The secretive hard-line communist regime in North Korea has reacted angrily to global condemnation of its recent nuclear weapons test, declaring that its ‘truce’ with South Korea may be over and that it will not back down.
The gnomic announcement has yet to be clarified, but suggests a further ratcheting up of regional and international pressures.
The statement from Pyongyang follows South Korea’s involvement in a programme to combat international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions.
The developments around North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and its belligerent rhetorical stance is closely related to internal political manoeuvring, as a successor is sought to the ageing dictator, Kim Jung Il.
Two possibilities have been suggested. One is that he will be succeeded by one of his two sons, born of different mothers from different and competing family dynasties – which remain very important in the country’s politics, in spite of communist attempts to ‘re-educate’ people out of instinctive tribal loyalties.
The other possibility is of some form of ‘collective leadership’.
Either way, internal tensions are high. With the North Korean economy in tatters and the country unable to feed itself, it is regarded by many as a ‘failing state’ that may be close to collapse in a number of respects.
In this context, the regime is using its nuclear aspirations and its clash with the international community, its neighbour and the USA in what observers are seeing as a fairly desperate attempt to try to bolster itself.
Meanwhile, former George W. Bush aide, the ex-US ambassador to the United Nations and neo-con ‘attack dog’ John Bolton has used the North Korea situation to launch a blistering attack on President Barack Obama.
He says that the Pyongyang regime’s nuclear escalation is due to the “soft” approach of “Washington’s liberals and leftists”.
But Obama policy analysts say the opposite is the case. They suggest that it was Bolton’s policy of non-engagement and belligerence which was responsible for the drift to confrontation, with “the latest gamut being far more the product of the whole game so far, than attributable by the latest move of the opponent.”
Meanwhile, in further strange twists to the drama, China, a longstanding tactical ally of North Korea, has expressed alarm at the nuclear expansion on its doorstep. Analysts say this is likely to have far more impact than outrage from the West.
Similarly, the US Treasury’s forthcoming auction of a massive $101 billion in bonds is likely to be given a curious boost by the developments, says the Los Angeles Times.
The paper’s financial section reports that North Korea's missile tests could inject just enough fear into global markets to help firm up demand for Treasury securities, even if the effect is temporary.