Daniel C. Sneider comments on "troubling" developments in the contentious relationship between North and South Korea

South Korea's new president, Lee Myung-bak, has taken a hardline approach in dealing with North Korea, effectively signaling the end of former president Kim Dae Jung's once-vaunted "Sunshine Policy." Relations between the two nations have desintegrated in recent months. North Korea experts suggest, however, the the DPRK's growing belligerence toward the South actually follows a consistent pattern that may even help the United States in future negotiations.

North Korea's recent tactics -- including shutting down the successful Kaesong industrial zone -- put President Lee in a difficult position, assorcing to the New York Times. Abandoning his principled stance will be seen as surrender by Lee's supporters, while staying the course will all but guarantee that North Korea shuts down Kaesong, analysts say. That will feed South Korean fears of an unstable peninsula and provide Mr. Lee’s liberal critics with plentiful ammunition.

Perhaps the greatest current concern about North Korea’s recent moves, Korea experts say, is what they may signal about the internal dynamics of the regime. “The more intriguing issue is whether all these developments signal a growing role of the military,” said Daniel C. Sneider, associate director for research at Stanford's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. “And the tour of Kaesong by the military was troubling in that regard.”