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North Korea blows up tower at nuclear site – but questions remain about its program

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Despite the dramatic gesture, however, analysts here remain skeptical as to whether the measures will have much long-range impact on progress toward denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

"I am not impressed," says Kim Tae Woo, a senior fellow at the Korean Institute of Defense Analyses, affiliated with the Defense Ministry. "What the US is doing is for political effect. The declaration is becoming a political game. Both nations [the US and North Korea] are doing political negotiations."

North Korea "still has a minimal nuclear deterrent," says Mr. Kim. "North Korea will keep it to the last moment" – that is, after extracting a vast infusion of aid and concessions beyond removal from the US list of nations sponsoring terrorism and removal of US economic sanctions as promised by President Bush.

"Destruction of the tower is a symbolic event," says Lim Dong Won, architect of South Korea's efforts at reconciliation with North Korea during the presidency of Kim Dae Jung, whose Sunshine policy set the pattern of a decade of dialog with North Korea before the election of the conservative Lee Myung Bak in December. "It provides a good picture."

Still, Mr. Lim, author of a new book on his role in bringing about dialog with North Korea, predicts that President Lee will back down from the hard-line policy that he set toward North Korea after his inauguration in February.

"Inter-Korean relations have been frozen," says Lim. "I hope this can be melted soon."

Lim predicts Mr. Lee "will come up with more realistic measures" in the aftermath of North Korea's delivery of a declaration of its activities at Yongbyon, where North Korea has fabricated at least six nuclear warheads in recent years. "Shutting down the nuclear facilities has been finished," he says.

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