In a KCNA-released statement from the Foreign Ministry, Pyongyang has, in less than its typically ambiguous terms, stated bluntly
“We… have manufactured nukes for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration's evermore undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the DPRK.”
Now, this statement comes out in the middle of the New Year holiday, just a week before Kim Jong Il’s birthday celebration, amid rumors of internal fractures in the North Korean regime and talk of further dynastic succession and just as the United States embarks on its new second-term foreign policy initiatives.
It is important to note that this is a rhetorical shift, not a substantive one. North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon, it is unclear they have a delivery system, and they are clearly still in negotiating mode. That said, they are a wily bunch up their on the other side of the DMZ, and you have to watch them closely.
And watch the neighborhood, because Japan is looking for public excuses for its military transformation, and North Korea is constantly sitting as the prime foil. A confirmed and formally nuclear North Korea is one of those potential first dominoes – leading to Japanese, South Korean and even Taiwanese nuclear weapons and reshaping the fundamentals of the security system in Northeast Asia.
For the moment, it is this potentiality that North Korea is trying to exploit. Pyongyang needs to end the current nuclear crisis, to demonstrate its strength and to move forward with other initiatives. If it can regain the top spot in the U.S. foreign policy agenda, it wins. Whether Washington will bite, however, is another story.