The manoeuvrings of North Korea and the US, the two main players in the nuclear game under way in the Korean Peninsula, can be better understood if their motives behind the issue are kept in mind. Washington's foremost wish in the context of world politics is succinctly expressed by Henry Kissinger when he said a few years back that time was most appropriate for the US to ensure that it retained its unchallenged global dominance "in perpetuity". His dream might already be lying in ruins, thanks to the thoughtlessly aggressive policies pursued by the Bush administration, but the lust for power and influence has kept it blind to the reality. It is desperately trying to restrict the possession of atomic weapons to the nuclear club - the US, the UK, France, Russia and China - since their proliferation would make a dent in its authority. Nuclear proliferation would, indeed, make the already unsafe world more dangerous and one would rather wish that all such weapons were destroyed, as stipulated in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But if a select few nations were to continue to possess them, others would like to hedge their bets against running foul of any of the nuclear states. And the best bet might appear to them is to acquire these weapons. About Israel, which is known to possess a huge arsenal of these deadly arms, the US voices no concern because it amply serves its strategic interests in the Middle East. It has come to terms with India and, to an extent, with Pakistan both of which conducted successful tests in 1998, with India, a big and rising power, for its potential to stand as a bulwark against China to stymie the prospects of its challenging the American global dominance, and with Pakistan for its key role in the War On Terror. Nevertheless, Islamabad remains a victim of continuous pinpricks of the US media and political circles and their Western counterparts, who never tire of expressing fears about the likelihood of its nuclear assets falling into the 'insecure' hands of fundamentalist forces opposed to the US and the West. Thus the most powerful country threatens the "violators" of the NPT with the direst possible consequences, not ruling out military action, and accuses them of sponsoring terrorism and menacing world peace. Iran is an obvious example. It shows no qualms in developing ever-deadlier devices in violation of the NPT, which enjoined, it is 40 years ago, their gradual elimination. The motives of North Korea have been explained in the preceding paragraphs. The secretive regime, largely a product of being a communist state, and the mysterious nature of its leader Kim Jong-il, have reinforced the accusation that the North Koreans have not come clean while making a declaration of their nuclear activities last Thursday as a result of prolonged parleys at the six-party talks. And it is true that it does not spell out in full the further action they would take and perhaps the size of the plutonium they hold. But there are reasons for this attitude. The history of bitterness and trust deficit between the two countries would also make one wonder whether North Korea has finally come round to undertaking complete denuclearisation (or after destroying the Yongbyon nuclear plant tower that it promptly did the next day it would wait for a quid pro quo from the US). Pyongyang would also feel whether Washington would honour its part of the bargain. Recall the Framework Agreement concluded in 1994 but the US left the two light water reactors provided under it unfinished (and now their structures are in a derelict state), a possible reason for the North Koreans to develop weapons and explode one nearly two years back. The ill will created by the epithets of "axis of evil", "rogue nations" and "sponsors of terror" that President Bush rashly applied to North Korea, Iran and Iraq in January 2002 could not be easily removed and forgotten by the "Dear Leader". He has been constantly reviled by the American political leadership and media and would be nurturing a genuine grudge against the US and at the same time would have serious doubts about the benefits Pyongyang would get should it part with the nuclear arsenal. The US demands the dismantling of North Korea's all nuclear installations without exception, a rigorous verification of declaration, in particular the size of plutonium it mentions, and the hand over of nuclear weapons. North Korea insists that the US drops its hostile policy towards it, removes sanctions completely (the US has relaxed some), takes it off the list of state sponsors of terrorism and resumes normal diplomatic relations. It might also insist that to meet its energy needs, the US should erect nuclear power reactors, which are not capable of helping in weapon production. The domineering attitude of the US, the secretiveness of North Korea and, above all, the trust deficit would make it harder for both sides to settle and honour a recompense for Pyongyang's denuclearisation and thus it could a long while before the Korean peninsula could become nuclear-free. E-mail: