The impasse that ended more than one and a half days of talks raised the question of how or if the two sides can somehow get over this hurdle, move on to talks between defense ministers, then go to talks between high-level civilian officials. All those talks would be a prelude to returning to six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, last held in Beijing in December 2008.
One fear here is that North Korea, by going through the motions of wanting to talk, then walking out, is setting the stage for another nuclear test in the spring.
“I believe North Korea is preparing for the next nuclear test,” says Baek Seung-joo, director of the center for security and strategy at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses reflecting the assessment of some intelligence analysts.
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North Korea staged its first nuclear test in October 2006 during a break in six-party talks while George W. Bush as president was pursuing what the North saw as a hard-line policy. South Korea’s government then was led by a liberal president, Roh Moo-hyun, dedicated to the sunshine policy of reconciliation initiated by his predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, in 1998.