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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Who stands where on N Korea
After North Korea tested seven missiles, including a new long-range Taepodong-2, the BBC News website looks at where key countries stand in their dealings with the secretive state.

Six of the countries - North Korea, the US, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia - are already involved in stalled talks on ending the North's nuclear programme.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea says it has the right to a "self-defence deterrent", which is believed to include a small number of nuclear weapons.

But its missile programme (and the most recent launches) can in part be seen as a bargaining chip. Before it gives up any weapons it wants money and energy to shore up its moribund economy. To achieve that goal it wants bilateral talks with the US, rather than the current six-nation structure.

But it is very suspicious of the US. Its official media says the US is planning to invade, and its leaders think the US reneged on a previous nuclear deal. Given such distrust, the North has been reluctant to make any concessions first.

US

The US wants North Korea to return to stalled six-nation talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programme. It has pledged reciprocal steps for North Korean concessions, which could include a security guarantee as well as financial and energy aid.

But it is also worried by North Korea's missile exports and accuses the North of state-sponsored drug-running and counterfeiting. Financial sanctions it imposed on banks doing business with North Korea may have prompted the North to consider a missile launch.

The positions of the UK and France, fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council, are similar to that of the US.

SOUTH KOREA

In recent years South Korea has tried to engage the North under a so-called Sunshine Policy. It does not want its neighbour to collapse and has moved cautiously towards improved ties through joint economic projects and exchange visits.

This policy has coincided with a downturn in relations with the US amid differences over how tough a stance to take towards the North.

But domestic criticism of this softer policy is growing, with the opposition party demanding a stronger line towards Pyongyang.

JAPAN

Japan has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and views it as a major threat.

A 2002 agreement aimed at normalising relations is now in doubt. North Korea says it is no longer bound by the agreement's extension of a moratorium on long-range missile launches.

But Japan's wealth still gives it some sway over North Korea, because the North expects to receive billions of dollars in reparations and investment if ties were put on a normal footing.

Yet mounting public opposition in Japan - sparked by popular outrage over the abduction of Japanese nationals by Korean spies in the 1970s and 80s - now make any deal with the North extremely difficult.

As the US' closest Asian ally, Japan is committed to the six-nation talks.

CHINA

China has played a leading role in the nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang. It sees the talks as a way to preserve its influence over its neighbour and extend its diplomatic reach.

China is North Korea's largest trading partner and wants the country to remain stable, fearing an influx of millions of refugees if there was political or economic collapse.

It wants the US to show more flexibility so the six-nation talks can move forward, and says the dispute must be resolved through dialogue rather than any type of pressure.

RUSSIA

Russia had strong ties with North Korea during the Soviet era, and is keen to participate in major negotiations that affect the region.

A permanent member of the Security Council, it inclines more towards coaxing the North than punishing it, seeing North Korea as a potential transit route for energy pipelines.




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