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With second test, North Korea asserts nuclear-power ambitions

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A few hours later, the North Koreans launched what appeared to be a short range surface-to-air missile.

Test may be fallout of a succession struggle

South Korean analysts were shocked more by the timing of the test than by the explosion itself, surprised by the speed which Pyongyang had organized it.

"What is frightening a lot of people is the tempo at which North Korea is escalating," says Brian Myers, a professor at Dongseo University in Pusan, South Korea.

Domestic politics, rather than international factors, seem to be driving Pyongyang's behavior, a number of analysts suggest, even though North Korea said last month it was so angry at the UN condemnation of its April 5 missile test that it would resume nuclear activities and withdraw from six-nation talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Though outside observers caution that they have no way of knowing what is happening inside the secretive North Korean government as its leader, Kim Jong Il, believed to be battling ill health, two theories have emerged.

It is possible, says David Kang, a North Korea expert at the University of Southern California, that the test is a move by one faction "to show who is most loyal to Kim Jong Il."

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