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DPRK’s options limited, analysts

POLICY blunders and an economic crunch have put North Korean leader Kim Jong-il into one of the riskiest periods of his iron rule, which could make him turn even more aggressive in his dealings with the outside world.

But even if he chooses to resort once again to scare tactics to try to boost his bargaining power, he lacks a game-changing ace to play that would seriously rattle the international community or spook markets long used to his grandstanding.
Unless he is prepared to sail dangerously close to provoking a suicidal war –– and most experts firmly believe he is not –– then the most he can do is demonstrate incremental advances in the destructive capability of his armory or boost weapons sales to other countries at odds with the United States.
He is quite capable of provoking annoyance and concern, analysts say, but much less able to generate the kind of alarm that would cause a serious reassessment of the risks facing governments and financial markets in a region that includes the powerful economies of China, Japan and South Korea.
In fact, a signal of reconciliation may be his first step by ending a more than year-long boycott of international nuclear disarmament-for-aid talks, possibly within the next month.
If talks break down, as they have at every previous juncture, then Kim may well return to military grandstanding in the hope of forcing help from a nervous outside world and, in the process, bolstering allegiance from his million-strong army whose welfare he has enshrined in the constitution at the top of society.

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