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“Towards the U.S., North Korea is expressing some degree of expectation for better treatment from [President] Obama,” he said. “In contrast, it is becoming tougher on South Korea, so it is continuing a war of nerves.”

Dan Pinkston, head of the International Crisis Group’s Seoul office concurred.

“The messages they send to Beijing, Seoul or Washington are quite different,” he said. “I think this one is aimed at South Korea.”