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North Koreas Survival Strategy

North Korea seems convinced that the United States is trying to overthrow their current regime.
by Jong-Heon Lee, UPI Correspondent
Seoul (UPI) May 01, 2006
In the face of the Bush administration's tough stance, North Korea has shifted its survival strategy from seeking a breakthrough in relations with the United States to deepening ties with its ally, China, officials and analysts say.

In recent years, North Korea has placed its top priority on improving diplomatic relations with the United States, which would pave the way for the isolated communist country to ensure security and get much-needed loans from the international lending institutions heavily influenced by Washington.

North Korea devised its nuclear development program to attract U.S. attention and used the nuclear game as a card to win more concessions from the United States, analysts say, but Pyongyang's years-long efforts have failed to pay off as Washington has tried to further isolate the North over the nuclear standoff.

The United States has recently stepped up pressure on North Korea over its alleged human rights abuses and financial illegalities, prompting Pyongyang's fears that the Bush administration is aiming for regime change in North Korea.

"Thus, North Korea has decided to wait until the Bush administration is replaced," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea specialist at Dongguk University in Seoul. "North Korea... seeks to sustain (itself) for the next years until the inauguration of a new leadership in the United States by strengthening ties with China."

A senior Seoul government official accused the United States of increasing pressure on North Korea, saying Washington's tough stance could trigger a new round of tensions on the Korean peninsula and in East Asia.

"(The) United States' unilateral stance toward North Korea has lead to closer ties between Pyongyang and Beijing," a senior presidential official said, on condition of anonymity. "It may trigger East Asia's return to the Cold War era."

"North Korea seems convinced that the United States is trying to overthrow the regime by pressuring them with issues including financial sanctions, which have nothing to do with their nuclear program," said Prof. Kim Geun-sik of Kyungnam University.

Koh and other analysts said China has also changed its policy toward North Korea, from limited economic cooperation to protecting its political system, in response to the Bush administration's hard-line stance against the Kim Jong Il regime.

"Beijing is now dealing with the North Korean issue as part of China's future security," Koh said. "China is expected to boost its economic and security ties with North Korea to keep the neighbor afloat," he said.

China has long been the key supplier of food and fuel to the impoverished North. China has provided between 70 percent and 90 percent of North Korea's oil and more than one-third of its imports and food aid, according to officials in Seoul.

China's economic aid and investment in North Korea, as seen in its recent construction of a glass manufacturing plant in Pyongyang, is rapidly growing. North Korea and China recently agreed to jointly exploit offshore oil fields, which could boost Beijing's efforts to develop the impoverished North.

China has recently decided to develop its northeastern area, bordering North Korea, in a bid to increase its economic influence on its communist neighbor and reportedly plans to designate a border town as a free market to fuel to two-way trade with North Korea.

Nam Sung-wook, a North Korea expert at Korea University, said China aims to deal with the United States' security ties with Japan and South Korea by increasing its economic influence on North Korea.

"North Korea is left with no option but to depend on China for economic survival as it faces mounting U.S.-led pressure and sanctions," Nam said.

South Korea's chief North Korea policy-maker, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, also acknowledged the changing security situation in North Korea and East Asia, saying he detected "subtle changes" taking place in the region.

"The United States seems to be trying to resolve the North Korea issue in a comprehensive way, not just centering on the North Korean nuclear crisis, under a mid to long-term policy on the Korean peninsula," Lee said in a recent interview with a local radio.

The United States will not focus its efforts on resolving the nuclear crisis, but will seek a packaged solution to various problems involving North Korea, such as counterfeiting and human rights abuses, he said.

Analysts say the new situation poses a major diplomatic challenge to South Korea, which is pushing for reconciliaton with North Korea while maintaining ties with the United States.

South Korea is still technically in a state of war with North Korea as their 1950-53 armed conflict ended without a peace treaty. South Korea hosts more than 30,000 American troops under a mutual defense treaty.

Source: United Press International

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