In North Korea, recent moves have included barring IAEA inspectors and removing seals and surveillance equipment from the nuclear complex at Yongbyon. The North appears to be moving toward a resumption of plutonium reprocessing, perhaps in a matter of days. South Korea has also reported signs of repair work being done at North Korea's nuclear test site.
That could all be a concerted effort at classic North Korean brinkmanship—aimed at cutting (or recutting) a hard bargain. The timing—as the Bush administration focuses on a distracting financial crisis—is also reminiscent of North Korea playing tough as the White House focused on a looming war in Iraq.
But, analysts worry, it could also be a sign of the North swerving toward a harder-line posture amid reports that the country's leader, Kim Jong Il, may have suffered a stroke in August and could be partially incapacitated. The long-building dispute over getting North Korea to agree to intrusive inspections could be bursting forth just as the secretive regime is dealing with leadership uncertainties.
As for Iran, Ahmadinejad used his media-heavy stay in New York to reaffirm his government's defiance. "Using the language of force has no effect on the Iranian people," he said. "As far as we're concerned, the nuclear issue is resolved."