Tokyo (AsiaNews) Pyongyang's announcement that it was suspending sine die the six-nation talks over its nuclear programme is intended to force the US to give the Communist regime diplomatic recognition and sign a non-aggression pact. In fact, more than economic aid, North Korean leaders seek the survival of their regime against the only power, the US, which can topple it.
According to the North Koreans, the atmosphere of the talks has poisoned by the 'hostile policies' of the Bush Administration that are designed to isolate the Communist regime.
In its announcement of February 10, North Korea said it had "manufactured nukes for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration's undisguised policy to isolate and stifle" it.
For many, the statement came as a surprise as observers thought that in his State of the Union speech on February 2 US President Bush had left the door open for a fourth round of the six-nation talks.
The head of a US congressional delegation that had visited North Korea in December 2004 had predicted that Pyongyang would go back to the negotiating table after Lunar New Year celebrations (mid-February).
However, North Korea specialists are much less surprised about the turn of events. For them, the Communist regime's bold move is intended to give it a better bargaining position from which to negotiate.
For instance, an analyst for Japanese daily Yomiuri recently wrote that "North Korea's latest reference to its nuclear ambitions could be regarded as an attempt to extract more carrots from the five other nations."
According to an editorialist for Japanese daily Asahi, the announcement's target is the Bush Administration's current policy vis-à-vis North Korea.
In his inauguration speech in January, President Bush said that the fundamental goal of US foreign policy was ending oppression in the world, whilst new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that North Korea an outpost of tyranny.
Feeling threatened, North Korea reluctantly agreed to take part in the six-nation talks on the insistence of China, its own ally, but its real aim was to negotiate directly with the US, the only power that could bring down its regime.
The timing of the announcement is a clue to motives. It was done when South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was on his way to Washington where he is scheduled to meet Ms Rice on Monday, February 14. Coincidentally, a top Chinese official is scheduled to be in Pyongyang for talks with North Koreans leaders. The content of either summit can be easily inferred.
Two weeks ago, Michael Green, President Bush's personal envoy, visited Beijing and Seoul, as well as Tokyo, to inform the respective governments that North Korea had enriched uranium in addition to plutonium. In light of this, the US wanted to coordinate its actions with those of the Asian members of the six-nation conference in view of reconvening the six-nation talks.
Realising that they were going to have to decide whether to terminate their nuclear programme or not, North Korean leaders opted instead for threats and playing for time, a game they have before.
According to Yomiuri, the other five members of the six-nation conference should strongly urge North Korea to come back as soon as possible to the negotiating table and forcefully confront Pyongyang's threat. It would seem that they are moving in that direction.