As the latest round of six-party talks on North Korea ended without any discernable progress, growing controversy over a United States defense report "mistakenly" listing the Hermit Kingdom as one of Asia's five nuclear powers has experts from the region fretting that the error was a Freudian slip.
Adding fuel to the fire is US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' remark in the January/February 2009 edition of Foreign Affairs magazine that "North Korea has built several nuclear bombs".
Many analysts in Tokyo balk at the notion of the US formally admitting that the North is a nuclear power. This is a reality which would lead to future six-party talks being reclassified as "disarmament" negotiations, a significant strengthening of the North's hand and a deepening of security fears for the North's regional rivals.
The Pentagon last week issued a 56-page report and it was the sentence, "The rim of the great Asian continent is already home to five nuclear powers: China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Russia," that has so delighted North Korea. Pyongyang unilaterally declared itself a de facto nuclear power in February 2005, but despite a test in October 2006 the US has never officially said it is a nuclear power.
[Excerpt of an article by Kosuke Takahashi, Asia Times]