The six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs may take a new turn on the heels of Mr. Barack Obama’s becoming the 44th president of the United States. But it is unclear whether the talks will progress toward hoped-for results in a short time.

North Korea has made conflicting statements since just before and after Mr. Obama’s inauguration. They may just be negotiation tactics aimed at raising the ante, or represent different tacks adopted by the country’s leadership and its military hardliners.

On Jan. 24, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met with Mr. Wang Jiarui, the Chinese Communist Party’s international department director, Mr. Kim was quoted as saying that Pyongyang “is dedicated to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and hopes to peacefully coexist with all sides and does not want to see tension on the peninsula.” It was Mr. Kim’s first such appearance since reportedly suffering a stroke in August. He seemed to have the new U.S. administration in mind and set to go ahead with denuclearization if conditions are met.

Yet, on Jan. 17, Mr. Selig Harrison, Asia program director of the Washington-based Center for International Policy, who had met with North Korean officials that week, quoted them as saying that “North Korea is now a nuclear weapons state and won’t give up that status as a result of denuclearization talks.” The officials were also quoted as saying that North Korea has already “weaponized” 30.8 kg of plutonium — listed earlier in its declaration of nuclear weapons programs — and that the weapons cannot be inspected, according to Mr. Harrison.

The same day, the North Korean Army said it would take an “all-out confrontational posture” against the South and wipe out the government of President Lee Myung Bak, who is taking a tough policy line toward Pyongyang. On Friday the North said it will terminate all agreements with the South aimed at ending confrontation. It is hoped that the U.S. will use all available means to get North Korea to denuclearize, including cooperating more with China and taking a leading role in the six-party talks, without being swayed by the North’s tactical moves.

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