A power struggle appears to be underway in North Korea over how to deal with the issue of nuclear weapons, North Korea's chief delegate has indicated, a report said yesterday.
Following a North Korean threat to test a nuclear weapon in bilateral talks with the US on Thursday, Pyongyang's top negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, was quoted as saying two factions were at play in the Stalinist nation.
"There is a separate group of people ... willing to build nuclear weapons ... and clamoring for nuclear testing," Yonhap news agency cited him as telling James Kelly, the US' head delegate.
"It is not an easy job to dissuade them from nuclear-weapons development. So we need justification and reasoning to convince them," he reportedly said.
However, experts and analysts believe Kim Jong-il, 62, is increasingly relying on the military to maintain his tight grip on power.
The leaders of North Korea's 1.1-million strong army are believed to represent the hawkish element in North Korea, while diplomats in the foreign ministry are less convinced that atomic weapons are the answer to the country's woes.
Though his father, Kim Il-sung, was revered by the North Korean people, the son who inherited power in 1994 lacks the charisma and widespread appeal enjoyed by the elder Kim, who founded the communist state in 1948. He has sought to court the armed forces, promoting an "army first," policy to keep military leaders loyal.