to travel to the event.
In 2014, when then-U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. visited North Korea to retrieve two prisoners, his North Korean hosts served him an “elaborate 12-course Korean meal,” the veteran intelligence official said, but then insisted that he pay for it.
That’s just rude. And it gets better:
The country’s outdated and underused Soviet-era aircraft may require a landing in China because of concerns it won’t make the 3,000-mile trip — a visit that would probably require a plausible cover story to avoid embarrassment. Alternatively, the North Koreans might travel in a plane provided by another country.
This is a veritable “South Park” sketch.