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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 04:27 GMT
Analysis: North Korea's strategic moves
US amphibious forces at Pohang
US-South Korean military manoeuvres anger the North
test hello test
By Charles Scanlon
BBC Tokyo correspondent

North Korea has a long history of exploiting differences between its neighbours and adversaries.

The planned resumption of high-level contacts between North and South Korea follows Pyongyang's agreement to resume talks with Japan over missing people.

The more conciliatory approach to its neighbours comes as the United States steps up pressure on the communist state.

North Korea is now hinting at concessions just as the United States adopts a much tougher stance over its weapons programmes.

Agreement in doubt

Washington has refused to certify that North Korea is complying with an agreement to dismantle its nuclear facilities.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Koran President Kim Dae-jung
Japan and South Korea are cooperating on this summer's World Cup
That could put in doubt the future of the joint agreement signed in 1994 which defused a potential armed conflict between the two countries.

North Korea will do what it can to prevent concerted action by the United States and its two key allies, South Korea and Japan.

By resuming contacts with Seoul, it could stimulate anti-American sentiment in the South and drive a further wedge between President Kim Dae-jung and President George W Bush.

Calming move

The North Koreans have also been holding secret talks with the Japanese.

North Korean President Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il has rejected US "axis of evil" allegations
They have now agreed to resume formal discussions on the fate of 11 Japanese citizens allegedly kidnapped by North Korean agents.

Late last year, Pyongyang broke off talks, describing the charges as a malicious fabrication.

It is now hinting at concessions in an effort to defuse a much more aggressive stance by the Japanese Government.

As long as American interests in the region remain narrowly focused on weapons of mass destruction, North Korea will be well placed to profit from the differing priorities of its opponents.

The BBC's Kevin Kim
"This announcement is expected to break the ice after months of stalled talks"
See also:

01 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea hits back at US
26 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
China's North Koreans in hiding
29 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea drags its feet
14 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea threatens nuclear pull-out
20 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
'Manhunt' for N Korean defectors
14 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Koreans' embassy dash
03 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
'Record numbers' defect to S Korea
26 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Kim dismisses 'rogue' status
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