The US State Department cautioned against getting “overly excited” about the recent increase in tensions with North Korea. Yesterday, North Korea announced that it had suspended disabling its nuclear program two weeks ago, and threatened to renew its nuclear weapons program.
The announcement came as something of a shock since just two days before, the same State Department official announced “substantive” talks with North Korea on the verification process had taken place. North Korea has bristled at increasingly intrusive verification demands on the dismantling of the program, and claims the US is in violation of the agreement in refusing to remove them from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List.
In late June, North Korea made what was widely seen as a dramatic gesture in the nuclear disablement process when it publicly destroyed the cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. Though the State Department praised the move at the time, the US has taken a considerably cooler attitude toward the process since then, and earlier this month, President Bush declared that North Korea was still officially part of the “Axis of Evil”.
The increased tensions come at a time when South Korea has been attempting to resume reconciliation talks with the North. Just today South Korea said that they would drop the label “main enemy” from its description of North Korea in an upcoming defense white paper, a symbolic but important move.
North Korea has been increasingly critical of the South as tensions have risen with the US, and condemned last week’s joint US-South Korea war games as a rehearsal for invasion.