10/10/2006, 00.00
NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA
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Smoke of North Korean atomic bomb hides regime's domestic problems

According to a South Korean politician, there are four motives behind Pyongyang's announcement: army distance from Kim Jong-il's policy, an increasingly disenchanted population, the visit of Japan's prime minister to Seoul and Ban Ki-moon's appointment as UN secretary-general.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The nuclear experiment "successfully conducted" yesterday by North Korea hides "more serious problems for the regime". With this move, the regime hoped to "kill four birds with one stone in both domestic and diplomatic affairs".

This was the reaction of a South Korean government representative – who remains anonymous for security reasons – which explains the motives behind Pyongyang's decision about the nuclear bomb test.

The politician said: "October 8 1997 was the day that Kim Jong-il became general secretary of the North Korean Workers Party. October 10 is the anniversary of the day the party was founded. These are two very important days but the North Korean population tends to celebrate them less and less. The test, which came between the two dates, seeks to revive people's enthusiasm."

The second domestic reason would be "the progressive detachment of the armed forces from Kim's international policy. The generals have started to grumble in secret against the regime and Kim knows this. All the same, he has not yet appointed his heir: with the bomb, he is seeking to convince army chiefs that the country is an international power and that its leader should not be abandoned."

The third reason could well be international: "North Korea drew international attention just when newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set foot on Korean soil. This visit is very important: it is a sign of the thawing of relations between Seoul and Tokuyo and shows the desire for closer collaboration to the detriment of the Stalinist regime, which would be pushed into a corner. There were only 30 minutes between Abe's landing in the peninsula and Kim's announcement of the nuclear test."

Finally, there is "the appointment of the South Korean, Ban Ki-moon, to be secretary general of the United Nations. The ex-foreign affairs minister of Seoul always used an iron fist in affairs with Pyongyang, which fears his tough policy. Ban could turn out to be much more convincing at international level at the helm of the UN, so Kim wanted to flex his muscles."

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