DPRK Monday clarified a statement made in a weekend radio broadcast that appeared to claim publicly, for the first time, that the country possesses nuclear weapons.
The unusual move followed a flurry of statements of concern in this region over the radio commentary, which was interpreted by some as saying the country "has come to have nuclear and other strong military weapons to deal with increased nuclear threats by the U.S. imperialists."
But in a commentary broadcast on Monday by the official Korean Central Broadcasting Station, instead of saying it had come to have such weapons, the government said more clearly that it was "entitled" to have nuclear arms because of what it said were continuing threats from the United States.
"To safeguard our sovereignty and right to exist, we are entitled to have powerful military countermeasures, including nuclear weapons," the passage read in its entirety.
The difference in the language between the Sunday and Monday messages hung on as little as a single syllable in the Korean language, a nuance attributable by some to regional differences in pronunciation, which led to drastically different interpretations of the initial commentary. The first reports by foreign news organizations of Sunday's commentary came from the South Korean news agency Yonhap, which suggested that DPRK had made an affirmative statement that it possessed nuclear weapons.
Japanese and British broadcasting monitoring services, though, interpreted the Sunday commentary along much the same lines as Monday's clarification. With the differing interpretations of the broadcasts, experts emphasized that it was impossible to understand with any certainty the DPRK government's intentions.
A possible interpretation that was widely discussed in the region is that North Korea was engaging in a bit of deliberate ambiguity to warn its neighbors Japan and South Korea as well as the United States while maintaining a scrap of deniability.